Turf Talk: Johnston plotting a winning step up in trip for Cape Islay

Middleham trainer Mark Johnston. PIC: James Hardisty
Middleham trainer Mark Johnston. PIC: James Hardisty
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Mark Johnston appears to have found a fine opportunity for Cape Islay to regain losses in the British EBF Nursery Handicap at Nottingham.

The Cape Cross filly is back up in distance to this one mile and two furlongs, for her handicap debut after one victory in three attempts so far. Following a promising third here on debut under Silvestre de Sousa, then her decisive maiden success over a well-touted odds-on favourite at Epsom, Cape Islay was at the head of the market herself at Beverley last month.

Harlequin Striker, ridden by Charles Bishop, winning the Dubai Duty Free Nursery back in September 2014. PIC: Steve Parsons/PA Wire

Harlequin Striker, ridden by Charles Bishop, winning the Dubai Duty Free Nursery back in September 2014. PIC: Steve Parsons/PA Wire

But sent off the 11-4 joint-favourite, despite giving weight away all round, she had a luckless run – twice stopped in her tracks and having to switch late on.

A resulting 12-and-a-half-length fifth tells little of the true story – and with De Sousa back on board for this valuable event, significant consolation is due.

Harlequin Striker is top weight for a reason in the Bet At Racing UK.com Handicap. Some may be put off by the six-year-old’s acquisition of a visor in place of his long-owned cheekpieces. But Dean Ivory’s gelding was last a winner in the corresponding race here 12 months ago, when the headgear went on for the first time.

He has been getting to the front of late, but just not managing to stay there on stiffer tracks, and it may be that everything falls into place this time.

At Kempton, John Gosden’s Buffalo River can help get the evening off to a flying start in division one of the Close Brothers/British Stallion Studs EBF Novice Stakes.

There will doubtless be plenty of regulars unwilling to trust Buffalo River again after he emptied their pockets here two weeks ago when he was turned over at 2-9 on his first crack at the Polytrack. The fuller picture is three close-up placings out of three, though, and short memories of being nabbed on the line by a debutant may inflate the price of a prime contender.

His third place at Doncaster behind subsequent Group One winner Royal Marine and the also-smart Turgenev looks an increasingly good effort.

Later on under lights, it would be unwise to ignore the obvious in the ebfstallions.com Conditions Stakes.

Cenotaph has racked up three wins at Chelmsford since mid-summer, after joining Jeremy Noseda from Aidan O’Brien, most recently in a valuable event at the start of last month.

The six-year-old sprang a minor surprise at this distance on the first occasion, but has since twice rewarded favourite backers and is thought the type to do well in Dubai next year.

He is on a roll.

Over jumps, Silverhow may well appreciate going up in trip for his seasonal debut in the Kevin Mallon Celebrates 60th Handicap Chase at Ludlow.

This sharp three miles equates fine to the two-and-a-half at the much stiffer Sandown over which Colin Tizzard’s seven-year-old closed out last season with a convincing four-length defeat of War Sound.

Silverhow is up another 8lb to a career-high 132 - but with decent ground likely to suit as well, there is every prospect of further progress.

SOBOT’S SELECTIONS

KEMPTON: 5.40 Buffalo River (next best), 6.10 Kings Royal Hussar, 6.40 Don’t Look Down, 7.10 La Maquina, 7.40 Anchises, 8.10 Cenotaph (treble), 8.40 It’s A Wish, 9.10 Auxerre.

LUDLOW: 2.10 Royal Household, 2.40 Grania O’Malley, 3.10 Silverhow, 3.40 Before Midnight, 4.10 The Dubai Way, 4.40 High Wells, 5.15 Miss Heritage.

NOTTINGHAM: 1.30 Mohaather, 2.00 Autumn Flight, 2.30 Time Immemorial, 3.00 Mind The Crack, 3.30 CAPE ISLAY (NAP), 4.00 Harlequin Striker, 4.30 El Ghazwani, 5.00 Decima.

SOUTHWELL: 2.20 Mcgroarty, 2.50 Beau Sancy, 3.20 Definitelyanoscar, 3.50 Haafapiece, 4.20 Asking Questions, 4.50 Torn And Frayed.