BOOM THE GROOM appears to have plenty in his favour this afternoon and this race-fit seven-year-old has to top the shortlist. He was less than two lengths behind the winner of the Dash over C&D last June off an 11lb higher mark and his recent all-weather form has not been bad. The fine form of the Tony Carroll yard has to be noted, while stall 11 is another positive. Compas Scoobie finished in front of the selection a couple of starts ago but may not confirm that form on 5lb worse terms today. Others to consider are Tavener, Shamshon and Just That Lord.
John Gosden has won the last three renewals of this contest and he has a strong hand once again with Crossed Baton. The son of Dansili confirmed that his victory last year was no fluke by beating a decent rival at Kempton last month but he will need to improve to be successful today. With that in mind, the preference is for DEE EX BEE, who is proven around this unique track having won over an extended mile here in October. He was not disgraced when finishing second in a Listed race at Newmarket when last seen and he should be tough to pass. James Cook and Zabriskie have to be respected given their connections but they might need the run today, while My Lord And Master is of interest having won a good Nottingham maiden last November.
Royal Line will be popular given his profile but he has been a beaten favourite in his last three starts and he may be a tricky ride around here, having shown a tendency to hang left handed. SHABEEB appeared to lose his way after winning twice in early 2016 but he showed some spark when finishing third in a competitive handicap at Ascot in July. He was slightly disappointing on his first start since that appearance at Newcastle last month but that performance suggested that he should improve for the run. Ryan Moore is an interesting jockey booking for Shabbah, while Golden Wolf has a solid each-way chance.
Ajman King has been progressive throughout his career and he won a decent handicap at Doncaster following his maiden victory over C&D. That said, he is not certain to confirm that maiden form with DASH OF SPICE, who finished second on that occasion and he is 10lb better off with Roger Varian's colt this afternoon. The son of Teofilo went on to win a maiden at Lingfield in December and the way he won that race suggests that a mark of 82 may underestimate his ability. Thundering Blue and Contango are others who improved last year and are worth a look in the market on their seasonal returns. Similar comments also apply to Dubai Horizon, who was last seen finishing second in a Newmarket handicap last May and that form has worked out extremely well.
King Of The Sand improved with every start as a juvenile and he proved that he can handle an undulating track when winning a novice race at Brighton in October. However, a 3lb penalty for that success means that he may struggle to beat an in-form MASTER OF WINE. Andrew Balding's gelding displayed a lot of promise when finishing second on his debut at Sandown in June and he is surely better than his sole subsequent start. Mokhles cost 100,000gns as a yearling and he is out of a half-sister to the the Group 1 winner, and dam of Saxon Warrior, Maybe.
CHRISTOPHER WOOD was not beaten far at all when finishing second in a competitive handicap at Newmarket last week and, as long as he has recovered from those exertions, the son of Fast Company should take plenty of beating today. Akvavera and Delsheer were both progressive as juveniles and they may have more to offer this season, while Jack Taylor warrants each-way consideration following some encouraging efforts on the all-weather.
JUST THAT LORD looked better than ever when showing his rivals a clean pair of heels at Lingfield last time and, with further progress possible, he is taken to go one better than when runner-up in this race 12 months ago. Justanotherbottle should strip fitter following his Doncaster reappearance and may offer most resistance, while Boom The Groom and Midnight Malibu are others to consider.
John Gosden has saddled the winner of the last 3 runnings of this listed contest and CROSSED BATON could be another for the yard. He was nicely on top at the finish when landing a minor event on return at Kempton and can take this step up in class in his stride. Maiden winners James Cook and My Lord And Master both possess potential and may pose bigger threats than the more exposed Dee Ex Bee.
SHABBAH shaped as though his ability remains very much intact on return at Lingfield and it looks significant that his new connections have enlisted the services of Ryan Moore, who steered the gelding to victory twice in 2016. There are dangers aplenty, headed by Shabeeb and C'Est No Mour, while Lorelina also merits respect. Royal Line still has low mileage but he does have a bit to prove now.
Having shaped well on return at Chelmsford and with cheekpieces refitted here, ANYTHINGTODAY could be the answer. He was largely progressive for Hugo Palmer last season and may have more to offer for his new yard this year. Ajman King signed off 2017 with an impressive victory and this unexposed colt has to be feared, while Contango, Dash of Spice and Dubai Horizon are others with potential.
Those with experience do not set an insurmountable standard and newcomer MOKHLES could be equal to the task. He makes plenty of appeal on paper and confidence behind him in the betting would look significant. King of The Sand signed off his 2-y-o campaign on a winning note and is an obvious danger, while Master of Wine will also be a threat if building on his debut promise.
CHRISTOPHER WOOD posted a fine effort when runner-up on debut for this yard in a Newmarket handicap recently and, with the promise of more to come, he should prove a tough nut to crack off the same mark here. Faadhel appears to be getting better with experience and is next best ahead of Jack Taylor and Ryan Moore's mount Akvavera.