Horse Betting: Timeform weekend race-card
Black Caviar has a simple task ahead of her in the Robert Sangster Stakes.
In a big weekend of racing in the UK, Timeform take a look at the National Hunt finale at Sandown, head to Ripon and Punchestown and can't help but have their say about a certain top-tier horse racing at Morphettville...
The highlight of Sandown's Saturday card is the 20-runner Gold Cup Handicap Chase, staged over three miles and five furlongs. Among the contenders are Deep Purple and West End Rocker, which both lined up in the Grand National, with Major Malarkey, Dover's Hill and Le Beau Baialso likely to take their chance.
Preceding that race is the Grade 2 Celebration Chase over the minimum distance of two miles. Wishfull Thinking, second only to champion chaser Finian's Rainbow at Aintree last time, looks sure to play his part, whilst Ascot Grade 1 winner Somersby is also likely to be in contention. Woolcombe Folly and French Opera are also in the field, but arguably of more interest is the Paul Nicholls-trained Sanctuaire, which has won both of his starts over fences in great style, as yet displaying none of the quirks that blighted his hurdling career. His latest assignment will clearly require improvement, and will be a greater test of his mettle than he has previously faced over the larger obstacles, but it will be exciting to see how he fares.
Moving on to the Flat action on Sandown's card, which kicks-off with the Group 3 Gordon Richards Stakes. The high-class Twice Over made a satisfactory reappearance at Newmarket and holds obvious claims, whilst the Clive Cox-trained Poet seems at his best in the likely conditions and is another to consider. Al Kazeem, consistent and generally progressive last year, and Godolphin's Hunter's Light also merit a second look, whilst Twice Over's stablemate World Domination looks to get his career back on track after a most disappointing effort at Ascot in June when last seen.
Sandown's Classic Trial looks a race full of potential, despite there being just four runners, as two of the quartet have the Timeform large 'P' attached to their rating and one has the smaller 'p'. Rougemont is the only symbol-less runner but comes into the race on the back of massive career-best when winning a valuable sales race at Newmarket. Stipulate looked ready for a step up in grade when impressively landing the Feilden Stakes at HQ last time, whilst Imperial Monarch has had just the one start but looked a Group performer in the making when winning at the Curragh last year. Thought Worthy, a brother to St Leger winner Lucarno, looks the type to at least make up into a smart performer after winning at Newcastle last year, and is highly likely to have progressed over the winter.
Ripon plays host to a pair of noteworthy races on Saturday, the first a two-mile handicap at 15:30. Shubaat, hailing from the in-form Roger Varian yard, may well be capable of defying a rise in the weights gained when readily winning at Musselburgh on his latest start. Gulf of Naples and Hawk Mountain are likely to be his closest pursuers.
The minor event at 16:40 has something of an international flavour, with Ibiceno making his debut for Luca Cumani having previously been trained in Germany. Coincuidentally, Dawn Twister (to Lucy Wadham) and Steuben (to Barney Curley)are others entries to have left the same trainer since their last starts. If further intrigue were needed, Midsummer Sun, a winner at Lingfield on his latest start, and Troopingthecolour also line-up.
Punchestown, having been blighted by bad weather throughout their Festival, stages an excellent card on Saturday with the highlight been the Punchestown Gold Cup, with the likes of Quel Esprit, Quantitativeeasing, Rubi Light and Follow the Plan in participation.
A final mention on Saturday goes to Black Caviar, which seemingly has a simple task ahead of her in the Robert Sangster Stakes at Morphettville in her quest to extend her unbeaten sequence to twenty, eclipsing the top-class Zenyatta in the process, before heading over to Britain for the Royal Ascot meeting.