We are truly privileged to see a mare of Enable’s calibre back for yet another season. She faces a seriously exciting rival in her bid for a 2nd win in the Eclipse in the shape of Ghaiyyath, a colt who recorded a compelling speed figure when dismantling his rivals in the restaged Coronation Cup at the Guineas meeting. His free going style will give Enable a perfect tow into the race and she can kick clear to make it 14 wins from 16 starts, there’s rain around but its no concern to me.
On the Sandown undercard Liberty Beach made plenty of appeal in a very strong looking Coral Charge. She should get a nice tow into the race from Maid In India, her fine 3rd in the Kings Stand suggests she’s still improving and she avoids a penalty despite being a winner at this level last season. The Henry II Stakes looks a Group 3 with a lot less depth and represents a great chance for Dashing Willoughby to build on his excellent win in a strong listed race at the Guineas meeting. He went off the boil after his Queens Vase win last season but is highly regarded and looked right back to his best last month.
The Coral Challenge looks a belting handicap and features Royal Hunt Cup winner Dark Vision. At the foot of the weights my eye was drawn to Acquitted, he produced nothing at Ascot but a relatively rapid reappearance suggests he has shown no ill effect and his earlier form reflects particularly well on him, forcing subsequent St.James Palace winner Palace Pier off the bridle at Newcastle and taking down a host of subsequent winners in his maiden at Newcastle last backend.
Over at Haydock a cracking field of 17 goes to post for the Old Newton Cup. I like the claims of Andrew Balding’s Ranch Hand, well backed at Royal Ascot but possibly unsuited by the tacky ground, still running a solid race. He remains unexposed and can take his form to new heights here. Another Balding runner appeals, with Punctuation looking a big player in the 3yo handicap run an hour beforehand; he ran a perfectly sound race from the front in the Queens Vase, has not been raised in the handicap and will appreciate the sizeable drop in grade.
Sandown Selections: 1.50 Liberty Beach, 2.25 Dashing Willoughby, 3.00 Acquitted, 3.35 Enable
Haydock Selections: 2.05 Punctuation, 3.15 Ranch Hand