2.40 - Rose Of Lancaster Stakes (Group 3, 1m2f)
This Group 3 has gone to some talented sorts down the years and last year's winner Addeybb ranks as good as any of them. William Haggas' charge thrived on the heavy turf and delivered for favourite-backers in winning a six-runner race in good style.
He'd back it up by chasing home Magical in the Qipco Champion Stakes at Ascot in the autumn and began 2020 with successive Group 1 wins in Australia before another fine run in defeat; this time behind Lord North in the Prince Of Wales's Stakes at Royal Ascot.
Sir Michael Stoute, Marcus Tregoning and Mark Johnston have each won this race three times, with the first-named saddling Zaaki this year in a bid to pull clear on the all-time Rose Of Lancaster leaderboard.
A field of seven has been declared and conditions will be much-changed from last year as the going is 'Good-good to firm in places' at the time of writing (Friday). Here's a look at the contenders.
1. Certain Lad (Mick Channon/Ben Curtis) Odds: 11/1
Boasts five wins in 18 turf starts for an impressive 27 per-cent strike rate. Landed a decent handicap at Ayr on final start last season and also on the scoresheet during a stint in Dubai in the spring. Looked to be in need of the run at Epsom on UK return early last month and confirmed that suspicion with super run when 66-1 second in the John Smith's Cup at York since, finishing well clear of the remainder behind Sinjaari. He's 2-4 at Haydock (over a mile) and stays this trip fine.
2. Crossed Baton (John Gosden/Kieran O'Neill) Odds: 12/1
Remains lightly-raced at five years old having missed chunks of time since a promising juvenile campaign that yielded Listed success at Epsom and second in the Hampton Court at Royal Ascot. Reminded everyone of his capabilities with a Listed win on the all-weather at Lingfield in November and his tired effort in the Wolferton at Royal Ascot can be forgotten as it was on soft ground. Could bounce back.
3. Extra Elusive (Roger Charlton/Hollie Doyle) Odds: 5/1
Hasn't won since 2018 but remains a smart and consistent performer. Kept strong company throughout 2019 and pleasing third at Royal Ascot in aforementioned Wolferton Stakes on soft going. Second to re-opposing Global Giant since in Newbury Listed race over this trip; that form was boosted at Glorious Goodwood by the third. He was keen that day in a steadily run race and could well turn the tables.
4. Fox Tal (Andrew Balding/Rob Hornby) Odds: 17/2
Son of Sea The Stars perhaps too keen in his races to score at this level. He put up an excellent fourth in the Champion Stake at Ascot back in the autumn but his only wins remains a Ffos Las novice in 2018 and a conditions race at Doncaster prior to that Champions Day fourth. Again he was too free in the Wolferton at Royal Ascot in June (10-3 second-favourite; sixth) and disappointed again at Newbury since in race where Global Giant and Extra Elusive were first and second. Bit to prove now.
5. Global Giant (John Gosden/Frankie Dettori) Odds: EVS
Another that has missed chunks of time in his career but making up for lost time now with John Gosden (switched from Ed Walker in the winter). Won a conditions event on the Tapeta at Wolverhampton in January (odds-on) and 2-lengths fourth in Sandown Listed contest last month on return from 181 days off. Got the better of Extra Elusive to win the Listed Steventon Stakes at Newbury most recently; with third home Pablo Escobarr bagging a Glorious Goodwood Group 3 since. Leading claims.
6. Zaaki (Sir Michael Stoute/Ryan Moore) Odds: 4/1
Twice a Group 3 winner in 2019 at up to 1m1f after a reappearance win at Ascot that saw him taking the scalp of crack-miler Barney Roy. His comeback run in the Group 3 Diomed Stakes at Newbury was pleasing (third) but since been well held in Ascot's Summer Mile and he had a tough race there. Was sent off 13/8 favourite for this race in 2018 but couldn't get to front-running winner Teodoro and faded to third. Trainer has won this a joint-record a three times and remains with potential to get this distance.
