The Margate Fillies Stakes is such a tricky opening to Friday’s Channel 4 coverage. The field is packed with unexposed two-year-olds and a handful of these may yet prove to be very special. The Mark Johnston yard look like they might have a real special one on their hands with Boater. The filly could only beat what was put in front of her on debut in a weak race at Kempton, but the seven length margin that day coupled with the way she put her race to bed that day, means she is worth siding with again here to follow up.
Richard Hannon’s yard are double handed in this one, but Stormy Clouds looks the stronger of their pair. She improved on her debut effort to land back to back races since and comes here as the most experienced of the field. She won well at Salisbury next time, but may just be vulnerable to one of the lesser exposed participants.
The David O’Meara yard can never be underestimated at this track so their once raced filly Coolfitch deserves respect, but her came on heavy ground and the form of the race hasn’t really worked out since so she has a few questions to answer.
The main danger and a really interesting runner in the field is Mick Easterby’s Carlton Frankie. She is the only unraced filly in the field and she is bred out of a couple of useful sprinters. Eye-catching that the stable would pitch her into such a hot race on debut and while the selection will likely prove too strong, any money for her would be worth noting.
The Starlight Handicap is a real tricky sprint handicap for the punters to decipher in a field where a good number of horses have some useful form in the book.
In such a field, it is always worth looking for some real value at the odds and the one that jumps off the page in that category is Richard Hannon’s Desert Force. The four-year-old has won twice at the track including once over today’s distance and will relish the return to this faster ground. Beaten by the draw on return at Goodwood as well as in the Ayr Silver Cup at the end of last term, but still showed up well on both occasions. The horse is now 4lb lower than when splitting the classy pair of Twilight Son and Magical Memory last May when conceding them weight so considering how well both of those rivals ran here earlier in the week at a higher level than this, Desert Force is the confident each way selection.
Stablemate Franciscan can also go well for the Hannon team. Capable claimer Gary Mahon takes off a useful 5lb. The Four-year-old is making only a fifth career start today with three of those coming last term. Never out of the frame and winning two from those three starts last season and so still remains with potential, but has a hike in the weights as well as a rise in class to contend with and the stablemate just looks to have more in its favour.
Mullionheir for the John Best yard was a real progressive sprinter last term five of its seven handicaps over six and seven furlongs. The last of those wins came at today’s track back in August and despite having another 3lb rise to contend with here, may still be open to improvement, but the major concern has to be the ground. Only ever really raced on good or softer so firmer ground has to be a worry.
DESERT FORCE (E/W)
The Irish Champions Weekend Fillies Stakes promises to be another interesting contester a mile. The key horse in terms of form is the Jeremy Noseda trained Nemoralia. This reached the frame five times from six runs in a hectic two-year-old campaign that included two wins and two fine placed efforts in the USA and one of those coming in the Breeder’s Cup Fillies mile behind the useful Alice Springs. She looks a real danger to all with that form up her sleeve, but the drop back into Listed company now means she is skinny enough in the market and it may just pay to side with one less exposed sort at an each way price.
One such filly is the Mick Channon trained Czabo. She built well on her promising debut to win a 6f maiden at Newbury last August. She wasn’t seen again until re-emerging in style with a staying on commanding showing in the Esther Cup at Sandown. A repeat of that form here can see her give the favourite the most to think about and the assistance of Champion Jockey Sylvestre De Sousa means she gets the nod as the each way alternative in the race. The Channon team clearly think very highly of her as she is entered in the Irish 1000 guineas as well as the Coronation Stakes.
Another interesting one is the Sir Michael Stoute trained Thetis. She progressed well in all three starts placing in each, but it was her second in the Group 2 Rockfel that is perhaps her best showing and she seems the type to progress more as a three-year-old for her powerful and in-form connections, but may just come on for the run today.
Most of the competitors in Yorkshire Cup are no strangers to each other and as such most of their form ties in together here. Clever Cookie has been an absolute star for the Peter Niven yard in these type of races in the past season or so and his best efforts in that period include a course and distance win here last May. The eight-year-old can count itself highly unlucky when an unlucky second to Flying Officer in October and repeat of either of those pieces of form entitles him to be bang there, but he tends to prefer slower ground and may be found wanting on a faster surface. Plus he failed to beat Flying Officer when in receipt of weight so he looks held with that rival.
John Gosden’s six-year-old performed admirably that day when going down fighting in third over the 2m trip at Ascot that day and he is just as effective at 1m6f. He is lightly raced for his age and ended last term with a hat trick of wins and so with that kind of smart form in the book, he gets the confident nod to prevail here back off level weights with his rivals.
The main danger to the selection will no doubt come from Second Step. The Luca Cumani trained five year old has shaped like today’s trip would be right up his street on a number of occasions and especially wen winning a Group 2 at Newmarket last term over 1m4f and then a Group 1 in Germany over the same trip. A big concern, however, is the failed previous attempt over 1m6f in the Irish St Leger where the horse didn’t quite see it out.
FLYING OFFICER (WIN)
The Channel 4 coverage comes to a close with the Jorvik Stakes over the 1m4f trip. Roger Varian’s rejuvenated Barsanti may take all the beating in this field here after seeming to flourish from a change in yard. The horse has left its 2015 form well behind with a dominating pair of wins for the new trainer on the all weather at Chelmsford and then Kempton. The latter of those races turned out to be quite a valuable handicap race and winning that may just stand it in good stead for the hat trick bid bid. A further 11lb hike may not be enough to anchor the four-year-old after giving the impression he had plenty more up his sleeve and he gets the confident nod for a follow up here.
There are dangers a plenty in the field for the selection to navigate. David O’Meara’s Fattsota looks the more likely of his duo. This front running type has won once in each of his last three seasons and is the mount of stable jockey Danny Tudhope. The 8-year-old has a massively reduced mark compared to the best bits of past form and so a bold show is expected at an each way price, but he is not reliable to reproduce his best form and may need to settle for minor honours against the classy selection.
Another who could run a big race at a price is the bottom weight Innocent Touch. Richard Fahey’s team could not have started the season in better form and the five-year-old will have come on for his ‘blowing the cobwebs away’ run Hamilton Park last time out. The horse produced a number of decent efforts in defeat over today’s trip last term and has some decent course and distance form in the book so may be the one for the forecast with the selection.