Andy Stephens pinpoints five key horses to follow at Sandown Park on Thursday evening which features two Group Three contests plus a Listed race, all live on Racing TV. Last year's Derby winner Desert Crown also makes his eagerly-awaited return to action.
Race: 6.12pm - Be Lucky With The Racehorse Lotto Handicap
It’s not often that Ryan Moore rides for his father, Gary, these days but the combination always warrant a second look when teaming up. For example, they’ve combined twice this season and hit the target each time.
One of those victories came courtesy of Silastar in the mud at Leicester last month, when the six-year-old romped home by a dozen lengths. If Gary was shouting “not too far”, then his son wasn’t listening! The fourth home, beaten more than 20 lengths, has since won.
The handicapper hasn’t taken the form literally, raising Silastar by 7lb. That’s probably the least his connections could have been expected. He won’t mind the sounder surface and is proven at the track, having gone close over course and distance under an inexperienced rider last July, when only 3lb lower in the weights.
Race: 6.42pm - Racehorse Lotto National Stakes (Listed Race)
The National Stakes often yields a good horse and this looks a cracking renewal, with seven first-time-out winners crossing swords. The other trio have also finished first past the post, so it should be an excellent marker for Royal Ascot.
It’s also notable this year for having two of Blue Points’ offspring crossing swords. The first-season sire has hit the deck running and both Blue Storm, who had four subsequent winners behind when successful at Newmarket, and On Point, another to win at Headquarters, are fascinating among his initial crop.
This is a race to watch, rather than punt on, but I’ll be hoping On Point wins or is at least in the mix. The horse he edged out on his debut, Mashadi, has since been put in his place by Mon Na Slieve at York. And having backed Mon Na Slieve at 20-1 for the Norfolk, I’d appreciate a form boost!
Race: 7.12 - Racehorse Lotto Henry II Stakes (Group 3)
This isn’t a deep renewal of this staying prize and Enemy should take the spoils if he’s anywhere near his best. He's Frankie Dettori's only ride of the evening.
Enemy has underperformed in the Dubai Gold Cup and Ormonde on his past two starts but there have been mitigating circumstances.
He’s got between 4lb and 14lb in hand of his four British rivals on official ratings and the French challenger, Princess Anne, looks well out of her depth.
Race: 7.42pm - Racehorse Lotto Brigadier Gerard Stakes (Group 3)
Within a couple of weeks, we will have not one, not two, but three Derby winners in training. I can’t recall the last instance of that.
Last year’s Epsom hero makes a welcome return here and the vibes from Freemason Lodge has been positive for a while. The Derby he won last year wasn’t a vintage edition but he won in taking style and it will be exciting to see what heights he can achieve this summer.
Coronation Cup winner Hukum has been off a day longer and, aged six after injury, it’s surprising that Baaeed’s older brother has stayed in training. He does have a good record fresh, though, and is officially rated just 1lb inferior to Desert Crown.
Race: 8.12pm - Racehorse Lotto Whitsun Cup Handicap
Next month’s Royal Hunt Cup seems a logical target for this promising four-year-old, who is quickly making up for lost time after being unraced until this term. However, the 93-rated gelding could do with going up the weights as the lowest-rated runner in that race last year had a mark of 95.
Yaanaas is well bred and was a taking winner at Newcastle under Jim Crowley this spring. He looked sure to preserve his unbeaten record in a mile handicap for apprentices at Ascot last time but he was possibly in front too soon and couldn’t quite finish the job off.
Crowley is back on board this time and the strong-travelling Yaanaas is only 1lb higher. Assessment is similarly progressive and also needs to go up the weights if he’s to run in the Hunt Cup. Keep in mind, though, that he ran a whole circuit of York last week after bolting through the stall and getting loose.Win a Table for four in the Premier Lounge at Sandown on the Sky Bet Sunday Series fixture in August! Click here to enter.
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