A competitive three-year-old handicap and with numerous top trainers represented, it will probably take some winning. Nortonthorpe Bay is the form horse but his Southwell defeat on Monday would suggest that the handicapper has caught up with him and he must concede weight all round. Three of his likely main rivals are wearing headgear for the first time and the probability is that this will do the trick for one of Hiroshi, Star Of Screen and Beija Flor.
Hiroshi’s last two efforts suggests that he doesn’t stay the 1m trip as well as he should while Star Of Screen’s first two efforts in handicap company have left a lot to be desired. That leaves it to BEIJA FLOR to get into the mix on her handicap debut. There’s no doubting she has yet to hit any serious heights but with the first time cheekpieces and getting weight all round, she might just surprise plenty with a much-improved effort. She also represents the William Haggas and Tom Marquand combination, who boast a 33 per cent strike rate in the last two weeks too.
This 7f novice stakes is a Maiden Stakes in everything but name with no previous winners in the line-up. Of then ten runners, only two have managed to hit the frame so far and it’s one of those pair which is likely to take plenty of beating. YEAR OF THE DRAGON appeared to be an unconsidered 200/1 shot when finishing a hugely promising third over course and distance on his sole start last month when trained by Denis Quinn.
That looked a much better race than this with the winner having solid form previously, the Godolphin-owned runner-up Highland Avenue holding an Irish Derby entry and the fifth-placed Epic Pass following up with a win at Wolverhampton 18 days later. Now with William Knight, this son of Dragons Pass would look to hold all the aces here. Kawaalees regressed in his two runs after a promising second-placed effort at Leicester last August and it’s hard to see Chelsea Banham getting much improvement out of him while of the three newcomers in the race, Ellis Park looks very interesting for in-form trainer George Boughey with David Probert being a notable jockey booking. Overall however, Year Of The Dragon looks one of the best bets on the card.
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The second division of the 7f novice stakes is a much better contest than the one 30 minutes earlier, with plenty of placed form on show. The one thing is does have in common with the previous race is that all ten runners are still maidens and all eyes will be immediately drawn to Melody Of Life, which has the best form in the book. A brother to last year’s Challenge Stakes winner Happy Power, it is slightly concerning that he has been beaten in all three starts to date and there have been no excuses on any of those occasions.
He looks a favourite worth taking on and LOYAL HAVANA might provide the answer. Nick Littmoden’s charge showed his liking for Kempton when finishing a highly encouraging second over 6f last month and he was slightly unlucky when finishing a staying-on third at Southwell over 7f 12 days ago. Both his trainer and Joe Fanning are in form and he looks sure to go close.
We finish with arguably the most competitive race of the day with plenty of in-form horses lining up in the sole 2m handicap on the card. It’s highly likely that top weight Figeac will be popular after his latest win nine days ago and despite only carrying a 4lbs penalty for that success, he might be vulnerable to something further down the weights. Capricorn Prince is one for the shortlist on his return to the track after his two wins last July but preference goes to BROUGHTON’S ADMIRAL, which must be very well handicapped on his hurdles form.
Rated 122 over timber, which is 24lbs higher than Figeac’s hurdle mark, David Pipe’s seven-year-old hasn’t run on the Flat in over three years. He still holds the same mark of 60 as to when he finished a close third in a 2m handicap at Chelmsford in October of 2017 and being fit from three runs over hurdles in recent months, he is very interesting. Throw in the fact that Tom Marquand has been booked for the ride and he looks to have an excellent chance.
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