Named in honour of one of the greatest horses to grace the turf, the Brigadier Gerard meeting at Sandown annually hosts Britain’s best evening of horseracing with £214,000 prize money up for grabs. Andy Stephens suggests five things to look out for on Thursday
So Mi Dar back in business:
York’s loss is Sandown’s gain with high-class filly So Mi Dar running in the Group Three Matchbook Brigadier Gerard Stakes after being a late withdrawal from the Middleton Stakes on the Knavesmire last week because of unsuitable soft going.
Owned by the Lloyd Webbers, So Mi Dar was a brilliant winner of the Musidora last year and was trading at around 5-2 for the Oaks only to be ruled out days beforehand because of injury. She then returned in the autumn and was one of the season’s unluckiest losers when third in the Prix de l'Opera.
Her entries at Royal Ascot next month include the Prince of Wales’s Stakes and she is also engaged in the Coral-Eclipse on July 8. She is quoted at 20-1 for both of those summer showpieces.
So Mi Dar is a general Evens to get her season off to a winning start, although on official ratings she does not have much in hand. She has a mark of 114 - the same as Steel Of Madrid and only 1lb higher than Mondialiste and Red Verdon.
Bt don’t get John Gosden, the trainer of So Mi Dar, going on the subject. At Breakfast With The Stars at Epsom on Tuesday he said: “Ratings have never concerned me. I don’t want my life controlled by official ratings.”
Staying stars collide:
The Matchbook VIP Henry II Stakes is regarded as a key trial for the Gold Cup at Royal Ascot next month but you have to go back to 2004 to find the last horse, Papineau, to pull off the double.
Frankie Dettori rode the Godolphin-owned Papineau on each occasion and this time gets the leg up on dual Goodwood Cup winner Big Orange, who is the general 11-8 favourite.
Big Orange ran a cracker on his return in Dubai this spring and stands out on form without a penalty to carry, although the layers will take some comfort from the fact he has run in seven races over 2m away from his beloved Goodwood and been beaten every time.
Quest For More was superb in the big staying races in the autumn and probably found the ground too soft when running below-par at Meydan in March. However, he has finished behind Big Orange the past four times they have met and has to concede him 7lb.
Jamie Spencer admires Big Orange after his second Goodwood Cup win (Racingfotos.com)
German raider returns five years later:
A few racing fans will see the name of J. Hirschberger on the Sandown racecard and scratch their heads.
The German trainer, whose christian names is Jens, has not had a runner in Britain since his Energizer won the Group Three Tercentenary Stakes at Royal Ascot five years ago under Adrie de Vries at 15-2.
His two other runners in Britain in the past decade were beaten.
This time, Hirschberger runs Berghain in the Matchbook VIP Henry II Stakes. The four-year-old looks up against it to judge by the formbook but he is entered in the Gold Cup and it is unlikely he is making the journey over for the Esher air.
The bookmakers dismiss him as a 40-1 for Thursday’s race and he is 100-1 to take the royal meeting by storm.
Frozen Angel warming up:
There are numerous instances of two-year-olds who completely fluff their first day at the school only to realise exactly what it is required the next time.
A case in point is the speedily bred Frozen Angel, who looked clueless when trailing home last of nine on debut at Newmarket only to make all and land a decent prize at Ascot 15 days later.
We will be able to gauge exactly how much the grey colt has progressed because he again meets Sound And Silence, the winner of the Newmarket contest, in the Better Odds With Matchbook National Stakes.
Twelve lengths separated the pair the last time they met but the bookmakers evidently do not think there will be much between them on this occasion because Sound And Silence is 15-8 favourite, with Frozen Angel 3-1.
The Listed five-furlong event can often provide Royal Ascot clues.
Last year’s first and second, Global Applause and Mehmas, went on to run well at the meeting while other recent winners have been Rizeena and Tiggy Wiggy.
Escobar has his first run of the season at Sandown after missing the 2,000 Guineas (Andy Stephens)
Escobar on right track:
Hugo Palmer entertained dreams of winning the 2,000 Guineas with Escobar during the winter but that bubble burst when he worked the colt at Newmarket during the Craven meeting.
Escobar was evidently unbalanced heading into the Dip and a gloomy debrief with Frankie Dettori and the owners followed - with a tilt at Churchill and company reluctantly ruled out.
Perhaps it is no coincidence that Escobar also disappointed at Newmarket on his final start as a two-year-old, having won his previous two races in the style of a colt who could take high rank.
The son of Famous Name returns in the Matchbook Traders Conference Heron Stakes and, with Dettori on Rodaini for Simon Crisford, will have a new jockey in William Buick.
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