Last year’s race
- Winner: A Momentofmadness
- Jockey: W Buick
- Trainer: C Hills
- Owner: Tony Wechsler & Ann Plummer
- Age: 5
- Weight: 9st 4lb
- Starting Price: 25/1
- Season Form Figures: 31713820
- Previous Best: 3rd - Prix du Gros-Chene (Group 2), Chantilly (June 2018)
This unusual distance of just over 5½ furlongs means both 5f and 6f form play a part (last year’s winner was certainly more of a 5f performer) and it can have its specialists. For such a competitive handicap the favourite has a good record winning eight of the last 28 runnings. That strike rate for favourites in a handicap is good going by any standards let alone a major sprint handicap featuring 22 declarations.
Horses to run well in the Portland before often return to run very big races again and last season’s winner who made all, A Momentofmadness, finished sixth 12 months earlier. Halmahera won this race three times between 2002-2004 but was successful in just one other race during those years. The 2015 winner, Steps, had finished second in the Portland two years earlier but the best guide had been the Great St Wilfrid Handicap at Ripon which featured six Portland winners in seven years between 2002-2008 (all unplaced at Ripon) but none since.
Just one winner has emerged from stalls 1-5 in the last 23 years of this race at Doncaster.
The draw can be a significant factor at this meeting and low numbers have struggled of late. Spring Loaded came out of 22 of 22 when successful in 2017 and A Momentofmadness won from stall 18 last season. In 2011, five of the first six home were drawn 15 or higher in a field of 21, in 2012 only two of the first ten home were drawn in single figures, in 2013 only one horse in the first nine positions was drawn in single figures and in 2014 just one horse in the first eight was drawn in single figures. In fact, ignoring the 2006 renewal when the race was switched to York, just one winner has emerged from stalls 1-5 in the last 23 years.
Higher-weighted handicappers have comfortably fared best this century with the 15 of the last 17 winners set to carry at least 8st 13lbs before jockeys’ claims. A more compressed handicap these days aids that statistic as approximately twice as many horses have carried 9st+ than otherwise in the last decade but, even so, the lower-weighted horses have been under-performing as a whole.
Four and five-year-olds have won ten of the last 11 runnings between them. The run of five-year-olds came to an end five years ago when Angels Will Fall ended their six-year sequence but the last 47 three-year-olds to run since Astonished and Compton Banker won back-to-back runnings in 1999/2000 have been beaten. Their two contenders in 2015 went close however with both hitting the frame as did Justanotherbottle in third in 2017 and Encrypted only found one too good last season. The classic generation was the age range to focus on up between 1986-2000 winning on seven occasions
David Marnane is high on punters’ lists of trainers to follow when he sends horses over for top British handicaps having won big handicaps at Ascot in addition to his two Portland successes in the last ten years but this is also a race that Kevin Ryan targets and, in addition to the three successes of Halmahera, he has gone close with the runner-up in 2009, 2010 and 2014. Charlie Hills has won two of the last six runnings.
At a glance summary
- Set to carry 8st 13lbs+ before jockeys’ claims
- The favourite
- Respect Charlie Hills, David Marnane and Kevin Ryan
- Horses drawn 1-5
- Aged 6+
- Not essential to have won over 5f and 6f as is often argued