The second day of the Craven meeting at Newmarket and disappointing to see only five declared for the first of many valuable sales’ races throughout the flat season; it is a match, however, between Norfolk Stakes winner Waterloo Bridge and Gifted Master (3.20) with the latter taken to confirm course form in a similar 7f event back in October.
The selection is taken to make all under Pat Smullen dropping back to 6f despite the fact that he ended the season winning the Gp 3 Autumn Stakes over a mile; he cannot run in the Guineas as he is a gelding and this is likely to have been earmarked as his early season target.
In the Free Handicap Ibn Malik (3.55) ran consistently well in good company last year (placed in three Group races) and he can return to winning ways back in listed company for Charles Hills. The chestnut son of Raven’s Pass would not want the ground any softer than good to soft but a dry night is expected and conditions should be ideal for the gelding who is 11/4 at BetVictor with the market headed by Rauccous who steps up to 7f for the first time this afternoon.
The juvenile event is the best 2-y-old race of the season to date with at least two Royal Ascot colts in opposition; Wolverhampton winner Sutter County beat Stringyback Creek by 9 lengths on debut and the runner up then went one better when beating Tomily (2.45) with that experience behind him at Kempton.
William Haggas has never saddled the winner of the Wood Ditton but his Sky Kingdom (2.10) is the subject of some good homework reports; the son of Montjeu holds an entry in both the Dante and the Derby which suggests he may need further in time but he gets the nod although the betting will obviously provide a good guide for these 13 newcomers.
At Cheltenham Paul Nicholls faces an uphill battle as he bids to retain his champion trainer’s title and he can land the opener courtesy of Rock On Oscar (1.50) who is taken to reverse Taunton form over 3m back at this intermediate trip of 2m 4f.
Solstice Star steps back up in trip and looks sure to make it a decent test but the selection receives weight from the Martin Keighley horse and a bigger danger could be Mister Miyagi stepping up to 2m 4f for the first time for Dan Skelton.
Any Currency (2.25) was a magnificent winner of the X-Country race at Cheltenham for Martin Keighley and the handicapper has given him a chance in the 3m 4f handicap chase; he is now 13 years-of-age but Vics Canvass was, arguably, unlucky not to win the National as a teenager last weekend and the drying ground is a big plus. Northern raider Mysteree looks a big danger but Any Currency is taken to rewards each way support.
Drumlee Sunset will have his supporters in the 2m 4f handicap hurdle but another norther raider Double W’s (3.00) could be well treated off his current mark and gets the each way vote (four places) at 8/1 with BetVictor.
The drying ground is a plus for Voix D’Eau (3.35) and the selection was an improving young chaser when last seen in the autumn; Harry Fry has given the 6-year-old, who gets on very well with his amateur jockey, the winter off and he must go close as long as there is no further rain.
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