Tahira To Drink In John Smith’s Glory
John Smith's Cup
Punters who enjoy big-field, quality handicaps to find their winners will be in for a real treat on Saturday when both Newmarket and York stage a juicy puzzle to be cracked – the latter hosting the John Smith’s Cup over 1m2f (2.55).
This fantastic handicap has seen some big gambles down the years, and one who has attracted plenty of money in the lead-up to the weekend is Sir Michael Stoute’s, Bold Sniper (6/1).
The Queen’s improving 4yo won a valuable 1m4f handicap last season and has shaped on both placed outings this season as though another prize is in him, including when beaten just 1/2l in a Listed Handicap at Royal Ascot last month (1m2f, good to firm). Although raised 3lb for that, Bold Sniper gets to run off the same Ascot mark here, which has been one of the reasons he has been punted.
There have been some major clues for backers to look out for when scanning the runners and riders for Saturday’s big race – one of which involves the winner’s age, for 3-5yo’s have simply dominated, as can be seen via the following trends dating back 18 years…
All 18 winners were 3-5yo’s.
17 ran during the last two months.
17 had a maximum of four outings that season – Flying Clarets had five.
16 ran over this 1m2f trip.
16 raced in a handicap where 12 won.
15 were British or Irish-bred – the latter have a good record with nine victories.
15 made the top six last time – nine finished in the top three.
14 won over 1m1f-1m2f.
Trainer Richard Fahey sent out three winners, while Sir Mark Prescott and Willie Haggas struck twice.
Indeed, 6yo’s and older have struggled to get involved, while it’s also worth noting anything Richard Fahey runs – he will be represented this time around by Hi There (20/1), though this 5yo may need to drop a few pounds having not won since a handicap double last autumn.
The age trend could also count against the improving 6yo, Clever Cookie (8/1), who is a Grade 2 hurdles winner for Peter Niven, and 3-3 on the Flat. While he won a C&D handicap here in May (soft), he may need the heavens for this race to become more of a test.
Another of the leading fancies possibly at the wrong end of the age scale is David O’Meara’s 6yo, Chancery (8/1), who won a couple of handicap at York last summer, but may need further than 1m2f. O’Meara also has another 6yo in Two For Two (16/1), who carries a 5lb penalty for winning a 1m handicap at Ayr (good to firm) three weeks ago. He stayed the trip when sixth in an Ascot 1m2f handicap last season, and will be a threat if the ground remains dry.
With only one of the last 10 John Smith’s Cup winners lumping more than 9st2lb, there has to be a concern Roger Varian’s, Farraaj (10/1), has too much weight on 9st11lb – similar comments that apply to John Gosden’s, Nabucco (10/1), with 9st9lb. While both have ‘sexy’ profiles, they may be vulnerable to the likes of John Quinn’s, Tahira (12/1).
This 4yo filly has had just nine career outings, and recorded a career best when second in a valuable Chester handicap last month (1m2f, good).
She also caught the eye over this C&D behind Clever Cookie on her seasonal return and represents a yard that has banged in the winners this week.
Another with a decent weight is Queensberry Rules (14/1) from the Willie Haggas yard that won this race twice in recent years, though having finished 20th, 20th, 6th and 22nd on his last four outings, he’ll need to show more. One who did show decent form last time was Godolphin’s, Tarikhi (12/1) when beaten only 2l into fifth in a 1m1f handicap here last month (good). With only seven outings on the clock, he could go well with Kieran Fallon remaining in the saddle.
Mark Johnston’s, Salutation (14/1), holds no secrets from the handicapper after 29 career outings, but is still improving and runs off the same mark as when runner-up to Arab Spring in a 1m4f handicap at Royal Ascot last month. While he has a flyweight of 8st9lb to carry, the worry has to be this step back to 1m2f as his last two wins were over 1m3f-1m4f.
There are plenty to choose from in a competitive renewal, but with the weight trend a reliable long-term pointer, John Quinn’s, Tahira, has a good weight and represents good each-way value for an in-form yard