With the Guineas already a distant memory, we are hurtling towards Oaks and Derby weekend and the picture is changing all the time.
Godolphin’s Yibir, Law Of The Sea and Wirko didn’t step up at Chester from their impressive previous runs, though Charlie Appleby and the boys in blue have two outstanding candidates in the trials at Lingfield on Saturday.
On Sunday at Leopardstown one of the Derby favourites, Bolshoi Ballet, clashes with Vertem Futurity winner Mac Swiney in an intriguing Derrinstown Stud Derby Trial, but betting-wise it’s all about Saturday for us, beginning at Lingfield Park.
2.15 Lingfield (Oaks Trial Fillies’ Stakes – Listed Race) – NASH NASHA
Anapurna won this race a couple of years ago before landing the big one at Epsom, but otherwise it has tended not to take a lot of winning in all truth.
Despite the apparent strength in the market of likely favourite Technique, she is not guaranteed to stamp her authority on this race for Martyn Meade and Sean Levey.
At all sorts of prices there is a bunch of fillies who look similar in terms of ability; Divinely, Loving Dream and Ocean Road among them, which leaves us looking for value and potential and the only horse on the card to have both is Godolphin’s Nash Nasha.
Charlie Appleby’s filly is a Dubawi and her stamina isn’t guaranteed, however her style of racing suggests she’ll be happy here and she is improving very quickly indeed.
Having been off the track since last August, she made just her third career start when not fully wound up on the Classic Trial card at Newbury in a fillies’ novice race last month, comfortably seeing off a potentially decent one of William Haggas’ along with Frankel’s full sister Chiasma.
She will be very much better for that run, doesn’t have much to make up on Technique anyway, and at twice the price represents the aforementioned value we’re looking for.
2.50 Lingfield (Derby Trial Stakes – Listed Race) – ADAYAR
An interesting Derby Trial, in fact this race is starting to throw up proper contenders again. After Anthony Van Dyck did the Lingfield Trial-Derby double two years ago, impressive winner English King took the race last time before going off a strong favourite for the Blue Riband at Epsom.
Now we have Adayar for Charlie Appleby and Godolphin. In a strong Classic Trial at Newbury, Adayar carried the team’s second colours but was the horse everybody took out of the race.
Having been slowly away and also losing a shoe, the Frankel colt stayed on powerfully to only just fail, beating Yibir home who was a strong favourite for the Dee Stakes, and being unlucky not to collar Alenquer who now heads to the Dante at York.
Apart from the trip not being a worry, he gave the impression that he would improve a ton from that performance. William Buick’s mount can now get right up to around the 115 level and, even with Aidan O’Brien pair Carlisle Bay and Kyprios in the field, that’s a mark the field may not be able to match. A real Derby hope.
2.55 Nottingham (Kilvington Stakes – Listed Race) – LIGHT REFRAIN
We should keep stakes small here in a competitive affair, but at the odds it is worth taking a chance on Light Refrain.
It wouldn’t always be wise backing three-year-olds against the older horses this early in the season, however in the testing conditions the lighter physical weight they are carrying may well count for plenty.
While the stalls are placed in the centre, the field could just end up near the stands rail and so those drawn high won’t be disadvantaged, including the Queen’s horse. Runners can rather get away at Nottingham and Light Refrain has been known to run on the front end, so her style is bang on for this contest.
Although she’s a Frankel, William Haggas’ young filly did very well over six furlongs at Newcastle (Tapeta) and at York (soft ground) last season making these conditions appear ideal.
She may well steal a march and land this one under Shane Kelly with Mountain Brave, Last Empire, Ventura Diamond and Chocoya all fighting for places.
3.25 Lingfield (Chartwell Fillies’ Stakes – Group 3) – AXANA
This is a decent race and, while it’s close on the numbers, we could once again have the luxury of keeping stakes small and going for some real value.
Underrated and overpriced in the line-up is the German raider Axana. Often horses from certain territories are not considered good enough, a view that should have been left behind in 1990, and having not got out of third gear on her seasonal return Andreas Wohler’s five-year-old mare can step up and prove to be the best of these.
She’s got to the required level before and can certainly do so again under Jason Watson at a nice price, the chief opposition potentially coming from Double or Bubble and Bounce The Blues.
3.45 Haydock (Spring Trophy Stakes – Listed Race) – RAAEQ
It would be so easy to ignore Haydock on Saturday for betting purposes, despite their impressive mixed card, on account of the ground but the Listed Spring Trophy has attracted a bunch of horses who should be happy in the soft conditions.
Chief among them is Raaeq. Brian Meehan’s colt should probably be clear favourite for this but, at the time of writing at least, is available with a bit of value.
Having already been improving nicely as a three-year-old, Raaeq slammed his handicap field over seven furlongs on soft ground at Ascot last autumn, earning himself a mark of 107 that he now looks more than capable of surpassing.
Having run a fair reappearance race on good ground over a mile he can be expected to come on now, so in favoured conditions he is likely to put up a career best that would be too hot for this field to handle.
Lord Of The Lodge, Current Options, Qaysar and Tomfre were the other ones considered.