(Published 18 September, 2018) – First established in 1839, the nine-furlong Cambridgeshire Handicap cavalry charge along the Rowley Mile course at Newmarket has often been a bookies’ benefit, but major gambles have been landed over the years as well to keep the layers on their toes. With 35 horses set to face the starter it is a real conundrum, but trends over the last 20 years could help us narrow the field down and hopefully avail ourselves of some good ante-post value that gives those that like to bet each-way – and in this race some firms pay up to six places – a sporting chance of getting a good run, and a good return for their investment.
Since the year 2000, 11 of the winning horses have carried between 8st4lb and 8st12lb, and no horse above six years old has prevailed. That helps narrow the field down a it, but of course doesn’t offer any cast iron guarantees. At the time of writing 135 horses are still entered for this £160,000 contest and the majority will miss the cut, so it would be risky investing in anything below the halfway mark in the entries list.
Twelve months ago Dolphin Vista sprang a massive 50/1 shock when scoring for Martyn Meade and young George Wood, but over the last decade the only other shock winner was Tom Tate’s Prince of Johanne (2011) at 40/1. The remaining eight winners have been priced 16/1 or lower, including two single-figure success; 9/1 shot Bronze Angel landed the first of his two wins in the race in 2012, and the classy Educate defied the stats to carry 9st9lb to win and land a massive gamble when sent off 8/1 favourite in 2013.
The Two ‘K’s’ Head Ante-Post Market
At the time of writing it is David Barron’s Kynren who narrowly heads the ante-post market at 12/1 with Betway. Unraced as a juvenile, he won three of his four starts last year as a three-year-old, and while he has failed to score so far this campaign he has run very well on a number of occasions. On the opening day of the Flat season he was a close third in the Spring Mile at Doncaster, was then beaten just a head in the Whitsun Cup at Sandown the following month by the gambled-on Chiefofchiefs, he was a fine third attempting an extended 10 furlongs in the John Smith’s Cup Handicap at York won by Euchen Glen (below), then dropped back to a mile only to be edged out by Poet’s Society in an £80,000 handicap at York’s Ebor Festival off a mark of 97.
— Racing UK (@racing_uk) July 14, 2018
Raised a further 3lb to 100, this intermediate distance of nine furlongs looks ideal for the Yorkshire raider and it is not hard to see why he figures so prominently in the market. He also seems to go on most ground, although isn’t proven on either extreme of going.
Following a very good effort at Leopardstown last weekend when second to I Can Fly in the Group 2 Boomerang Stakes, Aidan O’Brien’s Kenya has been cut from 25/1 to a top price 16/1 with Boylesports (many firms go as short as 12/1) to go one better in the feature race at Ayr’s Western meeting. This Galileo colt had previously landed the one mile Irish Cambridgeshire off a mark of 98 and was duly raised 8lb as a result of that three-and-a-half length romp in what should have been a close-fought contest.
Aidan O’Brien runners wouldn’t be a regular sight in this race, so if Kenya does run he deserves to be respected even though he has to drop back two furlongs, which on the face of it wouldn’t appear to be ideal.
Stylish Gosden Hunting Cambridgeshire Glory
Another top trainer set to be represented in the Cambridgeshire is the always debonair John Gosden, whose appropriately named STYLEHUNTER was priced up at 25/1 with some firms prior to his four-length win in a nine furlong handicap at Sandown in August off a rating of 92. He’s up to 100 now and is a top priced 14/1 with 188bet, but having previously run a fine sixth of 30 in the Britannia Handicap at Royal Ascot he has shown he can handle himself in the hustle bustle of a cavalry charge and is open to further improvement. I strongly suspect he could be a pattern horse (Group race horse) for next term.
