We start todays live action with a small runner, three year old handicap over ten furlongs.
The current betting favourite looks set to be Threat Assessed and rightly so, as the Clive Cox runner has picked up two wins from three starts this season. A decent victory when stepped up to nine furlongs last time out should stand this horse in good stead but I fear the very soft ground might not play to the horses strengths. I know the horse has won on soft ground before but that was in a very low grade race. The horse then ran on good to soft ground and flopped. I don’t think the race will need much winning and being outside of the top three would be a shock but I’m looking to oppose the favourite today.
The main threat to the favourite could come in the form of Wild Hacked who finished third behind the favourite last time out. The Marco Botti runner was giving weight away to Threat Assessed that day but now the weights have been reversed in favour of Wild Hacked and it looks feasible that the previous result could be reversed as well.
Despite the two horses at the head of the market I’m actually going to opt for Karl Burke’s Navajo War Dance. The only horse to win over todays trip and now sits four pounds lower in the handicap than its victory that day. The horse has also won on softer going and with just the two runs this season maybe a little bit fresher than its rivals. Clearly connections think a lot of the horse after sending it to Royal Ascot and with the blistering form the yard are in at the moment it wouldn’t be out of the question to see this one finish inside the top two.
Navajo War Dance (E/W if 9/2+)
The first televised group race of the day is a five furlong sprint where the bookies make Brando the red-hot and short priced favourite. After finishing second of twenty eight in The Wokingham it has to be respected but at a current price of around 9/4 surely there has to be better value elsewhere.
If Spirit Quartz puts its best foot forward then its in with a lively chance but its inconsistent nature makes this one hard to predict and despite the booking of Pat Smullen I’m hoping today is a day where it under performs.
Both Duke Of Firenze and Lancelot Du Lac have lively chances, the latter is very inconsistent but has put in some notable performances on rain soaked ground and Duke Of Firenze may benefit from a smaller field and a smaller risk of traffic problems. That being said however I’m plumping for the only course and distance winner that lines up in the field. Three year old Willytheconqueror needs to step up on what its shown so far but a decent second placed finish in listed company doesn’t look too bad plus a liking for the course and victories on softer going makes this one a lively outsider.
A very open looking contest awaits as we return to Haydock for a Group 2 contest.
Many of the big time trainers are represented here and if truth be told it’s mightily hard to make a selection in this with cases easily being made for a handful of the runners.
With very heavy going likely for the day it’s worth noting those horses that should act on that sort of surface. However a total of six of the nine set to go to post have already racked up a previous success on soft or heavier going. Which obviously didn’t help narrow the field down all that much.
Furia Cruzada’s recent race in the Duke Of Cambridge Stakes where she finished second behind the very classy Usherette. That looks like the best form on offer but in a race like this she’s up against some likely improvers.
Endless Time did well as a three year old but without a run this season it’s a risk to take the chance on the horses fitness and wether or not they’ve retained their ability as a four year old.
Trainers Luca Cumani and David Simcock have their yards bang in form and they have their respective runners in the form of Carnachy and Loving Things. Both have great chances and are reasonably priced at 6/1. I’m plumping for the Cumani runner who’s only just raced once this season and should have more scope to improve than most of its rivals.
Loving Things (E/W if 9/2+)
As we head back to Sandown unfortunately we’re met with a non-runner in a previously sixteen runner race so unfortunately we only receive three places instead of four previously on offer.
According to the market the two runners vying for favouritism Best Of Times and Mutamakkin are priced up pretty short. Of the two I’d side with Mutamakkin who comes from the very in form Sir Michael Stoute yard. A horse that has a course and distance victory to its name is a big plus and is worth backing today.
Of the remaining runners if Highland Colori returned anywhere near its previous best then it’s current 18/1 price tag may seem very generous but how likely that may be is hard to tell.
Jockey James McDonald is doing very well on his stint here in the UK and grabs the ride onboard Godolphins Secret Brief. A horse that seems to do well on soft going and despite a mid-division finish at Ascot last time out put in a great performance at Doncaster the time before and comes here looking for another big run in a big runner handicap.
Mutamakkin (E/W if 9/2+)
Secret Brief (E/W)
We go from one big runner handicap to another where I’m opting for a runner with a low weight and a liking for very heavy ground. Barwick comes from George Baker’s yard and has picked up numerous victories over todays trip and despite being eight years old still has stuff to offer at this level and is worth an each way punt today.
Desert Encounter is on a role with three wins on the trot this season and although a worthy joint favourite takes a marked step up to take on this sort of challenge and unfortunately I feel it’ll fall short of claiming another victory.
The other current joint favourite Duretto looks to have a better chance between the two co-favourites as Andrew Balding’s charge could have the potential to improve more than most of the runners and should strip fitter for an easier campaign this year.
At much bigger prices Mark Johnston’s duo of Notarised and Stars Over The Sea might be worth a market check and from such a top trainer has to be worth keeping an eye on.
The three year old fillies take to the stage with a one mile listed race where, it seems to be the theme of the day, we have another set of joint favourites with John Gosden’s Snow Moon and Martyn Meade’s Wilamina. My selection lies within this duo as I side with Snow Moon who is lightly raced, a likely improver, has a distance win and a third placed finish on soft ground behind the Oaks second placed runner Architecture. Add this to the fact she hails from the superstar yard of John Gosden and she has to have a great opportunity of picking up a victory here.
Desert Haze looks over priced at around 10/1 and could have enough to spring a slight surprise or at least place especially under the horsemanship of Irish jockey Pat Smullen.
Snow Moon (WIN)
A sprint contest is our last race to come from Haydock on Channel 4’s live televised action where I’m putting experience ahead of youthful exuberance as I’m opting for nine year old Hoof It. It’s true to say that the horse’s best days are behind them but with a decent record on soft ground as well as course success in a lower grade race like this it looks to have a great chance. Promising amateur jockey Nathan Evans takes even more weight off the horses back and if Hoof It retains any of its group race ability will take a race of this nature with ease. Obviously it may be remiss to seemingly ignore its rivals but a decent each way price seems value in a race like this.
Both Reflekto and Intense Style have had a jam packed season this year and on going like this it could take its toll.
Many punters like the looks of Shady McCoy and although it had a great year last year has yet to return this season so a lot is taken on trust as to where the horse is at for this race.
Hoof It (E/W)
The showpiece race of the day is the Coral Eclipse where Ballydoyle’s odds-on favourite The Gurkha looks to make amends for a second placed finish at Royal Ascot. Although the horse goes up against older opposition for the first time today I can’t see past the Ryan Moore ridden favourite.
Time Test has a decent level of ability on its day but its record on soft ground is disappointing and looks likely to play second string to some of its rivals today.
My Dream Boat sprung a surprise at Royal Ascot and relishes softer going. The Clive Cox runner is likely to put in another good showing today but I just have a feeling this one isn’t quite elite level and could play second string to the favourite.
The horse that seems a bit of an enigma here is Godolphin’s Hawkbill who’s won its last five races in a row which also included The Tercentenary Stakes at Royal Ascot. Clearly the horse has ability but finally takes the step up to top grade level. The question is wether or not Godolphins charge can hang at this level is up for debate and we’ll get an answer today.
The Gurkha (WIN)