Alex Hammond: Century the call
This weekend we get one of the final looks at the potential Classic colts for next year in the Racing Post Trophy at Doncaster, a race that has been a good guide to the Investec Derby in particular.
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It looks very open with 11 declared including Kingston Hill, Century and Pinzolo who are all vying for favouritism.
One who wasn't declared on Thursday was leading contender Toormore who won't be suited by the soft ground at this stage of his career.
Several of the runners have been supplemented for this mile Group One contest including Autumn Stakes winner Kingston Hill who represents Roger Varian. He beat Aidan O'Brien's Oklahoma City over this trip in that Nemarket Group Three which gives the master of Ballydoyle a good idea of what he faces here.
That's very good form and Varian has been firing out winners over the past couple of months.
O'Brien is mob handed as usual with Century, Johann Strauss and Buanarotti. Joseph has chosen Century and there's no reason to think he's picked the wrong one. This colt is one from one having won a Curragh maiden over a mile. He wasn't particularly fancied that day, but overcame his inexperience to beat the well backed favourite. He will have improved plenty for that run and he was also given a supplementary entry.
Pinzolo is another smart horse now in the care of Charlie Appleby who got his 50 up at Newmarket this week since taking over the reins at Sheikh Mohammed's Moulton Paddock Stables. He is a potential Derby horse for the rookie trainer who thinks plenty of this son of Monsun. He will appreciate the soft ground.
Richard Hannon may not have Toormore in the field but he runs another of owners Middleham Park Racing's horses in Chief Barker. He has gone from strength to strength progressing up the ranks and is unbeaten in three. It looks like a mile is a minimum at this stage and he'll be seen to good effect over further next year.
Somewhat has been busier than most for Mark Johnston, Joe Fanning rides. He may have been busy, but he has some decent form including when finishing second to Berkshire in the Royal Lodge last time out. The ground was too quick for him there and this surface will suit much better, he should run his race.
Given his Midas Touch this season it's dangerous to leave a Johnny Murtagh runner out of things. He saddles and rides Altruistic for owner Andrew Tinkler. This colt has only had the two starts and isn't out of it either. He finished third in the Beresford last time out and wasn't disgraced in the process.
So, it's a cracking contest full of potentially top class colts. Aidan O'Brien looks the trainer to follow once again. He has won it seven times and has a very good recent record with wins from the likes of Camelot. St Nicholas Abbey and Kingsbarns last year. I think Century is the one, but wouldn't put you off backing Johann Strauss each way (12/1 with Sky Bet) with Ryan Moore in the saddle.
Century hasn't been much of a talking horse in the run up to this race, but I hope he'll be good enough to win.
The Old Roan Chase is Aintree's feature on Saturday. At the time of writing the final declarations haven't been made, but Wishfull Thinking seems on course for the two-and-a-half mile contest.
This 160 rated chaser has top weight to carry here for trainer Philip Hobbs. The ten-year-old is well capable of winning on his first start of the season and although he has suffered problems with his breathing in the past, he had a very good campaign last term.
The trip suits well and he has plenty going for him, he was second in this on his reappearance last year.
Alan King isn't sure whether he will run Walkon as he has the Paddy Power at Cheltenham as an early season target and could head straight there. The Paul Nicholls-trained Edgardo Sol is the winner of three races and is a consistent sort. He returns to fences having ended last season with a couple of runs over hurdles. He has won two races over the larger obstacles and they both came at this track so that bodes well for his chance on Saturday.
Colin Tizzard has made a good start to the season and he runs Oiseau de Nuit who is having his first start back and is heading to Cheltenham for the Shloer Chase next. The trip would be a bit of a concern as he seems better over the minimum distance.
The Steve Gollings-trained Conquisto has been a smashing horse for connections, winning nine of his 40 starts and being placed a further ten times.
He'll have to win off a career high mark if he's to take this though. He's another who appears more effective over a slightly shorter trip.
Carrickboy was the 50/1 winner of the Byrne Group Plate at the Cheltenham festival in March and is now 8lbs higher in the weights. He will no doubt try and set the pace.
Saint Are could take him on for that lead. He is another horse who goes well here, but the advantage with him is that this sort of trip suits very well, in fact it's a minimum. He doesn't look too badly handicapped either and his trainer Tim Vaughan has been amongst the winners recently.
Mr. Moonshine can also race prominently, although he it's not a necessity. He hasn't won for a couple of years but isn't too badly treated as a result. He pulled up in the National in April.
So there could be plenty of pace on which would help Wishfull Thinking. He's the highest rated and has an obvious chance, but I'll go with Saint Are each way at the likely prices.
Elsewhere, it's worrying for the rest of the trainers that French ace Andre Fabre has sent Galiway over for the Horris Hill at Newbury. Richard Hannon is a trainer to follow in this and he has three runners.
Piping Rock is unbeaten in two, but after his latest victory the trainer felt this race may be a bridge too far so that puts me off. Anticipated tries seven furlongs for the first time, but that will have to improve him to win this. His third runner is Day of Conquest who has the strong Jimmy Fortune in the saddle and is dropping slightly in trip, although that will suit.
Galiway is the one for me though. He has won his only start in maiden company on soft ground at Saint-Cloud, but it was a cosy win and he simply wouldn't be here if he didn't have an outstanding chance.
Richard Hughes rides Chief Barker in the Racing Post Trophy at Doncaster for the Hannon team. Both trainer and jockey have had fantastic seasons with the latter looking on target to be champion trainer again and Hughes on track to be champion jockey for the second successive year.
The pair certainly don't rest on their laurels and have been busier than most. Hughes got the 200 up for the season for the first time in his career during the week and it was a well deserved achievement. I think the duo have a great chance of getting the Doncaster card off to a flying start with Night of Thunder in the Listed Doncaster Stakes.
It won't be long before all our attention turns to the national hunt season. At the moment we're on 'McCoy watch' as he closes in on his 4000th career victory. It seems hard to imagine racing without the 18-time champion riding, but we will have to face the fact that in the not too distant future he will hang those well worn boots up.
Although his weighing room colleagues will no doubt miss him, I bet there are a few out there that think their chance of winning the championship will be a reality rather than a distant dream.
Whenever the 4000th winner arrives we have an exciting couple of weeks in prospect waiting for it to happen and at the current rate of winners it won't be long in coming.
I'm not sure we will ever see another sportsman quite so dedicated and committed despite the many injuries he has suffered, and we are lucky to have been around to see AP McCoy in action.
Century in the Racing Post Trophy at Doncaster @ 4/1 with Sky Bet
Night of Thunder in the Listed Doncaster Stakes
Saint Are in the Old Roan Chase at Aintree (each way)
Galiway in the Horris Hill at Newbury