Our racing expert gives his verdict on Saturday's televised action.
12:20 (5f10y) Coral Charge (Group 3) (Registered As The Sprint Stakes) (Class 1) (3yo+)
A big weight stopped Muthmir in this race 12 months ago, when only fourth behind Battaash, who was getting 10lb, and he should do better this time around with no penalty to carry. But he could be better drawn in stall seven as low numbers are very much favoured on the sprint course here and, to emphasise that point, eight of the last 12 winners exited from one of the three inside stalls.
Two of the exceptions weren’t far away in stall four and I’m hopeful that JUDICIAL can become the third to win from that box as this race looks ideal for him. Julie Camacho’s stable star needs a stiff 5f run at a decent pace on fast ground to show his best and confirmed that when winning going away at Beverley last time. His trainer, who was the subject of an interview in this week’s Weekender, was sounding hopeful he can pick up a Group 3 prize en route to the Group 1 Nunthorpe and this looks as good an opportunity as any.
Haddaf, an improving three-year-old who made it 3-4 this season over track and trip last time and will exit from stall three, is feared most.
12:35 1m6f bet365 Handicap (Class 2) (3yo)
This is super competitive with four last-time-out winners in the field and a couple of others who have been running well enough of late to merit respect. That said, it was hard not to be impressed with the way RUDE AWAKENING dismissed his rivals at Doncaster (1m61/2f, good to firm) eight days ago, looking as though he had only just joined in when produced to challenge inside the last two furlongs with his jockey motionless before bolting up. His connections can’t really quibble over a subsequent 10lb rise given his superiority and he is clearly a progressive young stayer who looks sure to take higher rank.
That comment also applies to Charlie Appleby’s Ghostwatch, who was getting off the mark on turf when upped to this trip at Sandown last time. An 8lb rise might seem harsh but he might turn out to be better than a handicapper – he has an entry in the Group 2 Great Voltigeur – and he could make like difficult for the selection.
12:55 Sandown 1m Coral Challenge (Handicap) (Class 2) (3yo+)
That bookmakers are going 7/1 the field tells you how open this race is and MANSON wouldn’t be one of the more obvious winners given he is relatively exposed and has won just two of his 19 starts. But that record doesn’t tell the whole story of his talent and he has to be of interest here given the four best turf runs in his life have all come over this track and trip on fast ground, including a victory and a close fifth in last year’s race off a 3lb higher mark. He was at it again when making his reappearance here, running a stormer to finish second behind Via Serendipity, and while he will need some luck in-running, being a hold-up performer, his connections have long thought him capable of landing a nice prize like this one. With lots in his favour, he’s got to be worth a few quid each-way at bet365’s 16/1.
Of the rest, Daira Prince has to be respected as he’s 2-2 since being gelded and fitted with blinkers and further improvement likely, while Chiefofchiefs is another course and distance winner and is drawn better than last time, when having to come from a difficult position to finish fourth in the race won by Via Serendipity. But he’s a quirky sort who doesn’t like to bullied and while he’d be thereabouts granted a smooth passage, he’s half the odds of the selection.
Haydock 1:10 1m4f (1m3f175y) bet365 Lancashire Oaks (Group 2) (Fillies & Mares) (Class 1) (3yo+)
God Given is bidding to give Luca Cumani a third win in this race and she looks an ideal type having won a Group 3 over track and trip last time, dispelling any doubts about her handling a fast surface in the process. On the other hand, John Gosden’s Precious Ramotswe may not want it this quick as she hits the ground hard and has done all her winning on good or softer.
However, neither may cope with Andrew Balding’s HORSEPLAY as she can boast Classic form, having finished fourth in last year’s Oaks behind Enable, and is coming off a fine second behind Coronet in a York Group 2 on her reappearance, despite looking in need of the run and finding the 1m2f trip on the short side. The third Smart Call has won since to frank the form and there should be plenty more to come from the selection now stepping back up to her optimum trip and with that run under her belt. She also seems pretty versatile over the ground and, if more encouragement for a bet is needed, her stable is sending out plenty of winners.
