Past Winners » Night Crescendo


After the storm, the calm. Well, you can’t have an octuple Group 1 weekend every week. Even so, there is a good shape to the feature race at Ascot this afternoon, the Handicap, an each-way punter-friendly more-than-15-runner handicap with a favourite who is too short.

Young Mick is often too short. He has become fashionable this season since he was put up by a couple of good judges as a likely type for the Ebor, and he has run some fine races in defeat this year, including when chasing home Mad Rush in the Old Newton Cup and when an unlucky-looking fifth in said (re-arranged) Ebor (Newburgh). He looked unlucky again when he was a fast-finishing second behind Pippa Green in a handicap over today’s course and distance at the end of July, but that is the problem with Young Mick – he often looks unlucky.

It was a similar story when George Margarson’s gelding was second to Night Crescendo in another handicap run over today’s course and distance on his latest run last month. Robert Winston had to sit and suffer for a couple of strides at the top of the home straight before switching Young Mick to the far rail and getting a dream run which took him to within a head of the winner, Night Crescendo. As is often the case, the apparently unlucky run of the runner-up deflected attention away from the winner that day, unjustly so.

It is difficult to know why punters love an unlucky loser, but they do. Perhaps it is because they want to see justice done next time, perhaps they think that they have seen something that few others have. Actually, the contrary is often the case. Lots of people think they have seen something that few others have seen, with the result that unlucky losers are habitually over-bet.

Night Crescendo had the pace to adopt and maintain a perfect position through that race, the Marchpole Handicap, just behind a decent pace that was set by Drill Sergeant and Profit’s Reality. It look him a little while to wear down Drill Sergeant in the home straight after Jim Crowley had taken him off the rail and asked to deliver his challenge, but it always looked like he would. He surged past, put daylight between himself and his rivals, and was the winner on merit on the day.

Young Mick did flash home on the far side, but he didn’t appear to have the pace to adopt a prominent position early on without being taken out of his comfort zone. As such, he is always going to be a slave to fortune. Although he did finish well, Night Crescendo was still in front as they pulled up, and there is no telling how much more the winner would have found if he had been challenged earlier. It may not be a coincidence that Young Mick has not managed to win in 13 tries in the last two years.

However this afternoon’s race pans out, it is quite bizarre that they have put Young Mick in at 5/1, while you can get 14/1 about Night Crescendo. That doesn’t make any sense at all to me, and Amanda Perrett’s horse should be backed. Admittedly, that last run was his best for some time, but the cheekpieces which were fitted for the first time then – and which, while not definitively at the root of that improved performance, at least coincided with it – are back on again today. He has been raised 4lb for that win, but it still only brings him up to a mark of 92, which is 2lb lower than the mark off which he finished third behind the high class pair Malt Or Mash and Sanbuch in the November Handicap at Doncaster at the end of last season. Furthermore, he is only 1lb worse off with Young Mick and third-placed Drill Sergeant, and there is every chance that he won with more in hand than that.

Three-year-olds have won the last two renewals of this contest, and they have a strong hand again today. Allied Powers looked good in beating Blue Spinnaker at Ayr last month, but that was on very soft ground and he has gone up 6lb for it. He may be progressive enough to handle that hike, but he is 16lb higher now than when he last won over today’s distance (a strongly-run 10 or 10 and a half furlongs could be his optimum), he has never raced at Ascot and they are giving nothing away by going no better than 6/1.

There is nothing between Drill Sergeant and Albaqaa on their running at Beverley in August. While it looked like Night Crescendo had Drill Sergeant’s measure last time, he could prove to be a tough cookie today if left to his own devices up front. Albaqaa bounced back from a disappointing effort at Doncaster last month to win well at Chester, albeit over 10 furlongs on fast ground. Conditions will be very different today, but he has form on soft ground and he could still out-perform his odds.

However, Night Crescendo is the each-way value of the race. He obviously loves Ascot (a crucial factor at the Berkshire track these days), given that he has won competitive handicaps on two of his three visits there, he comes into the race on a high, and odds of 14/1 look to be far too big.

Night Crescendo


© The Irish Field, 11th October, 2008