An EBF Maiden Stakes over 7f on Standard going.
Ten two-year-olds take part: eight have race experience with a couple of debutantes from respected trainers.
An intriguing contest.
Andrew Balding fields Ocala who made a pleasing debut when runner-up to Alwasmiya at Nottingham. The victor went on to win well at listed class. Racing in the familiar silks of George Strawbridge, this chestnut filly is a daughter Nathaniel. This homebred was entered to run twice before Nottingham but a non-runner due to soft/heavy going. There was a lot to like about her first start. Running on well in the final furlong indicating this extra furlong will be made to measure. With almost one month on the sidelines, connections have most likely been waiting for a winning opportunity and this looks a fine chance.
Interesting to see Joseph O'Brien sends Medal Of Honour to race here. This Irish-raider has been busy racing nine times, second on three occasions with over £15,000 in prize money. He has contested Group class and has an official rating of 92.
John Gosden has a wealth of talented two-year-olds. George Villiers is a son of Dubawi and expensive yearling purchase at 750,000G. This bay colt was fancied to go well on debut at Sandown over 7f. He ran on well enough in the closing stages in a pretty hot maiden. He was made 6/4f to win at Leicester next start but had to settle for fourth place when beaten by less than fourth lengths. On balance, it was a disappointing effort. This horse has received a couple of significant entries this year which indicate more has been expected. Could hold fair each-way claims if showing best.
Labrega hails from Hugo Palmer's stable, ridden by Josephine Gordon. This partnership has reaped plenty of rewards this season. This daughter of Cacique cost 180,000G at the yearling sales, increasing markedly on the price sold as a foal. Well owned by Al Shaqab Racing, a horse to respect. A wide draw isn't ideal but a horse to note if seriously backed.
The betting suggests these four horses are major contenders. However, a few of the outsiders are worth a mention.
Henry Spiller's Launceston Place is held in some regard by connections and far from disgraced on two starts to date.
Pass Mark made his debut at Yarmouth, a meeting I attended. This bay gelding was quite inexperienced in the paddock and making some noise but an attractive horse. This son of Raven's Pass looks a good yearling purchase at just 10,000G. Ilka Gansera-Leveque is a talented trainer who doesn't get the support she deserves. This January foal was sent off 100/1 on debut, which isn't too surprising as most horses are priced by trainer stats than individual ability. That is until the horse shows its worth. Pass Mark was slow away and then quite keen. He was racing with the lead until the final furlong, then dropped back to finish ninth of fifteen. He needs to show more, but a horse if drifting to 100s to one on the exchanges may be worth a speculative punt.
Conclusion: Quite a competitive heat. Certainly, Ocala, Medal Of Honour and George Villiers set a level of ability. The former, trained by Andrew Balding, has a profile of a horse who will take some beating. However, betting even money may not give much value. Not sure what to think of the Irish raider although one to fear. George Villiers has been fancied on both starts and I would consider much better than seen last time out. Could hold each-way claims but needs to show more. If considering an each-way bet, I may suggest Ocala and George Villiers as straight wins. Although I may be splitting hairs. Just that sometimes it is better to have two horses than one for a win and place. Pass Mark deserves a mention. It is a bit of a hit and hope, but this gelding could belie his odds and if touching 300/1 or so on the exchanges is worth a small win and place bet just in case he springs a surprise.