Stylehunter wins the Ladbrokes Handicap with ease for Robert Havlin and John Gosden pic.twitter.com/K8gkWCTTR3
— Goodwood Racecourse (@Goodwood_Races) August 25, 2018
It’s worth recalling that 25 years ago Gosden saddled another progressive three-year-old handicapper called Halling to land a gamble at 8/1 in the Cambridgeshire. He went on to win five times in Group 1 company, including the Eclipse Stakes (twice), the Juddmonte International (twice), and the Prix d’Ispahan, so Stylehunter is very much one for the short-list off a perfect racing weight of 8st 11lb. He could well go off single-figure odds on the day and it wouldn’t surprise if he was amde favourite.
Wissahickon may also represent the former champion trainer and has won four of his six career starts. Like Stylehunter he is a three-year-old and has won this term both on turf and the AW. He’s set to carry 7lb more than his stable companion but this 16/1 shot with BetVictor has to be respected, along with the yard’s other entry Tricorn, a good second last week at Chelmsford where the stop-start nature of the race didn’t really suit. He wouldn’t be without a chance in this always strongly run affair and can be backed at 25/1 with 10bet.
There are a host of other horses representing top yards who are worthcasting your eye over. Roger Varian has three entered, all owned by Sheikh Mohammad Obaid; Daira Prince, Sharjah Bridge and UAE Prince. Preference among this trio is for the lightly raced five-year-old UAE Prince (20/1 with MansionBet), fourth in last year’s John Smith’s Cup over 10 furlongs at York, and runner-up in a hot Newmarket handicap in May over 12 furlongs, his only start this term. He may well have been saved for this race as he goes well fresh.
— Goodwood Racecourse (@Goodwood_Races) July 31, 2018
William Haggas’ Alfarris (16/1 with bet365) hasn’t been out of the first two in four starts in very good handicap company this season, winning at Chelmsford and Glorious Goodwood (above) and storming up the ratings from 87 to 104. That makes life tougher, but he does seem in fine form and while the trip is a furlong less than usual for him, such will the pace be that it will feel like a 10-furlong contest, without a doubt. Haggas could also run The Queen’s Seniority (16/1 with Betfair), winner of the valuable Golden Mile Handicap at Glorious Goodwood off 98, but now 6lb higher. He has since finished a slightly disappointing sixth in Group 3 company at York’s Ebor fixture, but back in a handicap cannot be ruled out.
Story The Best Longshot Selection
There are a host of other horses who there is no time or space to mention, but after scanning through this race at length there is one outsider who looks overpriced and who could run a very big race if things go his way. The horse in question is Keith Dalgleish’s What’s The Story, No.36 on the list, so just about certain to get in the race if connections grant hm the green light.
A four-year-old by Harbour Watch, he was never out of the first two in five starts through his juvenile and three-year-old career, winning on soft and good to firm ground, but is probably at his best on a decent surface. This term he has been campaigned solely in hot handicaps and has run a number of good races, beginning with a third place finish in a £50,000 event at Newcastle as early as February, off 92. Off a pound higher mark he won a mile handicap at Newcastle in early-June, then two weeks later ran an absolute cracker when fourth of 30 in the Royal Hunt Cup behind Settle For Bay.
The Scottish-trained colt ran another rock solid race to be sixth to Euchen Glen over the extended mile-and-a-quarter in the John Smith’s Cup at York in July, keeping on at just one pace inside the distance as he reached the probable limit of his stamina, then last time out he got no sort of run at all when 10th in the BMW Mile Handicap at the Galway Festival, finishing five lengths behind the winner, still on the bridle and full of running.
Granted better luck at HQ, I can easily see What’s The Story running into at least a place and at 40/1 each-way with bet365 (who pay on the first five home) Dalgleish’s charge looks a sporting alternative to the many shorter priced runners.
Written by Paul Alster
Paul Alster has been part of the British and international racing media for more than three decades working as a race commentator, TV/radio presenter, journalist, betting correspondent, SP returner, and form analyst. He’s always sought out overpriced runners in handicap races, a quest that excites him as much now as it did at the start of his career.