Last year’s Derby winner Masar went through his paces on the July course at Newmarket on Saturday and trainer Charlie Appleby was happy enough to report his 4-y-old to be on target for Royal Ascot next week.
The trainer has yet to decide whether his classic winner will run in the Gp 1 Prince Of Wales’s Stakes over 10f or the Hardwicke Stales over an additional quarter of a mile. Masar is currently 7/1 with BetVictor for the 10f contest on the Wednesday and 8/1 at BetVictor for the Hardwicke which is run on the final day of the five-day meeting. The colt will work again on Wednesday and we should know what his Ascot target will be later in the week.
There is heavy rain forecast for the majority of Britain on Monday and conditions are likely to be soft – if the forecast is correct – at all today’s turf meetings. We begin our preview over the jumps at Stratford where I hope to see Ventura Dragon (2.15) go one better than on debut when he finished runner up at Perth.
The selection needs to brush up his jumping, but Oliver Sherwood is sure to have schooled him extensively. He receives 6lbs from Santani who sets the standard, but he has been brushed aside by a couple of Dan Skelton runners in recent starts and he may have to settle for the silver medal again.
Billy Hicks (2.45) looks sure to appreciate dropping back in trip to 2m 5f having appeared a non-stayer when second at Ludlow over 3 miles last time. The application of first-time blinkers did appear to bring about improvement in the 8-y-old last time and the hope is the headgear is as effective a second time.
Jane Lamb (4.15) may not have quite got home when a beaten odds on favourite at Ludlow over 2m 5f and she drops back in trip for her handicap debut. The weight of money for her last time suggested connections feel she is well up to winning a race and an opening mark of 106 looks workable.
At Leicester the 4-y-old Bombyx (3.30) must give 15lbs to the highest rated horse in the field Arthur Kitt, but the latter is not certain to appreciate this 12f test on rain-softened ground as he weakened from the 2f out when beaten over 15l in the Gp 3 Chester Vase last time. That was his first attempt at the trip and his class might get him home, but I would prefer to side with the older horse who is proven at the trip and has won on good to soft ground previously.
Asian Angel looks a potential improver on his seasonal reappearance for Mark Johnston. Having finished runner up over a mile on his second start – on heavy ground – as a juvenile he looks a potential improver over middle-distances this term. A check of the market is advised.
The vote goes to Thorn (4.00) who is the first foal of a Group 1 winning mare and improved with each run as a juvenile. This 10f trip should suit and he gets the each way vote in a race I feel will throw up several winners as the season progresses.
I hope the change of scenery will help William Hunter (7.45) at Windsor this evening. The each way selection has left Alan King since his last run and only cost £14,000 when bought at horses-in-training sale last month. He looks potentially well treated on his best form and Nigel Twiston-Davies fits him with a first-time tongue-tie this evening.
Qarasu (8.15) finished third at Nottingham last time and the first and second have both won since. He is taken to make it third time lucky having also shaped with considerable promise on his sole juvenile start at Newbury when runner up at 25/1.
In the 12f Handicap at Pontefract I’m not sure many will cope with conditions if the rains arrive as forecast and we may see a couple of non-runners. Not So Sleepy (7.45) finished second in the November Handicap on soft ground back in the autumn and Hughie Morrison’s 7-y-old can race off a 1lb lower mark this evening.