Area Fifty One is fancied to win the John Smith’s Cup at York on Saturday for local trainer Richard Fahey.
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The John Smith's Cup, for a contest of its nature, has had surprisingly few unconsidered horses landing the spoils of late, just one winner being sent off bigger than 12/1 in the last eight years.
Trainer Luca Cumani is likely to saddle Danadana and Kirthill at York.
Of that pair, Danadana currently holds sway in the market, albeit marginally, with the four-year-old trading at 12.0 whilst Kirthill is available at 14.0. Danadana has improved markedly this season, looking in need of his reappearance at Newmarket before landing a really well-contested handicap back at that same track, winning with a bit in hand. He went on to notch a further victory in Redcar's Zetland Gold Cup, another good-quality handicap, confirming the opinion that he is going the right way and a handicapper to keep on side.
Unfortunately, Cumani has stated Danadana would be an unlikely runner were rain to fall on York and with back gardens in the area presently resembling swimming pools rather than strip of turfs, Danadana's prospects of lining up look about as bleak as the summer of 2012.
So what are Cumani's chances of celebrating success with Kirthill? The four-year-old ended 2011 on the up, winning at Newbury, and has returned this season with a decent effort over C&D before putting up a career-best last time when sixth to Gatewood at Royal Ascot. He will probably be seen to greater effect when stepped up to a mile and a half and in all likelihood, the wine will be remaining in the cellar on Saturday evening at Bedford House Stables.
Roger Varian-trained Mijhaar is currently trading as favourite and it is expected that he will occupy that position on race day. Mijhaar has been threatening to win a good race for a while and came closest to doing just that on his most recent start when third to Gatewood in the aforementioned contest. He cannot be attributed with doing anything wrong when off the bridle but has traded at 2.2 or lower in-running and failed to deliver on his last four starts, a worrying trait, and at the current price of 4.8 he does not make much appeal as a value bet.
One who makes plenty of appeal is Media Hype, winner of a big-field handicap over C&D in May. Prior to that effort, Media Hype had finished runner-up to The Galloping Shoe at Haydock, having no less than four next-time-out winners (including Old Newton Cup winner Number Theory) in behind. He was the subject of market support on his most recent start at Newmarket, shaping as if still in form but not being seen to best effect in a race where it was difficult to make up ground from the rear. Media Hype is very lightly raced for a five-year-old and remains with the potential to improve.
Media Hype's Newmarket conqueror Area Fifty One will re-oppose on Saturday and has to be respected given his two most recent starts, when second to Navajo Chief and landing that Newmarket affair. His York effort at the time represented a career best, but Area Fifty One improved upon that when defeating his Newmarket rivals by four lengths. Arguably, the four-year-old was suited by the way the race developed having raced close to the pretty sound pace, but conversely it is possible Area Fifty One is simply a handicapper to take seriously. He has to shoulder a penalty for that success but may well be up to doing so.
There are a plethora of competitors that it is easy to make a case for among the rest of the field but a pair that require some attention are the aforementioned Navajo Chief and Alkimos.
The former's defeat of Area Fifty One represented one of his better efforts and he is yet to run badly in five starts at this venue. The gelding has to enter calculations, but whether he can defy a career-high mark is up for debate.
Alkimos, formerly trained by Luca Cumani but who has represented Godolphin on his last four starts, achieved a career best when encountering soft ground in the Group 3 Tercentenary Stakes at Royal Ascot last season. He got back to that form on his latest start, when fourth to Camborne on just his second try at a mile and a half, looking to be well suited by the demands of that distance. Soft ground will help, dropping down two furlongs this weekend, but he would make far more appeal were this staged over further.
An intriguing contest is very much on the cards, the spectacle of a big-field handicap further adding to the show. Media Hype makes plenty of appeal but it is Area Fifty One that just gets the nod in his bid to confirm superiority over that rival, his Newmarket win being rather impressive.