Our racing team pull together their strongest fancies ahead of a busy Saturday's racing including selection at Newbury, Ayr and Thirsk.
Defoe (1.40 Newbury) – Richard Mann
Defoe looks to have conditions absolutely ideal when he makes his return to action in the Dubai Duty Free Finest Surprise Stakes (Registered As The John Porter Stakes) at Newbury on Saturday and he rates a strong fancy to make a successful comeback for Roger Varian.
The son of Dalakhani has looked a very smart performer ever since making a winning debut at Ffos Las back in 2016 and he was sent off a 6/1 chance for the St Leger at Doncaster a year later on the back of an unbeaten three-year-old campaign that saw him land the Geoffrey Freer Stakes back at Newbury in fine style.
The return to Newbury should prove ideal, its long galloping nature and long straight suiting his racing style perfectly, and as we have seen countless times before, Defoe is a much better animal with cut in the ground.
Two runs in Germany last year saw him finish second in a couple of Group One events and Varian will no doubt be thrilled that he hasn’t had to go abroad so early in the season for Defoe to get his optimum conditions.
Kilfilum Cross (1.55 Ayr) - Matt Brocklebank
Henry Oliver’s charge was plotted up magnificently for Cheltenham and while he just came undone in the closing stages of the Kim Muir, it was a fine effort and one for which he doesn’t appear to have been overly punished.
The assessor has raised him 3lb to a mark of 142 and that’s now 10lb higher than when previously successful at Ludlow, but he’s only eight and still lightly raced as a chaser after four career starts in this sphere.
The way he hit the front before being headed after the last by strong stayer Any Second Now suggests dropping back to the bare 3m will be in his favour at Ayr, while he’s versatile in terms of ground conditions and clearly gets on well with Dave Crosse – who is back in the saddle here – from his time over hurdles.
Great Scot (2.40 Newbury) - Matt Brocklebank
We all get a bit excited about the potential superstar colts at this stage of the season but you can’t beat Group One form when it comes to the Classic trials and Great Scot is in danger of being seriously underestimated ahead of the Watership Down Stud Greenham Stakes at Newbury.
He and Boitron are the only runners in the field with top-class experience and it’s Tom Dascombe’s horse who sets the benchmark based on his fine fifth to Magna Grecia in the Vertem Futurity Stakes at Doncaster at the end of October.
Beaten only a length and a quarter on Town Moor, he was far too keen for his own good early on can probably be marked up a shade given how the race panned out.
Prior to that, he’d won three of his four starts, including a one-length defeat of subsequent Breeders’ Cup winner Line Of Duty at Haydock, while his only other defeat came when beaten a head by recent Derby springer Al Hilalee in third at Deauville.
The strength of his form from day one is right up there and given how hard he pulled at Doncaster, dropping back to seven furlongs shouldn’t prove a problem at all – he is 2-2 over the trip as things stand.
Easy ground also suits the son of Requinto and with Dascombe’s runners in good shape at the start of the season, everything looks in place for a huge run from Great Scot.
Mutawaffer (4.15 Thirsk) - David Ord
Charlie Hills’ charge didn’t quite live up to early expectations last season, having looked a very smart prospect when winning at Goodwood in May. Down the field when only an 8/1 chance in the Windsor Castle at Royal Ascot, he only raced once more when beaten at 8/15 at Sandown.
However, he looked ill-at-ease on the soft ground there and has been gelded over the winter. That could be the making of him and he begins life at three in a handicap from a mark of 87 which could prove very lenient.
It’s a warm race with the likes of Leodis Dream an obvious threat and Coolagh Magic a potential improver in a visor, but Mutawaffer returns for a stable going well and from an attractive mark. He rates a bet, especially if the ground continues to dry out.
Senza Limiti (5.25 Thirsk) – Richard Mann
Lehoogg used the benefit of his previous racecourse experience when winning impressively at Kempton last month, racing powerfully throughout before picking up again inside the final furlong when pressed hard by a choicely-bred newcomer.
He looks to have a bright future when the potential for further improvement but he will need to be smart in order to get the better of Senza Limiti.
The son of Lope De Vega made a deep impression when quickening up in fine style to make a successful debut at Salisbury back in October, leaving a solid yardstick trailing in his wake, and he is reported to have worked really well in recent weeks ahead of his comeback.
He already holds a couple of lofty entries and can use this as a stepping stone for bigger and better things.
Military Law (5.35 Newbury) - David Ord
John Gosden’s four-year-old has to concede weight all round in the Dubai Duty Free Millennium Millionaire Handicap but appeals as the sort to rate significantly higher than his current mark of 90 in the near future.
He won on his first start in a handicap at Wolverhampton last time, from 87, and impressed with the way he went through the race that day.
He’s been a slow learner and still showed signs of greenness there but is in the right hands and he could prove a cut above these as the penny begins to drop.