I seldom bet on flat racing but sometimes a horse catches my eye as a potential champ; Cracksman is one of those. Last season I was convinced that such was his rate of progress after July, he’d turn up in the Arc. But his trainer John Gosden also had Enable and, although Cracksman was with a different owner, Gosden persuaded the owner, Anthony Oppenheimer, that Cracksman was too immature mentally to take on Enable in the Arc. When I watched Enable win the big one in style, I didn’t feel quite so bad tearing up my Cracksman antepost tickets, but when the colt turned up at Ascot for the Champion Stakes, it made me wonder again what might have been.
He pulverised a decent field that day, drawing away in such a manner that it seemed the real race was going on behind him. Racing Post Ratings judged him to have run 2lbs better than Enable did in winning her Arc, and jockey Dettori reported that there was a lot more to come from the colt.
So why can he be backed right now at 4/1 for the King George VI & Queen Elizabeth stakes at Ascot in July? It’s a race that rarely pulls in double figure fields. Nine opposed Enable last year, but that was the first time in five years the field had reached double figures. Given the likely presence this year of Enable and, hopefully Cracksman, I suspect we’ll see the smallest field for many years. I believe too that Cracksman will go off favourite if he lines up. The ‘if’ is the reason for his current price. Last season Cracksman’s connections said that it was unlikely he would meet Enable until October this year in the Arc. But it seems that the owner (perhaps not the trainer) is having second thoughts. Cracksman had a racecourse gallop at Newmarket last week. It went well. Oppenheimer was there and was quoted thus: ‘I’d like to see him run in the King George’. Gosden also made a point of mentioning the King George as the first potential public meeting of his two stable stars. So, I’m assuming there has been a rethink.
But the bookies know this too and 4/1 is still available. The other potential barrier to Cracksman’s Ascot participation will be the ground. Although he has run three times on good ground (and won on it), his best form by some way is on easy ground. It was soft at Ascot for his Champion Stakes. The King George is in July and the race has been run on good to firm ground three times in the past ten years. I’m far from sure Cracksman would take his chance on fast ground and I believe this ground doubt is playing a part in the current 4/1. Also, as antepost betting has other risks attached – a horse getting an injury or not working well at a critical time – why bet Cracksman now? Why not wait until he is due to run next? Well, by that time, the yard will probably know for sure what his programme is and if the King George is in it, he’ll be 5/2, rather than 4/1 in my opinion.
I’m laying out the argument in this detail to give you as much information as possible so that you can make your own decision. I have backed him this morning and I am making him a ‘recommended’ bet now for readers. If I were sure he was running, he’d be a ‘strongly recommended’ bet as I’m confident he can beat Enable, even with her mare’s allowance. But, as ever, bear in mind the antepost pitfalls.
Cracksman at 4/1 to win the King George VI with Paddy Power is a ‘recommended’ bet (see here).
Enjoy the racing and don’t bet more than you can afford to lose with a smile.