1.45 Sandown – winner.co.uk Handicap
A very open event to get Sandown’s card underway, however, Richard Hannon’s impressive Haydock winner Tashaar will not face the starter. The one to focus on could be RARE RHYTHM for Charlie Appleby and Godolphin after quite an encouraging return to action at the course 23 days ago. Making his ground on the outside he ultimately failed to see out the 1m2f trip on his seasonal comeback and was eased-off when beaten and hampered. He was only beaten five lengths by a horse of Sir Michael Stoute’s called Dartmouth, who could now be Royal Ascot bound, and the slight drop in trip to 1m1f looks a wise move. The handicapper has also dropped this son of Dubawi’s mark by 2lb to 87 and he looks feasibly well-treated.
Four of the runners are making their first start in handicap company after winning their respective maiden’s last time out which proves tricky when weighing up their chances. Of those Raw Impulse from the Clive Cox stable could be the most interesting. This one-time Derby entry broke his maiden tag at the second time of asking at Nottingham last month over 1m2f and looks a bright middle-distance prospect. The form of that race may not be the strongest but improvement can be expected for this son of the second leading 2nd season sire in Europe, Makfi.
Western Reserve is well-bred and won impressively last time out at Chelmsford and warrants the utmost respect, especially with Ryan Moore on top. Providing he handles the switch to turf he should be in the mix but doesn’t make as much appeal as the other two selections off a mark of 89.
2.00 York – Queen Mother’s Cup Lady Amateur Riders Stakes (Handicap)
Pearl Castle and Serena Brotherton teamed-up to win this race last year and has to be respected again despite lining-up here off a 6lb higher mark. He was last seen when running behind the re-opposing Only Orsenfoolsies at Hamilton 29 days ago. Pearl Castle has a 7lb pull in the weights for that 5¼ lengths defeat which should see the two finish closer together this time. Both horses arrive here in form and have to be considered to make the frame.
Ralphy Lad is bound to be popular in his bid to land a four-timer, especially given connections have acquired the services of the in-form Sarah O’Brien. However, his last two wins have come on soft ground has to prove his effectiveness on a much quicker surface (twice well-beaten on Good to firm). Therefore, the one they may all have to beat could be APTERIX for the Brian Ellison yard. This two-time hurdler winner won a Thirsk maiden at the beginning of May and ran with great credit over 1m6f at Musselburgh. His rider’s claim mean he gets in off the same mark here and a fastly-run race over this trip could be ideal meaning he could prove tough to stop receiving weight from his market principals.
2.20 Sandown – Winter Sports Handicap
Basem has plenty to prove on his seasonal debut on ground faster than he’s encountered in the past, however, this half-brother to the Group 1 winning Faarh, could well have more to give as a four-year-old. He didn’t get home over 1m2f at Salisbury on his final start last season and a mile seems a sensible place to start off his campaign.
Godolphin also saddle Pallister and he could be worth another chance after proving a non-stayer behind the Derby second Jack Hobbs on his first start for connections here 50 days ago. He was entitled to need that outing and with the 3rd and 4th horses from that race going in since it is proving to be a very good race indeed. Like Basem, the drop back in trip looks the right thing to do and a much bolder showing can be expected if recapturing the smart juvenile form he showed for Mark Johnston.
The race could however, go to Seamus Durack’s TOURNAMENT who has already proven to be well-treated on his two runs since arriving from France. He was certainly more value than the winning margin suggests when a narrow winner at Lingfield and he wasn’t disgraced off a 2lb higher mark at Haydock on the back of a five-month break. He should strip fitter for that effort and the booking of Richard Hughes certainly catches the eye. At a first show of 9/1 he looks to hold very strong each-way claims.
2.35 York – JCB Stakes (Handicap)
A wide open 19-runner handicap and many of these arrive here in decent nick. ONE WORD MORE makes plenty of appeal with the 7lb claimer Rachel Richardson (rode a winner here on Friday) bringing him back down to 92, a mark he won off at Thirsk three starts ago. His next start can be completely written off given it came on soft ground at Chester, and he backed this up by bouncing back to form off 98 over course and distance last time out. He is far better off with So Beloved and Alfred Hutchinson, who finished ahead of him here last time, getting an 11lb swing with the former and an 8lb swing from the latter, and rather surprisingly the selection is the biggest price of the trio at 14/1.
The other two selections are clearly in fine fettle at present and look poised to run well again and still hold decent claims of their own, especially David O’Meara’s So Beloved, who has quickly become synonymous with improving horses from other yards.
2.55 Sandown – Winner Bet & Watch Scurry Stakes (Listed Race)
The draw can often play a big part on the straight five furlongs at Sandown so despite his penalty, Clive Cox’s Profitable looks likely to go close once again here. He got the better of John Gosden’s smart filly Tendu at York last time despite giving her 5lb and despite him taking a while to get his head in front at this sort of level, he still remains open to improvement. He was a little unlucky not to finish nearer here on his return to action in April and he sets a good standard for his rivals to beat.
The winner that day at Sandown was John Gosden’s Waady who also won his maiden over course and distance last September. He was far from disgraced when upped to six furlongs in the Carnarvon Stakes at Newbury last time where he finished fourth, although there is a certainly an argument to suggest he is better over five furlongs. He is still entitled to be improving having had only five starts to date and he looks one of the potential Group horses in the line-up.
