Sandown stage an eight-race card this afternoon on ground described as good – good to firm in places (watered) by the racecourse executive on Thursday morning.

Ralph Beckett fits Mascat (3.20) with blinkers for the first time and the hope is that proves the key for a 4-y-old who returns to the track after a near six-week break. The selection has only run one of his 12 career starts but he has finished behind some useful sorts including Palace Pier, Brentford Hope and Zabeel Champion on his penultimate start. Hector Crouch takes over in the saddle for the first time on a gelding whose best form is, arguably, with a bit of cut in the ground – a sentiment that goes for a number of today’s rivals. The ew recommendation is 11/2 with 10Bet.

The feature race at York is the listed Ganton Stakes over a mile and Duke Of Hazzard (4.00) looked to be returning to something like his best when fourth at Epsom in the Gp 3 Diomed Stakes on Saturday when he met trouble in running under Frankie Dettori. The selection – 6/5 with William Hill – had a barren time last year and has not got his head in front since August 2019, but connections look to have fund a gilt-edged opportunity.

In the extended 3m handicap chase at Aintree this evening I hope to see Empire De Maulde (6.50) go one better than when second to Captain Tom Cat over 2m 4f here last month. The winner followed up at Worcester last weekend and the selection looked ready for a step back up in trip last time, having got going far too late behind a well handicapped rival. There are any number of dangers including the 15-y-old The Tourard Man, but I hope to see Brian Hughes make his challenge between the last couple and give James Ewart a welcome winner. The 9/2 freely available on Thursday was too big and the recommendation is 11/4 with William Hill at time of posting.

State Crown is likely to give it a good go from the front in the two-mile handicap hurdle, but Harry Fry brings Get Back Get Back (7.25) all the way up from his Dorset base and I hope they can go home a winner. The ew selection is 3lbs lower than when second at Wincanton back in October on fast ground and he is fairly treated on the best of his flat form. The yard had a largely disappointing winter/spring and remain quiet. This is their only runner on the card. The gelding is a big drifter on Friday morning out to 14s with Boylesports.          

There is plenty of pace in the handicap chase over the minimum trip and Jaboticaba looks fairly treated on his Warwick success back in September although he has not progressed as many would have hoped for. The handicapper has taken a chance with the teenager Duke Of Navan (8.00) who has dropped to a mark of 125 despite having ran very well in defeat in his last couple of races. The ew selection – 9/2 with MansionBet – has only won once in the last six years but would have picked up and carried this lot in his pomp and finished a good third over C&D back in the autumn from an 8lbs higher mark. I hope there is one last hurrah in the old fella.

A 3lbs rise for her fluent Ludlow success gives Outonpatrol every chance in the concluding two-and-a-half mile novices’ handicap chase having looked in trouble momentarily coming out of the back straight. She looks sure to be winning more races and gave the impression in Shropshire that a left-handed track would see her in an even better light.

The vote, however, goes to Presentandcounting (9.00) who looked a natural when scoring from a 9lb lower mark on debut at Worcester. The runner up – Dog Of War – was chasing a hat-trick and did us a favour at Uttoxeter on Thursday evening. The recommendation is 6/4 with BetVictor.      

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