Western can be a Classic hit
Man On The Spot previews the four live Channel 4 races from Sandown Park's card on Friday.
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John Gosden has won this twice in recent years and SACRED ACT can keep up the sequence. Relatively unfancied for a strong-looking Nottingham maiden on soft ground, he came from well off the pace and won very nicely despite running green. The Hannon team have also landed the prize twice and are doubly represented. Richard Hughes returns after injury to partner Art Official, who wasn't perturbed by soft ground on his debut last season, while Ryan Moore is on board the unbeaten Cricklewood Green, who has yet to encounter ground with give but stayed on strongly to score on good going at Newbury in August. First Flight looked a smart prospect on his debut at Newbury but didn't handle the step up to Group 3 company at York, though the ground was very fast. End Of Line produced a shock when storming clear in soft ground at Doncaster in October and, though the form hasn't worked out, he could do no more than win easily.
Although Noble Mission won at this level back in 2012 he appears more comfortable in Listed company and faces a couple of very smart younger horses. Sky Hunter won four out of five for Andre Fabre, his only defeat came in Group 1 company at Longchamp. He'll handle the going though a long absence could just sway things the way of TELESCOPE. Sir Michael Stoute's colt just manages to avoid a penalty for his superb victory in York's Great Voltigeur and connections bypassed the St Leger to keep him fresh for what should be a big season with two Group 1s already on the horizon. Contributer doesn't quite look up to the quality of the three mentioned above though his fitness is guaranteed after a comfortable Listed victory at Kempton and he has more scope than Winter Derby hero Robin Hoods Bay.
Richard Hannon senior had a tremendous record in this, winning it seven times in the past 10 years including with Trumpet Major a year ago. The five-year-old didn't win again and was a bit disappointing on his reappearance in the race won by Contributer at Kempton so it could be Montiridge who carries the yard's main hopes after three victories last season, including one over this track and trip. However, he was put in his place by TOP NOTCH TONTO in a Haydock Group 3 and the winner then went to Ascot for the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes where he ran the race of his life to finish runner-up to Olympic Glory. Providing the ground remains on the soft side, Brian Ellison's charge has to be the selection. Penitent won this back in 2012 and is another who will relish the softer ground. He's also won on the track since though a moderate run in the Godolphin Mile at Meydan last month could have taken the edge off him. The only time Garswood tackled this trip was in the 2000 Guineas where he wasn't at his best and he's always looked as though he would be suited by the distance. Tullius was behind Penitent at Newmarket last summer and is worse off at the weights while Fire Ship was racing in class 5 handicaps before making great progress to land a Deauville Group 3.
This has had very little bearing on the Epsom classic in recent years but WESTERN HYMN is only 14/1 for the race and will need to win this convincingly to justify the odds. He had a run at Kempton in December and looked smart, though it was his reappearance at Newbury that convinced many he could be a genuine Derby prospect. Truth Or Dare followed two minor victories with a good run behind 2000 Guineas hope Kingston Hill at Newmarket and is probably the main threat as Master Carpenter was beaten almost eight lengths on his reappearance in the Greenham. Sir Jack Layden's close third behind Berkshire in the Royal Lodge was a surprise but he never got into the action in the UAE Derby on Meydan's Tapeta track last month.