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A competitive apprentices’ handicap where the percentage call is to side with CLIFFS OF CAPRI, who has a particularly good record at this course. Most of his runs have come over seven furlongs, but he is equally as effective at a mile (won over this trip at Meydan last year) and this doesn’t appear to be as competitive as the races he normally contests. Jamie Osbourne has been among the winners of late and a big run looks assured. Zwayyan is another who has excelled here in the past and should also be in the mix.
There isn’t much to choose between impressive debut winners GUBBASS, The Gatekeeper and Chipotle, who all look potentially useful. It is the first-named who achieved most on the figures, though, and is worth backing to follow up in this stronger event. He represents a firs-season sire who has made an excellent start, recorded an above-average timefigure, and the third has boosted the form by winning since, so there is plenty to like about his chances.
This looks decidedly open, and a chance is taken on the William Haggas-trained READY TO VENTURE, who laid some solid foundations in two runs last year. She bumped into a potentially smart type on debut, and barely had to improve to land the odds in a maiden over this trip at Yarmouth on her final start. That form looks solid with the third having proven himself smart since, and Ready To Venture had a bit in hand come the line. She is bred to be smart – out of a half-sister to top-class George Washington – and likely has much more to offer this season. Creative Flair looks an obvious danger for the bang in-form Charlie Appleby team, but she may be seen in a better light once stepping up in trip.
STRADIVARIUS is the undoubted star of the British staying division, so it is very hard to go against him on his return to action as he goes very well fresh. It is best to forgive him his final start over course and distance which came at the end of a long season, and this brilliant seven-year-old can get back on the up on his return in a year where he bids to win the Ascot Gold Cup for a fourth time. Nayef Road took this event 12 months ago and appeals as the one to chase him home, while the improving duo Ocean Wind and Stag Horn can fight it out for minor honours.
SUPREMACY went from strength to strength last season, bolting up in a maiden at Windsor before winning the Richmond Stakes at Goodwood and the Middle Park at Newmarket. Admittedly, he did get the run of things in the Middle Park and only won narrowly, but the timefigure was good and he is a strong colt who seems sure to progress further at three. He has to carry a penalty on his return to action, but he comes up against inferior rivals, and it will be disappointing if he doesn’t come home in front. Saint Lawrence produced a really smart effort in a warm Newbury handicap on his reappearance and may provide the chief threat.
HAQEEQY was most progressive as a three-year-old and looked like the proverbial pattern-class horse in a handicap when winning the Lincoln at Doncaster on his return to action last month. He had been gelded in the off season, and put up a very smart performance to beat a solid handicapper with plenty in hand, showing a smart turn of foot to put the race to bed inside the final furlong. This looks an obvious next step up the ladder for him and he can win again before having his sights raised even further. Sir Busker was a solid fourth in the QEII on his final start and is feared most.
A competitive handicap on paper which can go the way of HAN SOLO BERGER, who arguably shaped best on his penultimate start at Kempton and, with his last run easily excused, is taken to get back to winning ways having dropped below his last winning mark for a yard among the winners. Rewaayat heads the dangers having been beaten only by a better-handicapped rival on his return.
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