Conditions were described as soft at Pontefract on Thursday morning ahead of this evening’s card although a dry day is forecast.

Irv (6.00) has not had much luck in his two starts so far this term, but trainer Micky Hammond perseveres with apprentice Aiden Brookes who has just the one career win to his name in the opener. This is, arguably, a better race than last time when he never got serious from a poor draw having been forced to cover ground. The selection – 11/4 with 10Bet – has been dropped another couple of pounds in the handicap since that Thirsk run. James Park Woods is another looking very well treated at present and Richard Kingscote is an eye-catching booking.   

In the juvenile Conditions Stakes Lusail (7.10) is taken to build on his promising York success when he scored at 28/1 under Andrea Atzeni. His starting price suggested that little was expected of the selection on debut, and he is entitled to improve for that experience. Sean Levey takes over in the saddle. The colt is 9/4 with MansionBet.

I am very keen on the chance of Cormier (7.45) in the 12f handicap for Brian Ellison. The selection – 11/8 with Boylesports – returned from a short break when runner up to Copperless in the Swinton Hurdle at Haydock last time. Sociologist and Chairman Power – tongue tied for the first time – look likely to ensure a decent gallop which should guarantee the selection settles better than is often the case. This evening’s trip on ground with a bit of cut looks ideal and he gets a confident vote.

There is a terrific 7f fillies handicap at Haydock and Al Saariyah (7.20) looked ready for a step up in trip when forced to cover ground from his poor draw at Lingfield on her reappearance. The selection – 5/2 with William Hill – had some useful juvenile form, and she has plenty of stamina in her pedigree. She has the plum draw in one this afternoon and gets the vote ahead of market leader Conservatoire who looked to find a mile stretching her stamina at Ascot on her reappearance.

Stratford stage their flagship meeting of the year with the 62nd running of the Horse & Hound Cup. Bob & Co should land the feature for Paul Nicholls but, at the time of writing, there are no prices on the race, and he may be short enough in the betting.

In the John Corbet Cup for Novices’, I am not convinced Fumer D’oudaries needs this near 3m 4f trip and feel his stamina may give way from two out. The vote goes to Premier Magic (6.20) who only scrambled home at Leicester on his Hunter Chase debut on desperate ground, but was a convincing winner between the flags over 3m 2f last month. Trainer Bradley Gibbs saddles a couple in the race, but he has decided to ride Premier Magic – 9/4 with BetVictor – ahead of recent Cheltenham winner Captain McGinley. 

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