2.00 Haydock – Betfred Membership “Play Your Way” Handicap
We get our afternoon underway with a two mile handicap which includes several of horses who ran in the Chester Cup last time. The furthest forward that day was Richard Fahey’s Gabrial’s King who should be suited by the drop back to 2m and a more conventional track. He looked to have every chance as the field turned for home at Chester but he just lacked the finishing burst of the others, probably as his stamina reserves were beginning to wane. He has been drawn wide in stall 15 which is far from ideal but I imagine the plan will be to drop this horse in under Jamie Spencer. His two runs this year have been very good and although this test comes quick enough, he looks to have solid each-way claims.
Those of you who followed my Dante preview will know that I liked the chances of Seamour in one of the mile and a half handicaps and whilst he ran well to finish sixth, he never really got involved at the business end of the race. It is therefore interesting that Brian Ellison has opted to step him up to two miles in a bid to eke out further improvement from the four-year-old. This looks worth a try and having shown good form over hurdles in the winter, he still looks to be well-treated on the level.
However, it may be best to side with Hughie Morrison’s NEARLY CAUGHT who was second in this race last year off the same mark. He ran twice more last season, finishing eighth in the Ebor at York before running a fine race to finish sixth in the Cesarewitch, where he was beaten less than three lengths. He was a beaten favourite on his return to action at Chelmsford at the beginning of the month but was doing all of his best work late on, so should be suited by the return to two miles. William Buick has been booked to ride for a yard who seem to have their horses in good order at present and he looks to have a strong chance.
2.20 Goodwood – 888sport Tapster Stakes (Listed Race)
With Sea Moon, Noble Mission and Gatewood all on this race’s roll of honour in recent seasons, it seems that this race has a habit of producing nice older horses for the season ahead.
A couple of weeks ago, I previewed Victoria Cup day at Ascot and I highlighted David Simcock’s FELIX MENDELSSOHN as an interesting runner on his first start for the yard. As it turned out, he looked as though he would come on for the run in the preliminaries and shaped that way during the race. He still ran very well, travelling nicely into the race before responding to pressure but he just seemed to get a little tired on his first run of the season. That run should have brought him on and this lightly-raced colt should still be able to go a little closer tomorrow afternoon.
Funnily enough, his main danger could be a former stablemate in Eye Of The Storm who was led out unsold for 48,000 guineas at the horses in Training Sales in October. He has since joined Amanda Perrett and looks a nice horse to have in the yard having already won at both Listed and Group 3 level. He lost his form a little towards the end of last season but a change of scenery can often revive a horse’s career and although fitness has to be taken on trust, he should give his former stablemate something to think about.
2.35 Haydock – Betfred Mobile Silver Bowl Stakes (Handicap)
Brian Meehan’s Mutarakez looks likely to be popular in the market having won on his last two visits to a racecourse. His latest success saw him stepped up to a mile for the first time and he relished it, travelling well to lead with a furlong to run before staying on strongly in the closing stages to win by two and three-quarter lengths. He has been raised 10lb on the back of that run but is being aimed at a tilt at the Britannia at Royal Ascot, so the rise in the weights should ensure he gets a run. This race was nominated as a target as well and although things might be tricky from stall 10, he looks justified in his position at the head of the market.
Richard Hannon’s Mutasayyid also runs in the Sheikh Hamdan colours and overcame signs of greenness to get his head in front on 2000 Guineas day at Newmarket. He was slowly away but to his credit, he really knuckled down under pressure in the closing stages to hold off two more experienced rivals. I think that run can be marked up and I think a 5lb rise is fair enough on the back of it. There should be more to come from this colt who was having just his third start last time and he may be a lively opponent to the favourite, despite Hanagan’s preference for the other one.
At a bigger price, John Quinn’s MOONLIGHTNAVIGATOR looks a solid each-way bet at around 12/1 having won on his return to action at Musselburgh in April. This horse was purchased for £230,000 as a two-year-old and won twice as a juvenile before landing a big prize on his seasonal reappearance. He was keen enough in front that day but battled gamely in the closing stages to make all under Ian Brennan who keeps the ride today. He is drawn in five which should enable him to get over to the rail and dictate once again and having been raised only 5lb on the back of his last run, I feel he is a little overpriced.
3.10 Haydock – Betfred TV EBF Stallion Stakes (Listed Race)
Mick Channon’s Divine looked a filly on the up when bolting up at Windsor on her return to action in April. She scooted clear inside the final furlong under Silvestre De Sousa, making a mockery of her handicap mark of 90. She had some issues last year but Mick Channon seems to have got her right back to her best and she can’t be discounted now stepping into Listed company.
