This Saturday sees the first Irish Classic of the season, with the 2000 Guineas taking place at the Curragh. Over in England, Haydock takes center stage with the Group 2 Sandy Lane Stakes and Group 2 Temple Stakes. ITV Racing will be providing nine live races for us to enjoy this weekend, including that Group 1 event in Ireland for the first time. I’ve had a look through the cards, and below you will find some of my thoughts on an action packed day of racing. Be sure to give me a follow @JakePriceRacing if you haven’t already, and good luck with your bets.
14:15 Haydock – Mixed Concrete Handicap (Class 2) 4yo+ – 2m
The first race from Haydock comes over a trip we’re more accustomed to seeing in National Hunt racing, in the shape of this tricky looking Class 2 Handicap over two-miles. A horse who I think will run really well is Lucky Deal. Mark Johnston (The second winning-most trainer at this track in the past five seasons) is well known for producing staying types, and this four-year-old has shown his ability to stay two-miles on numerous occasions. A horse who has been kept on the go throughout the winter on the all-weather, Lucky Deal made a very pleasing return to turf when finishing fourth behind stablemate Austrian School in the Queen’s Cup at Musselburgh last month. He finished ahead of another stablemate in Making Miracles that day, but that horse reversed the form at Ripon just seven days later in a two-mile handicap. The trio of named Mark Johnson horses then met once more in the Chester Cup earlier this month, with Making Miracles running out a ready winner. You can completely discount this form however as the ground got extremely testing due to heavy rain. Austrian School (beaten forty-one lengths that day) has in fact proved this theory; finishing seven lengths ahead of Making Miracles since – so the fact that Lucky Deal was well beaten is irrelevant. Back to a much faster surface here, this son of Mastercraftsman should be capable of running well from a mark of 98 – especially when you consider his closely matched form with stablemates Making Miracles (108) and Austrian School (110) should mean he still his improvement in his mark to come. With those classier horses out of the way in this fairly weak looking contest, Franny Norton can hopefully bring our selection back into the winner’s enclosure.
Of the remainder, Eden Rose is obviously interesting having won her last two starts on the all-weather. Her last appearance came when winning the Class 2 Queen’s Prize Handicap, where she beat Sharja Silk. That rival hasn’t boosted the form since however, being beaten when 6/5 Favourite here at Haydock earlier in the month. Nakeeta won the Ebor Handicap in 2017 but hasn’t ran anywhere near that standard since. Although he has fallen to an attractive handicap mark, this won’t be easy from top weight. Watersmeet is a much better all-weather horse than on turf, and Pirate King tackles this trip for the first time.
Lucky Deal Each/Way @ 6/1 1st
14:30 Goodwood – Each Way Edge Handicap (Class 2) 3yo – 7f
The final day of Goodwood’s May Festival sees continued competitive action, and this Class 2 Handicap for three-year-old’s is no different. Won last year by King Of Hearts from a mark of 99, that horse ended up being rated 108 by the end of the season – before being sold to race in Hong Kong. This year there looks to be another young horse who can improve from his current mark, in the form of Flashcard. This Fast Company Gelding started his career when winning a Novice Stakes race at Salisbury last year, and backed that run up at the same track just nine days later when comfortably winning a Novice Auction Stakes. His best run to date came in an Auction Sale Stakes at The Curragh in September, where Andrew Balding sent his horse across the Irish Sea to try and land a valuable race. Although Flashcard could only manage second that day, the winner Barbill is currently rated 100 having finished third in the Group 3 Cornwallis Stakes before winning a Listed race at Chantilly in November. With the form working out well, our selection here looks to have plenty in hand from a mark of 93, and I’d expect him to run well on seasonal reappearance for a yard which has been among the winners of late. Oisin Murphy takes the ride, and he has been in fantastic form this week.
Away from our selection, Dubai Legacy is clearly well respected here having won a Newcastle all-weather contest earlier this month on his return to the track. His only career defeat to date came when 10th behind Calyx in the Coventry Stakes, but from a mark of 98 he might not have the necessary improvement in him to win this. Allhakmah has an interesting profile having finished second on her first three starts before scoring on the all-weather at Lingfield, but this is clearly the strongest race she will have contested to date.
