Melrose Handicap preview: Almania appeals at York

Published on: August 23, 2019
Author: David Metcalf
2019 Melrose Handicap preview from the Ebor Festival at York

Almania looks weighted to go well and the one to be on in the 1m 6f Melrose Handicap at York on Saturday (14:25) now stepped up in trip.

This Sir Michael Stoute trained colt had just two starts as a juvenile, finishing a promising fourth at Ascot before showing a game attitude to beat Buffalo River by half-a -length in a 10-runner maiden at Sandown.

The manner of that success suggested Almania would come into his own as a three-year-old once he strengthened up.

He found things too hot on seasonal reappearance, however, when pitched in at the deep end and finishing an 11 1/4 lengths last of eight to Telecaster in the Group 2 Dante Stakes over an extended 1m 2f at this venue.

This year’s Dante doesn’t stack up form wise. When you consider Almania was only 5 1/2 lengths behind subsequent Royal Ascot, Grand Prix de Paris and Juddmonte International winner Japan, that reads well in the context of this.

Connections then decided to drop the son of Derby winner Australia back into handicap company.

Almania duly posted a much improved effort when a keeping on three-length fifth of 16 to South Pacific in the 1m 4f King George V Stakes at Royal Ascot off his current mark of 95.

SDS a positive booking

He finished just a length behind the third home Eminence and now meets Aidan O’Brien’s charge on 5lb better terms. That should be more than enough to see him gain his revenge on that rival.

Almania backed that up with a fair staying on 1 3/4 lengths fourth to Floating Artist over 1m 4f in a slowly run affair which didn’t play his strengths.

He then found the drop back to 1m 2f against him, but was far from disgraced in finishing a 3 1/2 lengths fifth of 11 to Forest Dean last time out at Glorious Goodwood.

Judged on his aforementioned runs at Ascot, Almania appears to be crying out for the extra two furlongs of this.

He appeals as the type to come into his own as a stayer and looks on a workable mark if that proves to be the case.

The booking of champion jockey Silvestre De Sousa also to partner Almania for the first time also catches the eye as he has had just five rides for the yard in the past 12 months – winning once and finishing placed on another occasion.

So, taking everything into account, Almania looks to have more going for him than odds of 10/1 on offer with Betfair would suggest.

First In Line a formidable opponent

The betting is headed by the lightly-raced and progressive First In Line, a 9/2 chance with Coral, who represents powerful connections and looks a major player.

This three-year-old son of New Approach hails from the red-hot yard of John Gosden and carries the famous black and white halved colours of owner Anthony Oppenheimer made famous by Cracksman and Golden Horn.

First In Line has had just three outings, shaping with promise on debut at Nottingham when a 1 3/4 lengths runner-up to Dubai Instinct after being slowly away before opening his account in taking style at Lingfield when beating Harrovian by half-a- length.

Harrovian went on to bolt-up next time by seven lengths before finishing third in a decent handicap at Glorious Goodwood off a mark of 89, whilst the third home Rum Baba has also gone on to taste success.

That gives the form a very solid look. First In Line has since followed-up in facile fashion in a novice stakes contest at Newbury when making all to beat Wise Ruler by six lengths.

He has been allotted an opening mark of 96 on the back of that vey taking success, and that could seriously underestimate his ability.

Frankie Dettori, who partnered him to success at Lingfield, is also now back in the plate and First In Line has bags of untapped potential.

The one question mark is that he now step up significantly in trip having raced solely over 1m 2f. If staying the extra four furlongs, however, a bold bid to land the hat-trick looks assured.

Kiefer another with claims in Melrose Handicap

In a race where a case can be made for most of the 13 runners, the Eve Johnson Houghton trained Kiefer makes most appeal from an each-way betting perspective.

This son of Pour Moi has shown improved form in each of his six outings and opened his account at the fourth tie of asking when swooping late to beat Alhaazm in a decent 1m 3f handicap at Newbury.

Kiefer then ran very well from 1lb out of the weights when a neck second to Desert Icon over 1m 4f at Sandown where, after being held-up well off the pace, he finished strongly and was gaining all the way to the line.

He was arguably given too much to do and it was a similar story last time out over 1m 4f at Ascot when a 2 3/4 lengths third to Western Duke off a mark of 88.

Regular pilot Charles Bishop, who is once again in the saddle, dropped Kiefer in and seemed undecided as to which route to take when trying to mount a challenge.

That resulted in Kiefer encountering all sorts of trouble three from home and finding himself trapped behind a wall of horses.

When eventually seeing daylight, it was all too late but to his credit Keifer did keep on strongly in the closing stages without being given an unduly hard time.

The way in which he finishes off his races suggests that 1m 6f should not be a problem, so if ridden a tad more positively he looks weighted to go well off an unchanged mark.

Hence, at odds of 8/1 with BetVictor, he had to feature as the each-way selection and thus completes this Melrose Handicap preview.