Cunard Handicap preview: Ripp Orf weighted to retain Ascot crown

14th September 2021

2019 Cunard Handicap preview from Ascot

Ripp Orf has an excellent record at Ascot and looks weighted to land back-to-back runnings of the 7f Cunard Handicap at the Berkshire venue on Saturday (14:45).

This David Elsworth trained five-year-old has won twice and been placed three times in six starts over course and distance.

The son of Rip Van Winkle was beaten only a length into third in the International Stakes here last July, before going on to land the spoils in this two starts later when beating the now very smart Cape Byron by half-a-length off 93.

Ripp Orf also ran very well at this venue on his penultimate outing last season when finding only Raising Sand two lengths too good in the 15-runner Challenge Cup off a rating of 97.

He is now able to race off a rating of 94. That gives him a huge shout from a handicapping perspective on the pick of his form.

Ripp Orf also comes into the contest on the back of three fine efforts wh9ch suggest his time is near.

After finishing with a rattle to be beaten just two lengths when sixth of 17 to Vale Of Kent in the 7f Bunbury Cup at Newmarket, he again ran on strongly when a 3 1/4 lengths fourth of 23 to Raising Sand in this year’s International Stakes – again over course and distance.

Ripp Orf then found a small field and slow pace against him last time out when beaten a head by Pattie at Newbury.

This 17-runner affair which is traditionally run at a strong end-to-end gallop will play far more to his strengths.

So, taking everything into account, he looks a worthy favourite at the 11/2 on offer with BetVictor.

In-form Escobar feared most in Cunard Handicap

The David O’Meara trained Escobar comes into the race on the back of some extremely solid runs, so looks sure to make his presence felt now dropped back in grade.

In the first of those at Sandown, the five-year-old was slowly away before finishing with a rattle to be beaten 1 1/4 lengths by Mojito in the 13-runner Coral Challenge.

It was a huge run, given how the race panned out, and Escobar on to score in fine style at Haydock when cleverly beating Rise Hall by three-quarters of a length.

He challenged on the bit two out under an ultra-confident Jamie Spencer and only had to be shaken up to assert close home and score with tons in hand off a mark of 100.

This son of Famous Name backed that up with a fine staying on never nearer, two-length third of 20 to Beat Le Bon in the Golden Mile Handicap at Glorious Goodwood off 101. The form of that reads well in relation to this.

Escobar was then far from disgraced last time out off his current rating of 104 when a 2 1/4 lengths fifth of six to Zaaki in the Group 3 Strensall Stakes over nine furlongs at York.

This represents a return to calmer waters and the drop back to 7f will hold no fears for Escobar who has won two of his nine starts over the trip.

The forecast underfoot conditions are also ideal, so at 10/1 with Betfred, he looks a solid each-way contender.

Spanish City another with claims

Given that he finished in front of Ripp Orf when fourth in the Bunbury Cup, the Roger Varian trained Spanish City is another well worth considering each-way at 10/1 with Bethard.

It’s not the first time that the pair have clashed as the six-year-old ran a stormer to finish a 1 1/4 lengths sixth of 27 to Elsworth’s charge in the valuable Victoria Cup over course and distance last season when not getting the clearest of runs

After being switched right at the start and being held-up, Spanish City found himself behind a wall of horses a furlong from home.

He then flew home when eventually getting in the clear to be gaining hand over fist at the finish

Spanish City looked an unlucky loser, and he also ran well over course and distance in this 12 months ago when beaten just three-quarters of a length into fourth by Ripp Orf.

He now meets the winner on 3lb worse terms, so has work to do to turn the tables on that rival.

However, connections have snapped up the services of highly promising apprentice Marco Ghiani to do the steering and he takes a handy 7lb off Spanish City with his claim.

Taking it into account, there is little to choose between the pair. The son of Exceed And Excel comes into the race in tip top shape having cosily landed a four-runner affair at Yarmouth last month by three-quarters of a length.

Given that he is a hold-up performer, Spanish City does need the cards to drop right and will need luck in-running in this 17-runner field.

But if they do, then he looks sure to be in the thick of things and will be hard to keep out of the frame at least.

Arbalet a lively outsider

Of those at bigger odds, the well-treated Arbalet appeals most now fitted with blinkers for the first time.

This Hugo Palmer trained four-year-old colt was last success at Carlisle 16 months ago when scoring easily by 3 1/4 lengths off an official rating of 100.

He was then stepped up in class and ran very well when finishing a six-length fifth of 21 to Expert Eye in the Group 3 Jersey Stakes at the Royal meeting here.

Arbalet backed that up with a cracking three-quarters of a length second of 27 to Burnt Sugar in the International Stakes over this course and distance off a mark of 104.

The son of Dark Angel went on to round off the campaign with a fine 2 1/2 lengths third to old rival Expert Eye in a Group 3 at York off 106.

Although yet to trouble the judge in six starts this season, Arbalet has been cut plenty of slack by the assessor as a result and is now able to race off a reduced rating of 95.

That is a career-low and makes him a player at the weights if the fitting of that new headgear can spark him back into life.

So, at 16/1 with William Hill, Arbalet features as another potential each-way punt and completes this 2019 Cunard Handicap preview.

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