Our racing expert gives his verdict on the televised action from York, Sandown and Chester.
1:50 York 1m4f (1m3f188y) Queen Mother’s Cup Handicap (For Lady Amateur Riders) (Class 3) (3yo+ 0-95)
No obvious candidate amongst those at single figure prices and any value surely lies in Paddy Power’s 10/1 about last year’s winner TAPIS LIBRE. Running off the same mark as 12 months ago, and 4lb lower than his last winning one, the now ten-year-old looked as good as ever in a couple of starts this season and his latest fifth at Middlesbrough can be marked up as he raced away from the main action. A winner of nine races under today’s lady amateur, Joanna Mason, he looks overpriced to make it ten.
Last year’s runner-up Mukhayyam and Desert Ruler, who completed a double on Tapeta in January and was having his first subsequent start when third at Chester last month, rate the main dangers.
2:05 Sandown 5f (5f10y) Randox Health Scurry Stakes (Listed Race) (Class 1) (3yo)
It’s hard to believe now that the brilliant Battash went off at 11/1 when winning this race last year. A surprise winner that day, he was ending the good run of fancied runners, with six of the previous nine runnings going to the favourite, and he was also defying a wide draw in stall nine, with low numbers usually favoured on the straight 5f course here. That provides hope that Clive Cox’s KODITIME, the forecast favourite this time around, can overcome the widest draw of all in stall ten. This race was mentioned as a target in a Stable Tour earlier this month and he’s certainly progressive, having won a competitive York handicap on his reappearance before finishing a narrow second at Windsor (5f, good) on his latest start, when conceding a stone to the winner. Cox reckons he’ll be better again on quicker ground, which is forecast, and he is just preferred to Spoof, a stablemate of Battaash who was a given a peach of a ride by Callum Shepherd when beating handicap rivals at the Chester May meeting.
2:25 York 7f JCB Handicap (Class 2) (3yo+ 0-105)
Most of these have plenty of miles on the clock whereas the well-bred SPANISH CITY is just ten races into his career and the lightly-raced five-year-old may not be finished improving yet. After winning on his reappearance at Newcastle in May, he was far from disgraced in the ultra competitive Victoria Cup, finishing sixth of the 17 runners, less than two lengths behind the winner. He then did well to make the most of a drop in grade at Doncaster last time, coming round runners to deliver his challenge and lead close home, and he’s only gone up 3lb for that. Clearly at home over this his intermediate trip and with his stable continuing in flying form (11-35 in the last fortnight, he’s very much the one they all have to beat with Ryan Moore doing the steering.
Get Knotted is disputing second favouritism in most lists but he wouldn’t want the ground this quick and a bigger threat to the selection may come from The Feathered Nest, who has been in good form at Chester the last twice and may do even better back at a galloping track.
2:40 Chester 1m4½f (1m4f63y) City Of London Handicap (Class 2) (3yo 0-100)
It’s easy to see why Istanbul Sultan is favourite as he has improved with each start this season and shaped as though the step up to 1m4f would suit when just headed over two furlongs less at Wetherby last time. Some rain, which is forecast, won’t harm his chances either as he dead-heated on soft at Goodwood last October, and he’s also drawn next to the rail in stall one.
But at the odds it’s hard to resist a small interest on Michael Bell’s NEVERBEEN TO PARIS as he is much better than he’s shown on his last starts having won well at Beverley on his reappearance. His failure to handle the downhill part of the track meant he had to delay his challenge on his follow up bid at Catterick, allowing the two horses that finished in front of him to get out of reach. Heavily backed at Newmarket seven days ago, his rider’s decision to rush him up after a couple of furlongs backfired as he was then far too keen for his own good. Hayley Turner is unlikely make the same mistake here and the application of a first-time hood might help him settle better too. Surely better than his current mark (78) and seemingly versatile over the ground, he’s worth another chance here.
3:00 York 1m6f (1m5f188y) Sky Bet Grand Cup Stakes (Listed Race) (Class 1) (4yo+)
Marmelo, who finished ninth in last year’s Melbourne Cup, made the winner work hard in a French Group 2 on his return last month and looks to have become stronger from four to five. He’s not opposed lightly but John Gosden’s WEEKENDER might have gone off a bit too hard when third in a Group 2 Henry II Stakes at Sandown last time out and while he appeared to stay 2m on that occasion, today’s shorter trip and galloping track could prove ideal. An impressive winner over 1m6f at Chelmsford on his reappearance, he has been working well at home since according to Newmarket gallop watchers and the son of Frankel may well have more improvement in him.
3:15 Sandown 1m Randox Health Handicap (Class 2) (3yo+ 0-100)
Charlie Fellowes (writing in his RFO column) reckons that his CHIEFOFCHIEFS had a bit up his sleeve when winning the Whitson Cup over track and trip last time, in which case a subsequent 4lb rise might not be enough to stop the talented five-year-old going in again. The form of that race looks strong and having enjoyed plenty of cover, which is the key to him, he readily asserted close home before finding a bit extra when the runner-up got close. Unlikely to have made the cut for next week’s Royal Hunt Cup given his current rating, this nice prize looks well within his grasp and James Doyle is just the man for the job.
Of his rivals, Via Serendipity is making a quick reappearance after finishing a close second to a progressive winner at Chelmsford on Wednesday and while he looks weighed up to his best, he might be the one to give the selection most to do.
3:35 York 6f Pavers Foundation Catherine Memorial Sprint Handicap (Class 2) (3yo 0-105)
FOXTROT LADY was hit with a 7lb rise after her latest win at Carlisle, but that looks justified as very few sprint handicaps are won by three-and-three-quarter lengths and the form looks strong. After losing her first seven starts, Andrew Balding’s filly is clearly on the upgrade now and is taken to go one better than her half-sister Dancing Star, who was just chinned close home in this race two years ago for the same connections.
There are dangers wherever you look in this high-quality handicap and Beshaayir, who holds entries in the Commonwealth Cup and Coronation Stakes, is interesting back at 6f having run with the choke out over an extra furlong at Musselburgh last time. Strictly on the form book, she has the beating of the selection having beaten her a length into second off levels when getting off the mark at Newbury last September. However, the Balding filly has improved no end since then, becoming more professional with experience, and I reckon she can get her revenge.
Of those at bigger prices, Bengali Boys could go well having given the strong impression that the return to 6f would suit him at Hamilton last time out and with a decent 5lb claimer easing his burden. At 22/1 with Hills, who are paying out on five places, he could reward each-way support.
York 1.50, Tapis Libre @ 10/1 Paddy Power
Sandown 2.05, Koditime @ 4/1 Betfred
York 2.25, Spanish City @ 11/4 Boylesports
Chester 2.40, Neverbeen To Paris @ 9/1 bet365
York 3.00, Weekender @ 100/30 Betfair
Sandown 3.15, Chiefofchiefs @ 11/2 Paddy Power
York 3.35, Foxtrot Lady @ 7/1 bet365 / Bengali Boys each-way @ 22/1 Hills (1/5 odds, 18.104.22.168.5)
All odds were correct at time of posting.