MARK JOHNSTON supplied all-weather champion jockey Joe Fanning with a steady production line of winners during the winter and their winning streak can be extended to the turf on an excellent Musselburgh card. Feature event is the valuable Betfred Royal Mile Handicap and SWITZERLAND (3.50) is taken to defy top weight after a string of good dirt performances. The son of Shamardal was particularly impressive at Wolverhampton last month, sauntering eight lengths clear of Gabrial’s Bounty, and Johnston was clearly intent on mounting a serious challenge as he had no less than seven horses entered earlier in the week.
With the Masters taking golf’s centre-stage over the weekend, there would be no more appropriate winner than JEANNIE GALLOWAY (3.20), owned by Scots caddy Dave ‘Buddy’ Renwick, who was on the bag of Jose Maria Olazabal and Steve Elkington when they lifted the Green Jacket at Augusta. Jeannie Galloway posted a course and distance victory a couple of seasons ago and Richard Fahey’s five-year-old was given a tough assignment at the Curragh for his seasonal bow, when not beaten far in fifth place. This looks a bit easier and stall six is a fair draw. Jeannie Galloway was beaten only on the nod in last year’s William Hill Ayr Bronze Cup and should make his mark in similar handicaps this term.
At Kempton, ACTIVATE (3.15) is an interesting runner in the Betfred Queen’s Prize. Always a bit quirky for Michael Bell last season, Activate came to hand early, beating Kayef at Haydock in May. His confidence may have been dented by a heavy fall when brought down at Glorious Goodwood and his form dipped. Now with Kevin Ryan, Activate need only reproduce his run here at Kempton a couple of seasons ago, when third to subsequent St Leger hero Arctic Cosmos, to make an impact.
In the Betfred Conditions Stakes, Sylvestre De Sousa is a good booking by Marco Botti for top weight APPEALING (3.45). The filly was last seen in early January when winning at Wolverhampton, having been pipped by Apothecary on her debut three weeks earlier at Lingfield. That form has been quite well advertised in recent weeks.
Champion jockey Paul Hanagan teams up with Mark Johnston aboard LEQQAA (4.20) in the colts-only Conditions event. The Middleham raider is out to avenge his Newmarket defeat at the hands of Richard Hannon’s Lord Of The Shadows in mid-October, when beaten just under two lengths. A 6lb pull makes things interesting and Leqqaa’s pure American pedigree sways me in his favour on the dirt.
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