Andrew Balding feels Good Birthday has solid claims in a typically open edition of the bet365 Cambridgeshire at Newmarket on Saturday.
The progressive three-year-old ran with credit in several valuable handicaps restricted to his own age group in the first half of the season.
He was given a seven-week break and warmed up for this test with a win at Beverley four weeks ago.
“Good Birthday has strong credentials. He has run well in some good three-year-old handicaps this year,” said Balding.
“He seems in great form, but we wouldn’t know about the draw (32).
“He has handled soft ground well so if any more rain fell that would be to his advantage, but hopefully he will still run well.”
Vying for favouritism with Good Birthday is Le Don De Vie, who is drawn next door in stall 33.
The pair used to be stablemates until Le Don De Vie was sold for £460,000 after winning a 10-furlong handicap at Epsom on Derby day.
“I’m surprised he’s as short a price as he is,” said his trainer Hughie Morrison.
“I know he’s a progressive, young horse, but I’m not sure he’s a nine-furlong specialist. We did win this race with a 10-furlong horse (Supaseus, 2009), though, which is why we’re running.
“This was a bit of an afterthought, to be honest. We just said we’d let him take his chance as he’s so well and it’s obviously a prestigious race that would be very nice to win again.”
Roger Varian was also surprised to see Fifth Position towards the head of the market.
“Fifth Position is a tidy horse who is learning all the time,” said the Newmarket handler.
“Some bits and pieces of his form at Group Three and Listed level read very well. He won’t be inconvenienced by any rain that falls, will appreciate the nine furlong trip and the style of the race should suit him, so he has a good profile.
“I was a bit surprised when I saw that he was one of the favourites, though I never take too much notice of the betting market. I’m not sure what price I was expecting, but it wasn’t as short as 10-1.”
“His form is pretty good and the ground should be ideal for him.”
Mark Johnston’s record-breaking stable have two chances with Dark Vision and Smile A Mile as they look to win the Cambridgeshire for the first time.
“Dark Vision has been a bit frustrating all season. We thought he’d run well in big handicaps at Goodwood and York, but he hasn’t really put it together on the day,” said Johnston’s son and assistant, Charlie.
“The track, trip and ground will all suit him and it would be no surprise to see him run well, but at the same time he hasn’t been that reliable this year.
“Smile A Mile has had a pretty successful season and has won a few races at a lower level. He’ll need a career-best to win, but there’s some good prize-money up for grabs and we’ll let him take his chance.”
Connections of Majestic Dawn are hoping the ground on the Rowley Mile track will not be as fast as it was on the July course the last time he ran.
“He’s a very good horse. We’ve been targeting this race for a long time,” said trainer Paul Cole’s son and assistant, Oliver.
“It was probably a bit firm for him at Newmarket last time he ran. He should run a nice race.”
Trainer Jedd O’Keeffe is keen on the each-way prospects of his runner, Jazeel.
“It’s a very competitive race, but I think he’s got an each-way chance,” he said.
“He’s fit and well, he likes the track, I think the draw is OK (stall seven) and I’m happy with the jockey booking (Jamie Spencer).
“I’m happy with the ground as it is at the moment – hopefully they don’t get any more rain.
“It’s all positives – apart from the fact there’s 30-odd runners!”
Al Jellaby may be one of the big outsiders, but trainer Clive Cox expects him to run a sound race.
“William Cox takes off a valuable 3lb. He’s been running nice races. He bumped into a nice horse of Mick Appleby’s (Kasbaan) at Kempton,” said Cox.