Hanson: Spot Plays for Newbury April 20

April 19th, 2024

The start of my 2024 British flat season betting did not get off to the quickest of starts Wednesday at Newmarket, with both top selections going unplaced. Our original $1,000 bankroll, from which we are betting 5% of the balance to win on each top pick, is down to $902 heading into Saturday's action at Newbury.

The first of three win plays will be for $45.

Race 1 — John Porter (G3) (8:30 a.m. ET)

An interesting group of older horses will travel 1 1/2 miles here. One of the favorites will be the William Haggas-trained #2 Hamish, who enjoyed a perfect 4-for-4 campaign in Group 3 company last year. But I prefer the yard's other entry, #8 Mujtaba (15-1), who was unfortunately sidelined last term after just one start, a narrow loss in the Huxley (G3) at Chester.

Mujtaba made no impact in the first Group race of the European turf season, the March 16 Prix Exbury (G3) at Saint-Cloud, but I'm willing to draw a line through that. The son of Dubawi was showing a lot of promise through the end of his four-year-old campaign, at which time he was 5-for-8, including a dominating win over this course. There might be more still to come.

Race 2 — Fred Darling (G3) (9:05 a.m. ET)

This 1000 Guineas (G1) trial attracted a field of only six, but it's a solid group. #3 Regal Jubilee and #4 Relief Rally are both accomplished fillies, while #2 Folgaria is an intriguing invader from Italy.

But I'll take a flyer with second-time starter #1 Elmalka (9-2) for trainer Roger Varian. A Kingman half-sister to multiple Group 1 winner Benbatl, Elmalka made a favorable impression on debut last November, rallying from the back to win by a length going seven furlongs over the all-weather at Southwell.

She will really need to progress to topple some of the aforementioned fillies, but connections show confidence placing her here and the price figures to be bettable.

Race 3 — Greenham (G3) (9:40 a.m. ET)

Despite attracting a field of 11, this 2000 Guineas (G1) trial seemingly didn't come up with as talented a group as the Fred Darling, for its division. In other words, it probably won't take a serious Guineas contender to win this.

#8 Room Service (10-1) showed a lot more maturity and focus to win his season finale last September in a lucrative sales race at Doncaster by a comfortable margin, while also relishing the softer conditions he'll likely see again at Newbury. A consistent performer in all four outings to date, he also figures to be well suited for the slight step up to seven furlongs.