We have a ton of action to keep us entertained this weekend on the flat and over the jumps, Haydock in fact hosting Swinton Hurdle day which is a mixed card featuring racing over both codes.
Several Oaks, Derby and Irish Guineas contenders attempt to book their places in the upcoming classics too as Lingfield and Leopardstown host yet more trials while Sunday sees the French 1000 and 2000 Guineas take place over at ParisLongchamp.
This week there are four bets, whittled down from many options around Britain, Ireland and France, with Lingfield definitely seeming to be the place to take advantage of some fair pricing.
1.55 Lingfield (Oaks Trial Fillies’ Stakes – Listed Race) – ANAPURNA
There has been a lot of attention aimed at Frankellina over the winter with a view to her being a top class filly in her three-year-old season, but while I am in no way saying she won’t be (she’s certainly bred to get there) the form of her winning debut last year at Yarmouth doesn’t really blow one’s skirt up.
While it’s obviously true that she’ll improve plenty from that performance, the same can be said for John Gosden’s Anapurna and he is a master at moving these fillies forward and helping them to realise their full potential.
Frankie Dettori’s mount, another daughter of Frankel, shot clear in good style in her maiden win at Lingfield in January (standard to slow track) and that day she looked a filly of some significant promise. She gets the nod to see these rivals off with King Power and Tauteke both in the running for place money.
2.30 Lingfield (Derby Trial Stakes – Listed Race) – ANTHONY VAN DYCK
Aidan O’Brien has already taken several Derby trials and clearly has a very strong hand going into the second colt’s classic at Epsom on June 1st. Broome runs in the Derrinstown Stud Derby Trial on Sunday at Leopardstown and is odds-on to add to the tally, and while I’d be worried about taking too short a price this Anthony Van Dyck can provide Ballydoyle with yet another trial winner.
There has been some talk of this horse being a far from guaranteed stayer but, while he is out of an Exceed And Excel mare, he is by Galileo which alone is encouraging and a closer look at his very strong juvenile form gives further cause for optimism on that front.
Despite all his good form being over seven furlongs as a two-year-old, he was rather taken off his feet on fast ground in the Dewhurst by Too Darn Hot and co. but he won on the yielding before that at the Curragh and his best run was a runner-up effort behind the excellent Quorto in the National Stakes.
Given that Quorto’s trainer Charlie Appleby says his colt is a middle-distance type in waiting, it’s easy to believe that stamina played a part that day and with this solid Group 1 form he should be too good here although we can expect significant improvement from Cap Francais and Eagles By Day and they look good for the places.
3.40 Lingfield (Chartwell Fillies’ Stakes – Group 3) – PRETTY BABY
Given that we are suddenly awash with soft ground around the country we will have to temper enthusiasm (and stakes perhaps) as not all selections are proven in the mud. That’s certainly the case with Pretty Baby, a rather nice type who has been off the track since winning a Group 3 at Glorious Goodwood last August.
That success, along with an excellent second at York and three other wins, was achieved on fast ground but her debut second was on good-to-soft and the sire, Orpen, managed a Group 1 win in the Prix Morny on the same sort of surface.
Given that he is unafraid to pull horses out, if trainer William Haggas allows this filly to take her chance then he clearly feels the ground is not a problem and thus she can be expected to have come on over the winter, making her a solid selection.
The value in the race behind her could be Dean Ivory’s Eirene, an improving filly with some good soft ground form, while Devant and Perfection, who is now with David O’Meara, will both attract support from various corners.
4.00 Ascot (Victoria Cup Heritage Handicap) – GLORIOUS JOURNEY
This is a viciously competitive seven furlong race but for once, unlike in the Grand National and certain other recent Saturday handicaps, the odds look fair and we could be going 10/1 the field by the off.
When a race like this has such a wide open look, many punters believe it’s a total lottery but that is simply not the case. Certain horses still stand out with the likes of Cape Byron, close up in several similarly valuable and competitive races last season, and the lightly-weighted Presidential both making the shortlist and appearing certain to go well if handling the ground.
Kynren is another regular in these events, a horse who was a 2-length fifth in the Balmoral Handicap on Champions Day in October and who kicked off this season by finishing runner-up to Auxerre in the Lincoln. He likes this ground but is arguably better over a mile which is the only doubt about him.
I’d like to think that on a line through Auxerre, Charlie Appleby knows where he stands with Kynren and so his putting this Glorious Journey into a tough handicap, given of course that he is a bona fide pattern performer now having finished third and first in French Group 3’s last season, speaks volumes and he will like this surface too.
He is improving all the time, will love going over seven on this ground with a fast pace guaranteed and can put up a new personal best now, something that even off 109 would be good enough to take the £65,000 first prize. Will Buick rides.