Nearly a year on from a card which saw Lezardrieux win the Sky Bet Sunday Series Sprint Handicap to clinch a narrow win for Grant Tuer's North Yorkshire yard in the £10,000 Stable Staff Bonus competition, Sunday’s meeting at Haydock Park is expected to be no less drama-filled with the same trainer hoping out to secure more success.
Tuer is hopeful that his Showtime Mahomes - who, like rival Mister Bluebird, has already taken home one race in the series - can emulate Lezardrieux in this year’s contest.
Stablemates Award Dancer (Sky Bet Middle Distance Handicap) and Real Terms (Sky Bet Sunday Series Stayers Handicap) also appear to hold strong claims.
Two winners, and four placings, across the three-fixture series was enough for Tuer to take top spot as leading trainer last year, but with Hamilton Park, York and Pontefract, joining Musselburgh, Haydock Park and Sandown Park in the popular and innovative Sky Bet Sunday Series in 2022, this season’s winning totals will be significantly higher.
Indeed, with two meetings to go, Keith Dalgleish's team already has four winners in the bag and currently leads the standings which are based upon overall performance across the seven fixtures. The prize, calculated on points earned for winners, second and thirds, sees Dalgleish's yard at the top of the list on 88 points.
Dalgleish's charge has been led by the stayer Evaluation, who will claim a £100,000 bonus prize for connections if he is able to bag a third race in the series, but with that horse being aimed at the final meeting of the series at Sandown on August 21, it is the same owners’ El Picador who appears to be one of the yard’s best chances in this week’s Sky Bet Sunday Series Stayers Handicap.
He has something to prove in terms of stamina, but ran on well when winning the Sky Bet Sunday Series Middle-Distance Handicap at Musselburgh back in June. Victory here for El Picador or stablemate Haizoom would make either eligible for a tilt at the £100,000 bonus at Sandown, potentially giving Dalgleish a second shot at at the bullseye.
Karl Burke has also saddled four winners so far in the Sunday Series. Eilean Dubh was unable to claim his own £100,000 bonus when only midfield at Pontefract following wins at Hamilton and York, but - following another win on the Knavesmire - is now set for bigger and better things.
His stablemate Road To The East could also use this series as a stepping stone, and he looks an interesting contender in the Sky Bet Sunday Series Newcomers’ EBF Maiden Stakes.
He’s closely related to Yousini who won his first two starts, and he might be sharp enough to see off a strong Newmarket challenge which includes horses from the yards of William Haggas (Silver Legend), Roger Varian (Charyn) and Ed Dunlop (Centerstage). The least popular winner at Haydock, however, which lies in the ‘Red Rose’ county of Lancashire, would probably be the Ed Bethell-trained Yorkshire.
The Sky Bet Sunday Series Fillies’ Handicap has also attracted a strong representation from HQ, with Queen Aminatu dropping in grade but up against a filly very much on an upwards curve in the form of Tarrabb. A winner at Ascot when last seen, the Owen Burrows-trained filly appears the pick of a field in which the three-year-olds look likely to hold sway over their older rivals.
The meeting gets underway at 3.45pm with the Sky Bet Sunday Series Apprentice Training Series Handicap. The unfancied 80/1 chance Street Life was a shock winner of the opening race under Morgan Cole a year ago and the duo, who also finished third together at Haydock in May, are reunited once more. In terms of the more senior riders, it’s all to play for as they chase £100,000 for any jockey who can ride seven winners across the series; Clifford Lee, Jason Hart and Sam James have each notched three victories so far.
With Hart away riding Highfield Princess in the Prix Maurice de Gheest at Deauville, Lee and James will be hoping to take another step towards that tantalising bonus pot. James rides Haizoom, who along with rival Kaizer already has one Sunday Series victory to his name, in the concluding Sky Bet Sunday Series Stayers Handicap which rounds off the meeting at 6.45pm.
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