Ermin Street has been journeyed to Newcastle today despite my personal warning of ‘useful opposition’ after perusing five-day declarations over the Xmas period; that however was before both Barry Hills and myself knew the Novices’ Stakes over seven furlongs had been divided; son Charlie has booked Jason Watson for the twice-raced Belardo colt and now I’m confident one of three places makes for a good each-way betting proposition.
From 1999 to 2011 Barry enjoyed a golden spell for his ‘Faringdon’ yard when we combined as a devastatingly successful team, producing more than twelve-hundred winners to yield ‘THe Legend’ a 3000-plus career-total; he’s now 84 but still rings me regularly (probably from habit!) to discuss policy. This has nearly been Charles’ best year and he needs one more which you can guarantee his ‘Dad’ will want more than anything. No more runners this week illustrates the urgency of this mission.
Opposition has been diluted with division one but Al Qareem, also racing for a third time, will surely be ‘on the premises’ and Karl Burke’s charge is indeed strongly-fancied.
In summary Barry seldom goes against my time-handicap findings and it’s not the case on this occasion; he is totally convinced Ermin Street has improved considerably, a good reason why I’m hoping John Gosden-trained Velasquez will land division one and set up a serious EWD under veteran stable jockey Rav Havlin, a real force on the all-weather scene.
85-rated Velasquez was, of course, my main reason for doubt initially and so the situation has unfolded ideally. All they need to do now is hit their marks.
I’m tempted to mention an each-way treble with Auditoria in the Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle but only eight have been declared for the finale on a six-race card on ‘good to soft’ Catterick and the likelihood of a non-runner is somewhat off-putting because, with adverse results, this could be come a target for the cynical bookmaking trade.
Auditoria has more experience than the only conceivable TH danger, Donald McCain-trained Ramble West, mount of Brian Hughes, and should be priced up favourably.
Given Auditoria is rated only 107 surely a handicap would have been a better alternative for Olly Murphy’s charge; just a thought.
Incidentally Hughes is riding magnificently and has a massive lead in the championship which he’s obsessed with regaining from Harry Skelton. Next four months promise much entertainment.
Selections, Catterick, 3.02 Auditoria; Newcastle, 4.20 Velasquez; 4.50 Ermin Street (e.w).
Jeffrey Ross, horse-racing correspondent for WMN since 1983 when winning the most prestigious racing journalist award, Sporting Life Naps Table, before winning it a record number of six times collectively in the Racing Post, the current ‘trade’ paper, including 2019