As difficult as it ever gets when it comes to sprint handicaps with winners at up to 20/1 in the last ten years (three of them to be precise), and just the two favourites so it really is a case of punters beware! Roger Varian took the race last year with the classy Steps and bids to follow up in 2016 with Double Up (12/1) who sits high up in the weights and will have his work cut out. The five-year-old son of Exceed And Excel is certainly better than your average sprint handicapper and has only had the two runs this season, both in higher class races than this afternoon’s. On his reappearance at Haydock he finished two and a quarter lengths third to Take Cover in the Listed Achilles Stakes before unsurprisingly finding them a bit too fast for him in the Group One Kings Stand Stakes at Royal Ascot when beaten eight lengths in to twelfth yet ahead of Mecca’s Angel. Amusingly, he has been put down a couple of pounds for that effort to a new rating of 105, and much as it is in our view too much weight, he is clearly a classy animal and could well place.
The early betting has all been about Ed Walker’s Captain Colby (6/1), a lightly raced son of Bernstein who ran a race full of promise when third to Boom The Groom at York in the valuable Symphony Group Stakes. That was a decent effort off a rating of 95 and he remains on the same mark now which sort of explains his price. He was running on after the winner had won that day and today’s flat track will certainly play to his strengths and he looks primed for a big run.
For reasons unknown certain trainers are better with sprinters than others and Richard Whitaker is one and he has the in-form Pipers Note (20/1) in here as the six-year-old looks to follow up his Class Three win at Ripon last month. He put three-quarters of a length between himself and runner up Apricot Sky, landing the bets for those who sent him off the 13/2 favourite, but has been put up four pounds for that run and won’t find life quite as easy upped in class.
Looking for other in-form runners and Julie Camacho has Judicial (18/1) in here as the four-year-old looks to follow up his August Chester victory. That was his career best performance off a rating of 95 with his other win this season at Thirsk in May off of 92, and he will need to pull out even more now off a new rating of 99, but they have booked Graham Lee to ride and it will be interesting to see how they get on in what is expected to be a big field.