Wednesday’s best bets, by Chris Cook

Those of you rooting for Mendelssohn and Ryan Moore in Saturday’s Kentucky Derby might like to know that their draw in stall 14 represents both an opportunity and a potential disaster in the eyes of local punters. It is the outermost stall in the main stalls unit, meaning there is quite a big gap between it and stall 15, with two sets of tyres in between.

If you can break quickly from 14, you should have a nice bit of room to run into for the first 100 yards, thanks to that gap on your outside. On the other hand, the horses drawn to your outside will be heading your way, towards the inner; if you can’t get out quickly and get in front of the beast from stall 15, you may get clobbered.

That’s what happened to the horse in stall 14 a year ago, Classic Empire, who was fancied after winning at the previous year’s Breeders’ Cup. You can see here how he was shunted sideways by early contact with a horse on his outer, yet ran on to be fourth. His Preakness run, in which he was beaten only a head, suggested he had indeed been a shade unlucky at Churchill Downs.

I should note that the main stalls unit contained 16 stalls as recently as three years ago, so long-term stats aren’t going to give you an insight into the trickiness of stall 14 under the current setup.

Anyway, I’m sure Ryan Moore is alive to the situation and will do his utmost to preserve Mendelssohn’s chance through the first furlong. Watching from afar, it looks to me like a race in which you need plenty of luck, like an even more prestigious version of the Chester Cup.

Perversely enough, my main interest in Ascot’s quality card today is in the apprentice handicap at the end, when Love And Be Loved (4.55) looks too big at 12-1. She came good after being switched to turf in the second half of last year, winning her last three, including two under today’s pilot.

Rain-softened ground seemed to be good news for her, so today’s soggy weather at the Queen’s track is welcome, for those of us watching on telly. This is her toughest assignment but I think she still has scope to be well ahead of her rating and it’s encouraging that her small yard has been among the winners lately.

Eirene (3.45) is also enticing at 13-2 for the Pavilion Stakes, in which she may benefit from already having had a run, when outperforming her odds of 20-1 to be third in the Nell Gwyn. The last furlong didn’t help her that day and this return to sprint trips looks the way forward. She nearly won a Group Three at Salisbury in September, when headed close home by Anna Nerium, who has since won the Free Handicap.

You can get 9-1 the nap, Short Work (4.30) at Pontefract. He took time to rediscover his best form after joining David O’Meara last year but won four times in the autumn, with blinkers seeming to help.

They were left off in favour of cheekpieces for his seasonal return under a 7lb claimer a fortnight ago. O’Meara having since hit form, it’s interesting to see the blinkers back on and Danny Tudhope back in the saddle. Short Work was a non-runner at Thirsk two days ago in a race worth half as much.

Wolverhampton 1.50 Malaysian Boleh 2.25 Sea Youmzain 3.00 Costa Percy 3.35 Geetanjali 4.10 Valcartier 4.45 Desert Diamond 5.20 Homeopathic 5.55 Shamonix 

Ascot 2.00 The Irish Rover  2.35 Dathanna 3.10 Desert Skyline 3.45 Eirene 4.20 Century Dream 4.55 Love And Be Loved (nb) 

Pontefract 2.10 Celebrity Dancer 2.45 Allieyf 3.20 Vigee Le Brun 3.55 Music Seeker 4.30 Short Work (nap) 5.05 The Right Choice 5.40 Mr Strutter 

Brighton 4.25 Princess Keira 5.00 Tin Hat 5.35 Shrewd Approach 6.10 Ettie Hart 6.40 All AboutThe Pace 7.10 Fayrouz Rose 7.40 Kafeel 8.10 Krazy Paving 

Bath 5.45 Raskolnikov 6.20 La Fortuna 6.50 Give Em A Clump 7.20 Bonjour Steve 7.50 The Daley Express 8.20 Dilinger 

Tips by Chris Cook


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