A decent handicap to start the meeting that has seen the likes of Mount Logan win though be warned, he was the only favourite (and a joint favourite at that) in the last ten renewals. Four and five year olds dominate as you would expect though other than that there are precious few statistical clues to work on with winners up to 20/1 in the last nineteen renewals but never anything bigger than that. Trainer Mark Johnston likes to target his horses at this meeting whenever possible, perhaps because of the amazing prize money, and he has not one but four in here, headed in my book by recent Newbury winner Stars Over The Sea (12/1 Each Way) who scored by a very easy three lengths and has only been put up six pounds by the handicapper. A son of (you guessed it) Sea The Stars, he stays further so the fast run race expected will be ideal, and at the prices he looks the best bet in an intriguing contest.
After winning it last year Newmarket trainer Luca Cumani will look to double up in 2016 with Shakopee (7/1) who has more room to improve than most after just the six career starts for two victories. Last time out at Doncaster he stayed on strongly to win with a bit in hand off a rating of 85 and has been put up seven pounds for his sins, but he looked to have something left up his sleeve that day and is still improving and cannot be discounted just yet as a late maturing son of High Chaparral.
If there is a Group class horse masquerading as a handicapper then there is every chance that the Charlie Appleby trained Second Wave (8/1) who looks the Godolphin first choice despite the presence of Saeed Bin Suroor’s Best Of Times, and could run a huge race with so much room for improvement after just the one run this season. Six months off suggested he would need the race as did his 20/1 starting price, but he still ran a stormer to be beaten a quarter of a length by Sir Isaac Newton who went on to win a Group Three and then finish fourth in the Group One King George on Saturday. If he improves at all for that effort then a weight increase of four pounds is more than fair and he looks sure to run a huge race here with the hood remaining on for the second race today to help him focus.
Sir Michael Stoute is back at the top table once again and there has been some steady market support for Mutamakkin (9/1) who needs to bounce back from a below par effort at Sandown on softer ground. He was one of the first beaten that day when sent off the 7/2 favourite but is better than that and stepped up in trip he could well get involved on the much quicker going as a son of sire of the moment War Front.
Lastly, and with the William Haggas yard in top form as well it may be worth a second look at multiple winner Our Channel (22/1) who has already scored three times in 2016 though all have been on the all-weather at Chelmsford and Kempton (twice). Sadly, his recent turf efforts haven’t matched that form at all with a seventeen length defeat at York last time out but he has been dropped a pretty generous five pounds for that debacle and may not be as far out of it as some may think today.