A Maiden Stakes over 1m 3f on Standard going.
Eight runners, all three-year-olds bar the solitary horse who is four. Three debutantes take on a handful of lightly-raced horses.
We have a few big trainers represented and well-bred colts.
This race has a competitive feel.
Balashakh is trained by David Simcock and been strongly fancied in the betting on both his two starts to date. By all accounts, this three-year-old has been disappointing. He has raced over one mile on both starts but Simcock is looking to this stiffer test of stamina to bring improvement. Balashakh hasn't been seen since September and needs to be primed in a race which could reveal a future star. This horse is fancied in the betting. I expect a big run.
Alabaster is quite interesting. Sir Mark Prescott's grey colt was beaten favourite when racing one week ago over 1m at Chelmsford. This son of Archipenko cost 100,000G when purchased at the yearling sales. He was pretty fancied on debut when far from disgraced but needing the run which was magnified by an insufficient trip. That latter point was probably a matter of contention when kept at one mile. He was seriously backed at Chelmsford. However, he was awkward leaving the stalls and outpaced thereafter. Although clawing back the ground in the final furlong it was all too late. I can imagine owner Charles C Walker was expecting a win. Inexperience and lack of yardage, on a turning course, didn't suit at all. This step up in distance by three furlongs is a positive and making such a quick return suggests to me that the stable were far from satisfied. Back to make amends.
Three debutantes feature prominently in the betting.
Martyn Meade is a class trainer. His association with Sefton Lodge and Ladyswood Stud have seen a resurgence from this confident team. Eggesford is a son of Foxwedge out of an unraced mare. This homebred is worth noting in the betting. If seriously backed it would bring more confidence. At the time of writing this post, he is priced 14-1.
John Gosden fields Sun Or Shade who has blinkers applied for his debut. This son of Galileo is a homebred although he was sent through the sales ring when bought in by the vendor for 240,000G. Galileo is an impressive sire. If priced 5/2 & less SP, deserves respect. In fact, Gosden's debutantes hold fair win and place claims if priced 13/2 & less SP. It is a slight concern to see the blinkers on debut.
Another interesting debutante is Here And Now. Owner J H Richmond -Watson has had a number of exceptional horses in racing. In fact, the mare of this bay colt is none other than Oaks winner Look Here [pictured], similarly trained by Ralph Beckett. From a breeding perspective, this could be a quality horse. Interesting.
Secret Sands has a story to tell. This bay filly - a daughter of Cacique - cost 180,000G when purchased at the yearling sales. She is out of a decent mare who won on debut and attained four other victories in an eleven race career. She won at Listed class and held a highest official rating of 104. The realisation that Secret Sands lacked ability must have registered quickly as she was purchased at two by Ermyn Lodge Stud [Pat Phelan] for £11,000. She finished second from last over 7f. No doubt connections have increased the trip quite substantially in hope of improvement. May still be a good buy if winning a small race as a broodmare. Such a lowly price tag suggests a win will be very hard to find.
Mystic Meg will be polishing her crystal ball in contemplation of whether her bay colt Astrostorm can show more on this second start. To be fair, this son of Medicean was a 66-1 chance on debut, so not too much of a surprise he finished second from last. Mark Tompkins isn't a trainer to prime too many of his debutantes but they can improve markedly for their second start. In fact, this stable can spring a surprise by winning at huge odds. The race reader noted this February foal ''finished with a flourish'' last 100 yards. Stepping up a couple of furlongs is a positive. I wouldn't bet on this horse.
Mamnoon has achieved little on three starts and crushed by a hefty age penalty.
Conclusion: A very interesting race. Alabaster will improve for this step up in distance but needs to. I quite liked this horse but I would much prefer to see it contesting at auction class. It could go well but this looks a hot race. The price at the time of writing is 5/2, doesn't look value at all. Balashakh has been a disappointment but another who is being stepped up in the distance which could work the oracle. I am sure he didn't show his ability last year. Better should be expected. Sun And Shade is well bred by Galileo and if starting favourite it would be a sign of encouragement. Even at bigger odds has fair each-way claims. It is a slight concern to see the blinkers applied. I would be tempted to watch this horse go down to the start just to get an idea of his attitude.Here And Now has exceptional breeding and this homebred would have cost a fortune if going through the sales. I imagine connections are a bit disappointed he wasn't a filly! Beckett can ready a debutante and I would respect this colt to go well.
A difficult race to call.
The form horses need to put disappointments behind them. Neither look to offer much value although I wouldn't knock their chances. I would definitely need an each-way price/bet here. I still wouldn't be tempted unless the debutantes were very weak in the betting to indicate they may need the run. I can see the debutantes being primed or at least live hopes.
I'd take a watching brief but relish this contest.