2.10pm York – 888Sport Stakes (Handicap) Class Two – 1m 3f 88yds
An interesting all age handicap to start the York meeting as far as Channel 4 are concerned and with just the one course and distance winner in the field, she looks as good a place to start as any. Empress Ali (20/1) is a daughter of Holy Roman Emperor in training with Tom Tate in Tadcaster she won’t have a long trip to the track unlike some of her rivals today, and had a recent run when third to Maleficent Queen at Pontefract. She hasn’t been put down a jot for that run (sadly) so still has to carry six pounds higher than her last victory, but she seems to act around here and could run a decent enough race with James Sullivan expected to do the steering.
As we have mentioned previously, a lot of the Davis O’Meara horses seem to have improved for their first runs this season and Hit The Jackpot (14/1 Each Way) is as good an example as any having finished fourteen lengths sixth on his return, and then scoring all be it narrowly next time out at Doncaster. He did have excuses first time up when the going was all against him at Pontefract but it may well be he needed the run as well, in which case we wonder if there is still a little more left to come for his third race of the season. Finishing fast and late he scored by a short head last time out which is why he has only been put up three pounds for his efforts, and if we are correct and he is finally fully fit for the first time this season, he looks to have an outstanding each way chance in a very competitive renewal.
We had a close look at Erik The Red (11/2) before his first run of the new season at Haydock where we felt he ran an absolute blinder to be beaten a neck by the race fit You’re Fired over what may prove to be an inadequate mile. Not only was he staying on strongly that day despite looking as if the run would bring him on considerably, but he may well have won but for trouble in running and connections must have been delighted with his return. Stepped back up to a mile and a quarter today, the same distance he won over at the close of his 2015 season at Chester, and we doubt the extra two pounds he has to shoulder here will be enough to stop him.
Top weight Pacify (6/1) isn’t completely out of things despite having to carry nine stone seven, and with the Ralph Beckett yard in decent enough form. Although the four-year-old has won two races he has also placed in the first four in eight of his nine starts but has that consistency been his downfall? After ending his 2015 season with a second to Classic Collection at Doncaster (which saw him put up three pounds), he returned at Epsom when second again, this time three-quarters of a length behind Dark Red, a run that has seen him put up another four pounds, which means two races have seen him rise seven pounds for the lousy reward of the place prize money. He does seem likely to improve for his first run in six months but whether he can shrug off the extra weight seems unlikely.
Lastly, Richard Hannon has been pulling some rabbits put of the hat lately with plenty of winners and Nayel (14/1) is a dark one here who could surprise. Lightly raced for a four-year-old, he has either won or finished fourth in all of his five starts, with victories at Bath and Nottingham, though he was beaten close to three lengths on his only attempt so far at this trip. On breeding you would have to question his stamina (by Acclamation out of an Intikhab mare), but if the Hannon team think he will get it then he just might, and if you are looking for an each way option he has to go on to the short list.
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