Olympic Eagle represents a Clive Cox-trained ‘special’ tonight in an eight-runner Novice Stakes over six furlongs of Southwell tapeta which has drawn criticism since replacing the thirty-two year old Fibresand recently; is it unfounded?
I’ve been at the cutting edge of all-weather racing in England since its introduction in 1989 and more often than not each of the six surfaces have undergone ‘bedding’ complications; all have settled down remarkably quickly and despite personal sentiments about the fibresand on the Nottinghamshire circuit I’m pleased with the change because the original product caused a deal of uncomfortable kick-back and my old hero Elton Ledger invariably came back to the unsaddling enclosure plastered in and around his obligatory blinkers. Seventeen times as a course winner!
Eventually this great serial winner actually refused to race on the ‘deep stuff’ and I’ve never managed to fathom why the genuine ‘old boy’ took exception to his task. They were great days, often chronicled in this column, and ‘Elton’ was my absolute ‘favourite’ alongside Cragside, a class act, fastest juvenile sprinter 1984, and Middleton Sam, successful twice at grade one venues Flemington and Sandown in Australia where, incidentally, they were several years behind the English racing scene with artificial surfaces. There are hundreds throughout the globe nowadays.
Given the state of turf tracks in the United Kingdom AWR is a fantastic alternative for form/time aficionados and most only glance at NH racing for obviousness in novice/maiden hurdles. The Chepstow course earlier this week was a disgrace and doubtless watering in the middle of winter was to blame. Race-times tell their own story.
The draw and non-triers are the bane of ‘specialising’ but from a betting perspective I’m happy to play selections provided 3/1 or better is available, a rule which limits involvement considerably. My approach is to try and ‘scrub’ every race unless it produces a gilt-edged opportunity and enough boxes are ticked.
I’m more of a layer than a backer, a bookmaking angle is vital and the trixie/patent bets have long been the way forward.
Olympic Eagle achieved consecutive career-best efforts in his last two outings on Kempton polytrack and a replication under John Fahy should be enough to beat penalised but fancied Ex Gratia in what promises to be a real cracker under floodlights.
Rest of an eight-race card consists of two difficult ‘classified’ races and five handicaps which is why its indeed necessary to select a couple of NH chances, Pumpkin’s Pride and Dream In The Park in the first two races on ‘good to soft’ ground.
Never look for bets, let them stick out like a beacon before getting serious.
Selections, Plumpton, 1.25 Pumpkin’s Pride (e.w); 2.00 Dream In The Park (e.w); Southwell, 8.05 Olympic Eagle (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