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1.15 - BetVictor Conditions Stakes (6f)
This is an interesting start to the card. Dairebin and Dukebox are once-raced winners with improvement to offer for Michael Bell and Richard Hannon respectively. Both debuted over 5f and move up in trip here.
THE GATEKEEPER too moves up to 6f after an opening win at Musselburgh (form franked) in April and a clear second-best since at Ascot. Mark Johnston's Excelebration colt boasts the best form on paper and should be further improved at this distance. He is the one to beat on what we've seen to date.
The Hannon team are responsible for one of two interesting newcomers. Al Shibli is a nicely-bred Shamardal colt with plenty going for him and the same can be said of Roger Charlton's Honky Tonk Man - Tamayuz and a 68,000 gns yearling. He has Jason Watson on board and both newcomers command close scrutiny in the market.
1.50 - BetVictor Carnarvon Stakes (Listed, 6f)
Winner of the Group 2 July Stakes at Newmarket (6f, good to soft) last summer, The Queen's TACTICAL thrice came up shy in Group 1 company over 6f/7f afterwards. Andrew Balding's charge was though as good as ever last month on his seasonal bow, getting up close home to win the Listed bet365 European Free Handicap over 7f at Headquarters.
The runner-up Naval Crown finished best of the rest (fourth) in the 2000 Guineas at Newmarket subsequently and that lends substance to the form of Tactical's win. He must concede 3lb to main market rival Creative Force - like Naval Crown, Godolphin-owned - but the Toronado colt may be up to it despite the drop in trip.
Creative Force flopped in the Coventry Stakes at Royal Ascot last summer after an impressing opening success at Newmarket. He skipped the remainder of the campaign but is now making up for lost time and has won a brace of Newmarket handicaps (6f, good to firm) already this season. The most recent of those saw him justifying odds-on favouritism to down three rivals a fortnight ago but Tactical represents a tougher challenge - evening getting the weight.
The pair make most appeal in this seven-runner contest. Happy Romance and Spycatcher are best-placed to stage an upset. The Richard Hannon runner defied some interference to win a Listed prize on the all-weather recently, while Spycatcher scored on reappearance at Pontefract last month and built on that with a good third in the Group 3 Pavilion Stakes at Ascot soon after.
2.25 - Al Rayyan Stakes (Group 3, 1m4f)
Al Aasy was a winner in this grade last summer at Newmarket (1m5f, good to soft) and the William Haggas-trained son of Sea The Stars was better than ever on seasonal bow last month over C&D, coming right away from the field to win the John Porter Stakes as the 6/4 favourite. The beaten horses haven't done a lot for the form with their efforts since, but there's no questioning it was an authoritative performance.
Amongst the dangers here will be last year's Dante hero Thunderous for Mark Johnston. He missed the rest of last season and looked very much in need of the outing on comeback at Sandown in April but his subsequent third behind stablemate Sir Ron Priestly in the Jockey Club Stakes at Newmarket was much more like it and it's possible he builds on that here.
Ranch Hand has looked an improved sort in all-weather wins at Chelmsford and Lingfield (both 2m) this spring but he'll need a fairly clear personal best to win this, while Rainbow Dreamer and Asiaaf do seem up against it on the figures.
Which takes us nicely to LOGICIAN, currently second-favourite in the betting but easily the most intriguing of these. The 2019 St Leger winner wasn't spotted until September last year and he easily won a Conditions race at Doncaster (1m2f, good) to extend his career record to six wins from six starts.
He then headed for York for the Group 3 Cumberland Lodge Stakes (1m4f, soft) in October and his effort there was surely too poor to attribute it entirely to the prevailing ground. The son of Frankel had had his problems last season and it's worth speculating that he just was not himself. John & Thady Gosden will anticipate better things this summer at five-year-old and, if he's as good as he looked in his blemish-free Classic season, he can take some stopping here.
3.00 - BetVictor London Gold Cup Handicap (1m2f)
This has the potential to turn into one of those 'Frankie Fever' afternoons at the racecourse. Dettori rides Logician and Palace Pier either side of this competitive handicap and he's got a really promising ride here that could ignite plenty of multiples.
HIGHLAND ROCKER was twice placed on the all-weather in November and April at 1m/1m2f before opening his account on turf bow at Ripon (1m4f, good) last month. The form of those earlier defeats on the AW is commendable and that novice win in Yorkshire was advertised since by the second scoring at Yarmouth in a handicap. This Gleneagles colt had lots to spare in that victory and, while he's not exactly been thrown in for this handicap bow, it's distinctly possible he's got a chunk of improvement to come. He's worth chancing on what could be a fine afternoon for the Gosdens and Dettori.
