THURSDAY’S TOTE EXOTICS
For an anxious few days last week it looked as if HIGH DEFINITION (5) would be a frustrating missing last piece of the Derby jigsaw due to a dodgy blood count. Ante-post backers heaved a sigh of relief when Aidan O’Brien gave his unbeaten colt the green light for today’s Dante Stakes and a big performance can see High Definition book his ticket for Epsom in 23 days’ time. Mark Johnston has been making encouraging noises about GEAR UP (4), beaten only once in four starts last season. His colt is a dual winner over seven furlongs on the Knavesmire, which is encouraging, and he landed the Group 1 Criterion at Saint-Cloud last October on deep ground (Bolshoi Ballet fifth). Roger Varian pulled a rabbit out of the hat when Third Realm ran away with the Lingfield Derby Trial and owner Sheikh Mohammed Obaid Al Maktoum’s familiar silks (yellow, three black spots) could be to the fore with ROYAL CHAMPION (10). The colt was sent off 2-1 favourite for the Feilden Stakes at HQ but could muster only a laboured third. However, fourth horse Youth Spirit was fairly impressive when landing last week’s Chester Vase, so there is ground for renewed optimism.
FLYING VISIT (3) may appear something of a wild card but we’ve seen many times how ‘old boys’ Jim Bolger and son-in-law Kevin Manning can upset the applecart. Flying Visit was a 33-1 outsider when chasing home Bolshoi Ballet in the Ballysax Stakes at Leopardstown last month and is just preferred to the William Haggas-trained Alenquer and Godolphin’s unbeaten Hurricane Lane.
TOTE EXACTA PERM: 3-4-5-10 (12 BETS)
BEN LILLY (1), one of the most improved stayers in the north, can reinforce his reputation by going close under top weight in the concluding two-mile handicap. David Brown’s four-year-old racked up five straight victories last September/October and he added two more successes last month before his hat-trick bid was thwarted by The Trader and Hochfeld at Hamilton Park 11 days ago. The 1m 5f trip on quick ground was definitely on the sharp side but Ben Lilly fairly devoured the ground up the hill, eventually just losing out in a blanket finish. Hochfeld would have gone close to landing last week’s Chester Cup with better luck in running, so the form looks solid. Ben Lilly had just over a length to spare over SASHENKA (8) when they clashed at Doncaster last month and Michael Scudamore’s mare enjoys a nice pull at the weights. She should be bang there under Hollie Doyle. RED FORCE ONE (3) toyed with re-opposing Raymond at Ayr 17 days ago but it may be a different story over this longer distance on slower ground. Red Force One has the services of Andrea Atzeni.
FRANKENSTELLA (7) scored over course and distance for John Quinn last September and his filly has claims off a 6lb higher mark. Fergal O’Brien doesn’t often dip his toe into Flat handicaps so it seems significant that Polish is pitched into battle near the foot of the weights. Polish appeared to need every yard when scoring over three miles at Newbury in February, so whether he has the speed to cope with this different test is open to conjecture. Bookmakers aren’t taking any chances.
TOTE EXACTA PERM: 1-3-7-8 (12 BETS)
THURSDAY’S TOTE PLACEPOT
Leg One: 1.40 – It’s straight into the deep end with an 18-runner 5f dash. Gulp. Tim Easterby may hold the key here, saddling COPPER KNIGHT (15) and COUNT D’ORSAY (2). The former, a course and distance winner, posted a fine third to speedball Jabbarockie at Chester last Thursday. In big fields, the leaders often form an arrowhead down the centre of the track, so stall nine should prove ideal. Count D’Orsay found only Moss Gill too sharp in a 22-runner sprint here in October 2019 (soft) and emerged with credit when runner-up to Jabbarockie on the Roodee last week, running on late from a slightly awkward draw. Course form often proves vital and MUSCIKA (9) beat 19 rivals over course and distance last October (soft). JAWWAAL (4) is another to run the track well and the Michael Dods-trained gelding is slipping down the ratings. Rayong was on the shortlist but stall one is usually a no-go area.
Leg Two: 2.10 – Some smart fillies assemble for the Middleton Stakes, with QUEEN POWER (5) bidding to snap a frustrating sequence of placed efforts. Sir Michael Stoute’s four-year-old should strip a bit sharper for her comeback effort 11 days ago when beaten a head by Lady Bowthorpe in the Group 2 Dahlia Stakes at Newmarket. PASSION (4) bagged a Group 3 on soft ground at Naas last August and again handled yielding ground when third to Wonderful Tonight on Champions’ Day at Ascot.
Leg Three: 2.40 – The one-mile Hambleton Handicap is always competitive, but BRUNCH (3) can settle any surviving Placepot nerves by hitting the frame. The four-year-old has won on both visits to York and looked home for all money in the Lincoln until Haqeeqy appeared late on the scene. MATTHEW FLINDERS (4) was probably undone by his stall one draw in the Newbury Spring Cup. Oisin Murphy was forced to sit in and find some cover, with Matthew Flinders consequently finding himself with a lot to do when the pace quickened. He did well to finish third to Nugget and Ed Walker’s gelding boasts York form, hunting up smart Roberto Escobarr in a 1m 2f novice stakes last summer. KYNREN (5) is a regular in these big handicap gigs and recent rain will have enhanced his chance.
Leg Four: 3.10 – Ringmaster Aidan O’Brien has Bolshoi Ballet currently topping the Ballydoyle bill and I’m hoping last season’s Beresford Stakes winner HIGH DEFINITION (5) can put his name up in lights by landing the Dante. GEAR UP (4) and ROYAL CHAMPION (10) are also in the melting pot.
Leg Five: 3.40 – ACKLAM EXPRESS (1) lives up to his name, setting off like a bullet train over the flying five furlongs. Nigel Tinkler’s gelding made to all to land a Listed event here last August (soft) and wintered well in Dubai, finishing placed on three starts in Group company. WINTER POWER (7) built on her Ayr success last September by thumping Method in the Group 3 Cornwallis Stakes at Newmarket (soft).
Leg Six: 4.15 – Richard Hannon has booked Ryan Moore to take the reins on recent Newmarket runner-up SECRET STRENGTH (11) and the colt may prove a safer selection than Charlie Appleby’s newcomer ALBAHR (1). William Haggas introduces Kodiac colt YAAHOBBY (13).
LEG ONE: COUNT D’ORSAY (2), JAWWAAL (4), MUSCIKA (9), COPPER KNIGHT (15)
LEG TWO: PASSION (4), QUEEN POWER (5)
LEG THREE: BRUNCH (3), MATTHEW FLINDERS (4), KYNREN (5)
LEG FOUR: GEAR UP (4), HIGH DEFINITION (5), ROYAL CHAMPION (10)
LEG FIVE: ACKLAM EXPRESS (1), WINTER POWER (7)
LEG SIX: ALBAHR (1), SECRET STRENGTH (11), YAAHOBBY (13)
TOTAL: 432 BETS