It has been a fairly low-key start to the 2018 Flat season thus far, with the Jumps campaign not going down without a fight in the hearts of us racing fans. But with the Classic season, Royal Ascot and many other spoils of Summer firmly on the horizon now, it won’t be long until our affections fully turn to the level turf action. There has been an array of very nice prospects already stretching their legs in recent weeks though, and more will emerge from a quality card at Sandown Park on Friday afternoon.
The £100,000 Group 2 bet365 Mile is the feature contest of the day at 3.35pm, but the card gets going at 1.50pm with the £25,000 Esher Cup Handicap, a race over 1m for 3yo horses. John Gosden’s King’s Shield may well be a very progressive youngster and justify short odds of around 6/4, but there are one or two interesting ones running against the jolly. Richard Hannon & Ryan Moore team up with MOTOWN MICK, who has amassed lots of valuable experience on the All-Weather of late, but was also progressive on the turf last season and is a no-nonsense sort of customer, so he should run a very solid race. The other interesting one is top weight VINTAGER, who won a Newmarket maiden in good style on his 2yo debut, before running 5th in a pair of Group 3 races. No hiding places on a mark of 99, but he was a promising juvenile and is bred to improve.
Next up is the Group 3 Gordon Richards Stakes over just shy of ten furlongs at 2.25pm. This is a quality race and the horse they all have to beat is Sir Michael Stoute’s CRYSTAL OCEAN, who finished a fine 2nd in the St Leger last year. You’d expect this fine looking colt by Sea The Stars to improve this season given the stable he resides at and he might just be a class apart here. The stiff track should suit and although stamina laden, he isn’t devoid of speed, so he should get away with the shorter trip. Morando is probably the chief threat, while the returning Almodovar is also worth keeping an eye on for a new yard.
A very open looking Classic (Derby) Trial takes place at 3.00pm, with nine smart prospects going to post in search of a share of the £70,000 prize money. These races are a real fact-finding mission for connections of the main contenders, to see where their horses may fit in this season. So they are difficult races to get a grip on in terms of having a bet, but that doesn’t make them any less attractive in that regard either. Having said that, I am struggling to grasp a strong opinion with so many interesting and unexposed 3yos – who’ve yet to be really tested – taking part in this particular trial. Charlie Appleby has enjoyed a flying start to the season, so his Dubawi colt called ISPOLINI certainly catches the eye in terms of profile, and he just about gets the vote. I’m going to Sandown, so I look forward to seeing them in the parade ring.
William Haggas is one of the best trainers around and although Sandown Park isn’t one of his go-to tracks, he does have a superb record there in recent years, with a 25% strike rate. He’s fired in 10 winners from 31 runners in the past 28 days so is in very hot form and his very exciting ADDEYBB is hard to look past in the feature race at 3.35pm. Not for some years have we seen a Lincoln winner as impressive as he was at Doncaster on the 24th of March and I can’t wait to see him perform again. This step up in grade and this race, in particular, look a logical next step and I reckon he’ll justify favouritism with another dominant performance. Here Comes When, Stormy Antarctic and the likes of Sovereign Debt are all solid operators and will be there to expose any chinks, but Addeybb looks the part to me and his rivals may just be bumping into a really progressive animal. If he wins this and wins it well, all the top Group 1 races over a mile this Summer will be open to his participation. Hopefully, he proves up to the task and can land the spoils in the big race at Sandown Friday.
Odds are provided at time of writing, please check your betslip to confirm they have not changed before betting.