Five flat cards to look forward to on the eve of the Grand National meeting at Aintree where the executive continue to water furiously as they look to prepare good to soft ground for the three-day Festival.
The best racing comes from Nottingham where underfoot conditions were described as good – good to firm in places – on Tuesday morning. The feature contest is the Further Flight Stakes and sees the return to the track of Sir Ron Priestley (4.10) who has not been seen since finishing runner up in the 2019 St Leger behind Logician.
The five-year-old is still an entire and connections hoped he would make up into a Cup horse when last seen when he carried my cash in the Doncaster classic. The Mark Johnston stable have been carrying all before him so far this term and, while he is sure to come on for the run, I would be surprised if he was not forward enough to run a big race with the ground ideal. He was put in short enough in the betting but is out to 5/2 with MansionBet at the time of posting.
Ocean Wind and Win O’Clock are the obvious dangers although the latter is, arguably, better with more cut in the ground. This looks a very good renewal of this listed contest, but I hope to see Sir Ron Priestley defy his long absence.
Only six go to post for the following extended mile handicap but it is a belter with the return of the Britannia runner up Finest Sound who heads the market and the weights. I just feel he may need a bit of cut in the ground to be at his most effective and marginal preference is for Astro King (4.40) who was given an inspired ride by Andrea Atzeni when scoring at Lingfield over a mile back in November and is just 2lbs higher this afternoon. Atzeni is retained to ride Finest Sound today but Richard Kingscote is a more than able deputy. Sir Michael Stoute has his string well forward, and he just gets the vote ahead of Nugget who was a good scorer from a 5lbs lower mark on fast ground at Newmarket when last seen back in July. The ew recommendation – 2 places – is 5s with BetVictor.
Wise Eagle has improved for the switch to Adam Nicol, but his improvement has come on tapeta and he must show he can be as equally effective on fast turf ground at Catterick. An each way alternative is Mick Channon’s Single (2.50) who, despite being a daughter of Nathaniel, is effective on fast ground and can run off the same mark as when successful at Salisbury last summer. Edward Greatrex takes over in the saddle for the first time. The recommendation is 5s with BetVictor.
Chookie Dunedin (3.50) scored from a 7lbs higher mark on tapeta on his penultimate start but ran very well when third at Doncaster 10 days ago and can race off the same mark today with Billy Garrity taking off a valuable 3lbs. The selections is 3/1 at 10Bet.
Molinari is a favourite of mine and he is a fascinating contender on his first start for Martin Todhunter with the grey having left Willie Muir since his last start back in October. The 4-y-old looked a non-stayer in both starts at today’s 12f trip last season, however, and he is overlooked until he shows this distance is within his compass.
Ben Curtis takes the ride on Sage Advice and he is a fascinating contender, but will he cope with the forecast fast ground. This will be the fastest ground the Irish import has encountered, and his breeding suggests he will appreciate a bit of cut in the ground. That said he ran a cracker in the Boodles Juvenile Hurdle at Cheltenham last month when sixth on good to soft ground for Dr Richard Newland.
The vote goes to Iconic Belle (4.20) who has been in excellent form on the all-weather of late winning her last three but is still well handicapped on her best form and goes well on fast ground. The selection – 4s with Boylesports – can lead but is likely to follow Molinari who likes to get on with things. The hope is that she can outstay her rivals guaranteed a good gallop.