There is plenty high-quality competitive action for us to sink our teeth into this weekend, obviously, Sandown is where most racing fans will focusing their attention with the Coral Challenge and Group 1 Coral-Eclipse among the highlights. Haydock plays host to the Group 2 Lancashire Oaks and the Old Newton Cup.
The Coral Challenge is the perfect appetiser to the main event at Sandown on Saturday. This 1-mile handicap looks fiendishly open with Roger Varian’s Daira Prince the current favourite following two wins this season. These wins have been achieved since the son of Dubawi has been gelded and had the aid of blinkers.
In such an open race I’ll take a chance on one of the outsiders, Master Carpenter. Rob Millman’s seven-year-old has yet to hit top gear in three racecourse forays this season but on the back of this, the handicapper has given him a chance. This classy sort has won a listed race of course and distance in his youth and finished 3rd in this race off a mark of 104 in 2015.
He now runs off a mark of 91 and with Rossa Ryan’s invaluable 3-pound claim Master Carpenter can spring an upset.
Selection: Master Carpenter
It seems that in a surprise move Saxon Warrior looks a likely starter in the Group 1 Coral-Eclipse, this once Triple Crown contender has questions to answer following defeats in both the English and Irish Derbys.
As I stated in my Coral-Eclipse Preview, Masar is the justifiable favourite for the race but I feel that his form isn’t rock-solid. In truth, most of the field have question marks over them and they need to answer these if they are to win this Group 1 contest.
The one I have sided with is Happily, unsurprisingly Donnacadh has decided to partner Saxon Warrior which leaves steering duties on Happily to the very capable and underrated Wayne Lordan. Following a dual Group 1 winning two-year-old campaign, the daughter of Galileo has yet to get her head in front this season but with the trip seeming to suit well last time and with her receiving weight all round, Happily may just show up the boys!
At Haydock the Group 2 Lancashire Oaks is the feature, where 7 horses go to post and with Aidan O’Brien having runners across numerous tracks, countries and continents, Michael Hussey has a big chance of landing this nice prize on the improving Flattering.
However, the horse I like is Luca Cumani’s God Given, she was a Group 3 course and distance winner on her most recent start. The daughter of Nathaniel is now unbeaten in two-course visits and with Jamie Spencer in the plate, God Given is the one to beat.
Selection: God Given
The Old Newton Cup is a target for any trainer with a quality stayer that could be on a nice mark. Mark Johnston and Marco Botti have won four of the last five renewals between them with the likes of Notarised and most recently Dylan Mouth.
Mark Johnston has three representatives this year in the form of Sofia’s Rock, Titi Makfi and Rainbow Rebel, all of which would have to show some improved form to feature in this competitive handicap.
Atty Persse will be the selection of many but following to bitterly disappointing runs last season, punters will be banking on a gelding operation having the desired effect.
It’s Crowned Eagle the sole Marco Botti inmate that peaks my interest, he ran respectably when finishing midfield in the Duke of Edinburgh Stakes at the Royal meeting and looks very much on an upward curve.
Crowned Eagle’s only previous visit to Haydock was on debut when he finished third behind none other than Barney Roy. If his Royal excursions didn’t take too much out of him, the Oasis Dream gelding must have serious claims.
Selection: Crowned Eagle
As mentioned it’s not just Sandown where Aidan O’Brien will be represented at the top level this weekend as he has runners at Belmont Park on Saturday, while St James’s Palace Stakes runner-up Gustav Klimt could run in the Prix Jean Prat at Deauville on Sunday.
Team Ballydoyle are set to be represented by Mendelssohn, who flopped in the Kentucky Derby after being badly impeded with at the start and he now takes a big drop in class for the Grade 3 Dwyer Stakes. He will be joined by stablemate Seahenge who will be looking to win for the first time since a victory in the Group 2 Champagne Stakes at Doncaster.
Athena will be the maestro of Ballydoyle’s sole representative in the Grade 1 Belmont Oaks and will have the assistance of Ryan Moore in the saddle. She finished third in the Pretty Polly only six days ago and it will be some training performance if she can win after such a quick turnaround.
Hunting Horn was last seen winning the Hampton Court Stakes at Royal Ascot and he’ll be bidding to back up this victory in the Belmont Derby. Aidan said about his charge:
“We were very happy with Hunting Horn at Ascot and he also goes for the Belmont Derby.
He added: “Gustav Klimt could run in the Prix Jean Prat on Sunday. He came out of Ascot well and we’re very happy with him.”
Another race to note on Sunday is the German Derby at Hamburg where both Andrea Atzeni and Robert Havlin look to have live chances.
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