Despite not being the most valuable race around the Portland remains one of the most hotly contested sprint handicaps of the season and its intermediate trip of five-and-a-half furlongs provides us with another quandary; will it suit the 5f horses or the 6f horses?
In any event we’ve narrowed the field down to these seven contenders, all of which should have some sort of place chance:
Blue De Vega
Robert Cowell is no stranger to these big sprints and will know exactly what he has at his disposal, the presence of Frankie Dettori rather than Oisin Murphy in the saddle no disadvantage either.
His win at Ascot in July on quick ground and decent third last time on the heavy show a versatility perhaps required for this and he shouldn’t be far away at the business end of things.
A horse without too many miles on the clock and one getting better with each run as the season draws to a close, something we cannot underestimate of one trained by the excellent Michael Dods.
He reached his peak of form as a three-year-old and just this time last season so we could expect a seasons best in this race, something that as a horse who sees out both five and six furlongs well should mean he has every chance under Connor Beasley.
A young pretender, Hugo Palmer’s runner has all the attributes to make a good sprinter for this time of the season and ran easily his best race last time when scoring easily in a pretty valuable handicap at Chelmsford.
That was only a five-runner race however and its far from certain that he can transfer that sort of form to the turf when in what is bound to be a fiercely run race. Josie Gordon rides and should he continue his improvement on the grass he’s bang in with a chance.
Fancied to land a big one all year, Holmeswood has arguably been a tad disappointing thus far but his time will come and it’s worth noting that Michael Dods won’t book a jockey like Silvestre De Sousa just for the fun of it.
A third to El Astronaute over this exact trip at York last time was probably his best run of the season and it’s not as though he’s averse to running two good ones in a row so hopes are high that this could be his day.
Not without a chance having shown fine form at both Goodwood and York recently, the 3yo has plenty more to give and may well get into the money but is likely to find a few just too good on the day.
Clive Cox knows his onions and it goes without saying that crack international jockey Ryan Moore does too, so in terms of connections Tis Marvellous boasts about the best in this race all things considered.
Sprinters are renowned for not always showing their best form every time and so sometimes it’s better to catch them after a below-par effort and that’s what we are doing here. A fine fourth in the Wokingham was followed by a poorer effort in the Stewards’ Cup and last time out’s 14th followed a win in the Shergar Cup at Ascot.
Another big run this time is on the cards and with more improvement expected from the classiest horse in the field his odds are beginning to look a little generous.
Having won the sprint series finale at Windsor recently the 5yo comes into this in rare form, however he was prepared for that day so doing it all over again from a 4lb higher handicap mark gives him plenty to do and so despite his credentials, place money would be acceptable.
Although it’s easy to see Encrypted improving enough to take a hand back on turf, I’d prefer Holmeswood all things considered under the power drive of Silvestre De Sousa.
They may both be playing bridesmaid however to the one at the top of the handicap, TIS MARVELLOUS. Clive Cox’s talented four-year-old may land one more valuable handicap before moving into pattern company next year.