However, it might be best to side with David Barron’s LIKELY who made quite an impression when making winning by five lengths on debut at Carlisle last May. The runner-up that day was Tim Easterby’s Mattmu who finished the season by winning a Group 2 and he was denied a second victory at that level against his elders in the Duke Of York Stakes. The filly suffered a stress fracture last year which has been the reason for her absence and although her fitness has to be taken on trust, she looks a major player. She still holds an entry in the Commonwealth Cup at Royal Ascot next week and whilst that might come too soon, this assignment looks very winnable from stall 5.
3.10 York – Ian And Kate Hall Macmillan Ganton Stakes (Listed Race)
John Gosden’s Wannabe Yours looks likely to be popular in the market having won three times last season before failing when stepped into Group 2 company on his final start. He was short of room at a crucial stage that day and whilst he was probably not going to win, it might the result look worse than it might have been. His victory in the Group 3 Thoroughbred Stakes at Goodwood saw him beat another of today’s rivals Hors De Combat, who was far from disgraced when beaten five and a half lengths in the Lockinge. These two look likely to fight for favouritism and in the book there isn’t a great deal between them.
However, at a slightly bigger price it may be better to side with William Haggas’ YUFTEN who was not beaten far by top miler Charm Spirit in the Prix Jean Prat last term. He set the early pace in the Lockinge a month ago but he couldn’t sustain that pace and he was nearly pulled up in the end. There is no doubt that the blinkers need to revive his fortunes but this is a big drop in grade and with the Haggas team continuing their fine run of form, he could just represent a bit of value against his two closely-matched rivals.
3.25 Musselburgh – William Hill Scottish Sprint Cup
Twelve months ago this race went the way of Mick Appleby’s Demora and despite failing to make the frame in her first two starts this term, she shouldn’t be quickly dismissed in this year’s line-up. She had the assistance of Ali Rawlinson’s 7lb claim last year and although the jockey Tom Marquand replaces Rawlinson she gets the same allowance. She races off just 2lb higher than last year and having been drawn in stall 10, will likely be one of the early front-runners. The race in wide open and having shown form over the course in the past, she deserves to make the shortlist.
It may only be seven days since the Dash at Epsom but Tony Carroll has turned out both of his runners from that race, with preference for Boom The Groom of the pair. He came from quite a way back to finish third last week and warrants plenty of respect having been turned out quickly off the same mark. Sprinters can hold their form better than other horses and with the talented Graham Lee booked to ride, he looks likely to be thereabouts at the business end of
Jim Goldie’s Hawkeyethenoo would be a popular winner for Musselburgh racegoers and he showed he was still very much in form when chasing home Speculative Bid in the Victoria Cup in May. That was over seven furlongs and in truth it is difficult to know how effective he will be back over the minimum trip but I would imagine they will set a strong pace early on and it could play into his hands to be held up off the pace. Fergal Lynch and Jim Goldie are currently operating at an 11% strike-rate when teaming up and it would be no surprise to see the nine-year-old roll back the years and put up a big showing here.
The final one to mention is Kevin Ryan’s Online Alexander who bounced back from his below par effort at Newmarket to finish fourth in a competitive heat at Thirsk last month. He was rapidly progressive last term when winning impressively at both Goodwood and York and his latest run was a step in the right direction. In terms of the draw low numbers have tended to have done well in recent years so stall 15 is a concern but nevertheless he looks worthy of respect.
On the whole the race is wide open and to be honest, it would be difficult for me to put up a strong selection, so I think it best to suggest an each-way bet on HAWKEYETHENOO who is likely to be doing his best work at the finish and who remains well-handicapped on his old form. He is currently around 16/1 and that looks about fair considering his latest effort.
3.45 York – 888sport Charity Sprint
A couple of weeks ago I tipped Explosive Lady in a Listed fillies race at Haydock and too her credit she ran well to finish third, despite that being her first start since September. It is therefore interesting that connections have opted to drop her into handicap company for this race. The filly is clearly highly-regarded by connections and she looks to set a solid standard in this race, although there may be better handicapped horses than her in the field.
William Haggas saddles two runners in the shape of Squats and Roossey with the last named earning a place on the shortlist. The colt won twice as a juvenile including on his final start at Ayr in September where he won going away from his rivals to score by one and a quarter lengths. He went up 7lb for that success but his trainer has opted to make use of the 7lb claim of Georgia Cox in order to negate that rise. Haggas took this race three years ago with Sholaan and he once again looks to have a good chance of lifting the prize.
However, both of these may have their work cut out to beat either Scalzo or Twilight Son who both arrive here on the back of impressive victories on their respective starts. The former is trained by Martyn Meade and was recently purchased by Sheikh Hamdan, whose colours he wears here. Having won a maiden by four and a half lengths in May he was stepped into handicap company a couple of weeks later and increased the winning margin to seven lengths. He has been put up a whopping 18lb on the back of that run and whilst he could well prove much better than that, that is quite a hefty rise.
I therefore slightly prefer the profile of Henry Candy’s TWILIGHT SON who took his record to three from three when justifying strong market support on 2000 Guineas day at Newmarket. He showed a good turn of foot that day and despite going up 11lb since then, he is entitled to still be improving. He has yet to be fully tested in a race situation and whilst I expect Martyn Meade’s colt to be well-backed, I think he will have to be very good to beat Twilight Son.