I will start tonight’s preview at Ascot with the Royal Lodge Stakes at 2.30. All 10 runners for this Group 2 event are previous winners. Almiqdaad won a Newmarket maiden last month and that race has since thrown up a couple of winners. He would be my choice although the ground might be an issue.
John Gosden’s horses are in fine form and his unbeaten filly Rainbow looks good for the 3.05. The Mick Channon trained Silver Games could run well at a decent price. She is a half sister to Nahoodh and ran as though a mile would suit her when 5th at Newbury last time out and she could, run well at a huge price.
There is a big prize on offer for the 7 furlong handicap at 3.40. There are a couple of important factors to take into account here namely the likely going which I am assuming will be on the quick side and the trip, which tends to be a bit of a specialists distance.
Both trip and ground suit Dhaular Dhar who was 5th in the race last season. He has since been runner up twice in big handicaps over course and distance and definitely comes here with a good chance. Celtic Sultan won first time up at Chester off a mark of 100 and is racing off 98 tomorrow. He likes to make the running and is drawn 9 which may mean that the pace in the race will be with the low numbers.
Zaahid won a strong Victoria Cup over course and distance in May but is now 5 lbs higher in the weights. He is usually held up and is drawn on the same side at Celtic Sultan so he should get a tow. He seems to handle any ground. I have had the feeling that Mastership will scoop one of these big handicaps at some stage. He has never won over this trip but he has been successful over longer and shorter distances and he should handle the ground OK. He needs things to fall right for him but with J Murtagh in the plate he will get every assistance from the saddle.
Skhilling Spirit was a creditable 5th on heavy ground in the Ayr Gold Cup last weekend and if he has got over his exertions he comes into the picture. Atlantic Story has 11 career wins to his credit although the last 10 have all been on the all weather. He ran with plenty of promise when 5th in a Doncaster handicap a couple of weeks back. He ran there after a 118 day absence so could be expected to have come on for the run and is well handicapped on turf compared to his all weather rating. My short list of 7 is completed by Giganticus who is ideally suited by a straight 7 furlongs on fast ground.
I normally like to go for one drawn high and one drawn low in these big field handicaps. Giganticus from stall one makes some appeal while from the high draws we have Dhaular Dhar (28) and Atlantic Story (26). It was hard to choose between my favoured 7 as they all have something going for them. I am thinking of having a few bob each way on Mastership.
The QEII Stakes (4.145) has not been a good race for favourites in recent years and I am tempted to take on the big 2 with Raven’s Pass. The stable are is excellent form and he was not beaten far by Henrythenavigator when they last met.
In the 4.50 Majectic Roi will appreciate the ground and seems to have the strongest credentials. Christany was 2nd, only beaten a head the only time she has run over 7 furlongs and she is the other one I would fancy.
The only runner from our list to follow in action at Chester is Pacific Pride in the 5.00. The 5 year old has a poor strike rate and his only 2 career wins have come in small fields. He has got a good draw however and will like the ground.
Staying in the North West there is racing at Haydock where the smart hurdler Souffleur should be all the better for a recent run over course and distance in the 2.25.
Barney McGrew and Burning Incense represent our list to follow in the 6 furlong handicap at 3.00. Burning Incense has not won for over 2 years but has slipped to a mark he is capable of winning off. Barney McGrew, a winner at Newcastle at the end of May will certainly handle the ground. At around 11/1 I would favour Burning Incense each way.
In the 3.35 Aegean Dancer and Quiet Elegance are horses that I have been following during the season. The former probably handles any ground but is best on a fast surface. There is a suspicion though that the assessor may just have his measure. Quiet Elegance won at 22/1 first time out but has been disappointing subsequently.
There is evening racing on the all weather at Great Leighs where there is an interesting newcomer in the 6.50. Nawaadi is the subject of good reports and comes from a stable in form.
Roaring Forte has been consistent enough but expensive to follow nonetheless. I am going to stick with him in the Great Leighs 7.20.
The jumps season is starting to warm up and there is some decent racing at Maket Rasen. Alan King runs Black Jacari in the 2.40. Black Jacari is a winner at Chepstow and Goodwood on the flat and is in the same ownership at Triumph Hurdle winner4 Katchit who is a former winner of this race.
Nudge and Nurdle is owned by some cricketing enthusiast called The Yes No Wait Sorries. Now if you follow cricket you will understand both the significance of the names of both horse and owner’s syndicate. If you don’t follow cricket, take my word for it, it would take far too long to explain! Anyway, Nudge and Nurdle is an unexposed sort that has already won twice over fences. He takes on some more experienced campaigners here but certainly looks one to keep on the right side. He runs in the 3.15 at Market Rasen.
The opening race (1.35) at Market Rasen looks quite an interesting one. Solent is the obvious choice from John Quinn’s yard after he created a good impression when winning at Bangor. Unfurled is an intriguing runner for Nigel Twiston-Davies. He was a listed race winner on the flat and ran second in the Group 3 Gordon Stakes but hasn’t run since August 2005 and makes his hurdles debut tomorrow.
Bye for now.
My thanks to John Thurm for his photo of Haydock Park. The two paintings are by courtesy of the artist Lisa Miller.