I’m very happy about Franny Norton being given a massive chance of riding a first group one success in Haydock’s Sprint Cup on Saturday aboard the hugely progressive Dancing Star.
There is no better horseman in the land and he rides both Chester and Haydock Park superbly well especially from the front or on a presser.
The former stable lads’ amateur boxing champion is riding as well as ever at the age of 46 and if my selection doesn’t win the big race then I hope Franny hits the bulls-eye.
The favourite Limato looks a solid market leader. A reproduction of his July Cup win would see him home and hosed here and good ground would be fine for him.
However, I fancy a gigantic run from last year’s second DONJUAN TRIUMPHANT, trained by the understated but brilliant Richard Fahey.
It seems that his recent second in the Prix Maurice de Gheest has almost been brushed under the carpet, but on my private ratings I have him clear third best in this line-up behind Limato and Quiet Reflection. And he’s three times the latter’s price!
I expect him to reverse Sandy Lane course and distance form with the filly and any further rain would certainly be in his favour as he bids to emulate the win of his sire, Dream Ahead, in 2011.
As the hugely progressive entry in the line-up Dancing Star is feared, even if I have her some 7lbs behind my selection.
There are some old friends (or foes!) running in the 7f handicap at Ascot at 2.40 on Saturday, but the new kid on the block worth a second look has to be the John Gosden trained VON BLUCHER.
It has taken the Newmarket handler a bit of time to work out the best trip for this son of Zoffany, but his closing second to Cornwallville at Newbury suggested that 7f on fast ground was his set-up. He can teach his elders a lesson here with Firmament a big danger.
Drop in Class
ARAB SPRING (Kempton 3.45) looks set to add to his course maiden win when he contests the September Stakes.
Out of his depth in the Group One Juddmonte International last time out, this drop in class and step up in trip looks just the ticket and he has the ring rusty Sky Hunter to beat.
Finally, I’ll be hugely disappointed if SIGNORE PICCOLO can’t get involved at the business end at Thirsk 3.25pm on Saturday. David O’Meara’s charge has run well of this mark on his last two outings and has plenty of pace to aim at.