18:35 – Matchbook Commission Free On All Sports National Stakes (Listed Race) Cl1 (2yo) 5f ITV4
All nine 2-year-old runners of this opening ITV race have had an outing, while all-bar the Robert Cowell-trained Adam Tiler also head here having already won races during their young careers.
It goes without saying these juveniles can improve at a rate of knots between their opening races so these can be tricky contests to call and ones to tread a bit careful in.
Looking at one of the key trends – with 8 of the last 10 winners coming between stalls 1-4 then this might be a key trend you’ll want to have on your side – Vintage Brut (1), Artair (2), Sabre (3) and Nakakande (4) fit the bill on that front.
Trainers Mark Johnston (28%), Richard Fahey (29%) and Robert Cowell (25%) all have cracking strike-rates at the track with their 2 year-olds so their runners – Blown By Wind (Johnston), Sabre (Fahey) and Adam Tiler (Cowell) must be respected based on that.
Of that trio, Blown By Wind would stand out based on recent all-the-way win at Ascot, while with three career runs (2 wins) he’s one of the most experienced in the field. We can expect him to blast out and try and make all again but coming from stall 9 (of 9) the big question would be how much energy he’ll use in the early part of the race trying to get out quickly and over to the rail.
Konchek is another to note and ran a remarkable race to win on debut at Newmarket after hanging right several times that day. Coming from stall 8 that might be an issue again here, but he’s clearly got a lot of ability to have still won after doing what he did. The Bell camp are going well at present and run Artair, but his two runs to-date have been on much softer ground so the quicker conditions here would be an unknown.
Kinks will also be popular after winning two of his three runs but, for me, the Channon team are not quite firing at the moment – just 3 from 43 (at the time of writing) so that would be a worry.
That leaves us with WEDDING DATE. Ryan Moore, who has a decent 27% record when riding juveniles at the track, has been booked to ride this Richard Hannon-trained youngster. We last saw her dotting-up at Chester’s May Meeting a few weeks ago and there looks like there’s more to come.
That was only her second run so it’s clear she’s made huge progress from her debut second at Brighton, while – more importantly – this is a race the Hannon camp love to target. They’ve won this prize a staggering five times since 2008 and twice in the last four years. Yes, at first glance, draw 7 is probably not ideal but she was dropped in at Chester last time and came with a storming finish.
Therefore, her starting berth might not be too much of a worry with Moore knowing he can do the same here. Okay, a bit of luck in-running would be needed too if she is going to be held-up but being a filly she also gets a handy 5lbs allowance and that is another huge plus – she gets the vote.
19:05 – Matchbook Is Commission Free Heron Stakes (Listed Race) Cl1 (3yo) 1m ITV4
Top jockey Ryan Moore is probably a good place to start again here as he’s ridden three of the last four winners of this race, and in Regal Reality, he looks to have another cracking chance of adding to that record. Trained by Sir Michael Stoute, who also likes to win this prize (2 of the last 7), then this 3-year-old is sure to be popular in the betting.
We’ve only seen this colt once on the track but that was a winning debut at Yarmouth last September. He’s clearly thought capable of this step up to Listed company on only his second run, while breeding suggests the rise up to a mile will be more than within range.
Those against him might notice his win came on soft ground, but, for me – even though Moore and Stoute’s record in this race is hard to ignore – I would be a tiny bit concerned about the overall form of the Stoute stable. At the time of writing, they’ve had just 3 winners from their last 36 but this can turn around very quickly, it’s just something to note.
Stoute also runs the 108-rated Gabr in the race and having the highest mark in the line-up looks to have a big say too. This 3-year-old was last seen running a blinder to be fifth (beaten just 5 ¼ lengths) in the Group One Racing Post Trophy last October.
The form of that has been more than franked since with the winner – Saxon Warrior – landing this year’s 2,000 Guineas, while the runner-up Roaring Lion has also made a cracking start to the 2018 season. With another winter on his back then he’s sure to be a stronger horse this term and is certainly one for the shortlist.
Dream Today, Petrus, Vintager, and Stephensons Rocket are all 100+ rated horses that command respect and the Hugo Palmer-trained Silver Quartz caught the eye when winning very easily at Windsor last time – however, the call here is WITHOUT PAROLE.
From the powerful John Gosden team, that won this in 2010, this 3-year-old went into many a notebook after romping away at Yarmouth last month. Frankie, who rides again here, was in the plate that day and despite this being a big step up in class he showed an impressive turn of foot that day to win by 6 lengths – there should be a lot more to offer.
This well-bred Frankel colt is now 2-from-2 but with Group One entries in the St James’s Palace Stakes at Royal Ascot and also the Coral-Eclipse then it’s obvious connections think a fair bit of this 3-year-old. I’ll take him to remain unbeaten here and move onto bigger and better things.
