Always a fiercely competitive handicap restricted to three year old fillies, with black type on offer, it’s a race that will have been a long term target for many of the big yards. Read on for our race preview and tips for the 2017 Sandringham Handicap at Royal Ascot.
IN SUMMARY: Cheveley Park Stud hold a strong hand in the race with both Gymnaste and On Her Toes having very solid claims, but this looks destined to be won by Ralph Beckett’s SIBILANCE. She won her first two starts for connections and was far from disgraced on her latest start when third at York in Listed company, behind On Her Toes but she has a five pound turnaround with that rival. She remains with potential and she looks tough to beat off a mark of 93 on handicap debut.
1 RAIN GODDESS – Has run respectably in pattern company since a good win on debut at Leopardstown, with her latest fifth in the French 1000 Guineas another creditable effort from the daughter of Galileo. On that evidence though she will need a step up in trip as she really came into her own late on and the fact she is carrying top weight is another factor that will make this tough for her. Likely to be on the premises and could run on into the places, but looks vulnerable for win purposes.
2 BEAN FEASA – Slammed a Listed field at Leopardstown on her penultimate start before being hampered in the Irish 1000 Guineas, finishing fifth in the end and that run is best ignored. She makes her handicap debut in this off a mark of 102 which seems fair on the best of her form and the yard are in good heart at present. Kevin Manning takes the ride and with conditions to suit, she looks a solid place contender.
3 CON TE PARTIRO – Wesley Ward representative is a winner of one of her three career starts, at Saratoga last August. That was over five and a half furlongs but the further she went, the stronger she looked, putting almost six lengths into the field at the line. She was only fourth on her first attempt over a mile but having travelled well, she was short of room a furlong out and couldn’t show her true running, She has not been seen since that October contest but fitness won’t be a concern as this will have been her aim for a long time and this daughter of Scat Daddy will love the quick ground underfoot.
4 GRECIAN LIGHT – Finished runner up in three Group races last season for Charlie Appleby, returning this season with a respectable third in a Listed race at Saint-Cloud in March. That wasn’t the strongest of contests but she should appreciate this return to better ground and the booking of William Buick is an obvious positive for her. More is needed off this mark but if deriving improvement from that reappearance she’d have to be considered an each way contender.
5 REALLY SPECIAL – Won a Listed contest at Newmarket on her second start before making herself a dual Listed winner when winning out in Meydan, taking the UAE 1000 Guineas Trial over the seven furlong trip and she was last seen in February when third in a Listed contest to Top Score. She is clearly best over this distance and a mark of 101 isn’t harsh on the best of her form, as she still remains with potential for in form connections. Likely main player under Oisin Murphy and not one to underestimate.
6 ON HER TOES – Has won three of her six races for William Haggas, she won a Listed race at Sandown in July 2016 and posted her career best on her return at York in May, finishing second in Listed company over the extended seven. She had nothing left towards the finish, so she could be vulnerable to a closer. though this better ground will suit her much better. Has to be respected in her bid for a fourth career victory.
7 PACO’S ANGEL – Progressive as a two year old for Richard Hughes, with her season culminating in a good fourth in Group 3 company at Newmarket in October and she likely needed her reappearance when well beaten at Lingfield in April. This is a tough enough mark though and there are definitley better handicapped horses in the race so despite having conditions to suit, she is likely going to have to settle for minor honours in this.
8 MISS INFINITY – Useful two year old for Mark Johnston but she hasn’t done anything in three runs this season to suggest that she’s coming close to returning to winning ways for connections. Going back down in trip should suit but she folded so tamely on her latest start that she’s impossible to fancy in this race, despite conditions being to suit and Adam Kirby taking the ride.
9 DRUMFAD BAY – Irish raider for Jessie Harrington who has finished second in Listed company the last twice, coming home strongly on both occasions and only going down by narrow margins each time. She should appreciate this first step up to a mile and a mark of 98 isn’t excessive on what she has shown thus far. Each way player under Colm O’Donoghue with the yard almost grabbing a winner yesterday in the Coventry.
10 TISBUTADREAM – Has won all four of her handicap starts thus far, winning a course and distance handicap in May with a gutsy display and she was far from disgraced on her latest start when third in a Group 3 behind a run away winner. She is now eleven pounds higher though than her latest handicap start in a race where she faces some unexposed and classy rivals, so it looks more than likely that her handicap run will end.
