Listed races at York and Sandown are the features of a relatively quiet weekend of racing as we build up to Royal Ascot next week.
The World Cup is now well and truly under way and the 5f sprint handicap (2.35) at Sandown tomorrow (Saturday) could prove to be another penalty kick for last year’s winner RIO RONALDO.
Mike Murphy’s gelding should be back to full fitness on his third run after a 315-day absence and can score again.
In the preceding race course and distance winner HADDAF can bounce back from a disappointing show in a Listed race at York last time out where he suffered late interference and can add a second Sandown victory for trainer James Tate.
Another course specialist PRECISION looks reasonably treated in the closing race (5.35) if he can recapture the form that saw him take a 1m 6f handicap here last August, and conditions should suit Sir Michael Stoute’s four-year-old.
York’s two-day meeting which starts today (Friday) will once again feature the Macmillan Charity Raceday on Saturday where thousands of pounds will be raised for this most deserving cause.
The opening day on the Knavesmire is all about stayers, and Mick Appleby’s SPUTNIK PLANUM could prove to be on a different planet to the rest in the 2.20.
Appleby is a master at bringing in horses from another yard and revitalising them, and the four-year-old can rack up a hat-trick since joining his new handler following a decisive win at Doncaster in April.
ZEELANDER will be a justifiably short price if tackling the closing apprentice handicap over 1m 4f and can go one better after finishing second at York last time out.
Saturday’s feature race is a valuable 6f handicap for three-year olds (3.35) has been something of a pension pot for in-form Yorkshire trainer Tim Easterby, who has led in the winner three times since 2013.
This race has consistently produced Group 1 winners and Easterby again has a live chance with STAXTON who is one of several fancies which include the precocious JAWAAL and SNAZZY JAZZY for Clive Cox.
However, the first two now may be rated too high as nine of the last 10 winners were rated between 86 and 97, carrying no more 9st 1 lb, which may open the door for Andrew Balding’s filly FOXTROT LADY.
She has just nine runs under her belt and fits the trend of a race where all the last 10 winners had run no more than 11 times before.
Looking ahead to Royal meeting, the French raider WOOTTON may have been underestimated by the market for the St James’s Palace Stakes on the opening day.
Unbeaten in his first three starts, including when beating Olmedo in the Prix de Fontainebleau at Longchamp in April, nothing went his way when fourth behind that rival in the French 2000 Guineas last time, pulling hard under restraint in a slowly-run race and keeping on well, all things considered, to be beaten by just two lengths.
He had looked a high-class miler in the making prior to that and could have even more to offer if ridden with less restraint here as this race was confirmed as his likely target towards the end of last month.
Punters who took the 12/1 about SUN MAIDEN landing the Ribblesdale will be rubbing their hands as the well-bred Frankel filly is now a best price 3/1 with Carrigill’s, and whilst the value may have gone she looks a likely winner.
CARRIGILL’S NAP (Stake returned as a free bet if selection does not finish in the top 4): SNAZZY JAZZY York Saturday 3.35.
AUGUR’S BEST BET: FOXTROT LADY York Saturday 3.35.