Chris Wall saddles an interesting runner in the shape of Lastuce who was purchased for just 16,000 guineas earlier this year. She was formerly trained in France by Jean-Claude Rouget for whom she won seven times but lost her way towards the end of last season. However, there was plenty to like about her reappearance at Nottingham as she made good headway late on to finish third behind Newsletter at Nottingham. She should strip fitter for the run and looks well-placed to go close again for her new connections.
In terms of form to date, Eddie Lynam’s Gathering Power just about sets the standard having been beaten three lengths on Champions Day at Ascot last October. She also ran well to finish eighth in the Duke Of York Stakes last time under a patient ride from Kieren Fallon and this looks an easier assignment. Her trainer has a fine record with sprinters and it is interesting that he has chosen to send her here. Jamie Spencer has been booked to ride her and she looks likely to be thereabouts at the finish.
However, three-year-olds have won two of the last three renewals and in receipt of a hefty weight allowance, it may be best to side with Karl Burke’s EXPLOSIVE LADY. The filly did very little wrong at two, bolting up on debut at Nottingham before gaining some valuable black type when third to Osaila at Ascot. She ran well to finish third in the Ripon Two-Year-Old Trophy behind two smart rivals in Izzthatright and Bossy Guest before finishing second to David Barron’s Midterm Break in Ireland on her final start. She was perhaps a little unfortunate not to win on her final start and as she receives at least 9lb from all of her rivals, she could be tough to beat on those terms.
3.20 Curragh – Tattersalls Irish 2,000 Guineas (Group 1)
Aidan O’Brien’s GLENEAGLES bids to give his trainer a tenth victory in the race and follow in the footsteps of the likes of Henrythenavigator and Cockney Rebel in completing the Newmarket-Curragh Guineas double. He was mightily impressive at Newmarket, as he picked up strongly in the closing stages to win with a good bit in hand on his rivals. This race is far from a foregone conclusion as we saw with another O’Brien winner in George Washington who ran into the smart Araafa when bidding to double up. That said, he is arguably the best three-year-old in training at the moment and he is justified in his position at the head of the market, although 4/9 makes very little appeal.
Richard Hannon’s Ivawood chased him home in third at Newmarket and was perhaps inconvenienced by racing in the centre of the track as opposed to against the stands rail where the first two came from. I think that you can possibly put him a length closer to the winner but I find it hard to argue that he would have got any closer than that. He answered a lot of questions in the Guineas about his ability and stamina and he looks the one most likely to benefit should the favourite fluff his lines. However, it is probably best to steer clear of the race as a betting heat and just watch these top-class performers in action.
3.45 Haydock – Betfred.Com Temple Stakes (Group 2)
Last year’s winner Hot Streak may have been no match for Mecca’s Angel on his return to action a couple of weeks ago but he still ran well to finish third, having been up there all the way. It is worth bearing in mind that he was also beaten on his seasonal reappearance last term as he was no match for Sole Power in the Palace House Stakes. His form may have tailed off towards the end of last season but it is notoriously difficult for three-year-old sprinters and he is entitled to have improved over the winter. This race seemed to suit him really well last year and he looks likely to be involved once again this time around.
The Charlie Appleby stable dominated All Weather Finals Day at Lingfield in April and aside from Tryster, there weren’t any winners who were more impressive than Pretend. The four-year-old travelled strongly throughout in the hands of William Buick and having been allowed his head in the final furlong, kept on under hands and heels to win by a length. With respect to the day, that form will need improving upon if he is to win here, but he has looked a sprinter on the up for some time and this looks worth a crack. His trainer has stated that he will only run if the ground is good or faster but should he line-up he would be difficult to dismiss.
David O’Meara’s G Force returns to the scene of the crime having won the Haydock Sprint Cup over six furlongs last September. He progressed all season last year and despite finishing sixth in the Nunthorpe over five, he was a little unfortunate not to finish a lot closer. He carries a Group 1 penalty on his return to action which means he concedes 4lb to most of his rivals but he is only a four-year-old and there could be more to come from him. This looks like a good place to start his season off and although Royal Ascot will be the number one aim, he should be fit enough to do himself justice here.
At a bigger price, Michael Appleby’s DANZENO makes plenty of appeal having turned in some good efforts last year, winning the Chipchase Stakes at Newcastle before being narrowly beaten at Doncaster and Ascot on his final start. He was beaten by the smart Lightning Moon on that last run, giving 4lb to Ed Walker’s colt and with only a head between them on the line, his performance needs to be marked up. Danzeno can be a tricky customer in the stalls and has been known to take a strong hold early on but I think he should be suited to the drop to five furlongs and he could put his name forward as a sprinter to watch tomorrow afternoon.