Betfair’s WA Racing Expert Terry Leighton takes a deeper look at the A.T.A. Stakes from Ascot.

ASCOT 18/12/2021

Rail Position: 13+m Entire | Expected Track Condition: Good 4


While Platoon took the points from the penultimate lead up to the Perth Cup (Kingston Town), the ATA has been an extremely strong form reference for the Group 2 Feature in a week and a bit.

The combination of the rail out at the 13m pad and south westerlies forecast for the afternoon should mean we see a fair, if not off pace day, but I reckon I’m more chance of winning lotto than predicting a track pattern successfully.

A.T.A Stakes – Race 7

Speed Map

Our lead-and-breeze horses from the Towton Cup haven’t progressed to the ATA, so we will have a less defined speed map.

Utgard Loki (barrier 1) is a big chance to kick up and lead, while roughie Decoy Noxious (9) lands in the breeze. Black Shadow (8) will look to use Decoy Noxious as a bit of cover, coming across underneath him, to park in a very similar spot to his last couple of wins. I’m expecting more aggression from the old boy Taxagano (6). Settling rearward for a horse who really only has one gear isn’t his go.

Stafford’s Lad (10) simply cannot buy a gate and will be back last, giving most of the other fancies a little head start. Smaller field does negate that, however.

Some weaker leaders engaged here, which means Jason Brown may have to pull the trigger on Black Shadow earlier than he’d like. That, along with the extra few kg’s (reckon I’ll have a sharp rise in weight post-Christmas too) could leave him susceptible late. Most likely looking for one off-speed.

Final Field

1. Black Shadow

What price a month ago that Black Shadow would be TOPWEIGHT in a black type event? Wild stuff.

Arguably will start a shorter price in the $400,000 Perth Cup, than in this $125,000 event, with the weight scale of the former far more in his favour (drops to 53kg’s with Trap For Fools lumping the top weight). While the weight conditions look well and truly against him, you could argue he’s been winning with a degree of comfortability which still sees him go very close. Winning form.

2. Paddy’s Shadow

Had a minor setback after the Ascot Gold Cup, but Racquel Williams looks to have that behind him after a highly encouraging effort in the Towton.

Looks to be going just as well as when she won the Bunbury Cup earlier this year. A big beneficiary of the barrier draw, look for Shaun O’Donnell to smoke the pipe 3 back the fence and look for gaps on straightening. Will have the most economical run.

3. Midnight Blue

The early Perth Cup favourite has had some well-documented soundness issues as we see the dreaded bar plates lobbed on.

No matter how well you can train, missing work and being a month between runs (especially as a one-batting stayer) makes life awfully difficult. I’ll be taking him on here but won’t put a line through him for the Cup.

4. Taxagano

Look for a more aggressive ride on Taxagano and while we’ve learnt the hard way to pen this bloke (2020 Northerly Stakes anyone?), he just doesn’t look to be going well enough to impact.

5. Dom To Shoot

For those who think Dom To Shoot will run out a strong 2200m, he probably backs himself here.

While I am not in that camp, he is the most intriguing point-of-difference runner in this race. His only go past the mile was in last year’s Kingston Town Classic, when running third to Truly Great & Inspirational Girl.  His last couple have shown he’s regaining some of his old touch and you’d be forgiven for a little speculatory each-way investment if you think he’ll run the trip.

6. Decoy Noxious

Barely been competitive in 60+’s and attacks a black type staying event. Did Summer nom the wrong horse? (Bella’s Idol.)

7. Pure Devotion

Really disappointed with the last effort of Pure Devotion. I was super keen she’d run a big race under the conditions of the event and while Black Shadow was far too good – she had the right run to run a clear second. The weights are now really getting tipped in her favour (4kg on Black Shadow from the Towton & 7kg for beating him home two starts ago) and the shades go on. Now or never for Pure Devotion.

8. Stafford’s Lad

Connections have clearly upset someone at RWWA.  Barrier 13 of 13 in the Towton, 8 of 10 in the Tatts, 13 of 13 in the Gold Cup, 11 of 11 in the Boulder Cup, 13 of 14 in the Broome Cup & 9 of 9 in the Kimberley Cup.  And now 10 of 10 here.  Stiff.  Clearly saving pole position for the Perth Cup.

It’s impossible to knock what he’s done, making sustained runs and never shirking the issue.  The smaller field, questionable speed up top and weight swing on Black Shadow make this clearly his best chance of getting back in the winner’s circle.

9. Truly Reliable

Wouldn’t surprise me if this Ray Vincent-trained stayer will eventually make the grade as an all ages, black type stayer, but I think it may be one season too soon.

10. Utgard Loki

The blowout runner.  Around the $30-50 mark at the time of writing (not many markets up, so this likely irrelevant), he’s now coming to start number five for Adam Durrant, and it’s his first go past the 2000.

With clear air he may well have knocked off Bella’s Idol 2 starts ago and then was on a cold inside pad at his most recent.

Throughout his career has lacked a killer blow, but going back through his form of the last 12 months (2nd to Neufbosc in this race in 2020, 3rd to Trap For Fools in the ATA, unlucky 4th in the Bunbury Cup), with a little bit of track bias to suit (looks unlikely), he can be in front for longer than his price would suggest.

Terry Leighton’s Selections

1st – 7. Pure Devotion

2nd – 1. Black Shadow

3rd – 8. Stafford’s Lad

4th – 2. Paddy’s Shadow

Betting Strategy

LAY (WIN) — Midnight Blue at < $5.00

Could have had any of five runners on top, but Midnight Blue is about a quarter of the price I’ve marked him. If Grant & Alana get him to win off the setback, with the bars on – then that’s just too good for me.

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