The state of the ground is fundamental to any turf race - and with rain forecast at Sandown ahead of Saturday's card the hope is that the ground doesn’t deteriorate too much from the good ground which Clerk Of The Course Andrew Cooper was describing the track yesterday.
As a son of Exceed And Excel, Mutawathea (1.30) would not want to see soft in the official going description. He looked one to follow when overcoming inexperience at Lingfield on his seasonal reappearance earlier in the year. His subsequent near three-month absence from the racecourse is a slight concern but he is in very capable hands, has a decent draw and Paul Hanagan prefers him to top-weight Mawfoor who wears a hood for the first time.
The Mile Handicap is a valuable heat and it would be no surprise to see Ifwecan make a bold bid to make all under Franny Norton from the foot of the weights for Mark Johnston - especially if getting a soft lead. Preference, however, is for the Luca Cumani trained Velox (2.40) who got no run at Epsom last time but shaped as if he would have taken a hand in the finish dropping back in trip to a mile. This stiff mile should suit, he is well berthed in stall four and he has a leading apprentice taking off a valuable 5lbs.
The Coral-Eclipse is one of the great races of the season and Kingston Hill would be something to bet on if it’s soft. The form of his Derby second has been franked when Australia ran away with the Irish equivalent at the Curragh last weekend but on good or faster ground The Fugue (3.50) must be the selection having been an impressive winner of the Prince Of Wales’s Stakes at Royal Ascot last month.
The selection finished last in this corresponding race last year and if the rains arrive she should be avoided, but on good or quicker ground she is a top class mare. I expect Mukhradam to be ridden more prominently than he was at Ascot when beaten more than 4l by the selection, but he must overcome a wide draw if he wants to get to the lead and it will be interesting to see what tactics Richard Hughes employs on Guineas’ winner Night Of Thunder, stepping up beyond a mile for the first time.
Verrazano is another stepping up in trip having finished placed in both the Lockinge and the Queen Anne over a mile since moving to Aidan O’Brien. On both occasions he suggested that a step up would suit but The Fugue looked a superstar at the Royal meeting and on decent ground must get the vote. She is 9/4 at BetVictor and that looks a decent price if there is no significant rain.
If there is I would jump ship to Kingston Hill who has been backed from 12s to 11/2 by punters who will be praying their rain dance does the trick.
In the finale Prince Of Stars (5.00) looked a colt to follow when scoring at Chester in what is, historically, a decent maiden. Trained by John Gosden he is bred to be good and the hope is he can cap a good day for the stable.
The executive at Haydock must have been disappointed to see the rain arrive at the track Thursday morning on top of watered ground, as the official going quickly changed to good to soft. There is further rain forecast ahead of an excellent card and I am envisaging the ground to be no better than good to soft.
The Bet 365 Lancashire Oaks is the feature and I take Seal Of Approval (2.55) to confirm last year’s Ascot form with Talent for James Fanshawe.
The selection finished over 4l in front of last year’s Oaks winner back in October on soft ground and the underfoot conditions might be the key. Talent travelled well for a long way in the Coronation Cup on her reappearance when too keen to finish off her race, but she looks the main danger given she is less likely to pull with that run behind her.
The big betting race of the day is the Old Newton Cup and there might be more to come from the lightly-raced Havana Cooler (4/1 at BetVictor), bidding to give trainer Luca Cumani his fourth win in the race in the last decade. The selection ran an excellent race at Royal Ascot on his comeback from a 1lb lower mark and the ground should hold no terrors. Magic Hurricane has a poor draw to overcome but he is another open to considerable improvement and impressed when scoring over C&D on soft ground last month from a 5lb lower mark.
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