The flat season moves up a gear with the start of the three-day Craven Meeting from Newmarket this afternoon. Note ITV are only broadcasting from the track on Wednesday and Thursday.
The opening 7f Maiden is often won by a useful sort and Magical Land (1.00) is bred to be smart and is taken to go one better than when runner up on both juvenile starts for Charlie Appleby. A son of Frankel out of a 6-7f winner, the colt – 5/6 with MansionBet– ran two excellent races in defeat last term including over 6f here on fast ground on debut when he went off a short-priced market leader. Lexington Knight and Carolus Magnus filled the places in a 7f Maiden at Doncaster’s Lincoln meeting last month and may again have to settle for a place although Hamoudi has been the best backed horse in the opening exchanges.
The winner of that maiden Soundslikethunder runs in a cracking little Conditions event over 7f which sees Aidan O’Brien bring across Duke Of Mantua from County Tipperary. The colt is race-fit having finished fourth in a competitive handicap on heavy ground at the Curragh last month under the steadier of 10st. He is bred to appreciate this sounder surface and is fitted with a tongue tie for the first time. He is currently 33/1 for next month’s 2000 Guineas.
The vote, however, goes to the Kempton winner Noble Dynasty (2.10) who is a half-brother to Group 1 winner Barney Roy and who also holds an entry in the colt’s classic back here next month. The Dubawi colt may come into his own over further later in the season but I thought he shaped with considerable promise when runner up here in June before going one better when easily landing the odds on polytrack back in the autumn. The selection – 15/8 with 10Bet – is currently 50s for the Guineas and this should be a most informative contest with the maiden Roscioli bringing group form to the table having finished fourth in the Horris Hill on heavy ground back in October.
The Feilden Stakes is another cracker, and I am loath to desert Richard Hannon’s Fancy Man who impressed me last term when landing the listed Ascendant Stakes at Haydock. He must carry a 3lbs penalty for that success, however, and is drawn out on the wing in stall nine.
A draw out in stall 13 is a concern for Riot (3.55) but I thought he ran a cracker at Chelmsford on his reappearance and this lightly-raced gelding gets the vote for the Gosdens. The selection is 4s with BetVictor and looks the sort who will land a big handicap this year.
The jumps actions comes from Newton Abbot and Glory And Honour (1.50) looks sure to appreciate the drop back in trip having faded close home when stepped up in distance at Ludlow last time on ground, arguably, softer than ideal. Trainer Tom Lacey has his string in good form – Johnbb ran a cracker at Aintree at the weekend – and the selection – 11/10 from 13/8 with Boylesports – can defy top weight. The mare Sweet Adare, who appreciated the return to hurdles at Wincanton last time, looks the obvious danger.
Fergal O’Brien is hunting down a century of winners this season and he has had a tremendous campaign. It can only be a matter of time before he gets the patronage of some of the bigger owners. That said I feel his likely market leader Tequila Blaze is vulnerable in the Mares’ Maiden Hurdle over 2m 5f and Whiskey Lullaby (2.20) gets the each way vote. There are likely to be more opportunities for conditional jockey Angus Cheleda at Paul Nicholls’ in the short term with both Harry Cobden and Bryony Frost currently on the side-lines. He is good value for his 7lbs claim. The selection is 5/2 with William Hill.
The selection may not have got home over 3m at Doncaster last time, but she clearly appreciates good ground and I hope she can go very close over this intermediate 2m 5f+ trip.