Sandown 1:30 1m Coral Distaff (Listed Race) (Fillies) (Class 1) (3yo)
Whilst she has plenty to find with some of these on official ratings, James Fanshawe’s PREENING is a filly on the up and was winning her second race from just four starts when running away with a handicap over course and distance last time. Having found an easy surface against her at Thirsk previously, she fairly bounced off the fast ground when storming clear inside the last and her trainer has an excellent record with similar types. He might have been tempted to go for another handicap given her current mark of 93, which surely underestimates her by some way, so the fact he is pitching her straight into Listed company is a tip in itself. Some impressive homework since, according to gallop watchers, would have influenced his decision and I’m more than happy to take the 7/1 on offer.
Haydock 1:45 1m4f (1m3f175y) bet365 Old Newton Cup Handicap (Class 2) (4yo+)
Atty Persse has been gelded since finishing stone last behind Cracksman at York last August and this is a far more realistic target, with his form figures in handicaps reading 121. The lack of a run is no real concern either as I doubt Roger Charlton would bring him here undercooked given this is a prestigious prize and prize money on offer. Charlton, who deserves more good horses year on year, showed he can ready one after a layoff when sending out Withold to land last Saturday’s Northumberland Plate and this might have been the target for Atty Persse all along.
Of course, none of that had been lost on bookmakers and best odds of 4/1 at the time of writing don’t leave much room for manoeuvre. He’s still worth a saver at least but the value lies further down the betting list and I stopped at ATKINSON GRIMSHAW, who is a 14/1 shot with bet365. Described as “tricky” after winning at Chester (1m4f,good to firm) in May of last year for Andrew Balding, he was snapped up for 38,000gns by Iain Jardine at the autumn sales and that could prove to be a shrewd purchase as his stable debut in what was a messy affair over 1m2f at Ayr over hinted at better to come. Held up and quite keen early, he came off an ordinary gallop to grab second and it could be that a gelding operation has been the making of him. In which case, his current mark of 87 shouldn’t be beyond him and he’ll carry just 8st 3lb in this race thanks to Jamie Gormley’s claim, with the step up in trip being another thing in his favour.
Sandown 2.10 1m2f (1m1f209y) Coral-Eclipse (Group 1) (British Champions Series) (Class 1) (3yo+)
Masar doesn’t have the profile associated with a top-class Derby winner having been beaten four times previously, including when third in the 2000 Guineas when the likes of Nashwan and Sea The Stars, the last horses to do the Derby-Eclipse double, were second in it. I might be doing him a disservice but he might just be the best of a modest bunch of three-year-olds and given the Epsom form has taken a few knocks since – the second and fourth could only finish third and seventh in the Irish equivalent behind a maiden winner – he is crying out to be opposed at short odds. UPDATE – Masar misses the race due to a late setback.
Indeed, he might struggle to confirm form with the Epsom third Roaring Lion, who patently didn’t stay at Epsom and may now be running over his optimum trip. John Gosden’s charge should again finish ahead of Saxon Warrior, who has now been beaten at short prices in two Derbys and is unlikely to improve on Aidan O’Brien’s woeful record (0-10) with three-year-olds in the last decade.
But as already mentioned the current Classic generation don’t look anything special and this may again go to an older runner, with horses aged four and over winning seven of the last ten renewals. The 2016 winner Hawksbill looked as good as ever at Meydan in March but he’s flopped the last twice, albeit he got very worked up beforehand in first-time blinkers when a well beaten third behind Poet’s Word last time and could bounce back here.
However, Richard Fahey’s FOREST RANGER looks the one to be on, with Betfair’s 16/1 big enough for an each-way bet. He came up short in group races last summer but has landed both his starts since returning from a winter gelding operation and his trainer was talking in terms of this race after his success at the Craven meeting in April. Not for the first time, he found plenty for pressure on that occasion and he could be the type of horse who keeps pulling out a bit extra when needed. That he likes to be ridden prominently is another plus as it pays to be at the head of affairs in tactical races at this track. If that scenario materialises, as seems likely, he’ll be hard to kick out of the frame.
Sandown 12.20, Judicial @ 9/2 Paddy Power
Haydock 12.35, Rude Awakening @ 9/2 Betfair
Sandown 12.55, Manson each-way @ 16/1 bet365 (1/4 odds, 22.214.171.124)
Haydock 1.10, Horseplay @ 3/1 Betfred
Sandown 1.30, Preening @ 7/1 Paddy Power
Haydock 1.45, Atkinson Grimshaw each-way @ 14/1 bet365 (1/4 odds, 126.96.36.199)
Sandown 2.10, Forest Ranger each-way @ 16/1 Betfair (1/5 odds, 1.2.3)
All odds were correct at time of posting.