Only a small field chasing a first prize of more than £12,600 but it is a classy line-up. Our runner by runner preview and expert tip is below for this five furlong contest.
IN SUMMARY: DAKOTA GOLD has done nothing but progress this season, only narrowly beaten in a stronger race than this at Newmarket despite being too keen over the six furlongs there. He will relish conditions and the step down to five furlongs. Gracious John enjoys soft ground and, although he isn’t the easiest to predict, he ran well last time out and is still well treated on his best. Arzaak is the other to consider having improved this summer and with no problems on soft ground.
1 DAKOTA GOLD – Has proved that soft ground is no issue this season, only going under by a short head in a stronger race than this at Newmarket two starts back. That was over six furlongs, doing well to get home in the conditions considering the way he pulled for his head in the early stages. This drop to five furlongs will be no issue given that he will be allowed to go a stride quicker. He is improving with every run and, with just nine runs under his belt, there should be more to come. Is very much the one to beat in this contest given his profile.
2 GRACIOUS JOHN – Hard horse to catch right, he has never really fulfilled the promise that he showed at the end of 2015/early 2016. He is twice a winner on soft ground – one of those in a Listed race in France – so conditions hold no fears for him. The very best of his runs have come on the Polytrack, but he ran well in a deeper contest than this at Leicester last week, so back in a handicap he should be well up to making the frame. He rates the main danger.
3 JUMIRA BRIDGE – Yet to run on ground worse than good to soft and that was by some way the most underwhelming effort of his career. He has worked his way up the handicap ranking this season, winning a Class 2 and placing in a Listed race. He was bitterly disappointing the last time he was seen, but a gelding operation swiftly followed so perhaps a better display can be expected, provided that the ground gets a chance to dry out a little more.
4 EQUIMOU – Another who has yet to run on ground worse than good to soft, but she has at least placed in a Listed contest on that surface so she may cope with a little softer here. She has struggled a little since winning a Hamilton Listed contest in the spring, but she has been keeping some strong company. Cheekpieces were tried last time but failed to produce anything better so it’s no surprise to see them removed straightaway. She has been held up further back in her races of late, so it will be interesting if connections opt to be more forward with her as she has produced better results when racing a bit closer to the pace.
5 ORIENT CLASS – Comfortably the most exposed runner in the field but, with wins on soft and heavy, he has no question marks over the conditions. This is very much his trip, with all bar one of his wins coming on a flat track, so although he is yet to run at Yarmouth, the course should suit him well. This time last year he had yet to win above Class 5 level so, despite improving in the past twelve months – boasting a Class 3 win now, to his credit – he should find at least a couple of these too classy for him.
6 ARZAAK – Doesn’t know how to run a bad race, he has progressed throughout 2017. He was runner-up in a lesser handicap over this course and distance on soft ground, so conditions won’t be an issue for him. He is yet to run at a level this high which causes a slight doubt about him given that a number of these have strong form at a higher level again, stepping down here. Chris Dwyer isn’t a trainer to over-race his horses, however, and his runners are always worth a market check.