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It’s Not Quite Royal Ascot Yet
UK Horse Racing

It’s Not Quite Royal Ascot Yet

There’s little doubt that most people involved in racing are already setting their sights on next week’s Royal Ascot Meeting. However, whilst this week’s action can’t live up to those heady heights, there are some interesting races none the less.

The best of the action starts on Thursday with a Listed Race at Newbury that could possibly feature William Haggas’ potentially top-class three-year-old filly Sea Of Class. There’s also Group 3 action at Leopardstown.

Meanwhile, Jumps Racing fans should enjoy Friday with a decent race in the afternoon at Newton Abbot followed by an evening meeting at Aintree. It’s then on to York and Sandown on Saturday for some decent flat action.

Newbury (Thursday 14 June)

Johnnie Lewis Memorial British EBF Stakes (Registered As The Abingdon Stakes) (2.55)

The entries for this 10 furlongs Listed Race for fillies looks like it has benefitted from the Oaks being run on soft ground. Two fillies that were set to run could run here with Sea Of Class looking a definite runner with James Doyle already jocked-up. She’s also a possible runner for the Irish Oaks so connections will be hoping for a big run.

Another filly that could have the Curragh in her plans is Highgarden. John Gosden’s filly was slightly disappointing after being sent-off a short-price for the Musidora but Gosden had said that she was already a 12-furlongs horse before that race. Therefore, she may again be tapped for toe here before stepping-up to a more sufficient test of stamina next time.

Leopardstown (Thursday 14 June)

Ballycorus Stakes

A typically competitive group 3 race by Irish standards and there are plenty of recognisable names amongst the entries. The 7-furlongs trip may prove too far for Ardhoomey, but Aidan O’Brien must have chances with both Intelligence Cross and Murillo.

The Brits also have some interesting challengers include Mjjack who has been performing well in top-handicaps. The most interesting contender though could be Emmaus who was taken out of a Group 3 race at Haydock on Saturday. However, he may need the ground to ease to take his chance.

Newton Abbot (Friday 15 June) Handicap Chase (2.45)

It’s no surprise to see last year’s winner Alcala entered and this £16,000 first prize may well have been on his trainer’s Paul Nicholl’s mind for a while. He’s three wins from four runs over course and distance but will be on a significantly higher-mark this year.

One horse’s mark that’s going the other way is Henryville, and this dual course winner is now on a mark lower than the last one he won off. He’s certainly one to keep an eye on with conditions to suit. However, he’ll be much more of a betting proposition is the field cuts up significantly as all seven of his wins have come in fields of 10 runners or less.

Aintree (Friday 15 June)

Betfred ‘treble Odds On Lucky 15’ Handicap Chase (Aintree 6.50)

This may only be a class 3 chase but it certainly has plenty of old favourites in it to warm the hearts of National Hunt racing fans. It will be interesting to see if Shantou Village can return to form on ground he should love but he’ll need to after being disappointing this season.

No Duffer and Upswing also look capable of winning a race of this nature off their current marks, whilst Seefood could also be interesting after 434 days off the track. However, the one that catches the eye is Ballyboker Breeze as his trainer Nicky Richards loves having winners at Aintree.

York (Saturday 16 June)

JCB Handicap (2.25)

The JCB handicap takes place over seven furlongs and it could throw together an interesting mix of horses, many of whom are classy individuals. Roger Varian’s improving Spanish City has been installed as the ante-post favourite by most bookies, whilst Richard Hannon’s Medahim is also popular.

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There are also plenty of course winners that have to be considered. These include Get Knotted, Absolutely So, Lualiwa, Salateen, Nameitwhatyoulike, and Rebel Assault. There’s also Cardsharp who was third in last year’s Gimcrack.

Sky Bet Grand Cup Stakes (3.00)

The Sky Bet Grand Cup Stakes is a Listed Race run over 1 mile 5 furlongs and 188 yards. It will be interesting to see how the race cuts up throughout the week as some of the horses that have entries look good enough to be competitive at Royal Ascot next week. The joint top-rated Weekender is certainly one of those entries, though this could be an ideal opportunity for him over what may prove his optimum trip, especially as he has 5lb or more in hand of all of his rivals on official ratings.

His closest rivals on rating include Algometer, Duretto, and Dylan Mouth, whilst Time To Study finished just half-a-length behind Weekender at Sandown last time. Throw in old favourite and York specialist Clever Cookie and this may well be a race to savour this weekend. However, they might all have to improve to beat the other joint top-rated Marmelo if he repeats the form of his close-up second behind Vaziribad last time.

Pavers Foundation Catherine Memorial Sprint Handicap

A first prize of over £60,000 looks sure to attract a strong field for the Pavers Foundation Catherine Memorial Sprint Handicap. Foxtrot Lady is sure to be popular with punters as she runs in the famous colours of Jeff Smith who owned the loveable Lochsong and Persian Punch. She’s certainly heading the right way after winning her last two starts but needs to step up again.

Dangers are lurking everywhere too, with Gabrial The Saint and Jawwaal also having won their last two races. The latter runs in the colours of Maktoum al Maktoum and he also has another interesting contender in Mutakatif. That’s because he’s a three-year-old trained by Charlie Hills who could be a well-handicapped horse now he returns to sprinting. Hills has excelled with similar well-bred types in these colours in recent seasons, with top-class sprinters like Muharaar and Battaash.

Sandown (Saturday 16 June)

Scurry Stakes

It was actually this very weekend last season when Baattash announced himself as a sprinter to be reckoned with as he clocked a time in the Scurry Stakes that had clock-watchers drooling. They weren’t wrong either as he went on to prove far too fast for his rivals in all bar the Nunthorpe, where he boiled over in the preliminaries.

However, Maktoum al Maktoum’s entry this year, Mokaatil doesn’t look anywhere near his class. Therefore, this may well go to Godolphin who have three potential high-class entries in Roussel, Koditime, and Sound And Silence.

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