Tamborrada is 3-3 already for Charlie Appleby and Godolphin and the gelded son of Dubawi also had a next-time-out winner behind when he made a successful start to life in handicaps at Doncaster in March. He tackles this increased distance now and his determination looks assured following that gutsy Town Moor score.
River Alwen has top-weight to contend with but could easily have more to offer this distance for Richard Hannon and Jamie Spencer, while Bay Bridge, King Frankel and Dubawi Sands all come into this race off wins and therefore have to be seriously considered.
3.35 - Al Shaqab Lockinge Stakes (Group 1, 1m)
No doubting that PALACE PIER is the star name on show at Newbury on Saturday afternoon. The leading three-year-old miler of last season, he's won six of his seven career starts and his Champions Day third in the QEII is easily overlooked given the ground conditions were very soft and he lost a shoe in the mud.
Victorious in a classy St James's Palace Stakes at Royal Ascot last summer, his Group 1 tally was doubled in the Jacque Le Marois at Deauville in August before that autumn setback. Last month's eight-length success at Sandown in the bet365 Mile confirmed his well-being. This could be a big summer for Palace Pier and he is fully expected to set down a proper marker to that effect now.
Aidan O'Brien's Lope Y Fernandez was shy of Group 1-winning class last season at 6f/7f, though not by very much. He put away his rivals at Leopardstown last month in ready fashion at this distance and could have much more to offer at the mile himself, but he will almost certainly require that improvement if Palace Pier delivers the sort of performance we are expecting.
My Oberon and Top Rank are possible place players, the former having taken a Newmarket Group 3 in good style on his season return for William Haggas and retaining potential for better still.
The mare Lady Bowthorpe also impressed in her Dahlia Stakes win at Headquarters this month but the each-way play in this race can be Safe Voyage for John Quinn.
He ended last season in the form of his life and is proven to go well fresh - winning on his comeback in 2017, 2018 and 2019 - while only just edged out by Space Blues last summer in a performance that stands up well. He won three times in his next four starts and also ran a very close third in the Prix De La Foret at Longchamp (7f, heavy) in October before a forgivable trip to the Breeders' Cup. His ability to shine first time out makes him of real interest.
4.10 - Haras De Bouquetot Fillies' Trial Stakes (Listed, 1m2f)
Six of these fillies are once-raced winners, while a further two have one win from two starts. The odd one out is At A Pinch, the apparent second strong for John & Thady Gosden having finished fifth on debut at Newbury four weeks ago. That race was won by her stablemate Gloria Mundi with a late surge, but it's worth recalling these a length split the first six home. Rab Havlin's mount was held up - just as Dettori did on the winner - but At A Pinch had a troubled passage and was denied racing room on more than one occasion. She's by no means discounted here.
There's quality wherever we look in this line-up. Eshaada, One Journey, Twisted Reality and Sea Empress are dangers. William Haggas' filly really impressed on debut at Newcastle - form that has been well advertised by the runner-up Teona - and should come forward on turf over this increased trip. The Sea The Stars filly has the look of a really exciting performer. C&D maiden winner Aristia is also considered in a field where anything really could win by A'SHAARI might be slightly overlooked in the betting.
The Dubawi filly was a very good winner on debut at Newmarket (7f, soft) back in August. She came up shy in this grade over this trip at Headquarters in her return (6/4 favourite) but it's too soon to be writing her off and that experience ought to stand to her now.
4.45 - BetVictor Handicap (Str, 1m)
Path Of Thunder had only one start in 2020, running no better than midfield in the Britannia at Royal Ascot. That was on soft ground and conditions here should be more to his liking. He also showed with his Meydan third in February that he still has plenty to offer and so he's very much one to note for Charlie Appleby now.
Repertoire shaped well over a mile at Ascot in April and is a contender, while Overwrite needs to banish a poor run a fortnight ago but it wouldn't be a shock of he's involved at the finish
Blue Mist goes well fresh and has Ryan Moore for company (partnership 2-2 in the past) but the selection in a competitive finale is PLANTADREAM for Jim Best and Ben Curtis.
He has a positive record after a break and he was in fine fettle despite failing to win in three all-weather starts back in mid-winter. He can take advantage of a lower turf mark on his return to action and is set to be a reasonable price.