ROBERT COOPER COLUMN
TV celebrity with his tips for weekend
Whatever scientists say, time travels at varying speeds. The day you’ve been looking forward to, say that all expenses paid trip to the Melbourne Cup, remains a permanent dot on the horizon, however the dentist’s appointment for some root canal engineering work arrives in a flash.
I’ve experienced plenty of the latter but the Melbourne Cup remains high on the bucket list, especially now that our Euroraiders have the Aussies on the run. Ian Williams’ MAGIC CIRCLE is currently one of the favourites. It’s a shrewd move to have booked Corey Brown for the ride; the 42-year-old won the Cup on REKINDLING for Joseph O’Brien last year, and local knowledge counts for plenty in this race, that not only stops the nation but takes no prisoners over the punishing two miles.
There is no more enthusiastic owner on the planet than Dr Marwan Koukash, and it will be worth dragging yourself out of bed at three o’clock in the morning on the first Tuesday in November just to see the crazy Doc’s glee if he pulls it off with MAGIC CIRCLE. They don’t come more competitive than Koukash – you should have seen his face when I potted a long shot on his pool table. I acted ultra-cool but no one was more surprised than me.
The date that looms for me like a dental trip is an event usually known as the Richard Phillips Golf Classic but played this year, as The Riders Cup. Not quite the Le Golf National but you still require abundant talent to tame the 18 holes at Chipping Norton. I’ll be seeking inspiration from Rory and Tiger over the weekend.
My form figures reveal that my last run was precisely 365 days ago, in this very event. Finding time to practice before Tuesday looks impossible, but some horses run best fresh, so I’ll just hope I’m a human equivalent. Local trainer Phillips has staged this event for at least ten or 12 years; I actually have my name embossed on the trophy when winning off, what I felt was a fairly assessed handicap mark, but that was a minority view.
It was the only time I had been called a bandit, in the golfing sense. My aim on Tuesday is to avoid utter humiliation – that would put me within touching distance of another personal triumph.
I must confess, I haven’t undertaken a horse-by-horse fingertip form survey of the day’s big handicap, the Cambridgeshire, because after more than half a lifetime’s experience, finding the winner often defies basic logic.
I doubt Mystic Meg would have spotted last year’s 50/1 shocker Dolphin Vista.
While in the ATR studio last Tuesday, I received an email from a viewer suggesting that MOUNTAIN HUNTER [3.40 NEWMARKET] in his view was a solid each way bet, and you know he could be right. He ran a really eye-catching race at Doncaster a couple of weeks ago, returning from a break since running at Meydan earlier in 2018.
He was stopped in his tracks when staying on strongly, eventually finishing fifth behind ANOTHER ECLIPSE. He won a decent handicap at Meydan in January and looks a more than capable horse. His trainer Saeed Bin Suroor also runs the more fancied VERY TALENTED who came back from a two-year absence to score at Chelmsford.
I’ll take a chance with MOUNTAIN HUNTER who looked a shade unlucky at Doncaster. I’ll probably split my bet with Charlie Hills’ AFAAK who gets the blinkers attached today. He was runner-up in the Royal Hunt Cup and despite being a bit quirky, has a touch of class.
There’s a star-studded card at Newmarket and some top two year-olds are in the spotlight. PRETTY POLLYANNA [2.25 NEWMARKET] should confirm Deauville form with SIGNORA CABELLO in the Group One Cheveley Park Stakes but in the other top grade race, the Middle Park Stakes, I reckon the ‘jolly’ TEN SOVEREIGNS might get turned over by another unbeaten colt, JASH [3.00 NEWMARKET] who runs in the familiar blue silks of Hamdan al Maktoum – it’s hard to believe Sheikh H hasn’t had a winning Group One juvenile since 2009.
JASH came within a whisker of beating the six-furlong course record at Newmarket on his debut. He looks a smart youngster.
KADAR [1.50 NEWMARKET] has run only once but I liked the way he surged to an impressive victory at Haydock. James Doyle, now back in the saddle following a seven-meeting suspension from the Aussie stewards, has been snapped up for the ride. KADAR is preferred to the unbeaten BEATBOXER.
A more potent threat could be ARTHUR KITT who lost his 100 per cent record to TOO DARN HOT at Sandown. There’s no ignominy in that.
I’m definitely opposing MITCHUM SWAGGER, the likely favourite for Haydock’s valuable handicap. He’s sidestepped the Cambridgeshire for this and hasn’t run since finishing third in the Lincoln back in March.
He runs well here at Haydock and the soft ground will suit but the value has long gone. Instead I’ll go for ESCOBAR, a course and distance winner in June, to return to winning ways. His last two runs in Ireland haven’t been spectacular but with Adam Kirby on board, a recovery mission is on the cards.
I hope to experience a similar revival on the golf course next week.
“In the Cambridgeshire I’ll take a chance with MOUNTAIN HUNTER who looked a shade unlucky at Doncaster. I’ll probably split my bet with Charlie Hill’s AFAAK”
Unbeaten: Jash can extend his record
Enthusiast: Dr Marwan Koukash