Dave Smith takes a look at Saturday's ITV action and he makes Fajjaj his best bet of the day.
The first race in this year's Shergar Cup is a 5f sprint featuring 10 runners. EL ASTRONAUTE has run some very good races in high quality handicaps this year and arrives here on a winnable mark. Indeed, John Quinn's charge is only 3lb above his highest winning mark and has been in the first four in his last six runs. He's still in good form but the draw is awkward and hopefully his front running style won't compromised by that. He ran really well at Goodwood last time when clear of the remainder and is a very strong contender in this contest. Sir Robert Cheval has some good course form under his hooves and was second in this race last year off only 1lb lower. He's fairly versatile in terms of ground and should be there or thereabouts again. At a bigger price, Just Glamorous could be a touch of value. Ron Harris' horse loves to make the running and he's ideally drawn in stall 2 to do just that. The main concern would be the burst blood vessel that he suffered last week but as he's in taking his chance it would appear he's recovered and at 20/1, he could be of interest. Foolaad has actually beaten the selection this season, back in April, but he re-opposes here off slightly worse terms. He probably benefited from slightly softer ground in that contest, too, and it's El Astronaute to who is taken to come out on top this time.
Cleonte is priced up as the favourite in this race and despite a good run in his last race this is a step up in grade and there doesn't appear to be a correlation between the price and form. Though he's nicely bred, being by Sir Percy, the price is too skinny. Jukebox Jive has been given a 4lb rise and he'd need to improve on his front-running third down at Sandown in July to take this although he does have Adam Kirby on board, which is a positive. Byron Flyer ran poorly in the Northumberland Plate to finish a disappointing 17th but his form in this race is good and he came second to John Smith's scorer Euchan Glen last year. He's 3lb higher here for that victory but that still gives him a chance with Hayley Turner taking the ride. Lord George was another who ran poorly in the Northumberland Plate and his best form appears to be on the AW where he's rated 5lb higher. HASSLE travelled well for a long way in the Ascot Stakes at Royal Ascot and a return to a shorter trip should be suitable. He started to tire in the final furlong when tracking the leaders in that race and though he's usually seen over timber these days, his stamina and relatively smooth cruising speed should see him in the mix.
This is a very tight handicap with the ten runners being separated by only 5lb. Koeman is a course and distance winner who has track figures of 82. Though he has run over a variety of trips, it appears that the move to 1m4f seems to have brought the best out of him. Any rain would be a negative as his best form is on firm or good ground but with the forecast set to be dry that may not be a concern. MACHINE LEARNER makes most appeal on the basis of his versatility both with ground and trip and recent good course form. He's up 5lb for that success but there's every chance he can overcome that and there is plenty of stamina on both sides of the breeding to help him last the trip. Twin Star is relatively unexposed and drops another 2lb after a poor showing at Windsor and would have to improve dramatically to take this. Maori Bob has run some good races this term but was outclassed when last running in this grade and has a lot on his plate. Majeed was only raised 1lb for his latest success over 1m3f at Windsor and that seems fair. He's slowly coming down the weights and in fact, despite requiring a career best, he should be close enough come the end of the race.
Shady McCoy continues to try and find the form that saw him sparkle last year but his runs over 1m are not very appealing. Ian Williams' nine-year-old year old still seems to be in the grip of the handicapper and with the trip far from ideal, he wouldn't be on the shortlist. Poet's Society arrives here as another horse bidding to win off a career high mark and somewhat hindered by the draw but this son of Poet's Voice will be raced from the front and may use all of the Johnston training nous to get across from stall 11. Mythical Madness has some very good form over the distance and further, claiming two good victories at Haydock off lower marks but has also run well at Epsom and on the All-Weather. Once again, this would be a career best but he's been placed off 101 although that was on the Tapeta at Wolverhampton. ACROSS DUBAI is largely unexposed but copes with a 2lb rise for a good run at the track and with Fran Berry taking the ride he makes plenty of appeal at the prices. He's gone up 10lb in the weights over his short career but he's progressive and has a chance despite a poor draw.
Seven line up for the Rose Of Lancaster Stakes at Haydock and Elwazir is the early favourite. He's won both contests over this trip as a three-year-old and makes plenty of appeal stepping into group company. Jim Crowley takes over from Frankie Dettorri this time and if he replicates the form he has shown so far then he'll be hard to peg back. The Hugo Palmer-trained FAJJAJ recorded a facile victory up at Ayr on his penultimate start and ran well enough behind Emotionless and Desert Encounter last time out at Newbury. Desert Encounter has subsequently ran well enough in The King George, though he was well beaten and that makes a good enough reason to back Fajjaj here. He travelled well in behind Emotionless for large swathes of the race at the Berkshire track and that entitles him to run a good race here. Gabrial is a Listed winner and therefore the 12/1 about him could be too big. He's not won since 2016 and that is a long time between drinks but he is versatile on the ground with only the trip being of minor concern. Communique has won two good handicaps in his last two starts and there would be no shock to see a Johnston runner quickly turned out and complete the hat-trick. Like the favourite and the selection, he gets the three-year-old weight allowance and that could be very telling here.
Since Gossip Column has changed hands he's 4-6 for new connections. Ian Williams has lengthened the trip for this son of Arcano and that seems to have unlocked his ability. It's a bit difficult to judge the merits of his win at Chester last Sunday as he had the inside stall and made all for a comfortable win. Yet he has won in similar smaller field events and has flourished in bigger ones, too. He's gone up 15lb since he switched yards and there seems to be more to come from him. BAJAN GOLD is another who has found being upped in trip to his benefit and his last for runs have produced form figures of 1132 with only one blip coming when running over too short a trip at Newmarket. Sergio Leone may have too much on his plate despite being another horse who has benefited from running over further. Richard Hannon's charge has been in relatively decent form but is up in the weights and this may be a step too far. Similarly, Bayshore Freeway is in much stronger company than when winning in small fields.
Shaheen was a scorer at Windsor on Monday night and is turned out quickly by John Quinn with Fran Berry taking the ride. He's been raised 3lb for that run and that's fair but this is a deeper contest. He can run well again here but he's a bit short in this more competitive race. ROUNDHAY PARK's best form has been over the minimum trip but he ran a fine race over 6f when third in a good race at HQ last time out. That bodes well here and with Hayley Turner in good form, he makes plenty of appeal. George of Hearts is a strong runner who has done well in very good handicaps recently and seems to be a progressive sort. He's been well found in the market, though.