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The Steel City Cup final, which carries a £10,000 prize, is always a top-class competition with Sheffield’s galloping circuit and demanding 500 metre journey leaning itself to cream rising to the top. Indeed every one of Saturday’s finalists have earned their place in the decider on merit, remarkably the top two in the bettng in the three individual semi-finals all finished first and second making this a very strong contest.
Droopys Verve was the ante-post favourite at the competition’s outset and is still the market principle but, at 2/1 and with three rivals trading at 4/1 or shorter, he is no good thing. A switch of seeding – he is now classified as a railer – has done him no harm and his ability to pass rivals on the inside or outside is an admirable trait. But his semi-final run was most disappointing and it leaves him with something to prove.
A slow start in that semi, where he went off 4/9, was accompanied by a distinct lack of early pace and while he did have to negotiate some traffic it did not hinder his performance where he was beaten over four-lengths by Lightfoot King.
Lightfoot King is a proven stayer so when the Doncaster raider did take an early lead he was always going to be difficult to catch but it does not detract from the fact he won on merit and could easily ping from the lids once again.
As ever the draw may prove the key and it is Roxholme Nidge that has been drawn in the ‘red box’ (trap 1) and vitally he appears to have more early-pace than the favourite, making him something of a mobile chicane.
With an enviable record of 12 wins and three seconds from 16 career starts and the winner of this competition in 2018 (when it was staged in October) Roxholme Nidge has an outstanding CV but he’s been caught out by heavy going in the competition so far, being picked-up close home in the semi-final and at the third bend, by a certain Lightfoot King, in the opening round.
Having bundles to find on times and with no prospect of the Sheffield circuit suddenly running fast, I’ve no hesitation in striking him from calculations. As it was Droopys Expert that overcame trouble-in-running to catch Roxholme Nidge last time, that runner, at 10/1, makes much more appeal.
The remaining two dogs in the field, Trade Fudge and Roxholme Jim, met in the semi-final. It was Trade Fudge that prevailed with a smashing out-and-gone run accounting for his rival by two-and-a-half lengths.
Luck has never been on Trade Fudge side and big-race success has so far eluded him but he has a plot draw in 6 – as the only wide runner – and given his early speed he should be well positioned to benefit from any coming together of any of his rivals.
Droopys Verve is favourite on reputation, his previous achievements and possibly weight of ante-post money. But, if studying his semi-final video, few judges without the benefit of the history books would fancy him to turn-around his form with Lightfoot King. I’m in this camp and think he’s the sensible option with a saver on Trade Fudge who could utilise his early speed from an advantageous draw and will benefit from any opening-bend crowding.
Lightfoot King 4/1
Trade Fudge (saver bet) 7/2