There is a real action-packed weekend ahead of us with Group 1 action on the flat at Doncaster where Mogul should take all the beating. John Gosden’s Royal Line is the star attraction at Newbury, while there are four quality races to look forward to on ITV from Cheltenham as the jumps season bens in earnest.
Exchange Handicap Chase
Cogry is a firm favourite in the Twiston-Davies yard and with many racing fans on both sides of the Irish Sea. He went down by a neck in this contest twelve months ago when like today making his seasonal debut. He’s four pounds higher now having won at the December meeting at Cheltenham and although he clearly loves the track at 10, there are surely more progressive types in the race.
Another horse that loves Prestbury Park is The Young Master who ran a cracker to finish third in last season’s Kim Muir. Sam Waley-cohen gets on particularly well with the horse and although he undoubtedly run his race, much like Cogry there may be younger legs to outgun him.
Kim Bakey’s Rocky’s Treasure won four times in a busy campaign last year which included a Grade 2 win and a runaway victory on season debut. He’s an improving sort and it’ll be interesting to see how he fares out of novice company.
The one I’ll side with is Crosspark who rose a total of 24-pounds last season and ended the year on a high with a gallant runner-up finish on the Scottish Grand National behind Takingrisks. The trip/ground should be spot on with my only slight reservation being it’s his first run at Cheltenham.
Masterson Holdings Hurdle
The four-year-old form can be very difficult to work out as many will progress past their more forward advisories. Torpillo looks likely to jump off favourite for this having already won this season. He won twice last season and was impressive when winning at Chepstow earlier in the month. that being said he struggled when upped in class last year and I’d look elsewhere.
Quel Destin won six on the bounce last season and wasn’t beaten far in the Triumph, which is some of the best form on offer. He had a pipe-opener on the flat at Bath earlier in the month and will take all the beating.
Nelson Road actually finished ahead of Quel Destin in the Triumph and has had a similar prep with a run on the flat. Another worth considering is the Irish-raider Soviet Pimpernel but in truth, I’d probably just watch the race and make notes for the season ahead.
Selection: Quel Destin
Randox Health Handicap Chase
This looks like a very open-looking contest with many of the horses making their seasonal debuts. I must admit a particular soft spot for Kerry Lee’s Gino Trail. He wears his heart on his sleeve and had a relatively light campaign. He’s only one-pound higher than his last winning mark and with Richard Johnson in the plate he must go close.
Master Work comes into this with arce fitness on his side having won at Fontwell at the beginning of the month. He’s a horse on an upward curve but a nine-pound hike in the weights looks harsh.
Gary Moore’s Knocknanuss has a great record when fresh and looks like one of the classiest horses in the field having contested Grade 1’s on his final two starts of the season. Jamie Moore takes the ride and he’ll take all the beating.
Pertemps Handicap Hurdle
The top-weight Tobefair has gathered a bit of a cult following in recent years and is a real stalwart for the small Debra Hamer yard. He deservedly won on his final start last season having been knocking on the door all season but it means he begins the season off a career-high mark which may hinder his chances now.
There has been sustained support for Theclockisticking in recent days with the assumed improvement coming from a recent wind surgery. If this has worked then I can see the case, as he finished 4th in the race last year off six-pounds higher and he’ll do for me.
I could list any number of runners with chances but for me, the other to keep an eye on is Two Taffs from the Dan Skelton yard. He’s having his first start in two years. He’s a classy individual and if on song would win this in a hack.
The six-furlong, Doncaster Stakes kicks off racing action at Doncaster, with eight runners set to go to post.
Ante-post favourite Michael Dods trained Troubador will be one to watch in the opening race. Paul Mulrennan is set to do the steering aboard the son of Poet’s Voice and after an impressive performance at Redcar on his last outing, connections will be hopeful he will be in the parade ring at Doncaster.
Aidan O’Brien-trained Hong Kong is set to be steered by son Donnacha O’Brien. The two-year-old had an impressive win at Naas on his last day out in soft to heavy conditions so more rain might work in his favour, but still, one to watch.
Other runners to keep an eye on include the Tim Easterby-trained Art Power and Shane Gray’s mount Aberama Gold.
Selection: Hong Kong
Vertem Futurity Trophy Stakes
The Group 1 Vertem Futurity Trophy Stakes hit the media this week, as out of twelve entries – eleven horses based in Ballydoyle under the guidance of Aidan O’Brien were entered – now there is a total of six runners set to go to post, five being Ballydoyle trained.
Andrew Balding-trained Kameko is the sole British contender in the race. Set to be steered by current champion jockey Oisin Murphy, he will be the one to go up against the force that is Ballydoyle. He was a good second in the Solario and Royal Lodge and indeed a very interesting entry.
Innisfree landed the Beresford Stakes at the Curragh last month and is one to be feared.
Ante-post favourite Mogul will be ridden by son Donnacha. The son of Galileo has an impressive form of 112 to date, most recently he won the Juvenile Stakes at Leopardstown six weeks ago.
Nineteen runners go to post in this five furlongs handicap. Open to horses three years of age and older, it is a wide-open race.
Ed Walker trained Came From The Dark comes off the back of a strong second at Ascot at the start of the month, where conditions were heavy. Perhaps slightly better ground might be what the three-year-old requires, as his penultimate outing he returned to the winner’s enclosure after running in soft conditions.
Michael Appleby runs Danzeno and is set to be ridden by Oisin Murphy. The eight-year-old has plenty of experience and certainly one to watch on the betting market at an each-way price.
Another entry to keep an eye include Tarboosh who is set to be steered by Paul Midgley.
Poppy Appeal Stakes
The Group 3 Poppy Appeal Stakes (registered as the St Simon Stakes) welcomes six runners to go to post in the one-mile and four furlongs contest.
John Gosden’s stable favourite Royal Line is set to be steered by Frankie Dettori. The five-year-old is taking a slight step back in trip after he finished third in the Qipco British Champions Long Distance Cup earlier this month.
The Andrew Balding-trained Morando comes off the back of an impressive win at Ascot at the start of the month. The six-year-old is set to be ridden by Silvestre De Sousa.
William Haggas trained Young Rascal who will be steered by James Doyle is back on the track for the first time since May after being gelded. Another to keep an eye on at an each-way price.
Selection: Royal Line
The Group 3 Cancom Stakes welcomes ten runners to the field. Run over seven furlongs, the race is only open to two-year-olds.
Ralph Beckett-trained Kinross is a bright prospect in this contest. The Kingman colt was highly impressive at his first start at Newmarket and connections will be hopeful he can continue these winning ways.
Aidan O’Brien brings two runners to the field, Year Of The Tiger and New World Tapestry. Year Of The Tiger ran well in the Royal Lodge and Dewhurst, while New World Tapestry won at Newmarket on his last outing and is open to further improvement.
William Buick takes the reins aboard Boccaccio who is trained by Charlie Appleby. The Dubawi colt scored on debut at Yarmouth five months ago and is another interesting prospect to keep an eye on.
Selection: Year Of The Tiger