Saturday 6th July
Sandown 1.50: RUMBLE INTHEJUNGLE / MUTHMIR – 1pt e/w
The first race on the Sandown card is a 5 furlong Group 3 sprint which takes place on a totally separate part of the course to other races at the venue, being run on a straight track away from the main stands and in the middle of the circuit.
In a race that is chocked full of 3 year-olds, there are a couple of grand old veteran sprinters who head the field. Number 1 on the racecard is the 10 year-old CASPIAN PRINCE and he is a horse who has blistering early pace so it would be no surprise to see him try to make all here. He is a horse, however, who seems best suited to an ‘easy’ 5 furlongs and he has never raced on this ‘stiff’ track before in the whole of his 88 race career. He clearly still retains some ability but I find it difficult to see him holding everything off here.
The other older horse, who has to give away weight to the younger generation, is MUTHMIR. He is a Group 2 winner in the past and ran well to finish 2nd in this race last year when he got going just a bit too late and just failed to reel in the winner. He had also finished 4th in this race the year before in what his only other appearance at the track. His run in The Epsom Dash last time was a very creditable one and, although it will be a difficult task to give weight away to the 3 year-olds, I can see him running a good race, in conditions that suit, and he has a live chance of finishing in the frame if getting a fast pace and luck in running.
Aiden O’Brien sends over an interesting contender in the shape of SERGEI PROKOFIEV and he is the likely favourite here. He was a very good 2 year-old who is at his best when racing over the minimum distance. He looks to be drawn well, in stall 2, but he is a horse who often seems to be slowly away and may find himself behind a wall of horses if that is the case which will make it difficult for him to find a way through. Ground conditions will suit much better than last time at Ascot, in The King’s Stand, but, at the prices, I want to take him on.
Another prominent in the betting is GARRUS. He is making his debut for his new stable, having switched to Charlie Hills following the retirement of Jeremy Noseda. He has already beaten POCKET DYNAMO, who re-opposes here, this season, whilst his win in a listed race at York last time has been boosted with the runner-up winning next time in France and the third horse ran extremely well to finish 3rd in The King's Stand at Royal Ascot. He is clearly at home on Good To Firm ground, and has won 3 of his 4 races in those conditions, so that is in his favour here but he does have a high draw, in stall 9, to overcome.
SIGNORA CABELLO is a filly I like and she had some good form as a 2 year-old, winning The Queen Mary at Royal Ascot. She is another who is at her best over this minimum distance and she does hold some lofty entries for later in the season. She was well beaten in The King’s Stand at Royal Ascot and hasn’t yet replicated the form she showed last season.
KURIOUS has a good record over course-and-distance, having won twice in 3 runs and finished 2nd on the other occasion. Last time out she beat THE CRUISING LORD, who also runs here, in a listed contest in soft ground. She has won on fast going but her trainer maintains she is better with cut in the ground.
One horse who should relish the fast ground is RUMBLE INTHEJUNGLE. He was very smart as a 2 year-old last year and won The Group 3 Molecomb Stakes at Goodwood last August as well as finishing 3rd in The Middle Park, over 6 furlongs, at the end of the season. In between those races he disappointed on rain-softened ground at Doncaster and may have found conditions not to his liking in The Commonwealth Cup on seasonal reappearance at Ascot last time.
He should be sharper for that run and the drop back in trip for this speedy type, on quick ground, looks a good move. The booking of Frankie Dettori is an eye-catching one and he has a good draw in stall 1 against the far rail.
Sandown 2.25: RUM RUNNER / LUSH LIFE – 1pt e/w
Whilst The Eclipse is the feature race on the card at Sandown, this is the biggest betting heat with 14 runners set to go to post for this class 2 one mile handicap and it looks a tricky contest to try to solve.
The starting point for this race is probably last year’s renewal and 3 of those involved 12 months ago lock horns once more.
