ITV show six races on Friday with four coming from an excellent flat card at Sandown which features three Group races and on which they will be racing on testing ground with the official call being heavy (soft in places). A lot further north and we have a brace of races from Perth racing on officially good (good-to-soft in places) ground. Here are my thoughts on the six contests.
The first of two handicaps shown by ITV today is this 2M class 3 handicap hurdle which sees 8 runners facing the starter. Nick Alexander’s Ginger Mail arrives here in good form having finished runner-up on his last two starts and sports first-time cheek pieces today. He has to give weight to all of his seven rivals, however. Ruth Jefferson’s Inca Prince has fallen to a winning mark and in a first-time visor could be dangerous although the one I like is Lucinda Russell’s Cuban Cigar who, if in the same form as his recent Musselburgh win in a handicap a grade higher than today, should be thereabouts. Raised 4lb for that victory he will be ridden by the useful 5lb conditional jockey Patrick Wadge. Russell has her team in fine form scoring a double at Perth on Wednesday.
With Glentruan down to run on Thursday, this isn’t an each-way race as his possible defection would leave just seven runners so we’ll go with small win-only stakes wager on Cuban Cigar.
CUBAN CIGAR 1 point win @ 9/2 with BetVictor
A disappointing turnout of just five, due to the testing conditions no doubt, for the 1M bet365 Esher Cup Handicap a class 2 event for three year old which is always worth following throughout the season.
Top weight and favourite here is the Charlie Appleby-trained Local Dynasty who won 3 of his 4 starts as a juvenile and holds a Group 2 Dante entry next month at York. He’s already a listed winner and most importantly has won on soft ground so these conditions should hold no fear for him. He has a big chance and will be hard to beat.
Marco Botti’s Legend Of Leroy’s is also making his handicap debut and his maiden victory last season came on soft ground. He’s already had a run this flat season when third to the smart Slipofthepen on the all-weather 18 days ago.
Physique is trained by the father and son combo of Paul and Oliver Cole and is another one who’s proven already in soft ground having won a novices’ stakes at Newmarket last backend. Jack Channon’s Metal Merchant is hard to fancy having never raced in this type of terrain whilst Charlie Hills’ Saxon King may be the biggest threat to the favourite having scored last October in heavy ground at Haydock and making his handicap debut here. Not a great deal of value but the favourite Local Dynasty can take this with William Buick on board.
LOCAL DYNASTY 2 points win @ 11/8 with Betfred
A good-sized field of 14 line up for the class 3 BetVictor Highland National Handicap Chase run over 3M 6 1/2F. Several have chances and amongst the front few in the betting the Oliver Greenall & Josh Guerriero’s promising Concetto who’s won 2 of his 3 starts over fences at up to three miles. He is trying a new trip today but does shape like an out-and-out stayer and has claims under Fergus Gregory.
Another where there may be stamina doubts is Rose Dobbin’s Gentleman De Mai who’s yet to race beyond three miles but like Concetto is young enough to possibly stay this extreme trip.
Lucinda Russell has her string in excellent form and was amongst the winners here on Wednesday and saddles a brace here in the shape of Return Fire (Patrick Wadge) and Destiny Is All (Derek Fox). The latter interests me the most as his career-best two runs have come on his last runs and proved his stamina with a fine 7L second to course specialist Volcano at Warwick last time over 3M 5F. In a very tight race, I’ll take him to oblige.
DESTINY IS ALL 1 point each way @ 15/2 with Bet365 1/5th 1234
Another small field of just four this time go to post for the Group 3 bet365 Gordon Richards Stakes run over 1m 1F 209 yards. Owen Burrows’ Anmaat who runs in the Shadwell Stud colours was a much-improved horse last season winning the John Smiths Handicap on his seasonal re-appearance prior to Group 3 at Haydock and Group 2 at Longchamp victories. The latter victory was gained in heavy ground so today’s terrain should hold no fear although he has to shoulder a 5lb penalty here.
Charlie Appleby’s Derby winner from 2021 Adayar has to carry no penalty here so is effectively rated 8lb superior to Anmaat and will be hard to beat. He has form in the mud and was last seen when chasing home the smart Bay Bridge in Ascot’s Champion Stakes last October. A genuine Group 1 horse and ridden by William Buick he should be winning here.
His stable mate Highland Avenue, ridden by James Doyle, has 17lb to find on official ratings and following an absence of 417 days is very unlikely to worry his stable companion.
Sir Michael Stoute saddles Regal Reality who should go the ground and ridden by Ryan Moore has a squeak but also has 12lb to find with Adayar who is too short to back but maybe a straight forecast for him to beat Anmaat is the call.
The bet365 Mile is a Group 2 contest for 4-year-olds and upwards which has attracted a field of seven.
David Simcock’s Light Infantry is the highest-rated of these and has good form on soft ground. Runner up in two Group 1’s at Deauville last Summer he is the one to beat if tuned up for this first run of the season here. Charlie Hill’s Mutasaabeq has a 3lb penalty to shoulder for a Group 2 victory at Newmarket last Autumn which isn’t ideal whilst Sir Michael Stoute’s Potapova is the only mare in the race and most importantly the only runner who is untested on a soft surface so can be overlooked for that reason.
Andrew Balding’s Imperial Fighter ran a shocker on his re-appearance with his handler saying afterwards that the colt didn’t handle the soft ground despite having shown in the past he goes on it.
Migration ran out a good winner of the Lincoln on the opening day of the turf season at Doncaster and this represents a step up in grade for him though he adores soft ground. Angel Bleu is another who needs the mud and I can see him running well. A dual Group 1 winner on very soft ground as a juvenile he has to put a rather limp effort last time in France behind him but with Frankie Dettori booked he’s maybe the value play here as he’s sure to be straight now following two runs this season whilst Light Infantry hasn’t been seen for 181 days. William Hill and bet365 are paying three places in this seven-runner contest so let’s go each way with the extra place.
ANGEL BLEU 1 point each way @ 8/1 with William Hill 1/5 123
Only five go to post for this year’s renewal of the 1m 2F bet365 Classic Trial, a Group 3 three-year-old contest which has thrown up some smart middle-distance horses over the years and was won last year by Westover whilst in 2021 the Derby winner Adayar was runner up.
Four of the five participants this year hold the Epsom Derby entry with Andrew Balding’s easy Kempton winner Relentless Voyager being the odd one out. He has officially 22lb to find with the top-rated Arrest and is hard to fancy.
Arrest is the only one of the quintet who has actually raced on soft ground when chasing home Dubai Mile in the Group 1 Criterium de Saint-Cloud in France last October. That’s the best piece of form on hand here although I am very worried about the current form of John and Thady Gosden’s. Despite taking the Epsom Derby Trial earlier in the week with Epictetus many of their better three-year-olds have been beaten out of sight and it would be a brave man taking a short price about one of theirs at present.
Sir Michael Stoute saddles an interesting runner in Circle Of Fire, a Salisbury winner for The King last September but this represents a big jump in class and is unproven on a soft surface.
Ralph Beckett mentioned his Salt Bay as a horse he had high hopes for on the excellent ‘Luck On Sunday’ Racing TV programme last weekend and having finished third in the Group 1 Criterium International at Saint Cloud last October on the heavy ground should have no issues with the ground.
That leaves us with the Charlie Appleby-trained Flying Honours who there have been very good gallop reports for this Spring. A Group 3 winner as a juvenile at Newmarket he can run well but has yet to be tested on a soft terrain and my preference here is Salt Bay for Ralph Beckett who took this last year with Westover.
SALT BAY 1 point win @ 7/2 with Bet365
All odds are accurate at the time of writing.
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