7. Morisco (Tom Dascombe/Richard Kingscote) Odds: 33/1
The only three-year-old in the line-up, he gets a handy allowance from his elders here. Three wins from six career starts and looked an improved model on reappearance at Newbury in June when coming from last to first to win a handicap off a mark of 93 on first attempt at this trip. Disappointing since at Newmarket on soft ground but shouldn't be judged too harshly on that run and may improve with ground to suit for trainer/jockey combo with an excellent Haydock record.
VERDICT: Just the seven runners and that's a disappointment from an each-way punting perspective as outsider Morisco would make appeal with another place. Tom Dascombe and Richard Kingscote do exceptionally well here and the three-year-old has scope for better at this distance, while also getting a very useful allowance against these older rivals.
Global Giant and EXTRA ELUSIVE fought out the finish at Newbury in the Steventon Stakes 20 days ago and are leading contenders. The former is respected but, at the prices, preference goes to Roger Charlton's five-year-old. He can be keen in his races and so Hollie Doyle will need to get him settled but, if she does, his best form is good enough to be winning this and the quick surface will suit.
Certain Lad has a pleasing record at this venue and is enjoying a good four-year-old campaign. After a fine run in the John Smith's Cup last time; he's well worth his place back in a Group 3 at this distance and will relish the quick ground that's forecast. Top-rated Zaaki had a hard race at Ascot last month and was a beaten favourite in this two years ago, earning him the swerve today.
2.05 - Dick Hern Stakes (Fillies & Mares' Listed, 1m)
Assuming that she's ready to go this looks a gilt-edged opportunity for last year's Falmouth Stakes winner VERACIOUS on her first run for 294 days, a layoff during which she has undergone a wind operation.
That Newmarket Group 1 win in July last year saw her holding off One Master, William Haggas' filly so impressive over this trip at Glorious Goodwood last week.
Sir Michael Stoute's runner meanwhile found only Billesdon Brook too strong in the Sun Chariot Stakes at Newmarket in October and ran as well as might have been expected on heavy ground at Ascot on her final appearance when fourth in the QEII on Champions Day. On these terms she's got exceedingly good claims of a reappearance success.
Festive Star held off Tomorrow's Dream to win a handicap at Newbury last month. The runner-up was in receipt of plenty of weight but looked unlucky in running and has since improved to win a handicap at Glorious Goodwood. Richard Kingscote is booked to ride today and does ever so well at Haydock. At a big price the Oasis Dream filly might snag a place.
4.25 - BetVictor Casino Fillies' Handicap (6f)
Richard Hannon's WEDDING DATE is surely going to be in the winners' enclosure soon. The Dandy Man filly was beaten a head at Newmarket over this trip in June and has since finished sixth in a Heritage Handicap at Ascot over 5f before being beaten only 2¾-lengths in the ultra-competitive Stewards' Cup at Goodwood last weekend. Eased 1lb, this looks a suitable opportunity for her to gain a deserved reward for her summer's work to this point.
4.55 - Follow BetVictorRacing On Twitter Handicap (5f)
Daniel and Clare Kubler are enjoying a nice time of it since their names jointly appeared on the training license at Sarsen Farm this season. The partnership has confirmed that nothing has essentially changed from how they worked before but their horses are thriving, with a majestic 3-3 to begin the month of August.
OUTRAGE was last successful on the all-weather at Newcastle in early 2019 from a mark of 90. He returned from 408 days off with a tame run at that venue in June and the handicapper duly dropped him 6lb. Another defeat in a Class 3 Sandown sprint yielded a further 4lb easing and he caught the eye at Newmarket a fortnight ago when staying on from the rear to be a close fourth in this grade under Richard Kingscote.
Haydock's leading jockey stays on board today and the Exceed And Excel gelding has been given another 1lb relief. He looks like he's ready to take advantage of a much-reduced mark and get back to winning ways in the Haydock finale.