11 ASKING – Produced her best effort when second to Bean Feasa in the 1000 Guineas Trial at Leopardstown in May, beaten around three lengths and she has flopped on two runs that proceeded, well beaten on both occasions which gives her something to prove. A turnaround with Bean Feasa seems very unlikely and although handicapping off a mark of 96 is likely be her level in time, she would be a surprise winner all things considered.
12 CLASSICAL TIMES – Was behind a few of these when only fourth in a Listed contest at York on her latest start and a mark of 96 looks incredibly harsh on what she has achieved thus far. She has conditions to suit and James Doyle is on fire at present, but she likely needs her mark to come down before she’s winning.
13 KILMAH – Group 3 winner at Goodwood back in August but she failed to impress on her latest start at Epsom in June, way behind Tisbutadream in the Group 3 contest. That gives her a lot of prove at present and a mark of 96 isn’t kind to her judging by the poor form she’s been in the last twice. Hard to see her playing a leading role and others have far more convincing claims.
14 PRESENT TENSE – Unexposed filly for John Gosden who has been steadily improving for connections, as her pedigree suggested she would, winning her maiden at the second attempt before a third at Leicester in conditions company earlier this month. She makes her handicap debut off a mark of 95 which does demand progress, but she is from a fine family and that is entirely possible for powerful connections. Interesting place contender for Khalid Abdullah but likely vulnerable for win purposes.
15 BAILEYS SHOWGIRL – Won a French Listed race but she has gone the wrong way in both her runs this season for Mark Johnston, well beaten on her latest start at Sandown when showing very little in the way of encouragement. Hard to see her playing a role with how poorly she is running at present and she’s likely best watched again.
16 SIBILANCE – Won her first two starts for Ralph Beckett in good style and she was far from disgraced on her turf debut when third at York in a Listed race, running well and only around two lengths behind On Her Toes. She meets that rival on much better terms and is lightly raced compared to her, with better expected now she is in handicaps off a mark of 93. Likely to be tough to beat under Pat Dobbs and has to be respected.
17 GYMNASTE – Won a Chester maiden on her second start for John Gosden and she improved on that run to finish a good second in a handicap at Kempton when last seen, running on well after getting a poor run through. She likely would have won with a clear run and remains with potential for a yard in red hot form, with Josephine Gordon taking the ride which is a big positive. Likely contender for Cheveley Park Stud and has to be respected.
18 MARIE OF LYON – Early promise at the age of two, though she ended her season with a flat run in the two year old stakes at Hamilton, fading tamely towards the finish into twelfth place. Marked step up in trip after a 286 day absence in a very tough race, with this step up to mile trip not certain to suit her. Others look to have far less to prove and she’s probably best watched.
19 PROSPER – Won a competitive conditions race at Ascot in May and softer ground counted against her on her latest start when last in a Listed race at Newbury. Going back down in trip should suit and this better ground is firmly in her favour, though she will need to improve off a mark of 88 on handicap debut if she’s to be featuring in such a highly competitive field. She’s in good hands though and the Varian team continue to go great guns, so a place would be no surprise.
20 DANCING BREEZE – Won nicely on debut for John Gosden despite racing keenly but she has not been as lucky on her last two runs, as she has pulled her chances away on both occasions. She made her handicap debut on her latest start where she could only manage fifth, with her effort petering out quite tamely after she was switched for a clear run. She is on the same mark and on that basis others make more appeal on that occasion.
21 QUEEN OF TIME – Won in taking style on her latest start at Goodwood in handicap company and although she’s much higher in the weights this time around, she clearly had something left in the tank and she is likely to have her say if improving again for the in form Henry Candy. Has to be considered under Harry Bentley with conditions to suit and isn’t one to take lightly.
22 CHEVAL BLANCHE – Won convincingly at Salisbury on her latest start in a fillies handicap which was a career best effort, but the form of that race has not worked out and a nine pound rise looks more than likely to catch this daughter of Stay Thirsty out. The ground is certainly in her favour, but others bring far better form into the race and she’s likely best left alone today.
23 LADY FREYJA – Early drifter on Tuesday, winning her latest start at Newmarket when producing a career best effort to scorch away from her rivals in a maiden contest. This however is much tougher and she isn’t perhaps well treated with an opening mark of 85 on handicap debut. Conditions will suit and Luke Morris takes the ride, but she is likely to struggle in this.
24 SALAMAH – Beaten a nose at Chelmsford on her latest start in handicap company, but this is far tougher and she competes from ten pounds out of the handicap, which makes this an almost impossible task for her. The yard are in great form and Shane Foley is a positive jockey booking, but this looks to be a bridge too far today.