A dry night at York after a soggy first day but that can make things particularly hard as York is said to drain well and funny results have been a feature of the past.
I would be minded still to favour horses who have proven form with cut still through the day and the first ought to tell us a lot. In the Betfred “Supports Jack Berry House” Handicap (2.20) Soie D’Leau makes appeal. Having return with a decent fourth at Newbury in a conditions race, he’s only 2lbs higher than he was when taking a very decent Affair at Doncaster on his final start of last season and he’s also a soft ground winner to boot.
The withdrawal of So Mi Dar and Chain of Daises has robbed the Middleton Stakes of a good amount of shape. It remains to be seen how a four runner field fits Breeders’ Cup winner Queen’s Trust and recent Group 3 winner The Black Princess, neither of whom will mind the ground. Black Princess might be the better of the two for today, given that she was a good winner of the Prix Allez France on her return. Smart Call, a top performer in South Africa, is not proven on cut but needs respecting as she’s top rated by a pound here and Blond Me’s peak summer form Is a help.
The Dante (3.30) often shines light on the Derby picture and this year’s renewal will be no different although the absence of Cracksman, who ought to have learned a lot from his Epsom win, is a shame. Benbatl is the right favorite following his fine Craven third, where he raced freely before making a big move one furlong out and finding only Emient and Rivet too strong. Eminent needed further but ran with credit in the Guineas whilst Rivet was third, four lengths clear, in the French version and if he is able to settle then he should take the beating.
Rekindling is respected having won the Ballysax, with the next three taking the Derrinstown Stud Derby trial, and his performance will tell us a lot about the Irish challenge and formlines. He took a big step forward on his debut for Joseph O’Brien and it will be interesting to see if he comes on for his for recent reappearance. He makes more appeal than Crystal Ocean, taking on his return at Nottingham but upped in class significantly here.
Ballydoyle have dominated these trials at home and abroad and whilst it’s been made clear that Exemplar is just ready to start, it’s interesting to note that the form of the Derrinstown has been well represented in the Derby trials over in Ireland and if the ground is still retaining the moisture of yesterday then he will be sure to benefit. Watch the ground from the first two races for an idea of just how the ground is riding. Another who is of interest is the strong staying Prx de L’Avre winner Wolf County.
It appears that the Spring Cup at Newbury, won by Banksea, already has the look of one of the best early season handicaps run in the country. Third Fastnet Tempest won the Victoria Cup where fourth George William was unlucky in second and the sixth El Hayem was unlucky not to take a good Chester Handicap.
Another Touch was second there, bouncing back from a dull effort on his return, and Richard Fahey’s four-year-old was nosed out of a decent handicap here at the end of last year and if repeating that form on this ground, ought to have big chances here in the Hambleton Handicap (4.05). So too does Donncha, unlucky in this race last year and too far back at Newbury.
Chelsea Lad retains potential but even more interesting is Thikriyaat, second to a Group 1 winner in Ribchester last year before then winning at Glorious Goodwood. He’s ben off since last August but if he is fit and well then he has to go nicely and he makes appeal as a horse who can do very well this season as so many Stoute four year olds do. Victory Bond is lightly raced but certainly well treated and ground with no edge in it should be just perfect.
Watch out for Bravery, a game winner of the Lincoln, and Murad Khan, who hated fast ground when last seen but who beat Ballet Concerto, a winner of the Spring Mile, at Thirsk.
The highly rated Brian The Snail has found improvement with every start so that he’s favorite in the Westow (4.35). However Ardad is 3-4 when you take his runs over five furlongs only with the one defeat being a ninth in the L’Abbaye, form that is working out well on an all aged basis. He should be able to find the real level fo Brian The Snail if training on and appeals as value.
2.20 York – 1 pt each/way Soie D’eau (7/1 general)
3.30 York – 1 pt win Benbatl (7/2 general)
3.30 York – Exemplar e/w (subject to ground reports from first race).
4.05 York – 1 pt each/way Thikriyaat (9/1 general)
4.05 York – 1 pt each/way Another Touch (12/1 Bet365, William Hill)
4.55 York – 1 pt win Ardad (3/1 general)