HORSE RACING: Leading pundit Charlie McCann gives his latest weekend racing preview. This week the former Talksport tipster picks out potential winners at Ascot, Haydock, Lingfield and Thirsk
After last weekend’s Stan James Guineas festival it is a weekend of classic trials on both sides of the Irish Sea with Lingfield today and Leopardstown tomorrow hosting significant events which should make the Derby and Oaks picture clearer.
Henry Cecil had the StanJames.com 1000 Guineas snatched from him in the Stewards’ Room at Newmarket last Sunday when his filly Jacqueline Quest was thrown out for interference and the race handed to favourite Special Duty giving the French a Guineas double. Cecil saddles Oaks favourite Timepiece in Lingfield’s 2.40 and despite giving 3lbs to her five rivals she really ought to oblige. Last year’s winner Midday, also trained by Cecil, finished runner up at Epsom and the second in the corresponding race in 2008 Look Here went one better in the Oaks.
Thus the race is a serious Epsom trial and Timepiece is expected to improve considerably for her reappearance when fourth in the Fielden Stakes at Newmarket. The third horse home has franked the form and it would be another blow for the iconic Newmarket trainer if Timepiece did not advertise her classic credentials this afternoon.
In the colts’ race the once-raced Desert Myth (3.10) has attracted plenty of cash for the Derby in recent days and he swerves Chester for Lingfield. Workforce was considered the number 1 Derby contender from the Sir Michael Stoute yard all winter but it would appear that Desert Myth has overtaken his stablemate in the pecking order at Freemason Lodge. Despite the success of Fame And Glory earlier in the week it has been a disappointing week for Aidan O’Brien and his maiden winner Captain James Cook is not considered in the “A” Team at Ballydoyle for the Derby.
Duncan (2.20) won Ascot’s opener last year and the John Gosden trained five-year-old can follow up although he had had a pipe opener before scoring last year. The excellent mare Barshiba will ensure there is plenty of pace in the race and Duncan can use this as a stepping stone to Epsom and the Coronation Cup in which he finished a close fourth in 2009.
Theola (4.35) was a most progressive stayer when last seen back in the autumn and with Mark Tomkins amongst the winners at Chester earlier in the week she can maintain her upward curve with apprentice Ashley Morgan taking off a valuable 5lbs. Noverre To Go (5.10) made an eye-catching reappearance at Wolverhampton over the minimum trip and back up to 6f he is given the nod in the finale a typically tricky sprint handicap.
As someone with premature grey hair I have always followed the fortunes of Just For Men and Martin Todhunter’s ten-year-old looks to have a leading opportunity in Hexham’s 4.25. He isn’t the easiest of rides for a conditional, but he doesn’t get home over 3m and dropping back to today’s trip will suit. He looks very well handicapped and, although he doesn’t find a great deal for pressure, he ought to have the race run to suit.
There is a cracking mixed card at Haydock Park featuring the first big race of the new jumps season the Swinton Hurdle which looks unfathomable. The mare Cool Friend is taken to upset the bigger yards in the Beginners Chase at 4.10.