The ground was described as good to firm at noon on Wednesday ahead of today’s eight-race card at Sandown Park.
This will be the fastest ground that Derdas (5.25) has encountered and, as a son of Exceed And Excel, he should appreciate this evening’s terrain. This French import – 6/4 with bet365 – had the third over 5L back when runner up at Haydock on his British debut – good to soft – and is taken to go one better even though the winner did little for the form at Newbury next time.
The William Haggas trained newcomer Ajyaall is fitted with a hood for his debut which suggests he is a bit keen at home, but a market move would be worth noting.
Agent Basterfield makes a belated seasonal reappearance for Andrew Balding and would have every chance if getting a soft lead in the 10f handicap. The vote, however, goes to George Boughey’s Songkran (7.30) who has won his last three starts and is taken to defy a career high mark. The ew selection- 9/2 with William Hill who are betting 5 places – is 17lbs higher than when scoring at York earlier in the month, but he has subsequently scored at Bath and Chepstow and I thought he still had a bit up his sleeve when scoring in south Wales last time.
Note David Probert who has ridden Songkran in his last two victories takes the mount on Agent Basterfield with Kieran Shoemark – who was in the plate at York – taking over on the Boughey runner.
Rock Of Fame (8.00) is 6lbs higher than when runner up at Bath last time when it is possible that Jack Mitchell used too much petrol up from his wide draw on his filly. The winner – Magic Shuffle – has subsequently run a very good race – behind Songkran – at Chepstow and the selection is certainly bred to be better than her current mark. Andrea Atzeni takes over in the saddle for the first time this season on the filly who is a 3/1 chance with bet365.
Get Back Get Back (2.40) was a bit too keen on his reappearance at Uttoxeter last week and failed to jump with any fluency, but he still ran an excellent race in third having, arguably, made his bid for glory too far out. The hope is that he is less fresh this afternoon back at the Staffordshire track and if his jumping improves, he will be difficult to beat especially if jockey Sean Bowen hangs on to his mount for a shade longer.The selection is 7/2 with the money coming in the early salvos for the Evan Williams’ trained John Constable.
Mercian Prince (3.10) made all in a novice hurdle at Bangor earlier in the month and the hope is that he can follow up reverting to fences for Amy Murphy. That was his first start since a wind operation and the handicapper has certainly given the selection a chance given he is 10lbs below his last winning mark over the larger obstacles. The selection is 11/4 with William Hill.
Monsieur Gibraltar has his optimum conditions and this top-class hunter chaser has returned to Paul Nicholls. He represents a big danger, but he may not be up to giving 5lbs to the selection.
The feature race at Pontefract is the listed Pomfret Stakes over a mile and Royal Hunt Cup winner Dark Vision (3.20) will appreciate this stiff mile having ran well in all three starts this season. James Doyle is 0-3 on the fur-year-old and he will not be able to allow Wadilsafa too much rope. The latter ran a very good race himself on his reappearance and jockey Jim Crowley is likely to try and set his own fractions on the lead. The hope is that Doyle is awake to that possible scenario.
I am looking forward to seeing Mark Of Gold (5.00) step up in trip on his handicap debut for Richard Hannon. The son of Golden Horn stayed on well from the rear at Windsor over a mile last time and he is bred to come into his own over 10f+. King’s Castle failed to get home at Ripon over 12f last time and this drop in trip will suit but the vote goes to the handicap debutant who is bred to be better than his current mark. The 11/2 with William Hill was too big but he is still a fair price at 4s.
I think there is more to come from Purdey’s Gift on turf and he was forced to cover plenty of ground when fading close home at York on his reappearance. He must go close from his good draw, but preference is for the Sir Michael Stoute runner French Asset (5.35) who is blinkered for the first time this afternoon. The selection looked sure to win at Windsor but was picked off close home and it will be interesting to see if he is ridden less prominently in his headgear.