A mile and three furlong handicap for three year olds. This should prove to be a good stamina test under the prevailing conditions with plenty of these promising to improve for the step up in trip.
IN SUMMARY: A wide open looking contest that seems sure to throw up plenty of winners as the season progresses. Splash Around is interesting for Sir Michael Stoute, given that he could have found a Class 5, 0-75 from his current rating for his charge. Both of John Gosden’s representatives, Asam and Wasatch Range hold serious claims but the vote goes to MOUNT MORIAH. Connections didn’t expect him to achieve what he did last season so the likelihood is, that he has lots more to offer in 2017.
1 ASAM – A little disappointing on his 2017 return at Newmarket given the impression he provided when sluicing up on his final juvenile start at Kempton. The cheek pieces he wore when winning were missing at Newmarket, they get refitted now which looks a positive move. His dam line suggests the soft ground won’t be a problem, his Grand-dam is a full sister to Percussionist, a half sister to Nathanial and Great Heavens who all handled plenty of cut and this looks a little easier than the Newmarket contest.
2 WASATCH RANGE – John Gosden looks set to field both the top pair in the weights, with Frankie Dettori booked for this son of High Chaparral, perhaps Wasatch Range is the first string. He is very closely related to Beach Bunny, a soft ground Listed winner who ran the uber smart Dar Re Mi to a short head in the Group 1 Pretty Polly Stakes. She is a half sister to this colt’s dam, also by High Chaparral. He did well to win from so far back at Windsor last time at a track that tends to favour those on the speed. A mark of 85 doesn’t look punitive on the back of that given he has still looked a bit of a baby, so there is likely plenty more in the tank.
3 WHIP NAE NAE – Relatively exposed compared to the majority of this field after eight starts, he defied his pedigree to pick up a 9.5f handicap at Wolverhampton. Despite the pedigree doubts, he looked as if the step up to this trip would suit when placed at Doncaster on his seasonal debut but this will demand a fair step forward again if he is not to be vulnerable to more progressive types.
4 MANCHEGO – Made an eyecatching debut last backend, a race where the 4th, 6th and 7th as well as Manchego himself have all won since from. He confirmed that impression when making a winning return, hanging on close home from a poor draw at Wolverhampton over a mile in April. After just the two runs, there should be more to come but the big step up in trip on soft ground is a sizeable question mark for this front runner, both on pedigree and his runs so far.
5 ABOVE NORMAL – A half brother to three mile + hurdle winner, Ennistown, it was no surprise to see him making his debut over 12f, a win at Pontefract. Very disappointing the only other time we have seen him, when last of four at Leicester, it could be that the ground was a little on the quick side for him on that occasion. First time headgear is fitted to suggest that he isn’t entirely straightforward and it will be interesting to see how he moves in the market.
6 MOUNT MORIAH – At first glance, an eight pound rise for a short head win last backend looks harsh but the front pair pulled miles clear on that occasion and he was value for more than the official margin, hanging when he saw the paddock gate. That was on soft ground so conditions will hold no fears for him, with jockey Fran Berry saying after that Pontefract victory, “Mentally, he’s still a baby and for a horse of his size to even have made the track at this stage is a good sign. He’ll make a nice 1m4f horse next year on the softer spring ground.” Looks the type to continue to progress this season and he looks a value each way pick.
7 KOEMAN – Just over three lengths behind Swiss Storm in a course maiden is a notable effort as a juvenile, but this season he has looked rather one paced. He was first off the bridle when third at Salisbury last time but stuck to his task well up the hill. That was on firm ground however and his only run on soft was poor so although the trip should suit, the ground could be a concern.
8 OUTCROP – Only showed minor promise as a two year old but a move into handicap company was just the ticket on his 2017 return at Nottingham. That was on good to firm ground and although his sire was a heavy ground winner, his damline suggests a better surface would be preferable. He made all the running that day but is likely to get competition for the lead here.
9 ATKINSON GRIMSHAW – By a sire who won two Group 1’s on soft ground, out of a Barathea mare, his pedigree suggests the underfoot conditions will be right up his street. He beat the re-opposing, Blushing Red, when they met at Wolverhampton in February. Jockey, Oisin Murphy said afterwards, “He has grown up a lot over the winter. He will get further than this in time and can progress again” so the step up in trip looks another positive, for all that he was rather keen on that occasion.
10 BLUSHING RED – A pound better off for a three quarter of a length beating from Atkinson Grimshaw at Wolverhampton, he was well backed on that occasion. He hung under pressure there however, and never really looked like picking up the Andrew Balding trained colt. There are soft ground winners, in a predominantly German damline but his sire’s offspring are just 1/70 on good to soft or worse.
11 MULLARKEY – Broke the duck at the eleventh time of asking, when landing a Nottingham handicap in mid April. Has a career high mark to contend with now upped in trip and class, it’s hard to think that he can play a hand in the finish given the opposition.
12 SPLASH AROUND – This will be his first run on anything other than good to firm but, a half brother to three good to soft winners, by Nathanial, he should have no problems with getting his toe in. He has looked rather slow in maidens, so this step up in trip is likely to be in his favour. Runners from Sir Michael Stoute are always going to be respected in their first handicaps, thought the trainer boasts a 20% strike rate with such horses, they are a – £11.93 to a level stake in the last five years. He doesn’t look overly burdened here, as with an opening gambit of 74, Stoute could have found an easier contest to begin his handicapping career.