Spanish Duke can lord it at HQ

How do you solve a problem like the Betfred Cambridgeshire?

Cambridgeshire Antepost: Spanish Duke 25/1

Spanish Duke: Handicapped to go well in the Betfred Cambridgeshire
Spanish Duke: Handicapped to go well in the Betfred Cambridgeshire

Newmarket’s nine furlong heritage handicap is one of the most popular end of season contests for punters and is a quality heat that often falls to a future Pattern race performer.

Current market leaders Chil The Kite and Conduct fit that category with Hughie Morrison’s three year old colt surely capable of taking the step up in class in his stride in due course.

However, he’s had just half a dozen career starts and, in winning the last two, has hung markedly across the track.

Whether that has been down to inexperience or waywardness will be immaterial if the son of Notnowcato is carrying your money and proves similarly erratic on the wide expanses of the Rowley Mile.

Morrison knows what it takes to win the race having sent out Supaseus to make all in 2009 but he saddled a talented three year old in Sagramor 12 months ago and the Britannia Stakes winner trailed home in last.

That could well lead to a case of ‘once bitten’ for Morrison who recently revealed: “I’m not that keen on running three-year-olds in very competitive older-horse handicaps. We might end up there but it’s against my better judgment, to be honest.”

The Classic generation often come into this contest with attractive profiles and that has seen three year olds sent off as favourite on no fewer than five occasions in the last 10 years.

One of those, Pipedreamer, obliged in 2007 to record a second successive success for the young brigade but 33 have gone to post in the four intervening years and not one, not one, has made the frame.

That may just well be an anomaly rather than a startling change of fortune but it’s certainly worth bearing in mind, particularly when there’s every chance that they’ll be sent off at a shorter price than their form merits.

I’d prefer to look farther afield, bearing in mind that the last four contests have gone to horses priced at 40-1, 14s, 16s and 25s.

Two of those winners have been five year olds and it’s one of that age group that interests me here in John Dunlop’s Spanish Duke.

It’s been a pretty miserable summer on the track for the Master of Castle Stables but the recent run has been more encouraging and this son of Big Bad Bob has the ability to run a big race.

Pattern races looked to be on the agenda when he dotted up in the usually informative City And Suburban Stakes at Epsom on his first start of 2011 but he struggled to reproduce that effort in the rest of that season having, initially, been raised to a mark of 105.

After a disappointing seasonal reappearance (when his yard was right out of form), he was dropped another 3lbs to 97 and shaped encouragingly at Epsom only to fail to build on that at Ascot and Goodwood.

However, he’s rarely run well at either venue and his latest start on the Knavesmire suggests that he’s capable of picking up a big prize from his current mark.

He was only just over three lengths behind Danadana that day when comfortably faring best of those held-up off the average pace.

The nine furlong trip of the Cambridgeshire is, arguably, on the short side but I don’t believe that that will be an issue granted a truly run race and there should be no concerns with either the track (impressive winner on the July course) or the ground for this versatile gelding who can be backed at up to 40-1.

At similar prices, Arabian Star came under consideration as he has a progressive profile if you ignore his two runs at Ascot, a course that simply doesn’t suit a number of horses since the redevelopment.

However, he got a soft lead when winning the Silver Cambridgeshire last season and it seems unlikely that he’d get away with that in the main event and he does appear to need top of the ground.

At an even bigger price, Michael Appleby’s recruit from Jim Bolger’s yard, Bancnuanaheireann, also crossed my radar as he appears to have been crying out for a longer trip on two runs since going close at Goodwood.

He had a couple of runs in Listed company for Bolger and could prove to be feasibly treated if his new team have found the key to him but Appleby’s form tailed off after a strong mid-summer in each of the last two seasons and his figures for August suggest that could again be the case.

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  • Preview posted at 1324 GMT on 05/09/2012.

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