The Esher track is a very fast 5f and Lazuli blazed a trail over course and distance last time to win from Keep Busy who went on to run second to the impressive Art Power at Royal Ascot. However, John Quinn’s Liberty Beach won at Haydock on reappearance and then was third to the mighty Battaash at the Royal meeting and that is stronger form for me.
We step right up in trip to the Group 3 King Henry II Stakes over two miles and if you can forgive Cross Counter an ordinary run at Ascot behind Stradivarius in the Ascot Gold Cup then he can bounce back to form in this. However, he did look very out of sorts last month and that is a concern. If he’s back on a going day, he should be too good and is the highest-rated runner in the race by 8lbs from Spanish Mission and Withold.
Andrew Balding’s Dashing Willoughby is an improver though and won previous at Royal Ascot and scored well on reappearance at Newmarket over 1m 4f. Cross Counter should be good enough but Dashing Willoughby could expose any limitations.
A tricky one-mile handicap where the first two home in the Royal Hunt Cup reappear. Mark Johnston’s Dark Vision was value for more than his winning margin that day when he beat Montatham, as he was hampered a furlong out. Even though he is badly drawn in stall 9 he has the pace to pick up these runners in the straight and win again.
Last year’s winner and superstar mare Enable makes her seasonal debut in the Eclipse Stakes. She was a cosy winner last last year but faces race-fit Coronation Cup winner Ghaiyyath this time. Frankie Dettori had to ride Enable very positively last season and she got a little tired at the end, but still beat Magical comfortably> Ghaiyyath will be hard to ignore, especially at a track that suits front runners, but Frankie is too wise to get caught out like that. He knows that he will be stronger in the finish than William Buick’s mount, so will try keep tabs on Ghaiyyath all the way around.
Deirdre will be trying to do what she did at Goodwood last year and swoop late while Japan looked burly at Ascot and will strip fitter now. Magic Wand is a fascinating runner after her easy win at the Curragh since the re-start and could nick a place.
Even though it’s her first run of the season, I’ll take Enable to win.
Favourite Moon looked unlucky at Doncaster on his first handicap start when beaten by John Gosden’s Indigo Lake over 1m 4f. He has a featherweight to carry on Sunday with Cieren Fallon taking 3lb off and should be tough to beat.
Ralph Beckett saddles three runners in the Grouo 2 Lancashire Oaks and they all have strong claims. Manuela De Vega got loose on the front end last time at this venue and Fanny Logan couldn’t catch her. That filly went and won at Royal Ascot so the form is strong.
Her stablemate Antonia De Vega did well to grind it out at Pontefract last time, but she will love the slower ground at Haydock. Hereby is a daughter of Ralph’s Oaks winner Look Here and she rattled up a sequence when starting off at a basement handicap mark.
Cabaletta was no match for Franconia at Newbury, while Dame Malliot will love the soft ground on her seasonal debut. Ralph Beckett has a VERY strong hand and Antonia De Vega is the value bet for me.
Alan King’s Scarlet Dragon won at Ascot beating Deja but I Deja can turn the tables on Sunday. Sir Michael Stoute’s Laafy is an awkward character who got a hefty rise for a comfy win at Newbury but got beaten at this venue by Andrew Baling’s Ranch Hand last year.
Ranch Hand disappointed at Ascot when well supported, but is better than he showed there. He gets the nod over Deja.
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