Flat racing fans are in for a major treat on Saturday with some top class types out across several meetings.
The Group 1 Lockinge Stakes is the highlight while even this late in the day we may get more Derby and Oaks clues with races at Newmarket and Newbury giving the three-year-olds one last chance to impress before Epsom.
We begin in Berkshire with a nice Listed race, one in which we have a potential value bet to kick our Saturday off.
1.50 Newbury (Carnarvon Stakes – Listed Race) – MOYASSAR
Not all of Roger Charlton’s horses improve much having made smart debut’s, so while this Red Impression remains a very big danger in the race it seems she may have been slightly overestimated by the odds-makers.
A more likely winner and potentially at a good price is Richard Hannon’s Moyassar, the choice of Jim Crowley in the race ahead of Sheikh Hamdan’s other contender Khaadem who also makes the shortlist.
Moyassar has come through the handicap route but he’s done it so convincingly, beating the decent Mawakib at Newmarket last time in good style and with plenty more improvement to come it’s easy to envisage him bursting clear at the death to take this race before going into group company later on.
2.05 Newmarket (Fairway Stakes – Listed Race) – AL HILALEE
By ten past two, prices quoted on Friday of around 3/1 might look a little silly about this Al Hilalee, a colt genuinely fancied for the 2000 Guineas and the Derby by the Godolphin team.
He did well to win at Listed level on only his second start as a juvenile in France before being put away and then his work in Dubai a few weeks ago was enough for the Boys in Blue to supplement him for the Guineas at a huge cost, though he ran badly that afternoon.
This trip is better for him, the level is fine and he really should prove too good for the improving Raise You as well as Khuzaam and Eightsome Reel who appear to be further behind.
3.40 Newbury (Lockinge Stakes – Group 1) – BEAT THE BANK
This is a competitive Group 1, mostly due to the fact that there’s no real star in this race and so many of them would be expected to run to a broadly similar level.
That said, Beat The Bank has been knocking on the door for a couple of years now and his reappearance win at Sandown in the Group 2 Bet365 Mile was a great starter for the season and he looks ready now to grab that previously elusive Group One win.
There are some unknown factors in the race, especially past Royal Ascot winners Le Brivido and Without Parole who could yet get back up to this level while the ever-popular Laurens will be there or thereabouts.
Look out for improvement to from Mythical Magic at a big price and he is the each-way play in the race, but at the quoted prices Andrew Balding’s Beat The Bank looks great value for his maiden win at the top level and it would be a very popular result.
4.15 Newbury (Olympic Glory Conditions Stakes) – WELL OF WISDOM
This 6f two-year-old race is basically a pattern event in everything other than name. Wesley Ward brings over Joker On Jack who showed the usual blistering pace we’ve come to expect of runners from this yard when taking a 4½ furlong maiden at Keeneland but this demands more and he has a 2lb penalty to carry.
Aidan O’Brien’s Fort Myers was impressive enough on debut over this trip at Dundalk and will undoubtedly improve from that, but the presence of these two horses has only served to give us a backable price about Well Of Wisdom and we have to take advantage of that.
Despite being bred for further and looking the least likely winner of Godolphin’s four runners on paper in a maiden, he was the choice of Will Buick and after getting the hang of things late on powered past the field to score impressively over Newmarket’s five furlongs.
He’s up in trip here which is perfect and he could win what might prove to be one of the best 2yo races thus far en route to a crack at the Coventry Stakes at Ascot next month.
4.50 Newbury (Fillies’ Trial Stakes – Listed Race) – STAR CATCHER
While the form shown by Queen Power is solid enough, Star Catcher remains the one in this line-up with the most potential and if anything she should be even better on this sounder surface.
On the soft ground round here 36 days ago, she won her race very well indeed and looked to be a filly heading for the Oaks which may still be the plan if she were to win this and recover quickly enough. Wherever she goes next, John Gosden’s filly looks good value to score in this under Frankie Dettori.
11.48 Pimlico (Preakness Stakes – Grade 1) – IMPROBABLE
With no Country House, Maximum Security, Code Of Honor, Tacitus or Game Winner the race has an unfortunately weak look about it this year, somewhat poignant too given that we may be witnessing the penultimate Preakness at Pimlico as the facilities are left to go to rack and ruin.
The class act in the field for me is Improbable, a colt who looked the real deal at the end of his juvenile season when scoring in the Grade 1 Los Alamitos Futurity. He was beaten in both of his preps as well as finishing fourth in the Kentucky Derby, but the sloppy tracks have not been to his liking and this drop back to 1m1f+ is ideal too.
With conditions fine and his gate position a good one, Bob Baffert and Mike Smith get the nod ahead of the overpriced Bourbon War who represents this season’s strong Florida form and is a fresh horse having missed the Derby.