Updated (25/05/17 @ 10:36AM): So Mi Dar is a non-runner
The Matchbook Brigadier Gerard Evening at Sandown on Thursday is one everyone should be paying attention to. They are small fields, but full of class horses and they can give a nice indication of horses to follow for the rest of the year.
A lot is made of the progression horses from two to three-years-old but three to four is even more important as this is when they begin to mature and stay a bit further. And there are a lot of intriguing looking 4-year-olds to watch for on Thursday.
The clerk isn’t going to have to water and if we get the forecast it could dry out quick enough and good ground would be perfect. It’s a stiff track and it suits horses that stay. When the horses are going through the pain barrier they’re being asked to run up that hill at the finish and they need a lot of stamina to hold out.
Sandown is also a track where the draw can be important, particularly on the straight 5f where you want to be on the rail. If you are drawn 1 it is perfect and I’ve won a few races there by getting a jump and holding the rail. But whatever race horses need to be sharp out of the stalls and you need to get a good position.
You don’t want to get stuck on the outside as it’s quite a tight bend, so looking for horses that break well is key. If you don’t get a possie then you will be shuffled back more than is ideal. You will often see horses jump and go quick for a furlong and get a position and then pull it up and go really steady.
But you often hear a lot of hard luck stories at Sandown, because horses that try and make the running can find it tough. If they go too soon the chasing pack will quickly come back to them in the final furlong. And I’m always wary of front-runners over the bigger distances here.
The Matchbook Brigadier Gerard Stakes
In the big race we did have So Mi Dar who was a pretty short-priced favourite but is now unfortunately ruled out. Never fear however as this is still a quality Group 3 stakes and there are plenty of quality runners elsewhere.
The horse I do like the look of is Steel of Madrid. It won last time out at Newmarket at 1m1f and is a strong traveller with the stamina to stay and who is quite quick out of the stalls so I think he can jump and get a good position.
My only worry is he has his best form on good to firm, but we’re going to get drying ground as the week goes on. He’s improving and has fitness on his side and he’s a great option for both a win and a place bet.
Another horse I quite like is Chain of Daisies. Henry Candy’s horses always improve for age, especially the fillies, and this horse beat Ulysses who has turned out to be a really nice horse. Knowing Henry Candy he will be expecting a big run from her and I wouldn’t be surprised to see her make the running. She’s drawn in stall 8, but with only 8 runners I wouldn’t be too traumatised with the draw in this one.
Autocratic has Ryan Moore on his back and is a course and distance winner, but it has a bit to prove off recent form. It wouldn’t surprise me and there is a good chance the horse didn’t like the dip at Newmarket, but I would be cautious of that one. He’s won a handicap but his first step up in class he didn’t do anything.
The Matchbook VIP Henry II Stakes
Big Orange is the favourite and I can see why he’s a popular horse. He’s a front runner and I always think front runners at Sandown are vulnerable in the 2m races because of the hill. If they are forced to go sooner than they want then things can change quickly in the last furlong.
I’d be more inclined to go with Higher Power. He was a beaten favourite last time out at Kempton on the all-weather, but even 2 miles on the all-weather doesn’t bring the stamina out in them enough and he’s a proper stayer. And going back on the grass is going to be a big plus for him.