This is complicated as those with low draws seemed to hold an advantage yesterday, of those drawn low Royal Birth must be high on the list. Impressive enough when readily beating the re-opposing Fast Track at Lingfield the last day he is likely to be popular here but the ground poses a question. Unraced on turf since winning at Bath on Firm ground back in 2014 there is probably yardage in opposing him and Fast Track has every opportunity to turn the tables today. Toofi has an awkward draw but has some fine form next to his name and is now in the hands of sprint king Robert Cowell. Previously 2nd in the Stewards Cup and a fine 4th in the Ayr Gold Cup he is very interesting over the minimum trip and so despite his weight and tricky draw, he looks as good as any and receives the vote. Brando is drawn 15 but arrives here on the back of a win at Newmarket, his trainer holds him in high regard so market support would be worth noting despite his draw and the question mark over a quicker surface. Lucky Beggar, Artic Feeling and Thesme are selected others with chances and a move for Shamshon would be very interesting given his yards fine form.
Clive Cox has his string in good nick and his Zeehan is bound to be popular despite being a four race maiden. Beaten by an improver at Nottingham last time she could prove up to this and given she had winners behind her the last day, she really ought to go close and is respected. Purple Magic made hard work of her maiden at Chelmsford when last seen, she is bred to do better with time though and an improved performance today looks highly likely. Intermittent had started to look frustrating having finished 2nd three times on the bounce, she made no mistake at Wolverhampton the last day however and that win ought to boost her confidence. On the downside she must prove she handles anything with firm in the description and as she’s been a beaten favourite twice already it would be brave to follow her at short odds. Auntie Barber is another type to improve and her tactical speed should give her every chance and Bay Of St Marlo represents a yard firing. The rest have a fair bit to prove so a chance is taken with Michael Bell’s Purple Magic proving good enough.
Purple Magic (WIN)
Journey finished a fine second behind Simple Verse when upped in class at Ascot last term and is easily the one to beat on the back of that today. A winner over this trip at Salisbury prior to that she has everything going for her today and should be hard to peg back under Dettori. Beautiful Romance has a bit to find with the aforementioned Journey but makes appeal for her yard and looks a potential improver this term. Koora and Lady Of Dubai are others with chances and though Crystal Zvedza is infuriating she should have this run to suit. All things weighed up this just looks an eye catching chance for Journey to win at Group level and she is impossible to oppose.
Sir Michael Stoute has his yard firing and his Midterm bid to solidify his standing as ante post favourite for the Derby. Unbeaten in two starts to date he is bred to be a champion and though a few weren’t impressed with his victory at Sandown in a Derby trial, it should be remembered the time of that was quick. Of possible concern is the shocking recent record of favourites in this (Last 8 turned over) but this one looks as good as any of the previous failures and he is taken to prove too good for these. O’Brien rarely sends horses over for the trip but his Deauville and Black Sea have an awful lot to find with the favourite, strength in the market would of course be interesting and its a given both warrant a good deal of respect, they do however look below the level of the jolly and are opposed as such. John Gosden knows exactly what it takes to win this and Foundation and Wings Of Desire are bound to have fans, both deserve respect but both are short enough given the task ahead of them. Victory Bond makes plenty of appeal for the each way thieves, totally unexposed he has a mountain to climb on the figures but he looks an exciting prospect and an easy lead looks on the cards.
Express Himself travelled like an absolute dream and looked likely to hack up in the Lincoln at Doncaster, in the end he disappointingly faded away without even placing and has to be marked down as such. Next time up he was heavily supported at his beloved Haydock and again travelled like a dream. The ride he received was a most questionable one however and from a personal point of view it didn’t look good as going up the inside in big fields at Haydock is a certainty to end up a hard luck story. Quite a few high profile horsey people openly slammed the ride that day and I have to say, despite not being high profile I found it very disappointing and am glad to see Graham Lee hasn’t retained the ride. With Crowley back on board today he must be a very big player and though he needs luck and has to prove he’s as good away from Haydock, he does look to have been laid out for this and is taken to nail them all late on. Birdman got butchered in the same race Express Himself finished 4th in and is another likely to arrive on the scene late on. His mark leaves very little margin for error but he can be excused that last run and is very tempting from his draw. Stablemate Lord Of The Land is another with big chance, he also has an off putting big (high) draw to contend with but his handler does love having winners here. A talking horse last evening has resulted in his price contracting but he makes plenty of appeal and couldn’t be dismissed. Doncha, One More Word and Convey all catch the eye but perhaps Always Smile makes most appeal of the rest. From a yard firing in winners in these sort of races she is a massive player and a reproduction of her latest effort at Ascot may well prove to be enough here.
Express Himself (E/W if 9/2+)