Following last week’s drama at the three-day Grand National meeting, it’s back on the level now for Newmarket’s first meeting of the turf season with the Craven meeting where many highly promising horses will be seen over the next three days. The ITV cameras are there and start off day one with four races. The ground is officially soft but with a predominately dry forecast expect that to be good to soft before the first race and drying as we go through the week.
An informative nine-runner 7F conditions stakes kick things off today with nine taking their place in the stalls. Local handler Charlie Appleby sends a brace of runners in City Of Kings (James Doyle) alongside Majestic Pride (William Buick) with a preference for the latter who landed the odds in a Chelmsford novice stakes last November and along with his stablemate holds an entry in next month’s 2000 Guineas. Kevin Ryan has booked Ryan Moore for his easy Ayr winner Hi Royal from last September who also has a 2000 Guineas entry.
I think Climate and Mukeed also have the 2000 Guineas entry along with the only filly in today’s contest Powerdress who is entered in the 1000 Guineas. A tight contest with so many promising types and the market will no doubt be highly informative. I’ll stick with the boys in blue and the seemingly Buick pick of Majestic Pride who can obviously be a bit headstrong as he’s worn a hood on both of his racecourse starts.
MAJESTIC PRIDE 1 point win @ 5/2 with Bet365
A 7F class 2 handicap for 4 year old’s and upwards rated 85-105 is up next and has attracted a field of just nine. A tight-knit affair with chances given to all nine. Charlie Appleby’s top-weight New Kingdom comes here on the back of a win at Meydan in February but has to race off of his highest-ever handicap mark and is short enough in the betting. Better value in my eyes is Amanda Perrett’s trained Rebel Territory who has plenty going for him. A winner the first time out last season, he handles the mud well and is back now on his last winning mark. Jim Crowley has a good record on him of 211665 and takes the mount today. He can be backed each way.
Ryan Moore is on Tacarib Bay and having had a prep at Doncaster comes into the equation whilst Kevin Philippart De Foy’s Vafortino won the Victoria Cup at Ascot on his second run last season and having teed up for this with a 3rd at Kempton last month should be competitive. He’s my second pick but it’s Rebel Territory that catches my eye.
REBEL TERRITORY 1 point each way @ 7/1 with Bet365 1/5th 123
Fourteen go to post for this 1M class 2 handicap for horses rated 81-100. Four of the fourteen met last time out in the Lincoln with Greatgadian finishing best of the quartet in 6th a neck ahead of Empirestateofmind in 7th with 1 1/2L back to Bopedro and a further 1 1/4L further back to the 50/1 chance Toshizou. The best of those and my pick for this competitive handicap is the John Quinn-trained Empirestateofmind who led and only faded close home as though the race was needed (his record after a break reads 6737 so it’s quite possible he needed it). He won the second time out last season having run well in 3rd in the Spring Mile (consolation Lincoln) so I’m expecting a big run from this consistent mudlark now the cobwebs have been blown away at Doncaster.
Jason Hart takes over from 5lb apprentice Taylor Fisher and can be backed each way with additional places. The Gosden’s Unforgotten has only run on all-weather so looks like poor value racing here on the easy ground for the first time. The ground may also be an issue for the Charlton’s Ashky who’s yet to race on easy ground as is the case with the Johnstone’s Outbreak. Bottom weight Bucephalus won well at Doncaster under Rose Dawes who claims 5lb now as opposed to 7lb at Doncaster on his first start for Neil Mulholland although I’m not sure the drop 2F to a mile is necessarily in his favour. A tough race but I’m expecting a big run from Empirestateofmind.
EMPIRESTATEOFMIND 1 point each way @ 12/1 with Bet365 1/5th 1234
An intriguing eight-runner Group 3 Earl Of Sefton Stakes with 6 of the 8 making their seasonal re-appearances. Charlie Appleby saddles Ottoman Fleet and Blue Trail with a preference for the former who’s run three good races in group company over in Dubai this winter. The only time he encountered soft ground he ran away with a listed contest here last October so he’ll have no problem with ease in the ground. William Buick appears to have picked him over Blue Trail who was last seen winning a 10F handicap at Meydan by a staggering 11L and is officially rated only a 2lb worse horse than Ottoman Fleet. He however appears better on a fast surface.
Two horses racing for new stables are the ex-French Epic Poet now in the care of the father and son team of Freddie and Martyn Meade whilst Raadoborg has left Johnny Murtagh in Ireland to join George Boughey having also been gelded. Neither really appeals that much unless the change of stables has improved them. John and Thady Gosden saddle The King’s Reach For The Moon who’s been gelded since we last saw him and is also blinkered. Only 3lb behind the top-rated here he is capable if a bit quirky and has the assistance of Frankie Dettori today.
All may have to go some to beat the Newmarket whisper horse Poker Face who although the worst off of all eight has been apparently burning up the gallops at Simon and Ed Crisford’s stable this spring with their Lincoln runner-up Awaal. He was due to run at Doncaster at their Lincoln meeting but was pulled out due to the heavy ground and has already been backed for this contest when prices came out last week. He’s unbeaten in three starts including on good to soft ground and although he’s going to need to step up once more he has plenty of untapped potential and with Ryan Moore booked can take the first prize.
POKER FACE 2 points win @ 7/4 with Bet365
All odds quoted were accurate at the time of writing.
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