First published Thursday, October 10
Where to start when faced with a puzzle like the 31-runner Emirates Cesarewitch Handicap at Newmarket at 4:10 on Saturday? It would test the detective skills of a Poirot – or even a Colleen Rooney – so we need all the help we can get.
Such as by considering the trends for the race over the last decade. The good news is that they are more revealing than usual, and the news – it remains to be seen if it is good or bad – is that those trends point towards one contender above all others.
But first the evidence.
The draw might be expected not to make a big difference for a race over two and a quarter miles, but there is a significant right-handed bend at around halfway and you would not want to be wide at that stage. A low draw has been good and a very high draw bad, but there is little in it otherwise.
Those figures for three-year-olds are positive – especially that 63.2% of rivals beaten where 50% is par – but should be viewed in the context of only 11 such horses having tried (one won, two placed). No fewer than five such contenders have been declared this year.
That mid-weight sweet spot accounts for 10 runners this year, from Rainbow Dreamer down to Ranch Hand. A last-time win has been moderately good, and more than one previous win in the season under consideration has been better still.
A good chance on Timeform weight-adjusted ratings has been the most positive indicator of all – hooray! – while backing all runners each way, with the stake varied in line with the horse’s industry SP, has seen shorter-priced horses fare much better than longer-priced ones in terms of place returns (an attempt to improve on the “win only” measures used with Betfair SP previously).
There is plenty to take in there, and we have hardly even started, but it is worth noting that the aforementioned Ranch Hand is not only a three-year-old, but drawn low (in stall4), has a mid-range weight, won last time and has won three times in all this season already. He is likely to go off at quite a short price, but it could easily be shorter still.
Other matters to consider are that the Cesarewitch is likely to be run at a strong pace, with eight horses having consolidated Timeform Early Position Figures of 2.2 or lower, and that the ground is forecast to be softer than some of these have been encountering recently.
That remark does not apply to Ranch Hand, however, for his last-time win came on good to soft going at Haydock and saw him take his form to a higher level at the longest trip he has yet encountered. He has an extra half mile to travel here, and it could very well suit him. There is no reason to think that mid-field tactics (3.2 EPF) will be abandoned now.
Haydock looked a highly competitive contest, and Ranch Hand went off at 14/1 for it despite having won two of his four starts previously while running respectably in elevated company on the other two.
He picked up a 4 lb penalty for that win over the progressive Trueshan but would be running off 1 higher again if the BHA handicapper could take the form into account for Saturday’s racing (and that looks quite lenient).
Of Ranch Hand’s fellow three-year-olds, Themaxwecan is handily berthed in stall two, but the remaining trio are drawn much higher, as are the well-treated older horses Buildmeupbuttercup and Darksideoftarnside.
Having gone through the claims of all 31 runners individually, if with necessary alacrity, I must say that I don’t think it will take as much to get involved at the business end of this year’s Cesarewitch as usual. Ranch Hand is my idea of the likeliest to do just that.
The betting arithmetic of this race says that backing each-way is better than backing win only, if not by a lot. However, that is before considering enhanced place terms, which are likely to be out there if you look for them.
So, each way is the way to go, and in Ranch Hand we have an unexposed contender who ticks a lot of the right boxes. I think we have a bet.
Recommendation: 1 pt e/w RANCH HAND at 9/1