One of those was the David O’Meara trained ESCOBAR who was a staying-on 2nd off a mark that was 4lbs higher than he runs off here. He is a horse who likes to come off a strong pace and, with the likes of ZHUI FENG, QAROUN, and VIA SERENDIPITY in here, he could get what he wants. The fact that he is 4lbs lower than a year ago is an indication of the form he has been in since, particularly this season when he has been well below his best. He can be a bit of a character and was withdrawn last time, at Nottingham, having been unruly in the stalls, but on his day he is very capable as he showed with his close 2nd in The Balmoral Handicap on Champions Day at Ascot last October. Earlier in the week, at 20/1, he looked a value each-way bet but, whilst he still looks to hold a decent chance of a place, much of the value has now gone after being tipped by some prominent tipsters in the press. If he were to drift back out, to the near the price available 24 hours ago, he would be tempting but I think there is now better value available in the race.
Based purely on last year’s running, VIA SERENDIPIDITY is not weighted to reverse the form with ESCOBAR but he does come here in good heart following a win on the all-weather at Chelmsford last time. He is, also, well suited by this track having won here last June just prior to finishing 3rd in this race a few weeks later.
The third horse who re-appears in the race 12 months on is RUM RUNNER who represents last year’s winning trainer Richard Hannon. He has run here 3 times so far in his career and has won 2 of those so the course holds no fears. The only defeat came in this contest last year when he probably went off too fast and used up too much petrol early on in trying to get across from a wide draw. He eventually finished 8th and comes here on bottom weight off a mark that is now 6lbs lower. He is also 1lb below his last winning mark and, although all of his wins so far have come over 7 furlongs, he showed promise of staying a mile when staying on stoutly into 3rd last time out at Goodwood off this mark. That was a hold-up ride and, if ridden with more restraint this year than last, he looks to have a decent each-way chance at nice odds.
Top weight is KEY VICTORY and he will appreciate the return to a sounder surface than he faced last time out in The Royal Hunt Cup. He promised to be a real top-notch horse very early on in his career but rather lost his way and, after a disappointing winter in Meydan, he was gelded in the Spring. He could have a class edge here, and his stable continue in excellent form, but it is taking a leap of faith to think that he will bounce to win here.
An interesting contender is MOJITO who runs for William Haggas here after an absence of 637 days. He is another who has been gelded in the last year and he looked very progressive as a 3 year-old before his absence. There has been money for him during Friday, and Frankie Dettori is an interesting jockey booking, but he may just need this after such a lengthy absence.
HISTORY WRITER features prominently in the betting on the back of a dominant win over course-and-distance last month and it is clear that this venue suits him, having won here last August and finishing 3rd on 2 other occasions. He is up 6lbs, however, for that last win and he would probably prefer the ground to be softer than this.
Behind HISTORY WRITER in 4th last time was GREENSIDE and he re-opposes here. He is 7lbs better off for a 4 length defeat so has a good chance of over-turning the form on the revised terms. He is another with a course-and-distance win to his name and he also ran in this race back in 2017 when he finished 6th off a 5lb higher mark. His trainer is in decent form lately and he is certainly one for the short-list.
Sir Michael Stoute is another trainer in good form at present and, with a good record at this track, any runner he sends out has to be worthy of close inspection – particularly those aged 4 years and older. He saddles QAROUN here. There is no better trainer at improving horses as they get older and this horse has been running consistently this season. Indeed, the horse has been ultra-consistent for much of his career so far as, in 11 starts, has made the frame on 9 occasions (winning 3 of those). He ran as recently as last Saturday, finishing 2nd at Newcastle, and it could be that he is better on an all-weather surface than on going he is likely to face here. Indeed, the only 2 times he has failed to make the first 3 came on the only occasions he has raced on ground officially described as Good To Firm.
One who may just enjoy a return to the turf, having run on the tapeta last time, is the lightly-raced LUSH LIFE. She was a very good winner of a course-and-distance contest in May, with HISTORY WRITER back in 3rd, coming from last to first in the final furlong under a typically-confident Jamie Spencer ride. She only just got there on the line but was possibly better value for more than the winning distance as the jockey did not resort to using his stick at any point. The fast pace seemed to suit her style of racing that day and, from a wide draw, I would expect Spencer to, once more, drop her out and switch her off. Although 3lbs higher here than for that last win, she is 3lbs better off with HISTORY WRITER. The one small concern I do have is the form of the stable as they have not saddled a winner for 3 weeks (26 runners) but the trainer does have a good strike-rate at this venue. At the current prices, I’m willing to overlook the current trainer form and trust that this progressive filly can return him to the winner’s circle.