Britain's best evening meeting is being screened on ITV for the first time and our racing expert has run the rule over the four televised races.
6:35 5f (5f10y) Matchbook Commission Free On All Sports National Stakes (Listed Race) (Class 1) (2yo)
The Richard Hannon stable has won six of the last 11 runnings and in WEDDING DATE they look to have another solid contender, with Ryan Moore booked to ride. The daughter of Dandy Man chased home James Watt, a winner again since, on her Brighton debut despite not looking at ease on that downhill track. She then put that experience to good use when going one better in clear-cut style at Chester and that effort can be marked up as she dwelt at the start from a wider berth than ideal. Her draw in stall seven (of nine) this evening is potentially tricky too as low numbers are usually favoured over the 5f here. However, the way she quickened to lead over one furlong out before sprinting clear on the Roodee suggests she has the tactical speed to cope.
Available to back at 13/2 with Hills, she’s preferred to Konchek, whose debut success at Newmarket has been devalued somewhat by subsequent defeats of the second and third, and Blown By Wind, who looked in need of an extra furlong when just getting up over the minimum at Ascot last time. Vintage Brut, who slammed a subsequent winner by seven lengths on his debut, is harder to dismiss and is feared most.
7:05 1m Matchbook Is Commission Free Heron Stakes (Listed Race) (Class 1) (3yo)
Sir Michael Stoute runs two in Regal Reality, the winner of a Yarmouth maiden last autumn and the mount of Ryan Moore, and the Jim Cowley-ridden Gabr, whose Racing Post fifth behind Saxon Warrior and Roaring Lion is the best juvenile form on display.
However, they may well be playing for the places as John Gosden’s WITHOUT PAROLE looks a serious prospect having won both his starts in devastating fashion. The latest of those came at Yarmouth on his reappearance in April, when six lengths ahead of subsequent Newmarket handicap winner Ostillio, and he was then looking like Gosden’s leading hope for the 2000 Guineas following the surprise defeat of stablemate Roaring Lion in the Craven. That horse carried the baton for the stable in the end, finishing fifth before winning the Dante impressively, and if the selection is in a similar league he should have no truble disposing of his eight rivals.
That he holds entries in a couple of Group 1s (St James’s Palace and Coral-Eclipse) certainly suggests that connections think he’s up to winning at this level and bookmakers are quite right to go a shade of odds-on.
7:35 2m (2m50y) Matchbook VIP Henry II Stakes (Group 3) (Class 1) (4yo+)
John Gosden is represented by another favourite here in Weekender with no bigger than 11/4 on offer at the time of writing. That looks plenty short enough, however, given he only beat an exposed six-year-old on his reappearance at Chelmsford last month and is now stepping into Group company for the first time against proven types. For all his undoubted potential, I’ve got to take him on.
Given that seven of the last ten winners were aged six or older, you have to respect the chances of nine-year-old Sheikhzayedroad as he boasts some solid form at this level and looks to have retained all his ability judging by a couple of Dubai efforts in March. He’ll be hard to keep out of the frame and is preferred to Chester Cup winner Magic Circle, who is taking a huge step up in class and is probably just running at this level so soon to qualify him for the Melbourne Cup.
But my idea of the winner is MOUNT MORIAH providing the forecast rain materialises and conditions aren’t too quick for him. Ralph Beckett’s four-year-old is definitely best with some cut, although it was officially ‘good’ when he won at Ascot last July, and he remains far from exposed as a stayer. While all his four wins have come over shorter, including a 1m6f Listed contest at Nottingham on his reappearance, he didn’t look short of stamina on his sole try at 2m in the Long Distance Cup on Ascot’s Champions Day last October, when beaten a little over two lengths into fourth. Indeed, that probably rates as a career-best when you consider the three horses that finished in front of him – Order Of St George, Torcedor and Stradivarius (in that order) – and it’s quite possible he’s improved again from three to four.
GROUND UPDATE – Sandown’s valuable Brigadier Gerard Stakes fixture is likely to be run on ground on the slow side of good after 10mm of overnight rain and a further 1.5mm in the morning led to an easing of the going.
8:10 1m2f (1m1f209y) Matchbook Brigadier Gerard Stakes (Group 3) (Class 1) (4yo+)
Poet’s Word is the form horse having finished second on three of his four starts in Group 1 company and his stable targets this race, with the prize going the way of his trainer Sir Michael Stoute four times since 2006 (plus three runners up) and eight times since 1991. But all that is factored into his price – he’s no bigger than 8/11 at the time of writing – and given he’s probably better over further I’d rather have a small interest in the Queen’s FABRICATE at bet365’s 4/1.
While Michael Bell’s runner has 7lb to find with the favourite on official ratings, his two runs this season suggest he might still be improving and this trip appears to suit him ideally. A Listed winner at Kempton in March, after which his trainer mentioned this race as his target, he has since finished a short head second behind Crystal Ocean in a Group 3 run over track and trip. That looks solid form, with the winner having no trouble following up in another Group 3 at the weekend, and the selection might just have the superior toe if this race is tactically run and ends up being a sprint for the line.
Sandown 6.35, Wedding Date @ 13/2 Hills
Sandown 7.05, Without Parole @ 4/5 Hills
Sandown 7.35, Mount Moriah @ 6/1 bet365 (back only if ground is good or softer)
Sandown 8.10, Fabricate @ 4/1 bet365
All odds were correct at time of posting.