Saturday’s Horse Racing Predictions: Tom Collins is splitting his stakes in competitive York handicap

Tom Collins

14 July 2023

We have seen many great rivalries in sport: Rafael Nadal v Roger Federer, Cristiano Ronaldo v Lionel Messi, Arnold Palmer v Jack Nicklaus and Muhammad Ali v Joe Frazier instantly pop to mind.

Individual competition has existed within horse racing throughout the years, too. We have all witnessed a long (and rather one-sided) battle between Tony McCoy and Richard Johnson over jumps, while an ownership battle between Ballydoyle and Godolphin has dictated the flat. Equine equivalents include Kauto Star/Denman and, to a lesser extent, Blue Point/Battaash. 

Rivalries create storylines and hype, and perhaps we are about to witness a burgeoning tussle between three-year-olds Shaquille and Little Big Bear, who will face each other for the second time in Saturday’s featured Group 1 July Cup (4.35) at Newmarket.

It was the former who landed the first punch by taking last month’s Commonwealth Cup at Royal Ascot, and it’s hard to argue that he wasn’t the best horse on the day given he completely missed the start. But writing off star performers after one below-par display is fraught with danger and I would have placed a wager on Little Big Bear reversing the form at the current prices this weekend had the ground stayed quick.

However, Friday’s prolonged rainfall has loosened up the turf and that might not suit Aidan O’Brien’s powerful sprinter. I will watch the race with extreme interest, but I’d rather leave my balance untouched with an eye on better and safer punting opportunities earlier in the day.

One of those opportunities comes in the form of the Group 2 Superlative Stakes (3.25 Newmarket), where the highly promising and exceptionally well-bred City Of Troy should prove hard to beat under Ryan Moore.

This son of Triple Crown hero Justify is out of Group 1-winning mare Together Forever and will be better suited by middle distances later in his career. But he showed such a likeable attitude, plenty of pace and professionalism on debut that another crack at this seven-furlong trip feels like the right move.

I loved how he put his rivals away in the final furlong on his first start and the stiff climb to the finish here on the July course will suit him. He only needs to improve around 10lb to hit the level required to win an average Superlative Stakes, and that seems like a distinct possibility given O’Brien’s horses regularly take a big leap forward before their second outing.

It’s over to York for my other two selections - and they will both run in the John Smith’s City Walls Stakes (2.35). The market is headed by two experienced sprinters who have made giant strides up the graded ladder this year after competing in a selection of high-profile handicaps.

Recent Listed winner Regional deserves favouritism in his bid for a hat-trick, but he has to carry a penalty in this contest and might not get his desired fast ground. In contrast, any give underfoot will be a positive for Silky Wilkie, who seems to run consistently well every week and must be considered once again.

However, I like the look of the three-year-olds in this year’s renewal and therefore splitting my stakes between Great State and Kerdos feels like the right ploy. 

The latter has always been highly regarded by trainer Clive Cox and he impressed me with his runner-up effort in the Palace Of Holyrood House Stakes at Royal Ascot. The ITV Racing director panned to a side camera just as he made his move to try to win that race and he instantly put two lengths into his closest pursuers in the space of just six strides.

Despite running an exceptional race, the fact that he hung across to the favored stands’ side late in the day probably cost him victory. Nevertheless, he put daylight between himself and the rest of the field and now might be the time to strike with him. Clive Cox’s horses have run well for the last two weeks and Kerdos has won on good to soft ground before - two more positives.

Great State also has form on deep form, as well as posting a course-and-distance victory on his penultimate outing. Yes, he let punters down with his recent Sandown defeat at short odds, but I don’t think he handled that track overly well and the return to the Knavesmire could spark life back into Richard Fahey’s charge.

Saturday’s Horse Racing Predictions

Great State (2.35 York) @ 10.5 
Kerdos (2.35 York) @ 11.5
City Of Troy (3.25 Newmarket) @ 2.58

Tom Collins

14 July 2023

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