Wales and The West manager Jamie Osborne reveals his runners for week two of the Racing League at Lingfield Park on Thursday, live on Sky Sports Racing.
Although the bragging rights on the opening night at Doncaster last week belonged to Matt Chapman’s London & The South, my own team got off to a very satisfactory start with a third-place finish.
The 125 points we gained put Wales & The West in a healthy position going into Round Two at Lingfield Park on Thursday evening, live on Sky Sports Racing, and once again we’re represented by a full-strength squad of 14 runners and riders.
I’m not expecting too much but I’m quietly confident we can put at least another 100 points on the board with what I would describe as solid if not exceptional chances in all seven races.
A great bonus for us is having Frankie Dettori in the starting line-up with three good chances. Frankie probably won’t be available that often so I hope we can take full advantage of his prowess on the Polytrack.
He has what might be our best chance of a winner on Postmark for Milton Harris, who provides both our runners in the 10-furlong William Hill Bet Boost Racing League Race Eleven Handicap (6.40).
It’s a rare combination as the great Italian has only ridden twice before for Milton and is yet to make it to the winner’s enclosure. A winner last time for Ralph Beckett, Postmark makes his stable debut alongside Milton’s Rogue Mission – an All-Weather winner who has the assistance of Callum Shepherd.
I’m not trying to get any excuses in early, but the draw gods haven’t been kind to us with some of our other main contenders including Dave Evans’s Alablaq in the first, the William Hill Best Odds Guaranteed Racing League Race Eight Handicap (5.10). Anyone who follows All-Weather racing will know that a wide draw over seven furlongs at Lingfield is akin to starting in the car park.
Alablaq brings good form to the race, though. He’s a previous course winner who scored impressively at Newbury last time, albeit off an 8lb lower mark. He has the assistance of the excellent Adam Kirby, who rides this track better than anyone and sits third in the jockeys’ table after Week One, but he’ll have to work some serious magic from stall 13 of 14.
If that’s not bad enough, my own Milltown Star has been posted right next door in stall 12. This horse showed me signs he is coming back to form at Goodwood last time and is more than capable of winning off his current mark, but my daughter Saffie (Osborne) will have to ride for luck from out there.
The draw has again tempered my enthusiasm with a solid performer in the William Hill Pick Your Places Racing League Race Twelve Handicap (7.10). Tregony won a Racing League heat at Newcastle for Saffie last year and has been running well in good handicaps without winning this season.
However, it’s going to be tricky for me or trainer Clive Cox to give any worthwhile instructions from a starting position in stall 12, which over 10 furlongs is a distinct problem. At least Dave Simcock’s multiple All-Weather winner Fox Power is better treated in gate eight and could be another live contender for Frankie.
He also rides Country Pyle for William Muir and Chris Grassick in the two-mile William Hill Extra Place Races Racing League Handicap Race Fourteen (8.10). She’s a half-sister to King George winner Pyledriver, a horse Frankie knows well, and certainly stays.
Harry and Roger Charlton’s gelding Zain Nights ran quite well in a stronger race at Goodwood last time and looks ready for this step up in trip in the same race. The 13lb he gets from the older horses, coupled with Saffie’s 3lb claim, could help him put us some valuable points on the board.
I’ve got the same trainer-jockey combination in the William Hill Build Your Odds Racing League Race Nine Handicap (5.40), another seven-furlong contest. Honky Tonk Man is a course and distance winner, but Tony Carroll’s Windsor third Neptune Legend strengthens our hand with Shergar Cup star Neil Callan donning the red jersey for the first time.
Dave Evans sends out both our runners in the seven-furlong nursery, the William Hill Play Responsibly Racing League Race Ten Handicap (6.10), spearheaded by the in-form Kiss N Cuddle. Though penalised for his recent Chester win, he finished a close fourth for Clifford Lee on opening night and looks more likely to get us among the points than eight-race maiden Zephina.
Our fate is in the hands of the Abergavenny ace again in the William Hill Lengthen Your Odds Racing League Race Thirteen Handicap (7.40). Old Port is only 3lb higher than when he won over the same mile-and-a-half at Newmarket, but we’ve also got Ian Williams’s consistent course winner Sophosc in our armoury.
Last week I raised a few eyebrows when I played the first of my two permitted ‘Jokers’ in the opening race when we had the favourite Galiac, who finished second, and Barley back in fourth. I’m happy to reveal that I won’t be playing my last remaining card on Thursday. It’s going to be ultra-competitive and, as is often the case around Lingfield, there’ll be no shortage of hard luck stories.
We’re in a good place and with five rounds still to follow it’s all about staying in the game, even though I’d be delighted to wipe the grin off Chappers’ face. Seeing his team add to their four wins at Doncaster would be absolutely unbearable!
Jamie Osborne was speaking to Sky Sports Racing’s Simon Mapletoft.