1:35 - Betvictor Carnarvon Stakes (Listed ) 6f
Hierarchy is the highest rated of these, and ran well enough when just beaten by Go Bears Go to think he can go well, but marginal preference is for turf debutant Tiber Flow, who met his only defeat in four runs when a short-head second of 10 to El Caballo in the Three-Year-Old All-Weather Championships final at Newcastle last time.
He needed every yard of the trip there to get on terms with El Caballo, but the pair pulled clear and look smart performers in the making.
Confidence in the selection is slightly reduced by the prospect of a modest pace kept to this trip, which is surely a minimum, but I have no qualms about the switch of surface, with his lack of a turf run to date entirely due to a lack of turf opportunities until now.
2:10 - Al Rayyan Stakes (Registered As The Aston Park Stakes) (Group 3) 1m4f
I’m inclined to field against the Group 1 winners in this race, as both are coming back from time off, and both are likely to have more important races at Royal Ascot on the horizon, making this more about preparation and less about needing to win.
That leaves the contest looking pretty open, and my pick of the others is Foxes Tales, who is the form pick when adjusted for weights carried, and who is likely to prove suited by the step up to a mile and a half having shown his best form when splitting Solid Stone and Ilarab in the Group 3 Legacy Cup (formerly the Arc Trial) here last September.
He was a Group 3 winner over an extended 10 furlongs at Haydock prior to that, and seems to have more stamina than his pedigree would suggest.
His record below Group 1 level in the past 12 months reads 12122, and his form in that period has been gradually progressive. He’s fit from a run behind Mostahdaf in the Gordon Richards Stakes, and looks certain to go well.
2:45 - Betvictor London Gold Cup Handicap (Class2) 1m2f
This tends to be a very warm handicap in which many winners have gone on to make a mark at group level, so scope for progress as well as form in the book is essential. My pick here is the Willie Muir & Christy Grassick colt Red Vineyard, who has won two of three starts to date, and can be forgiven a flop in the mud when down the field in the Horris Hill Stakes here in the autumn.
Red Vineyard reappeared to win a Sandown handicap which has often proven a pointer for this race, and in beating Al Qareem, he is closely matched with Mr Big Stuff, who was a close second to Al Qareem at Nottingham earlier in April.
Both of those races are working out, with Nottingham fifth State Legend winning by a big margin at Doncaster, while Sandown third Bolthole landed a gamble at Newmarket on Thursday evening and Al Qareem went in at York yesterday to strengthen the form even further.
A similar case can be made for Red Vineyard and Mr Big Stuff, but I prefer the former, who looked game and determined when defying the rally of Al Qareem at Sandown, and he looks open to plenty of further improvement.
3:20 - Al Shaqab Lockinge Stakes (Group 1) 1m
Baaeed is going to be exceptionally hard to beat in the Lockinge, and the thought that the unbeaten miler – unraced at two after all – might progress again this season is an exciting one. It’s not my job to tell people what they already know, however, and I view the Group 1 feature as an each-way vehicle.
If you want to take a swing at one who might be able to win if the odds-on favourite is not at his best, then Real World makes plenty of appeal, as he too is unbeaten on turf
It’s easy to put a red pen through two disappointing efforts on dirt at Meydan, with that surface clearly not suiting him. Wins in the Zabeel Mile and the Prix Daniel Wildenstein show that he’s not far off the best around at today’s trip, and he should make the frame, with half a chance of success.
The other to catch my eye at the prices is Sir Busker, who is also a solid performer at this level, albeit lacking the brilliance of the best milers. He acquitted himself with credit in Meydan earlier in the year, and found the small field against him when narrowly beaten by New Mandate at Ascot on his domestic return.
He will enjoy being held up in a bigger field here, and while it would be a huge shock if he won, he could well run into a place from off the pace, and the 66/1 which was doing the rounds got me dusting off my betting boots.
That price has dried up, and if he was shorter than 50/1, I’d be inclined to switch to Real World, but he is the pick as things stand.
1:50 - Denbury Homes Fairway Stakes (Listed) 1m2f
The feeling is that Ottoman Fleet ought to have won at Newbury on his debut, getting going just too late to beat stablemate Natural World. He is respected, but his price is short enough now having attracted early punters, and I think a safer bet is Blue Riband Trial third Zain Sarinda.
Tom Clover took the Lingfield Oaks Trial last weekend, and is a talented trainer, as that shows. His charge didn’t really handle the camber at Epsom, but still finished ahead of the Lingfield Derby Trial winner United Nations. That colt then beat Natural World by four lengths at Lingfield, and while collateral form lines are dangerous to take at face value, he is a bigger price than Ottoman Fleet, and looks the bet at the odds.
2:25 - Tru7 Handicap 6f
Ten runners for what used to be one of the most competitive three-year-old sprints of the summer is another sign that all is not well at present, and it’s likely that Pocket The Profit won’t run if the going is quicker than good. It’s a trappy contest to evaluate, and the hopeful pick is Ernie’s Valentine.
I used to avoid runners from the Cole stable when apprentice Mohammed Tabti was riding, but he is much improved in the past year, and performs above market expectations when riding for his retained stable. Ernie’s Valentine is held by Harry Three on course-and-distance form last month, but he made late ground having been poorly positioned, and should improve with that outing behind him.
He also wears blinkers for the first time, and that is an angle which has proven profitable with Paul Cole over the years – notably with Majestic Dawn in the Cambridgeshire a couple of seasons ago. Hopefully the headgear will have a positive effect, but utilising the stable apprentice’s 7lb claim is enough of a positive to sway me into betting on him.
3:00 - Birketts LLP Handicap 7f
Bullace gets the nod, although I will be keeping an eye on Ralph Beckett’s results on Friday before committing fully. The David Oldrey-owned Bullace was a six-furlong handicap winner here on last season’s return, and he seems best in the spring based on how his form dipped after a summer break.
He ran well in listed company after his win, but a step up to Group 1 company at Royal Ascot was ambitious, and he struggled to recover his form thereafter.
A long break may well be what he’s needed, and this trip is probably ideal for him, so I’m anticipating a return to form for Bullace, assuming there are some positives to take from other runners from the stable before the button needs to be pressed.
Foxes Tales 2:10 Newbury – 1pt win at 7/2 (general)
Red Vineyard 2:45 Newbury – 1pt e/w at 8/1 (general)
Sir Busker 3:20 Newbury – 1pt e/w at 50/1 (general)