There was some excellent racing to enjoy over the course of last week, especially at Newbury on Friday and Saturday and at Naas on Saturday.
The racing featured a number of horses who will be of interest in the months ahead and none more so than Aidan O’Brien’s Naas debut winner, Monarch Of Egypt.
The first son of US Triple Crown winner American Pharoah to make the racetrack, Monarch Of Egypt is out of a Galileo mare called Up, who won over ten furlongs in Group Two company, so he is hardly bred to be winning as a two-year-old over five furlongs in April, but his class saw him run out a tidy winner. despite clear signs of greenness.
Quotes for the Coventry were quickly rolled out and it may well be that he heads there after gaining some more experience, though I would say that, given his pedigree, he’s more likely to be aimed at the Chesham, a race O’Brien won with both September and Churchill in recent seasons and I would be waiting on prices for that before backing him for anything ante-post.
Trained by Mick Appleby, Space Bandit is a horse I part own with my brother, Martin - who will be on Racing TV duties at Pontefract today - plus a few friends, and we would have strongly fancied him here if the ground had some give underfoot.
Progressive on fibresand of late, Space Bandit relishes that surface but should be effective on the grass as well and his pedigree points to ongoing improvement - half-brother What A Welcome progressed rapidly as a four-year-old last season - but he would prefer some ease in the ground and probably wouldn’t run if this hadn’t been our last shot at picking up another race with him before the sales at Newmarket next month.
A powerful galloper with a good attitude, Space Bandit is able to race off the same mark as for his win at Southwell last time and has been working well at home, while Mark Crehan, who takes the ride, gets on well with him, so should we allow him to take his chance, I’d be hopeful of a solid effort, though I must admit I’m not falling over myself to back him at 11-4.
Softer conditions would ideally suit, but The Daley Express has shown enough form on today’s forecast good ground to make me think he is worth backing at double-figure odds off what is an attractive handicap mark.
He seemed to have lost his edge towards the backend of last season, but he thrived at this time last year with a couple of wins at Bath and is now 2lb lower than for the second of those two successes.
It could be that he proves best when a fresh horse in the early part of the season (won on his return last season) and his stable have a decent record with horses returning from breaks at this time of year.
Ideally suited by a strong pace, he looks likely to get that here and the booking of Franny Norton, who has a record of 114128 on the horse, catches the eye.
He hasn’t won for a long time, but Patrick has become a very well handicapped horse and could take advantage of the lowest grade of handicap (0-70) he’s ever contested.
Having joined Paul Midgley with a rating of 82 at the start of last season, Patrick failed to trouble the judge in 11 starts last term but looked like he’d returned from a winter break in decent form at Wolverhampton 20 days ago.
Given runners from his stable often need their first outing of the campaign, Patrick can be expected to step forward on that effort here and if getting anywhere near the level of form he was showing when fourth at Thirsk and third over this course and distance early last season, he would be hard to beat.
Super Julius showed his first signs of life for Shane Donohoe last time and is taken to build on that promising effort at Navan 16 days ago.
Formerly trained by Eve Johnson Houghton, Super Julius had been out of sorts on his first few starts for his new stable at Dundalk last month but shaped nicely in a better race than this when switched to the turf last time.
A fifth-place finish in a big field there was a step firmly in the right direction and that form was boosted by the runner up at Naas on Saturday.
More prominently ridden there than he had been for a while, similar tactics today, from an advantageous draw in stall three, could see him in the perfect spot, while the reapplication of cheek pieces that have been on for his last two wins is a further positive.
He’s my strongest fancy of the day.