1.45 York – Titanbet.Co.Uk Stakes (Handicap)
Twelve months ago, this race went the way of David O’Meara’s Dutch Rose and he looks to have another strong hand this time around. Course and distance winner Alejandro is one of five runners for him and can be forgiven for his run at Chester last time when the ground went against him. There was a lot to like about his fourth at Haydock on his return to action April and this consistent performer looks likely to give another bold show. He won here twice last term, with the second victory coming off a 1lb lower mark than he races off today. He does like to race prominently which could make things difficult from stall 14 but he definitely looks one for the shortlist.
His stablemate Penitent has been a grand servant to his connections in recent years having won three times at Group level and a further four times in Listed contests. He is having his first start in a handicap since winning the Lincoln in 2010 off a 5lb lower mark than he races off today. He was beaten only a length in Listed company at Doncaster in March and has been beaten no more than four lengths on his last two starts. He is nine now but it would be no surprise to see him bounce back to form now dropping in class.
These two are joined in the line-up by Louis The Pious, last year’s Ayr Gold Cup winner who carries top weight here, Al Khan who was won on his last two starts and So Beloved who was last seen running down the field in the Victoria Cup at Ascot.
Others of interest include Dusky Queen who recorded a third course and distance success when winning for the second consecutive year at the Dante meeting. She has been raised another 7lb by the handicapper which should make life more difficult for her but nevertheless she remains of interest.
Overall, it looks a wide open contest and if pushed for a selection I would probably go with Penitent as he could just prove a bit too good for these on the day.
2.00 Haydock – 888SPORT Pinnacle Stakes (Group 3)
With the withdrawal of Jordan Princess, Luca Cumani’s hopes rest with Kleo who stepped up markedly on her three-year-old form when chasing home Bragging in the Group 2 Dahlia Stakes at the beginning of the month. Prior to that she had looked progressive, winning here in July before winning at Doncaster on her final start of the campaign. She steps up to 1m4f for the first time which is something of an unknown on pedigree but she deserves her place on the shortlist on what she has done to date.
William Haggas is doubly represented with his first runner Queen Of Ice having won Listed races on her last two starts as a three-year-old including over course and distance at York. She beat another stablemate Arabian Comet that day before following up at Newmarket when getting the better of Luca Cumani’s Jordan Princess. She also seemed to enjoy making the running last year which means she will need to get over quickly from stall 11 to secure her position. There should be more to come from her this year and if she gets the run of things, she could be tough to peg back.
However, it might be worth siding with her stablemate WONDERSTRUCK who when she won her maiden a Newmarket accounted for the notable scalps of Forever Now and Hydrogen. She was then thrown into Group 2 company at the Royal meeting and whilst she was far from disgraced, it was all a bit much for her. She was only beaten two and a half lengths by the smart Silk Sari on her final start in August but she stumbled leaving the stalls that day and that may be the reason we haven’t seen her since. She has an excellent pedigree being closely related to George Washington and Grandera among others and there should be more to come from her on just her fifth start. On official ratings she has plenty to find, but she looks likely to be the filly to take out of this race going forward.
2.20 York – Stowe Family Law LLP Grand Cup (Listed Race)
Peter Niven’s CLEVER COOKIE dead-heated in this race last year with Ralston Road and returns to defend his crown on the back of a taking success in the Ormonde Stakes at Chester. He ran down the smart Tac De Boistron that day and it clearly continuing to improve at the age of seven. He does carry a penalty for that success but he sets a pretty high standard and despite Graham Lee being unavailable it looks a great spare ride for PJ McDonald to pick up.
Big Orange was largely progressive for Michael Bell last season, winning twice in Listed company at Chester and in the Noel Murless Stakes at Ascot. He was supplemented for the Long Distance Cup on Champions Day and ran well despite his inexperience to finish fifth beaten six and a half lengths. He ran behind Clever Cookie at Chester on his return to action although he didn’t seem to finish his race off, so perhaps he is worth forgiving that effort. He remains unexposed and it would be no surprise to see him take a big step forward from his seasonal reappearance.
