Another race with just the nine renewals to look at and just the one winning favourite as well so punters beware. Trainer Andrew Balding is the only handler to take this more than once with Dungannon (33/1) in both 2013 and 2014, and after finishing fourteen of eighteen last season he is back to try and regain his crown. Now a nine-year-old he runs this afternoon off a rating of 85 having won here off 95 and 96 but hasn’t won since January on Southwell’s equitrack surface, but the fact is he cannot be getting any better at his age (and the ratings say he isn’t), and will all his best form on ground a lot softer than the weekend’s predicted surface he may well come unstuck this afternoon despite his superb record in this race.
Trained Michael Appleby is as good as it gets in our view and works wonders with the horses in his care who invariably run up to their full abilities more often than not. He has Shipyard (14/1 Each Way) in here and the seven-year-old son of Pivotal has already won five races and been placed in fourteen others. His last victory was back in 2015 off a rating a pound higher than he suffers from this afternoon and he wasn’t beaten that far last time out at York when a length and three quarters fifth to Robot Boy over this trip and if he runs as well again he has an excellent each way chance at a decent price.
Looking for an in-form option next and Irish raider Tithonus (12/1) fits the bill and deserves his place in our early race preview. Trained by Denis Gerard Hogan in Cloughjordan, Tipperary he has won four of his last six races, and finished third in the other two with victories at Galway, Cork, Dundalk and The Curragh, though his last win was off a mark of 80 and he does have an added seven pounds this afternoon. Jockey Gary Halpin is great value for his three pounds claim which does help but his rating still looks a little high and he will still need to improve a little further.
Sussex trainer Gary Moore has never made much of a secret of his love for Dutch Masterpiece (11/1) but the six-year-old Dutch Art gelding hasn’t really repaid his faith on the track too much with just the one win in his last ten starts. That was in Listed class and he has topped out with a rating of 110 back in 2015, and he showed something like a return to form last time out when second to Shamshon at Ascot at the beginning of the month. Only beaten a short head he has been out up three pounds for his sins but is more than capable of winning this at his best and one to keep an eye on.
To end with we have always like and watched the exploits of Kevin Ryan’s Bogart (16/1) who was top class and then some back in 2012 and can include a race against the legendary Black Caviar on his CV all be it a losing one. He hasn’t won a race since August 2013 but is another who showed a glimmer of a return to form when he finished a length and a half fourth to Robot Boy at York a fortnight ago and dropped another pound this could be his best chance of success for some time.