Cambridgeshire Handicap Tips: Dine on a fine wine

Dolphin Vista caused a 50/1 shock in this race in 2017.
Dolphin Vista caused a 50/1 shock in this race in 2017.

Nick Seddon previews Saturday’s big handicap race at Newmarket, the Cambridgeshire, and picks out an each-way selection…

The sight of 30-plus runners charging down the Rowley Mile is a novel one, but it something which becomes a regularity at this time of the year, thanks to the two big-field handicaps that form the traditional autumn double; Saturday’s Cambridgeshire Handicap over nine furlongs, and the Cesarewitch Handicap in a fortnight’s time, over two miles and two furlongs.

As you would expect for a big-field handicap carrying a prize pot of just shy of £100,000, the Cambridgeshire is a notoriously difficult betting heat, and regularly throws up a surprise result - with Prince of Johanne (2011) and Dolphin Vista (2017) causing 40/1 and 50/1 shocks respectively this decade. 

The betting is once again wide-open for this year’s renewal, and the narrow 8/1 favourite at the time of writing is the Hughie Morrison-trained Le Don De Vie. He was bought for an eye-watering £460,000 by the Melbourne Cup-winning owner Aziz Kheir on the back of winning a handicap at Epsom in June, and although he has a long way to go before repaying that vast sum, he’s shaped well in two starts since switching from the Andrew Balding yard, returning to winning ways over ten furlongs at Goodwood last time out. A 5 lb rise in the weights for that means that he would need more in this loftier assignment, though still a three-year-old, it would be foolish to think that he isn’t open to more improvement yet after just seven starts, and he should make a bold bid.  

Wissahickon was a three-year-old when winning this impressively last year, and the market is dominated by the classic generation, with Lord North, Fifth Position and Good Birthday all available at around the 10/1 mark at the time of writing. Like Le Don De Vie, all three are unexposed three-year-olds, and Lord North has made just one start in handicap company so far, finishing second over a mile at Ascot earlier this month. He was beaten only by a rival receiving a masterclass of a ride from Jamie Spencer that day, and provided he can take a step forward from that, he’s another to seriously consider off the same mark as last time. 

Fifth Position found Group 3 company a tough ask at Glorious Goodwood last month, and he may need further than this trip to be seen to best effect, for all that there’s room for manoeuvre off his opening handicap mark. More experienced in this sphere is Good Birthday, who picked up his second win of the season over a furlong further at Beverley last time, and although a 3 lb rise looks more than fair, this race is far deeper. Also prominent in the market is Star of Bengal. He looked a horse to follow when winning a handicap on reappearance at Chelmsford in May, and although he’s found life tough in two loftier assignments since, the drop back into this company may help to reinvigorate him, and he has the assistance of a certain Frankie Dettori. 

Dark Vision is another who looked a horse to follow at the beginning of the campaign, but he’s struggled to replicate his emphatic two-year-old campaign so far this term, proving to be more miss than hit. He’s certainly capable of featuring here off his current mark, though others have more solid profiles. Fellow three-year-old Desert Icon was unraced last term, but has made up for lost time this season, winning twice, and is in good heart at present, chasing home Good Birthday when second at Beverley last time. He should give this another good go off 1 lb higher, but would likely need a career best effort to have serious claims. Meanwhile, it’s interesting to see Majestic Dawn sit prominently in the market for this, though he’s unlikely to get a run as it stands (currently number 46 in the weights) and others make more immediate appeal. 

The fact that only five three-year-olds have prevailed in the race this century alludes to just how tough an ask this is for the classic generation, and it tempers enthusiasm towards supporting one of the market leaders. As such, it could be worth siding with one of the older horses each-way, namely Beringer. Admittedly, he ran no sort of race on his most recent start at York last month, but he had been enjoying a productive campaign prior to that, running well on several occasions. He was luckless when taking his chance in big-field scenarios at Royal Ascot and Glorious Goodwood over the summer, but shaped well in both, and arrives here just 1 lb higher than for his last success - which came over a mile here in April. He appeals as the sort to quickly shrug off a poor run, and looks worth backing each-way at around 25/1. 

Others to consider are Jazeel, Seniority, Mordin, Afaak and Bedouins Story. The first-named has remained in good form since winning a handicap at Sandown in July, though his effort to finish ninth at York last time suggested that his mark is perhaps high enough at the moment, while Mordin’s mark looks high enough at present. Afaak is adept in big-field scenarios, winning the Royal Hunt Cup at Ascot back in June, though he had no obvious excuses when underperforming at Goodwood last time, and it’s worth noting that his form rather tailed off last season. Like Afaak, Raising Sand is another big-field specialist, and although he tends to save his best form for Ascot, he will likely give this a good go having run well in Group 3 company at Haydock last time. Bedouin’s Story’s best form has come over seven furlongs, so the step up to nine furlongs is something of a concern, though he ran well over a mile at Chelmsford last time and is respected on the back of that, while it’s been over a year since Seniority last got his nose in-front, and he would need more here for all that he’s just 3 lb higher than his last winning mark.

Three more to consider are Dubai Horizon, Turnberry Isle and Amedeo Modigliani. The latter two represent the Aidan O’Brien yard, which interestingly has yet to win this race. The more interesting of the two is Amadeo Modigliani, who’s lightly-raced as a four-year-old, with just four starts so far. A 750,000 purchase as a yearling, he’s a stoutly-bred type, and he produced a solid effort to finish fourth in a listed race when last seen at Leopardstown in April. This is a huge ask on the back of a 178-day absence on handicap debut, but his opening mark looks fair and he could prove to be a lively outsider. Finally, Dubai Horizon will have the assistance of young Cieren Fallon, who takes a useful 3 lb off, and he too is an interesting bigger-priced alternative, provided he can shrug off a laboured effort in bottomless conditions in a listed event at Ayr last time out. 

Beringer is named after the Beringer Vineyards, which are the oldest continuously-operating winery in California, and hopefully its equine namesake is on a similar road to grapeness.    

Selection

Saturday 28th September 2019 - Cambridgeshire Handicap - Beringer each-way @ 25/1

Cambridgeshire Handicap
Beringer silk

Beringer (EW)

placed

Consistent handicapper, who has caught the eye on several occasions so far this season, shaping well when meeting trouble in big-field scenarios at both Glorious Goodwood and Royal Ascot over the summer. He arrives here just 1 lb higher than for his win over a mile here in April, and although he will need plenty of luck as a hold-up performer, he should offer plenty of each-way value at around the 25/1 mark - particularly if there's a strong pace for him to aim at.

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