Our racing expert, fresh form three winners yesterday, gives his verdict on today's televised races from Newmarket.
1:50 6f (Row) bet365.com Handicap (Class 2) (3yo)
The form of Victory Angel’s Doncaster maiden success has worked out well with the second, fourth and fifth all winning since and his trainer Roger Varian has been banging in the winners of late (4-10 in the last fortnight). It’s more surprise then to see him installed as favourite on his first venture into handicap company off what could be a generous mark of 81, but 2/1 is certainly no giveaway and especially as he looked far from straightforward on his three starts last season.
Instead, let’s have a few quid on HILARIO at Paddy Power’s 6/1. Charlie Hills’ runner got off the mark at Kempton in September before running well in Listed company on his final start and he’s been pleasing his trainer in his homework this spring. He might be better for the run, like all of these, but plenty of stablemates have been winning/running well on their first run back – his stable is 5-17 in the last fortnight – and the booking of Ryan Moore looks a huge signal of intent.
2.25 7f (Row) bet365 Handicap (Class 2) (4yo+)
The ground won’t be soft enough for last year’s easy winner Accession, which is a shame as he’s reported to be more forward now than he was at this time last year.
In which case, this looks between Salateen, who has been in grand form on the all-weather for David O’Meara and also won on turf here last autumn, and Richard Hannon’s TABARRAK, who was last seen at Ascot last May when beating stablemate Atlantic Sun with the pair well clear and gets the nod. The Ascot runner-up is now rated 103 after winning a Listed event at Chantilly in October, so Tabarrak’s 8lb higher mark of 105 does not look harsh by any means, and there could be further improvement to come now that he has been gelded.
Clearly his long absence is a concern, but his stable has been amongst the winners of late – 13-57 in the last fortnight – and a lack of a run didn’t stop stablemate Steel Of Madrid winning yesterday’s Earl Of Sefton Stakes (at 10/1). Take BetVictor’s 4/1.
3:00 6f (Row) Connaught Access Flooring Abernant Stakes (Group 3) (Class 1) (3yo+)
A small turnout and it will be a surprise if Kevin Ryan’s BRANDO can’t put his six rivals to the sword on his return to action. After winning a maiden on his seasonal reappearance last season, he went from strength to strength and his last two starts – when landing the Ayr Gold Cup and finishing third in the Group 1 Champions Sprint at Ascot – were his most impressive. It would be no surprise to see him improve again this term, like a lot of older sprinters, and he’s taking on inferior rivals who have upwards of 6lb to find on the ratings. He’s no bigger than 6/4 with bet365 to get the job done and even that price is very fair as he has the look of a good thing.
3:35 1m (Row) bet365 Craven Stakes (Group 3) (Colts & Geldings) (Class 1) (3yo)
An intriguing renewal despite the smallish field of just seven and we might see a surprise result with Richard Hannon’s LARCHMONT LAD fancied to overcome a couple of better fancied rivals in Rivet and War Decree. Richard Hannon’s charge was a big improver at two and signed off for the season when winning a well-contested 7f Group 3 here in September. The runner-up Whitecliffsofdover did his bit to frank the form when winning yesterday’s Free Handicap and the horse he beat into second, Rodaini, was providing another form boost to the selection as the pair were separated by a little over a nose in a Listed contest at the St Leger meeting.
That was last year’s form, I know, but there is every reason to think Larchmont Lad can improve again this term. Not a precocious juvenile by any means, he was always going to be better at three and Hannon has always considered him a Classic prospect, with the Craven mentioned as his chosen route to the 2000 Guineas after the Newmarket win in September. The in-form trainer was the subject of a Stable Tour this week and in that he said that Larchmont Lad had improved over the winter and that he had high hopes of him, so why shouldn’t he go well in a race his stable had landed four times in the last five years.
As mentioned, bookmakers prefer Racing Post Trophy winner Rivet and Aidan O’Brien’s War Decree. They are hugely respected of course but the former didn’t appear to handle this undulating track when fifth in the Dewhurst, while the Irish raider is having his first look at the track and that is a negative when you consider seven of the last 10 winners had already run over the Rowley Mile. They have also been well found by the market, whereas the selection is a shade of value at Sky Bet’s 5/1.