Sandown's bet365-sponsored flat card looks high on quality and we have high hopes for a couple of runners
It’s the flat that takes centre stage this afternoon with Sandown hosting a high-quality card that features the bet365 Mile (2.30pm) – a race won by past stars such as Pebbles and In The Groove.
I doubt there is anything approaching the class of those two fillies in the year’s renewal, but there are some nice types nonetheless and Richard Hannon’s SHIFTING POWER may prove the best of them. He arguably brings the form to the table courtesy of his fourth to stablemate Night Of Thunder in last season’s 2000 Guineas and his second to Kingman in the Irish equivalent. Having not won outside of handicap company, he escapes a penalty here, whereas his main rivals Custom Cut, Bow Creek and Here Comes When (the Pricewise selection) don’t and concede him 4lb. Stable form is even more important this time of year and he ticks that particular box with the winners already starting to flow from the Hannon base and, indeed, his trainer was sounding quite bullish about this prospects in a recent stable interview.
He said: “I’d have liked the race to be a week earlier because he’s been in such good form. He’s been delighting me at home and if he runs a good race at Sandown he’ll probably head for races like the Lockinge and Queen Anne. His breeding suggests he’s a miler, but I think he may get 1m2f this year, which would open up more options. He’s got form on all kinds of ground.”
The ground could be the key today as while they’re calling it “good” at the time of writing, there may not be enough juice in it for Here Comes When, who is undoubtedly better with some cut. As for Bow Creek and Custom Cut, they are respected of course but I’m not sure they can give 4lb to the twice Classic-placed selection, who will be suited by the track’s stiff uphill finish. A couple of nine runners this morning have led to a revision in by the betting, but he’s still worth backing at 5/2.
I’m struggling to split Postponed and Cannock Chase in the bet365 Gordon Richard Stakes (2.00pm), though I’m leaning towards the latter horse, and Jack Hobbs, the day’s supposed handicap good thing, is very short in the last (4.45pm). He may well win and will have to justify a Dante entry, but he’s not for me at odds-on with some other potentially classy sorts taking him on. I see Sir Michael Stoute’s Dartmouth is as big as 10/1 and that’s tempting.
The bet365 Esher Cup opens proceedings (1.30pm) and I’m just favouring SPRING OFFENSIVE over Purple Rock, who has been ‘Pricewised’. Taking on two Tom Segal fancies on the same day can only end badly but I like the fact my selection has had a run, and it was an eye-catching one too. It’s never easy coming off the pace at a round course like Musselburgh and Richard Fahey’s gelding did the best of the hold-up horses when runner-up in a hot handicap there on his return to action. He will therefore find this stiffer track with its long straight much more to his liking and he’s sure to have come on for that run. Lightly-raced after just four runs, he gets weight from all bar one of his rivals and his stable could no be in better form, so there’s lots to like. Purple Rock looks a big danger of course and his Derby entry tells you he is highly regarded at home, but today might be the selection’s turn in the sun.