Of the rest of the field, Jeremy Noseda’s Wakea looks to be going the right way having won twice on the all-weather this year. There was plenty of encouragement to take from his run in the Sagaro Stakes at the end of last month and it is interesting that he wears cheekpieces for the first time here. He is another who seems to be heading the right way and can go close at a bigger price.
2.35 Haydock – Timeform Jury Stakes (Group 3)
These sorts of seven furlongs races tend to attract a range of horses dropping back from a mile or stepping up from sprinting, so occasionally it can be best to look for a horse who is suited to this intermediate trip.
Sabrina Harty’s Ansgar is one such individual who won three times in Group company over this distance including in the Group 2 Park Stakes at Doncaster’s St Leger meeting. He made all that day in the hands of James Doyle to hold off the late challenge of Aljamaheer who has struggled to find his optimum trip. He couldn’t make his presence felt in the Foret at the end of the campaign and whilst a penalty will make it difficult for him here, he needs respecting as he is proven at the trip.
The preference however is for David Simcock’s BRETON ROCK who also has form over the trip having won the Listed Spring Trophy over course and distance last term. He was beaten a short-head in this race last year before winning by the same margin in the Hungerford Stakes at Newbury later in the season. There was plenty of encouragement to take from his run in the Lockinge where he finished seventh and he looks primed to give a bold show here.
At a bigger price, Hugo Palmer’s Ascription could leave the form of his York reappearance behind, having been off the track for 18 months prior to that. Graham Lee has been booked to ride and he could offer some each-way value at around the 20/1 mark.
2.45 Newmarket – Winner.Co.Uk Fairway Stakes (Listed Race)
Two stables who have done well in the last decade are that of John Gosden (3 wins) and Brian Meehan (2 wins) and both send representatives here in search of further glory this year. The former has Snoano who showed good form at two and was not disgraced when third in the Classic Trial at Sandown on his seasonal return. His trainer mentioned after that run that he would like to see him on quicker ground which it looks like he might get if the weather behaves itself. He is unexposed and given the yard from which he comes, he shouldn’t be ruled out lightly.
Brian Meehan saddles two runners in Faithful Creek and Mustadeem, with the first-named of more interest on the back of his juvenile form. He was third at Leopardstown behind John F Kennedy at Leopardstown before running with great credit in the Breeders’ Cup at the end of last month. I think you can put a line through his Meydan run on the dirt as he didn’t act on the surface and he looks another with strong claims.
However, I think the one that they all have to beat is PEACOCK who found only Golden Horn too good in the Feilden Stakes here at the Craven meeting. He was fairly lightly-raced as a juvenile for a typical Hannon runner and it could be that he progresses as the season goes on. His run in the Feilden was an excellent effort and considering what the winner has done since, he looks likely to be hard to beat.
2.55 York – Titanbet.Co.Uk Spring Sprint (Handicap Stakes)
Bogart always seem to run his race and having run well over six furlongs last time here, it is good to see him dropped back in trip as I definitely think he is a better horse over the minimum trip. He was second in the Portland Handicap last year to the progressive Muthmir and he looks to be in good form with himself at present. The cheekpieces didn’t really seem to make much of a difference when they were employed last term although there must be a reason for them being refitted. I would imagine he will blaze away from the front and it will be a case of whether anything is good enough to peg him back.
Another trailblazer who is enjoying something of a resurgence this term is Tim Easterby’s Captain Dunne who has long been well-handicapped on his old form and he has taken advantage of that on his last two starts. He has been raised another 6lb to 85 which makes life a little bit harder but it is worth bearing in mind that he won the Dash at Epsom off 105 at the peak of his powers. I obviously don’t think he is capable of running to 105 anymore but he warrants plenty of respect on his current form.
