Ashpan Sam well-handicapped in Derby Day Finale

Ashpan Sam landed this prize 12 months ago and he can repeat the feat
RACE 7 5.50pm
Investec Asset Management Handicap

ASHPAN SAM was an electric winner of the last race on today’s card 12 months ago and John Spearing’s six-year-old looks primed to go close in his repeat bid.

That came off a mark of 100 and he went up to 105 for that 1 1/2 length triumph over 2011 winner Swiss Cross. So it’s either a sign of how poor the horse has been running since, or how shrewd his trainer is, that he can run in this year’s renewal off only 97.

In truth, it’s a mixture of both. It’s hard for many horses rated around the 100-mark to win good handicaps and he’s probably just shy of Listed class, so he was always going to be tricky to place.

But Ashpan Sam ran well enough at York last summer and, although he was well-beaten on his reappearance at Goodwood, that was surely just a warm-up for this. In any case, he still showed his customary dash before weakening in the last couple of furlongs.

With that run under his belt, and Richard Hughes doing the steering, I’m expecting a big run.

The son of smart sprinter Firebreak will again be shouldered with top-weight, but 9st7lb isn’t as much of a burden as he might be asked to carry in a lot of other big races.

And, perhaps surprisingly, only two horses have carried less than 9st to victory in this contest in the last decade, suggesting it pays to concentrate on the classiest types.

Only my selection and Secretinthepark have over 9st this time around and Robert Cowell’s new inmate rates a danger.

Formerly with Ed McMahon, Secretinthepark won his first three starts and looked a speedball to follow. He hasn’t won in 14 starts since though, and, frustratingly for connections, hasn’t had much leniency from the handicapper.

But Cowell has proved a dab hand with sprinters and the horse’s first two starts for him haven’t been devoid of promise.

The five-year-old may have fallen out of love with the game, but I think there’s a big prize in him one day, so keep an eye on the betting.

Swiss Cross comes alive at Epsom and, off a 10lb lower mark than when winning this race four years ago, shouldn’t be dismissed as an each-way shot.

▪ Pointers…
ASHPAN SAM