BIG-RACE TREBLE ON THE CARDS FOR HAGGAS
The Newmarket trainer won the valuable Kentucky Derby Qualifier at Kempton Park in midweek with Jahbath and also took last weekend’s Listed feature, the Spring Cup at Lingfield, with Fanaar.
Now Island Of Life, a well bred daughter of Dubawi, takes centre stage in this 7f Fast Track Qualifier on Wolverhampton’s biggest day of the year. She has already cemented her place in the Fillies’ and Mares’ Final over the same distance at Lingfield on Good Friday and can achieve valuable black type this weekend.
She elevated her official rating to 101 after beating Castle Hill Cassie and completing an All-Weather hat-trick in another qualifier in January and can take this step up in grade in her stride.
Island Of Life has some improvement to find on official figures to beat the likes of Oh This Is Us and Keystroke but a 5lb fillies’ allowance improves her prospects of bridging the gap from a potentially plum draw in stall three.
Oh This Is Us sets a demanding standard off a top rating of 113 and will qualify for Good Friday’s Mile Final by completing his mandatory third run, whatever the outcome. He is sure to play a big part but Island Of Life has the speed to get away from him around this sharp track.
The 2017 runner-up Keystroke came back from almost a year off to win over 6f at Kempton Park in January for his new trainer Stuart Williams and can also make another bold bid under Adam Kirby.
Like Oh This Is Us, he is a hold-up performer who should be arriving on the scene deep inside the final furlong, but whether he can go one better this year will largely depend on a trouble-free passage.
SILVER CAN STRIKE GOLD IN LINCOLN TRIAL
The four-year-old returned from a lay-off and a gelding operation to run a solid race in a course and distance conditions race last month and should be sharper for this valuable contest.
He probably found himself in front too soon that day but stuck to the task well to finish a close third to Hathal and leading Lady Wulfruna contender Oh This Is Us.
The winner of a hot handicap at Ascot last September for previous handler Hugo Palmer, he remains well treated off a mark of 100 and looks primed to run a big race for young Hollie Doyle.
The most interesting opponent is the William Haggas-trained Victory Bond, who hasn’t been seen in public since finishing a disappointing fourth in the Listed Hyde Stakes over 1m at Kempton in November.
Last season’s Easter Classic winner has been a surprise absentee from the big Middle Distance races this season and it’s curious that Haggas chooses to persevere over this trip as he drops in grade.
Young Cieren Fallon eases the top weight’s burden with his 7lb claim but he will need to conjure a big performance from the six-year-old, who comes up against some tough, in-form rivals.
Fellow Newmarket trainer Stuart Williams saddles two of them, and is entitled to expect both Pactolus and Pinnata to acquit themselves well. The former doesn’t know how to run a bad race as he proved when finishing third in the Group 3 Winter Derby and was second to Big Country in last season’s Lincoln Trial.
Like Victory Bond, he will be claimer ridden while stable companion Pinnata - progressive enough to win at three different All-Weather tracks this winter - looks an ideal ride for Jamie Spencer. He couldn’t see off the smart Keyser Soze at Newcastle off this mark last time, however, so may not have too much room for manoeuvre off the same mark here.
WILLIAMS SPRINTER TO SUPPLEMENT TRACK SUCCESS
His credentials in all four runs this year are convincing enough to want him on-side for the Class 2 feature over 6f, which is shaping up to be an informative dress rehearsal for Good Friday’s Sprint Final.
Receiving weight from all his rivals, the eight-year-old can go one better for Nicola Currie than his second over 5f at Dunstall Park last month when, with a clear run, he may well have won.
Before that he scored decisively off a 5lb lower mark over course and distance having run well in defeat behind subsequent Listed winner Gorgeous Noora at Lingfield.
Dangers is this open handicap are aplenty, with staunch rivals Alsvinder and Merhoob once again crossing swords. The former is clearly talented but not easy to predict while John Ryan’s course and distance winner must defy a 6lb rise.
Corinthia Knight is another player. Last season’s 3YO Sprint champion has been running back into form at Lingfield recently, and looks set to make a bold bid from the front, but may just set this up for a strong finisher like my selection who receives a whopping 15lb from him.
2.05 WOLVERHAMPTON, SATURDAY
SILVER QUARTZ (ew)
3.15 WOLVERHAMPTON, SATURDAY
ISLAND OF LIFE (Nap)
4.25 WOLVERHAMPTON, SATURDAY