THERE have been some fantastic handicaps over the past few weeks, but the 50th running of the John Smith’s Cup at York tomorrow promises to be something special. The Queen’s Kingdom of Fife is likely to start favourite and will have plenty of supporters after his comfortable win in the Zetland Cup at the end of May. He looks a progressive type, but has to carry 9st6lbs which we’ve seen in recent years is no easy task (last three winners all carried less than 9st).
The first place to look when trying to find the winner of this race has to be Richard Fahey’s yard – he has won the last two and three of the last seven renewals. He has three entries this time around, but none of them are getting my juices flowing. Luca Cumani always demands respect at the big handicaps across the country, but especially on the Knavesmire and his Riggins must have an excellent chance. He has won three of his four career starts and his only defeat at Newbury this May can be completely ignored as he was held up and got no sort of run at the business end. However, the nagging doubt for me is whether he will truly stay a mile and a quarter and his breeding suggests a mile will be his optimum. If he stays, he will probably win, but at around 6/1 that is too much of a doubt for me.
The interesting ones are David Barron’s progressive SIRVINO and Jim Goldie’s NANTON. Sirvino only got off the mark in his first race this season, but he has since gone on to notch a mightily impressive four-timer. His last run at Ayr was particularly eye-catching when he travelled smoothly throughout and was probably worth quite a lot more than the official 11/4 length winning margin. There is rain forecast in the York area on Saturday, so it’s a positive that he has won on all types of ground and if he was housed at a higher profile stable, he would be much shorter than the current 14/1.
Nanton ran an excellent trial when finishing fourth in last month’s Royal Hunt Cup at Royal Ascot and was only 21/2 lengths behind Kingdom of Fife in the Zetland Cup. The Queen’s horse had the run of the race that day and I can’t for the life of me see why our fellow can be backed at more than twice the price, with a seven-pound pull at the weights. He does like to hear his hooves rattle though, so let’s hope the rain stays away, although if the heavens do open I wouldn’t put anyone off a buy of York winning distances with Sporting Index.
The Totesport Summer Mile at Ascot is a fascinating race and Ascot-specialist Cesare will be many people’s idea of the winner. He has a number of tough nuts to crack though and I find it near impossible to split him, Aqlaam and Mike De Kock’s Imbongi. I’m prepared to leave this one alone and give old boy BORDERLESCOTT one more chance this season. His draw in stall 2 is perfect for the Toteswinger City Wall Stakes (four of the last five winners have been drawn 4 or lower) and he should be able to enact his revenge on last year’s winner Green Manalishi (drawn 11), who beat him by a nose 12 months ago.
The Punter will be back on Wednesday to preview The Open and the Second Test at Lord’s.
SIRVINO e/w (3.10pm York, Saturday)
NANTON e/w (3.10pm York, Saturday)
BORDERLESCOTT (3.30pm Chester, Saturday)