The ITV cameras are at Sandown and Perth this afternoon with an excellent flat card at the Esher track the highlight.
I was disappointed with Blue Trail at Chelmsford last time when never competitive, but I would not be surprised to see him bounce back on his first turf start for Charlie Appleby. My two against the field, however, in the Esher Cup are WANEES (1.50) – fitted with a hood for the first time by Charlie Hills – and Andrew Balding’s Al Marmar with preference the Charlie Hills trained colt
The EW election won two of three starts as a juvenile including under a penalty on soft ground at Salisbury back in September. He is bred to appreciate plenty of cut in the ground, but he did win on fast ground at Ascot on his penultimate start when pulling hard – hence the hood – over 7f but is bred to see out today’s mile well. If he learns to drop his head, he could make up into a decent sort.
Al Marmar looked smart when scoring at Lingfield in his penultimate start as a juvenile and ran well when fourth out in Doha when last seen in February. He has a cracking draw in stall two and represents the very much inform Andrew Balding yard.
Recommendation: Wanees 1.50 Sandown EW 7/1 at Bet365
The first couple of Group races on the card have small fields and odds on favourites although I would not be surprised to see the filly Alcohol Free turned over in the Bet365 Mile.
The 10f Classic Trial is a much more competitive race and it was significant that RIVER THAMES (3.35) was due to contest the Ballysax Stakes for Ballydoyle before he had an 11th hour setback – stone bruise – having made such an impressive debut at Punchestown back in September.
The colt is 33/1 almost across the board for the Derby but I am not convinced about his stamina. Today’s stiff 10f trip should tell us much more about a colt who is out of a well bred 6f winner. It is a decade since Aidan O’Brien saddled the winner of this Group 3 contest with his A Team tending to target Chester, Lingfield and York and this once-raced colt also holds an entry in the Dante on the Knavesmire next month.
There is a strong home challenge led by Charlie Appleby’s – who else – Goldspur who won the Zetlands Stakes at Newmarket back in the autumn before finishing third in the Criterium de Saint-Cloud on very soft ground. Although Appleby is carrying all before him this spring domestically, I do feel this is a vulnerable market leader despite being backed from 7/4 to 11/8 earlier in the week.
The Frankel colt Westover is a colt who I thought would improve considerably this term. He is one I will be keeping on side this summer.
Recommendation: River Thames 3.35 Sandown at 4/1 with Betfred
At Doncaster I am looking forward to the reappearance of the well bred RIZG (2.50) in the 6f Novice Stakes for Roger Varian having created a very favourable impression when scoring at Yarmouth on debut back in August having refused to enter the stalls at York back in May.
The selection was receiving 9lbs from dual previous winner and Royal Ascot runner up Dig Two at Yarmouth and carries a 7lbs penalty today – one of three previous winners in the field. It promises to be a most informative contest.
Lethal Nymph comes from a good family and he, too, made a winning debut when scoring at Wolverhampton at the beginning of the month. He should also be winning more races but Hollie Doyle travels to south Yorkshire to ride Rizg – she is retained by the owner – and I will be disappointed if he doesn’t maintain his unbeaten record.
Recommendation: Rizg 2.50 Doncaster at
There is a tremendous card at Perth for the final day of their April Festival and I fancy a few including MINELLA TRUMP (3.45) who is unbeaten in four starts at today’s track including three wins over today’s C&D under champion jockey Brian Hughes who joined an elite group of jump jockey’s – Peter Scudamore – AP McCoy and Richard Johnson – to have ridden 200 winners in a season.
The selection has been given four months off since disappointing at Ludlow back in December but that was his first defeat over fences, and he looks sure to have been freshened up during his break. He clearly loves the forecast good ground, goes well fresh and can give Hughes and Donald McCain another winner in this record-breaking season for the pair.
Recommendation: Minella Trump 3.45 Perth at 9/4 with William Hill
At Chepstow this evening DUBLIN FOUR (6.20) can gain compensation having come down four out at Newbury last time when he looked sure to play a part in the finish. The forecast good ground is ideal for Fergal O’Brien’s 8-y-old who is only 3lbs higher than when scoring back at the Berkshire track in November.
Recommendation: Dublin Four 6.20 Chepstow at 9/4 with William Hill