Pyman’s Theories: How to find handicap winners at the Dante


Mahsoob: won at York before going on to score at Royal Ascot

  PICTURE: Edward Whitaker (  

First published on Friday, May 6 when only entries were available. Changes may have occurred since the column was printed

PURISTS will be looking forward to the Group-race action at York next week, but handicaps outnumber Pattern races at the Dante meeting and, as most of these races will feature competitive betting markets, finding handicap winners will be a priority for many punters.

To assist your quest for handicap riches I’ve compiled this race-by-race guide after considering race trends, trainer stats, the routes taken to the meeting by winners and their subsequent achievements.

Wednesday pointers

Wednesday, 888sport Handicap (1m2½f, Class 2, 0-100)
Younger horses with untapped potential from Newmarket stables should set alarm bells ringing.

Twelve of the last 18 winners have been four-year-olds, while the last winner to have run more than eight times on the Flat was Blue Spinnaker (2006). Four of the last ten went on to win at Listed, Group or Graded level and winners frequently go on to run well in Royal Ascot handicaps. Mahsoob (last season) and Gatewood (2012) won the Wolferton, Moonquake (2009) was runner-up in the Wolferton, while Imposing (2010) finished second in the Duke of Edinburgh.

Key pointer Newmarket trainers have supplied nine of the last 11 winners and seven of the Newmarket winners were running for the first time that season

Wednesday, Infinity Tyres Handicap (6f, Class 2, 0-105)
Given that the Wokingham is earlier in the season than the Stewards’ Cup you might think this would be a stronger trial for the Royal Ascot handicap. On the contrary, two winners later in the season won the Stewards’ Cup – Borderlescott (2006) and Hoof It (2011) – while winners this century who then appeared in the following month’s Wokingham achieved positions at Ascot of 03040700. This paradox is possibly explained by the York and Goodwood 6f tracks being sharper than Ascot’s stiff 6f.

Yorkshire trainers have taken a tight stranglehold with Secret Witness (Ron Harris) the only winner from outside the region in the last ten years. Two of the Yorkshire-based winners were trained by Mick Easterby and he saddled the runner-up in 2008.

Key pointer Nine of the last ten winners were trained in Yorkshire

Wednesday, Constant Security Handicap (1m4f, Class 4, 0-85)
Four-year-olds with proven class have dominated recently as four of the last six winners were from this age group and were rated within 6lb of the 85 ceiling. Tim Easterby and Alan Swinbank have strong records with horses who had run that season with Easterby’s runners achieving positions of 10145 (+10.50) and Swinbank’s 310261 (+30.50).

Key pointer Since 2007 three winners had finished in the first five of a handicap at Beverley in the last 20 days

Conundrum HR Consulting Handicap (7f, Class 3, 0-95)
Have eyes only for runners with progressive form. Four of the last five winners had bettered their previous best RPR every time they had run and the sole exception, That Is The Spirit, was a once-raced winner. The last four winners went on to post a 105+ RPR.

Richard Fahey likes to use this as a stepping stone. In the last five seasons he has sent out two winners and two seconds from 12 runners with five of these horses going on to achieve an RPR of 100+.

Key pointer Five of the last seven winners had improved their RPRs every time they had run

Mick Easterby

Mick Easterby: trainer to watch in sprint handicaps at the Dante meeting

  PICTURE: Martin Lynch (  

Thursday pointers

Thursday, Betfred ‘Supports Jack Berry House’ Handicap
(5f, Class 2, 0-105)
Two important factors are course form and preparation. All winners this century had course experience, with ten of the last 12 having recorded a top-five finish at York, and when you look at what winners then went on to achieve in the rest of their careers, three of the last 12 recorded their best RPRs at York. Johannes (2010) is the only winner in this period who was making his seasonal debut.

This is a speed test and when you examine the routes taken by past winners, sharp tracks figure prominently. Three had their final races at Chester and three completed their preparations at Thirsk.

Mick Easterby evidently likes to target the sprint handicaps at this meeting (see Infinity Tyres Stakes above) and boasts a 3-7 record (+£32) since 2000.

Key pointer Eight of the last 16 winners were appearing within two weeks of their last run

Thursday, Betfred TV Hambleton Handicap (1m, Class 1, 0-110)
Focus your winner-finding on horses in their prime who have shown they possess the requisite class to land a 0-110. Nine of the last 11 winners had already posted an RPR of 107 and, revealingly, six of the last seven winners failed to better their winning RPR in any of their subsequent runs. So this race is usually won by a proven performer at this level in peak physical shape who is suited by the going and the course – an aspect underlined by the fact that five of the last 11 had won at York previously.

Key pointer Since 2005 horses rated 104-plus have yielded 36 per cent of winners (four) despite making up 18 per cent of the runners

Thursday, Racing UK Handicap (2m, Class 3, 0-90)
A battleground for Flat stayers and runners switching from jumps races. Four of the five winners between 2009 and 2013 had run over hurdles last time out. However, the ratings ceiling was raised to 90 (from 80) three seasons ago when the race was made a sharper test with the distance shortened by a furlong and a half. This may have tipped the scales to give a better chance to horses with more Flat speed and the last two winners were from Flat stables and had run recently on the all-weather.

Key pointer A springboard to the 2m4f Ascot Stakes at the royal meeting. Well Sharp achieved this double in 2013

Sir Michael Stoute with Sea Moon (Ryan Moore) - Louisville, Kentucky - 03/11/2011

Sir Michael Stoute (left) and Ryan Moore (riding) team up well at York

  PICTURE: Edward Whitaker (  

Friday pointers

Friday, Betway Jorvik Handicap (1m4f, Class 2, 0-105)
Trends are proving to be extremely helpful. You want a horse in good form (the last four winners had achieved their best RPR last time out) and aged four or five, as the last winner older than that was the six-year-old Millville in 2006.

Key pointer Since 2008 horses representing the Sir Michael Stoute-Ryan Moore combination achieved finishing positions of 309116

Friday, EBF Stallions Breeding Winners Frank Whittle Partnership Fillies’ Handicap (7f, Class 3, 0-90)
The only two previous runnings of this fillies’ handicap were both won by Dusky Queen. She was rated 86 when winning two years ago and defied a mark of 90 last season with an 89-rated rival in second. A tentative theory is that classier fillies near the top of the weights may dominate many future runnings.

Key pointer York form could be important. Dusky Queen was already a course-and-distance winner when taking this race for the first time

Friday, Ralph Raper Memorial Handicap (5f, Class 3, 0-90)
This has a track record of producing future sprinting stars. G Force won two years ago and later that season claimed the Group 1 Haydock Sprint Cup, 2013 winner Moviesta went on to win the Group 2 King George Stakes, Hoof It triumphed in 2010 and won the following season’s Stewards’ Cup, while 2008 winner Hamish McGonagall never won a Group 1 but recorded top-four finishes in three Nunthorpes.

Key pointer All winners since 2007 had run that season

Friday, 7IM Supports Cystic Fibrosis Care Handicap
(1m4f, Class 4, 0-80)

A stiff examination of stamina for a three-year-old at this time of year. Notably, five of the last six winners had, as two-year-olds, shown their best form over a mile and five winners since 2009 made their debut in races from September onwards. The last seven winners were stepping up to 1m4f for the first time, so horses who are likely to improve for encountering a longer distance should be on the shortlist.

Key pointer Three of the last six winners had run last time out in 1m2f races at courses with stiff finishes – Beverley (two) and Pontefract – suggesting they would have the staying power for 1m4f at a Flat course

Do not miss Pyman’s Theories every Friday in the Racing Post and from 8pm on Thursday on the iPad edition

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