The Duke’s Weekend Preview

Let’s commence this week’s column at Newbury, with the 1.50pm bet365 Stakes.

Desert Encounter is probably a little big in price. He’s won at the track before and he was out of his depth in a Group 1 last time. He has definitely got enough class to win a Listed race though.

There’s only one horse I think could scupper a really good bet and that is Emotionless. He’s a tricky customer who has had any number of setbacks but ran well at Meydan most recently in January. Again, he’s been off for over half a year and it is anyone’s guess how he might perform. He could be a vulnerable favourite and I’m counting on Desert Encounter to be the one to bag the victory.

The 3pm Hackwood Stakes is tough. The adage is to back in-form sprinters, so Bacchus could be of interest after winning the Wokingham Stakes most recently. Equilateral is totally unexposed for trainer Charlie Hills and may have a big run in the tank. Projection is another with claims after a fine fifth place run in the Diamond Jubilee Stakes. Invincible Army has performed well in higher grades than this, including a good second at Haydock in a Group 2 earlier in the season. He has a really good each-way chance, but for win purposes Projection can claim his first victory since September 2015.

We’ll finish off in Ireland where we have the Darley Irish Oaks. Magic Wand is the favourite for this mile and a half contest. Ryan Moore had the pick of three in this race and he sticks with a filly who he partnered to victory at Ascot in the Ribblesdale Stakes. Soft ground didn’t suit her at Epsom and she looked far better when smashing the opposition at the Royal meeting.

She has to reverse the form with Oaks winner Forever Together, who lost some of her sheen when being turned over as odds-on favourite at the Curragh last time. Returning to the scene of her defeat, you can’t rule her out, especially as they have added cheek-pieces which may bring about a bit of improvement.

The other that the oddsmakers give a chance to is Sea Of Class, who has won a couple of nice Listed contests at Newbury. This is a big step up in task but she is bred for the trip and she has potential. I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see this trio fill the places. Not an original pick, but I do think on this ground that Magic Wand has the edge.

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