Former Talksport man Charlie McCann marks your card with six to follow on Saturday at Ascot, Haydock, Lingfield and Warwick. View selections below
At the time of writing Mark Johnston has saddled 41 consecutive losers and with that in mind I will reluctantly bypass Bathos in the Haydock opener who made such an eye-catching reappearance at Wolverhampton last month.
I know the 7f handicap won by Suqoor at Lingfield last month was a hot event for the class and the runner up Shaiyem (1.40 Haydock) looked to be crying out for a mile when staying on strongly under Frankie Dettori. The selection won on debut over 7.5 furlongs and apprentice Tom Marquand takes off a valuable 3lbs; stall two is a plus around the tight Haydock bend.
Fatherly Friend was a bitter disappointment on debut but is another who looks sure to appreciate the step up to a mile; his time will come this season and a market move would be worth noting.
The Swinton Hurdle is a wonderful contest and Ch’Tibello was described to me earlier in the season as at least a 135 rated animal; well he won at Ayr off that mark three weeks ago and a 6lbs rise looks fair. That said this is a better race and he is only 7/2 at BetVictor in a 17-runner handicap.
My two against the field are Wait For Me (2.15) and Gwafa with marginal preference for the former representing the Philip Hobbs yard who also saddles last year’s winner War Sound (8lbs higher) and top-weight Cheltenian.
The selection needs to race more prominently than he did at Cheltenham when fourth in a first time hood in the County Hurdle from this mark; there is a possibility he needs further than the minimum trip but the ground is in his favour and I would like to see the champion jockey make plenty of use of him; he is 7/1 with BetVictor and he should reward each way support albeit in a top-class renewal.
Gwafa was travelling comfortably when coming down at halfway in the Grade 1 Aintree Novice and is completely unexposed; he has been the best backed horse in the last 48 hours and is now into 9/1 at BetVictor.
I’m looking forward to seeing Sign Of A Victory (2.30) on fast ground over 12f for Nicky Henderson at Ascot. The 7-year-old won his sole start on the level at Wolverhampton and, at first glance, an opening mark of 88 looks punitive but I know jockey Jamie Spencer was impressed at Dunstall Park and I believe connections are considering a crack at the Ebor if things go to plan.
Perestroika and Forever Popular are two others to consider in a cracking heat but Henderson did us a favour at Chester with No Heretic earlier in the week and the selection bypasses the Swinton Hurdle for a crack at this flat prize.
The Victoria Cup is the big betting race of the day and I hope Predominance (4.15) can maintain the progress he showed at Haydock when I thought he was good value for his length success; the handicapper has had his say (6lbs higher) and at 7/1 with BetVictor (5 places) he can reward each way support.
One of these days everything will fall right for Outback Traveller but he is still 7lbs above his last winning mark although he has moved from Jeremy Noseda to Robert Cowell who is an excellent trainer.
At Warwick El Bandit (5.50) looks well treated off his opening mark having scored over C&D last month for champion trainer Paul Nicholls; an improving son of Milan the selection enjoyed the better ground last time and is open to significant improvement.
Jamie Spencer doesn’t ride Sign Of A Victory as he is at Lingfield where there races on the straight course over 7f and a mile have been transferred to the all-weather; I was a big fan of Ashadihan (2.50) for Kevin Ryan last year and Spencer keeps the mount on a filly who finished runner up behind Illuminate in the Albany Stakes last year at the Royal meeting and is taken to make a winning reappearance.