19:35 – Matchbook VIP Henry II Stakes (Group 3) Cl1 (4yo+) 2m ITV4
Next up the stayers get a chance to shine in a race that is always seen as a good guide to several of the main cup races later in the season – Big Orange took this 12 months ago before following up in the Ascot Gold Cup a month later.
8 of the last 10 winners of this race were aged 6 or younger so if this trend is to be upheld then despite both being rated to go close here, former Chester Cup winner Montaly (7) and Sheikhzayedroad (9) might have it to do.
Red Verdon was second in the Group Two Jockey Club Stakes at HQ last time behind the improving Defoe so based on this slight drop in grade enters calculations. That was also over 1m4f but this step back up to 2m looks a plus and based on his close fourth over this trip at Lingfield in March looks sure to go well – top jockey James Doyle and trainer Ed Dunlop team up here.
The Gosden camp run two – Glencadam Glory and Weekender. The first-named has looked very one-paced over 1m4f so the step up to 2m here looks a good call and I think he can go well. Don’t forget, he was seventh Epsom Derby last year so is certainly no back number and would not be surprised if we see a much better performance now upped in distance.
Weekender will attract support with Frankie riding and the way he powered clear to win at Chelmsford over 1m6f last time suggests this trip is also within range. He’s won three of his 7 career races and been placed in six.
The Gosden yard boasts an excellent 23% record at the track with their older horses and also have their string in fine fettle. However, as mentioned, of his two GLENCADAM GLORY might just be the better value and the one that is open to the more improvement over 2 miles.
With Ryan Moore booked to ride the Mark Johnston runner – Time To Study – this will catch the eye of punters but he was firmly put in his place by MAGIC CIRCLE in the Chester Cup earlier this month and it might be more of the same again here – he’s going to be my second play here.
Yes, a 4lb weight turnaround helps the Johnston horse but let’s not forget Magic Circle powered away to win by 6 lengths that day. Trainer Ian Williams seems to have got some more improvement out of this 6-year-old, who won on his debut for the yard, and based on that could finally be set to make the leap from Handicap company into Group races.
He’s backed up wins in the past, so that’s a plus, and being we know he stays further than this 2m trip then his proven stamina will surely be a big asset up the stiff Sandown hill.
20:10 – Matchbook Brigadier Gerard Stakes (Group 3) Cl (4yo+) 1m2f ITV4
A bit of a poor turnout for the feature contest on a cracking Sandown card but it still looks to be a fascinating affair.
Yes, just the five runners but barring the 102-rated Laraaib the rest have official marks between 112-119 so a case can certainly be made for most.
In fact, with Laraaib being the only 4-year-old in the race then this Owen Burrows-trained runner will have it’s supporters too as 11 of the last 15 winners of this Group Three have been aged 4. This horse makes his seasonal reappearance but won first time out last season, plus the yard are also going great guns at the moment. With only four career runs there should be more to come but he would have to put his last run behind him when a beaten favourite of the Rose Of Lancaster Stakes at Haydock.
In his defence that run came on softer ground (good-to-soft) than he had been running on and also over a slightly longer trip (1m2 1/2f) than he’ll get here. He’ll have been freshened up over the winter and despite being rated around 10lbs inferior to the others he’s a horse that is a lot less exposed than the rest of the field – I fully expect him to run well and should be going close.
After a big royal week the Queen will be looking to keep the momentum going with her Fabricate running here. He’s a big performer at this level and also beat last years winner of this race – Autocratic – by an easy 2 ¼ lengths at Kempton in March. He also ran a blinder to be a short-head second to Crystal Ocean here in the Gordon Richards Stakes. That form has since been franked with the winner going in again and with the Michael Bell horses in decent order then this royal runner should be playing a big part too.
However, with Stoute training Crystal Ocean then he will know where he stands with Fabricate and, therefore, also his runner POET’S WORD.
This is another race the yard loves to win – having won the 2011, 2012 and 2017 runnings in recent years – and being the highest-rated runner (119) then he sets the standard. On that rating, this 5-year-old has 5lbs in-hand on his nearest rival (Air Pilot) and ran a blinder last time to be second in the Group One Sheema Classic in Dubai.
Those looking to take him on might look to the average form of the Stoute camp at present (3 from 36 at the time of writing) but Ryan Moore is an obvious plus in the saddle, while after running well in four Group One races of late then this drop into a Group Three will be a lot more to his liking – the last time he raced in this grade he won.
Of the rest, Desert Encounter was a fair third in the Eclipse here last season so certainly has the form to go well but all his six career wins have been over much further than this 1m2f trip so is likely to get a bit tapped for toe, especially on this quick ground.
Air Pilot makes up the field and being a Group 2 & 3 winner in France last season is another that has form to go well. However, he’s a horse that seems to like a lot more cut than he’s likely to get here so the underfoot conditions are likely to be his downfall this time. Poet’s Word, therefore, looks the safest call but Fabricate and Laraaib can make him work for it!