The final member of the shortlist Red Baron also likes to race prominently and has won on three of his last four starts for trainer Eric Alston. His sole defeat in that run came here over course and distance a couple of weeks ago when he finished second to David O’Meara’s Out Do, although he reappeared at Thirsk two days later to win cosily by one and a half lengths. He has gone up to a career high mark of 93 but looks worth plenty of consideration again here.
This race looks a typically competitive York handicap and whilst I don’t have a strong view on the race, Captain Dunne could just continue to take advantage of his low mark and offer some each-way value.
3.10 Haydock – 888sport Achilles Stakes (Listed Race)
This five furlongs contest looks a tricky one and Charlie Appleby’s PRETEND looks likely to be popular on the back of what he did on the all-weather over the winter, winning on his last three starts including in Listed company in March before winning over six on All-Weather Finals Day. He travels strongly in his races and was winning with plenty in hand on several occasions over the winter suggesting that the step up in class shouldn’t be beyond him.
The slight concern would be that has yet to race on turf in Britain but he has a turf pedigree so he shouldn’t have much problem adapting to the new surface. If he can successfully transfer that form to grass, he looks a major player despite carrying a penalty.
In terms of dangers, Kingsgate Native has been around the block a few times and it seems an age since the now ten-year-old won the Nunthorpe as a two-year-old. He ran well on his first start this term at Newmarket in the Palace House Stakes when finishing third and may have finished a little nearer last week in the Temple Stakes but for finding trouble in running. The slight drop in class should help him and he looks a likely candidate to pick up the pieces should one of the more progressive horses fluff their lines.
Also of interest is Henry Candy’s Music Master who looked a sprinter on the up when winning the Group 3 Hackwood Stakes last season. He followed that run by finishing third in the Group 1 Haydock Sprint Cup behind G Force and ran with credit behind Astaire on his return to action in April. Interestingly this is the first time he has tried five furlongs but having showed up well for a long way last time, you can see why connections have been tempted to give it a go. If he can get back to the best of last season’s form, he would be of major interest.
3.20 Newmarket – Winner.Co.Uk Handicap
Luca Cumani’s new recruit PENHILL did me a good turn when winning at Ascot earlier this month and once again looks to have a strong chance of following up. The winning margin may have only been a short-head last time but he was always doing a bit too much early on, probably as this was his first run of the season. The handicapper has put him up 7lb on the back of that effort which looks harsh enough but I am pretty confident that there is more to come from this four-year-old and with Ryan Moore in the saddle, he is justified at the head of the market.
Of the rest of the field, there are four horses who were first past the post on their latest runs but it may be better to looks towards Mark Johnston’s Watersmeet for a danger. The four-year-old won three times on the all-weather in March and April and looked likely to go very close to landing a four-timer when he drifted badly left at the Guineas meeting and could only finish fourth. His mark has been left the same and considering this looks a weaker race than the task he faced last time, perhaps he can give the favourite something to think about.
3.45 Haydock – 888SPORT Sandy Lane Stakes (Group 2)
Henry Candy’s LIMATO bids to extend his unbeaten record to six on Saturday as he tackles Group 2 company for the first time. With vibes prior to his return not exactly positive, it was pleasing to see him travel and quicken much as he did last year. He is reported to be a little more laid-back in his work at home but he looks to be maturing well and he found plenty once shaken up in the closing stages. He looks set to head for the new Commonwealth Cup at Royal Ascot after this and despite meeting some old adversaries, I find it difficult to see him getting turned over.
One of those rivals is Tim Easterby’s Mattmu who was beaten one and a half lengths by Limato in the Two-Year-Old Trophy at Redcar. He was conceding 9lb to the winner that day but the favourite was just about the smoothest winner you are likely to see as he barely came off the bridle. That said Mattmu is a fine performer in his own right having won a Group 2 in France at the end of last season and he was only beaten a head in the Duke Of York Stakes, when taking on elder rivals. He should be able to produce that effort back in his own age-group and should the favourite fail to deliver, he will be first in the queue to collect the pieces.