Racing from the UK and Ireland has suffered major disruption this week, but hopefully action from Chelmsford and Leicester will go ahead. Meydan has escaped the clutches of Storm Ciara and provides some welcome winter sun.
Art Du Val ended last week’s card with a cosy success at 4/1. Roulston Scar loomed up with a big run in a six furlongs handicap before just getting outstayed. Summerghand went off favourite, but he looks a victim of his own consistency, with his current mark giving him little room for manoeuvre.
4.15pm Balanchine (Group 2) (Fillies & Mares) 1m1f
Surrounding is one of the most reliable performers in training in her native Ireland. She ran no race on her first start in Dubai last month, trailing home in seventh behind Magic Lily. It came to light that she bled there and she was also in season. As a result, a line is best put through that run. She shaped far better last time, finishing a close fourth against the boys. That represented a career best on RPRs, and suggested a first foray beyond a mile may well suit.
She ranks one of the main dangers to MAGIC LILY. Godolphin’s five-year-old has obviously had her issues, racing just three times since her debut season in 2017. Her Group One third behind Laurens is a very strong piece of form, and she went some way to fulfilling that promise when getting up in the dying strides over a mile in January, ahead of six re-opposing rivals.
She has a three pound penalty tonight and only had a short head to spare over Nisreen. Nevertheless, she’s only going to improve for the extra furlong on offer, something her jockey James Doyle said straight after victory. Completely unexposed and likely capable at a higher level than this, she can double up.
Selection: MAGIC LILY @ 6/5
4.50pm Reach (Handicap) 5f
The aforementioned Roulston Scar drops back to five furlongs here. He’s shown plenty of speed in both starts for Crisford in Meydan this winter, beating Dream Today on stable debut in January.
Up six pounds for that success, he broke well in a Listed Handicap three weeks later. Leading at the four-furlong marker, he just found a couple of stronger stayers too good. A drop back to five suits, but there is a suspicion that the handicapper now has his measure, twenty seven pounds above his opening mark.
One who does look well treated is WAADY. The gelding was very useful a few seasons back, landing a Grade Three in 2015 before finishing a two-length fifth in the King’s Stand in 2016. He’s not quite at that level of late, but there’s been plenty to like about his four runs in Meydan this winter.
Returning from a 270 day break, he landed a handicap on the dirt. He then ran big races in deeper contests, finishing a clear second in Listed company before fading from the front in a Group Three.
A return to handicap company and five furlongs saw him run a huge race last time, only finding the very talented Equilateral too good. The third has since come out and scored, finishing ahead of Roulston Scar a week ago. He has the beating of that rival, and could well exploit these calmer waters.
Selection: WAADY @ 11/4
5.25 Firebreak Stakes (Group 3) (Dirt) 1m
I was all set to tip a shortie here, with MATTERHORN holding very strong claims on his stable debut. It was rather surprising to see him available at an each way price, and that only serves to heighten his appeal.
He proved one of the most progressive horses ever when trained by Mark Johnston. Allotted an opening mark of 80 in December 2018, he was rated 115 just six months later after demolishing Wissahickon in the Middle Distance Championship at Lingfield. He was less prolific on turf, but still showed a high level of form, including landing a Listed race at Windsor and going down by just a neck in a Group Two at Leopardstown in September.
There are a couple of factors that contribute to his attractive price. One is that he appeared to thrive with racing, with this representing his first run for 124 days for a new yard. Another is the switch to dirt. That holds no fears for me though, given his record of seven-from-nine on synthetics in the UK, as well as his pedigree. He’s by Raven’s Pass, who won the Breeders’ Cup Classic on dirt. Clear on RPRs and deadly on sand back home, there’s every chance he’ll do the business this Thursday.
His main rivals are likely to come from Capezzano and Muntazah. The former bolted up in a Group One back in March. He did that in a slow time though, and he ran a shocker when favourite for the World Cup. Prone to the occasional poor run, the 320 day lay off further dampens enthusiasm. The latter is a class act on the dirt on his day, but he’ll have to show more than when trailing home in fourth on his recent reappearance.
Selection: MATTERHORN @ 11/2