Flashcard @ 7/2 6th
15:05 York – Bronte Cup Fillies’ Stakes (Group 3) 4yo+ – 1m6f
The first race live from York on Saturday is the Group 3 Bronte Cup, a Fillies and Mares only Stakes race ran over 1m6f. It goes without saying that you need a Filly who will stay the trip well here, and the one that interests me is John Gosden’s Enbihaar. This Hamdan Al Maktoum charge started her career in September last year when finishing an encouraging third on the all-weather at Chelmsford, and she confirmed her promise just twelve days later when winning a 1m3f Novice Stakes race on the polytrack at Kempton by three-lengths. Enbihaar made her debut on turf at Ascot in October when contesting the Listed Murless Stakes over this trip, where she ran a cracker to finish fourth behind Ghostwatch. That Godolphin horse is now rated 105, but the form looks especially strong due to the second and third placed horses. Mekong and Austrian School finished in that same order behind Dee Ex Bee in the Group 3 Henry II Stakes at Sandown on Thursday evening, which looks like top form considering that 112 rated Mark Johnston horse is a leading contender for the Ascot Gold Cup next month. Austrian School of course had further boosted the form at Musselburgh on reappearance last month, winning the Class 2 Queen’s Cup Stakes by an impressive six-lengths. With the form looking rock solid, our selection boosted her own claims earlier this month when making a winning return to the track at Goodwood. This four-year-old was contesting the Listed Daisy Warwick Fillies’ Stakes over 1m4f that day, and really showed a good attitude to beat the 102 rated Klassique by one-and-three-quarter lengths. The pace set that day was a steady one, so Dane O’Neill decided to make the running on Enbihaar and set his own fractions. She wasn’t for catching under a smart ride and stayed on extremely well, running on gamely once she heard another horse coming. Back up in trip to 1m6f here, Enbihaar should take some beating as she likely won’t need to make the running again. Adam Kirby interestingly takes over the ride, and I feel there is lots more improvement to come from this already 105 rated Filly. It’s also worth noting that John Gosden has an unprecedented 30% strike rate here at York over the past five seasons.
Of her rivals, Pilaster is clearly a danger having won a Group 2 over this trip at Goodwood last year – beating Maid Up by a short-head. That race wasn’t the strongest of contests however, and this Cheveley Park Filly has been beaten three times since – including on reappearance at Nottingham last month when an odds-on favourite to get the job done (third of four beaten four-and-a-half-lengths). Maid Up had a similarly unsatisfactory reappearance, when admittedly out of her depth in the Group 2 Roaring Lion Jockey Club Stakes – beaten over twenty-two lengths. Bayshore Freeway has won two handicaps over this trip on her last two starts, but on official ratings has 11lbs to find with our selection. Dramatic Queen represents prolific connections at York, with William Haggas and Daniel Tudhope both featuring in the top five of their respective leaderboards in the past five seasons. This Listed winning Filly is another to have ran poorly on her reappearance however, and on collateral form through Mekong would have a lot to find with Enbihaar. Alexana is the interesting horse here, having won a match at Ascot on her last start when beating subsequent easy Handicap winner Sextant. She is extremely well bred being a half-sister to Duncan (116), Samuel (113) and Gretchen (106) – each of whom thrived over staying distances. Considering all of those siblings have won at Group level, she is a Filly I will keep on side going forward – but this could be a tough assignment after a 260-day absence. Get your notebook at the ready if she does run well!
Enbihaar @ 2/1 2nd
15:45 York – Sprint Handicap (Class 2) 3yo+ – 5f
The final race that I am going to give a selection for is in the Sprint Handicap up at York, where last year’s runner up El Astronaute runs again. This dual course winner signed off last season by winning a Listed race at Maisons-Laffitte, and has ran well this season without getting his head in-front. John Quinn’s six-year-old returned to the track at Musselburgh last month, where he only went down a head to Tanasoq. His next start came in Group 3 company at Newmarket, where this son of Approve finished sixth behind Mabs Cross (115) – only beaten three-and-a-quarter lengths. We last saw El Astronaute running in the Group 2 Clipper Logisitics Stakes here at York, where again he ran with credit to finish sixth against some very useful rivals – this time four-and-a-quarter lengths behind impressive winner Invincible Army (115). He actually finished ahead of Brando (112) that day, although that horse didn’t run to his best. Back in Handicap company here from a mark of 105, El Astronaute should be capable of running a very big race – especially as 5lbs claimer Dylan Hogan has been booked for the ride. It’s noticeable that this course and distance winner runs well when a claimer has been booked, having finished second at the Goodwood Festival and winning at the Ebor meeting here last season. The extra 5lbs in hand is obviously a big bonus in such a fast run race, and I would be suprised if El Astronaute finished outside of the places.
Copper Knight is clearly a danger here having won at the Dante meeting, but he is up 5lbs for that success. Leodis Dream is another who’s shot up the handicap, having won off 86 in April. He’s now rated 100 after completing the hat-trick at Chester, and could struggle with an extra 6lbs lumped on here.
El Astronaute Each/Way @ 8/1 9th
Away from the selections I’ve previewed in full, the Irish 2000 Guineas looks a straight match between 2000 Guineas winner Magna Grecia, and the champion two-year-old Too Darn Hot. I’d probably be inclined to side with the Aidan O’Brien horse here having looked so impressive at Newmarket, and I have some serious doubts about John Gosden sending TDH here just nine days after running in the Dante. At Haydock Calyx should be able to continue his winning sequence in the Sandy Lane en route to Royal Ascot. The Temple Stakes is a much more interesting race, but if you are to believe what Charlie Hills has been saying about Battaash being the best he’s ever had him, then he will likely be hard to beat. I thought Kachy was interesting however, having finished a neck third to that rival last year despite running at Chester fifteen days before. This Tom Dascombe charge skipped that race this year due to the ground, which could help him turn around the form – if he’s at his very best.
Good luck! – Jake Price
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