HORSE RACING: Leading pundit Charlie McCann gives his latest weekend racing preview. This week the former Talksport tipster focuses on the cards at Kempton Park and Haydock.
I spent a very enjoyable but freezing cold morning on the gallops of Middleham trainer Mark Johnston on Thursday as he galloped his unbeaten colt Awzaan ahead of the first classic of the flat turf season the StanJames.com 2000 Guineas.
A group 1 winner of the 6f Middle Park Stakes as a juvenile the son of Alhaarth hasn’t grown a great deal from two to three but both trainer and jockey Richard Hills, who rode the three-year-old work, feel it will take a good one to lower his colours at Newmarket on the 1st May. He remains a 10/1 shot with Guineas sponsors Stan James.
There is an excellent flat card at Kempton Park this afternoon with the first four races live on Channel 4. Clairvoyance looked a filly of some potential when landing her maiden over a mile in a fast time here nine days ago but preference is for Pipette (2.05) trained by Andrew Balding who made a winning debut on turf back in September, before stepping up on that effort when third in listed class at Newbury the following month. Both those runs were over 7f but she looks certain to improve for the step up to a mile and this 1000 Guineas and Oaks entrant must go close if she is to take up her classic engagements.
Classic Colori shoulders an 8lb penalty in the Bet at 32Red.com Conditions Stakes and that is likely to prevent the colt supplementing his recent Lingfield victory. Azizi (2.40) representing the yard who landed the Lincoln last weekend is blinkered for the first time and if he settles in the headgear will take the beating.
I was most taken with his win at Doncaster in a decent nursery on his penultimate juvenile start before he disappointed on ground reported to be softer than ideal in the Group 3 Autumn Stakes at Ascot back in October.
The 7f three-year-old handicap looks a nightmare but the handicapper has, arguably, been lenient in leaving Shamir (4.20) on the same mark despite breaking his maiden back at 7f last time. He has a cracking draw in 12 and can reward each way support. Note Mark Johnston’s Duellist is to be ridden by Frankie Dettori; expect many of the Arab owned horses in the excellent Yorkshire trainer’s yard to be ridden by the Italian when they go south this season.
There is a cracking 2m 4f handicap chase at Haydock Park with Fistral Beach a beaten favourite when coming a cropper at the 2nd in the valuable Racing Post Chase at Kempton last time sure to have his followers with Ruby Walsh booked. Salut Flo has been raised a stone for his recent Doncaster win and he jumped low at a couple of fences on his British debut at Doncaster. He could remain very well treated off his revised handicap mark but a chance is taken on Montgermont (3.30) who has never quite fulfilled the potential he showed as a novice but made a winning debut for Charlie Mann (no relative) at Taunton last time. His jumping has always been a bit hit and miss but off a mark only 5lb higher he is given the nod.
Mr Syntax (4.35) has run seven times and never finished out of the first three yet remains a maiden. He appeared to not quite get home over today’s trip of two-and-a-half-miles at Donny on his penultimate start but then found Hereford’s 2m 1f too sharp last time. I feel I must give him one last chance to fulfil the potential he has shown to date although stakes must be kept to a minimum as he may once again fail to last home on the forecast heavy ground.
The John Smith’s Grand National is next weekend’s highlight. We at StanJames.com are offering non runner no bet and Best Odds Guaranteed on the Aintree spectacular so get your bets on early safe in the knowledge that you will have your stake refunded if your selection doesn’t make the race and we will pay the bigger odds if your selection drifts in the market.