Our racing expert has run the rule over the four Newmarket races being shown live on ITV4, including the feature Nell Gwyn.
1:50 6f (Row) Weatherbys General Stud Book Handicap (Class 2) (4yo+ 0-100)
Ekhtiyaar is 2-2 at Newmarket and had a subsequent Listed winner behind when scoring on the July Course here last summer, so it’s easy to see why he’s favourite. However, he was a beaten favourite off today’s mark on his final outing of last season and given this is his first run back, I’m hardly rushing to back him at just 9/2 for what is a competitive handicap.
Instead, I’d much rather take a chance on Ed Walker’s AEOLUS at a double-digit price (11/1 with bet365). While he too is returning after his winter break, he has gone well fresh in the past, including when very nearly winning the Group 3 Abernant on his reappearance two years ago. He was tried at the highest level after that as well as trying his luck in some tough handicaps, going closest when beaten less than a length in last year’s Stewards’ Cup on soft ground. Best with some cut underfoot and now running off his lowest ever handicap mark (100), he has to be thereabouts.
2:25 7f (Row) bet365 European Free Handicap (Listed Race) (Class 1) (3yo)
A classy renewal and it can go the way of Kevin Ryan’s top weight HEY JONESY, a best priced 11/2 with Unibet. He earned his current rating of 110 with a couple of cracking efforts in defeat following on from a York novice success, running third in a big sales race despite the draw bias being all against him, before finishing fourth in the Group 1 Middle Park after making most of the running. The natural speed he showed there could see him take a prominent position from his rails pitch, and I don’t see today’s extra furlong being a problem given his pedigree and frame, which is not that of a sprinter. He might even get a mile and this is effectively his Guineas trial, so his trainer should have him ready to go and the cut in the ground is no concern either.
Of the rest, Nebo is respected after his Horris Hill success, which was more creditable for the fact he had been on the go a while and had endured some tough races. But I suspect his rating of 108 might flatter him a little and he’s also more of a sprinting type in my mind. Snazzy Jazzy has done nothing wrong in three starts but this exalted company might just find him out.
3:00 1m1f (Row) bet365 Earl Of Sefton Stakes (Group 3) (Class 1) (4yo+)
This ought to be a penalty kick for Ballydoyle’s Deauville, whose third in the Group 1 Queen Anne Stakes at Ascot last June is the standout piece of form on offer. Aidan O’Brien embarked on some globe-trotting with him after that and he did best when again taking third spot in the Arlington Million. Another lucrative season lies ahead for him no doubt, but I’d be wary of backing him today as he’s never won on ground as soft as this and then there is the form of his stable to consider, with plenty of stablemates needing their first run back.
The problem is finding one to beat him as they’re all got plenty to find on the ratings, but one who might give him plenty to think about is ROBIN OF NAVAN. He’s not the most consistent of horses admittedly, but he has a definite chance on the pick of his form, which includes a close second in a Group 3 run over track and trip last October. He also has a fitness advantage having been given a pipeopener at Chantilly last month and his close third was franked when the the winner Hunaina followed up in a Listed contest at Kempton. Given he’s done most of his winning on soft ground, he’ll handle these conditions better than most and Hills’ 5/1 is just big enough for me to get involved with the doubts over Deauville.
3:35 7f (Row) Lanwades Stud Nell Gwyn Stakes (Group 3) (Fillies) (Class 1) (3yo)
It’s hard to be too confident about any of these fillies as they are all returning after their winter breaks and we’re guessing over how much they have improved over the winter, if at all. The market should provide a few clues and, at the time of writing, there is no clear favourite with bookmakers struggling to split Threading and Altyn Orda – bet365 go 4/1 the pair. The former filly was disappointing on her final start in the Group 1 Cheveley Park but had looked good when winning a York Group 2 previously, while her main market rival sprang a 25/1 surprise when landing a Group 3 over 7f here in October. That is arguably the best form on offer but with her stable yet to click into top gear, I’m going in search of some value further down the betting list.
I stopped at John Gosden’s NAWASSI as Betfair’s 10/1 looks a shade too big given her yard has won the last two runnings and the fact she already has a course and distance win to her name. While that was just a novice event, she did it easily against a big field and judging by some hefty bets placed beforehand she had been showing plenty at home. Bred in the purple, being by Dubawi out of a mare who was placed in the 1000 Guineas, she has reportedly wintered well and Gosden clearly has his string well forward judging by his five winners from just 11 runners in the last fortnight.
All odds were correct at time of posting.