1pt win Defining Battle in 3.10 Haydock at 9/1 (Unibet)
1pt win River Nymph in 3.40 Ascot at 20/1 (William Hill, Betfair)
1pt win Labeeb in 4.15 Ascot at 8/1 (William Hill)
All eyes will be on current Cazoo Derby favourite High Definition if, as expected, he makes his seasonal reappearance at Lingfield in the course’s Derby Trial, a race Aidan O’Brien often aims his best Epsom colt at.
The yard’s 2000 Guineas runners didn’t exactly cover themselves in glory but he did have first and fourth in the 1000 and the yard seems to be going well enough as a whole and he’d be hard to oppose on all known form.
The big Flat handicap of the weekend is the Tote Victoria Cup Handicap over the straight seven furlongs at Ascot and three of the first four home in a handicap run over the trip at Haydock a fortnight ago reappear and hold prominent positions in the betting.
It’s difficult to know what to expect from each although Ralph Beckett does have his horses very forward and, with Silvestre De Sousa already jocked up, Fox Champion appeals as the well handicapped type likely to step forward (he’s a stone below his highest mark), although he’s never been the most consistent and at 10/1 can be passed over.
Dreamloper, who looked to find trouble at a vital stage, and the runner-up Dulas both hold credible chances but are priced up accordingly. The former won a strong fillies’ handicap here in September but holds an entry in a similar event on Saturday while the latter appeared to have improved for a gelding operation and step up in trip and can be expected to win races from his mark.
That Haydock race was won by his stablemate Persuasion and the fact the yard rely on Dulas here is a tip in itself.
Motakhayyel won the Buckingham Palace over course and distance first time up last season before following up in the Bunbury Cup. He was then found wanting at Group 3 and Listed level at Salisbury and Sandown respectively. He’s also had a gelding operation and must be a danger if running here, although he is entered in a race at Haydock and running plans are unclear.
The horse I’m prepared to give another chance to though is Clive Cox’s four-year-old RIVER NYMPH. Having won here off a mark of 84 in July, his subsequent Newbury win reads really well with big race winners in behind and he may have found the race coining too soon afterwards when well beaten over a mile here in October.
He was fancied in the Lincoln but had little chance from his draw and may not have stayed the mile, but this return to a course he likes over his best trip could well spark a revival. He’s worth an early play at 20/1.
LABEEBB progressed with racing in his first season for Simon and Ed Crisford and his third in a strong handicap over course and distance in September, after which he was gelded, has been well advertised since.
Sent off at 5/6 at Wolverhampton two weeks ago, he may have needed the run more than expected in a muddling race and, with normal progression, looks a good bet at 8/1 in the Les Ambassadeurs Casino Handicap over a mile-and-a-half.
Haydock also stage some high quality racing with the feature, the Pertemps Network Swinton Handicap Hurdle, a Grade 3 over two miles, the first big race of the jumps season.
There are any number of potentially well-treated contenders, including three from Ireland who all have form which entitles them to strong chances here, but I’m expecting Dan Skelton to launch a bold challenge for the trainers’ title this season and he can put some vital points on the board with the almost totally unexposed maiden, DEFINING BATTLE.
His run at Ayr last time when third to a solid yardstick in Torigni and Dubai Days can be marked up as he looked to travel too strongly in an eight-runner contest, but he could settle better here in a bigger field and a truly-run race and Skelton has any number of two milers he could have aimed at this.
The selection won a couple of races in Ireland for Michael Halford before being sold to current connections and it all adds up to a horse who could rank at least a stone above his current rating in time and, at 9/1, I see him being difficult to beat here.
Published at 1930 GMT on 03/05/2021
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