The puzzle for punters this weekend is the Victoria Cup at Ascot where 29 horses have been declared for the seven furlong handicap.
A couple of the ante-post fancies Enrol and Two for Two weren't amongst them and unfortunately the horse I own a couple of hairs of, Farlow, has missed the cut too. Sky Bet go 12/1 the field which shows just how tough it is. Seven furlongs can be a specialists' trip and a horse with previous form over the distance is something I like to see.
Cape Classic is one such horse; he won over the trip last Autumn at Doncaster for William Haggas. He finished third behind the Ed McMahon-trained Tartiflette on his reappearance at Haydock and looked like he would come on for that run. If the ground stays good or faster that will suit as his trainer hasn't been keen to expose him to softer conditions too many times in the past.
All five of Lightning Cloud's victories have come over seven furlongs and on ground good or faster. He was raised a couple of pounds for an unlucky run at Thirsk last time out where he finished third but should probably have won. This stiff seven will suit him better.
Quotes of the week
Tartiflette isn't the easiest of rides and needs things to drop right. However, this is the type of race she is likely to run well in. Well Painted looks a decent second string for Haggas, Paul Hanagan takes the ride. I'd like to see some rain at Ascot to enhance his claims though.
Spring Cup winner Haaf a Sixpence represents Ralph Beckett. He has an appealing profile having won four of his nine starts including that competitive Newbury Handicap last time out. He races off a 5lb higher mark here and will be ridden by a resurgent Steve Drowne. Although that win was over a mile his other three successes have come over this distance. He is unexposed on turf, but I am concerned that soft ground could be the key to him and he may not get it soft enough.
Lightning Cloud runs for Kevin Ryan and will be ridden by Champion Apprentice jockey, his daughter Amy. He was fifth in this last year and runs off the same mark on Saturday. All five of his victories have come over seven furlongs and on ground good or faster. He was raised a couple of pounds for an unlucky run at Thirsk last time out where he finished third but should probably have won. This stiff seven will suit him better.
Born to Surprise is making his seasonal re-appearance and Michael Bell has booked Darren Egan to take 3lbs off. He hasn't been the easiest to train and was very highly regarded at the beginning of his three-year-old campaign. Both his wins have come over seven.
Dream Tune was fifth in the Spring Cup behind Haaf a Sixpence last time out and should be sharper for that run. He is trained by Clive Cox and is closely related to Poet who was smart for the stable.
Glen Moss has a maiden win to his name for trainer Charlie Hills. He acts very well on the all-weather, but has shown some decent form on the grass too.
Andrew Balding has had a week of mixed fortunes, but his horses are running well. Highland Colori could run well for the Kingsclere handler in this after a promising reappearance in the Haydock race that was won by Tartiflette. He has been dropped a couple of pounds for that run and that puts him bang in with a chance here, although he is another who would prefer a drop of rain which they could well get at the Berkshire track.Arnold Lane has top weight to carry for Mick Channon having won his last two starts including a Group 3 in Germany last time out. This seven-furlong trip seems to be his optimum. Jamsie travels over from Ireland for David Marnane. He is a regular fixture this side of the Irish Sea and last season he was second in the Buckingham Palace Stakes, sixth in the Bunbury Cup and filled the same spot in the Stewards Cup. This trip suits him well enough but he will have to overcome a career high mark to win.
Bronze Prince wouldn't be out of it for in-form trainer Michael Attwater. This race has been his aim since he won a conditions stakes at Kempton in March. He made all there, winning impressively. He won a heritage handicap over this course and distance when in the care of John Gosden a couple of seasons ago and providing the ground isn't too fast could give a good account of himself.
Marco Botti is a man making his mark in the training ranks and his runner Solar Deity has claims too despite all five of his wins coming on the all-weather; he is yet to win in four starts on grass though. Unlike some of the protagonists in this, he would prefer top of the ground so if the rain doesn't arrive that will be a bonus. So a lot depends on what the weather does before the off, but I'm going to go with Lightning Cloud and hope he jumps out of the stalls on terms with the other runners.
Away from that meeting and Lingfield stage their Derby and Oaks Trials. Greatwood is the likely favourite for the Derby Trial for Luca Cumani and Jamie Spencer. There is the forecast of some rain, but it may not amount to too much which would be music to his trainer's ears. He was narrowly beaten in a valuable sales race on his reappearance at Newmarket and so long as it doesn't get too testing he has a great chance. He had the option of the Dante next week, but comes here instead in a bid to enhance his Derby claims and he has reportedly improved for that latest run.
If there is a likely fly in the ointment it could be the Aidan O'Brien-trained Nevis. He won't mind if the ground eases and is bred in the purple being out of an Irish Oaks winner in Moonstone. He has a bit to find, but it wouldn't be a huge shock if he does.
We should know a lot more about the Derby this weekend with this domestic trial and the Derrinstown Stud at Leopardstown on Sunday where Ballydoyle have six of the 12 entries. Then of course there is York to look forward to next week.
Aidan O'Brien is without a representative in the Oaks Trial at Lingfield. Seven are declared and all but Northern Star and Whippy Cream are entered in the Epsom classic. Ralph Beckett runs Secret Gesture and she is bred to excel over middle distances this year. She didn't have the opportunity to prove herself on this better ground last year, but her trainer thinks she will improve for it. I fancy her to get off to a winning start this term.
Haydock stage one of the few mixed cards that takes place in Britain on Saturday and the Swinton Hurdle is the feature race. Declarations haven't been made at the time of writing but I'll update you on the race on Sky Sports News at the weekend.
The French 1000 and 2000 Guineas take place at Longchamp on Sunday and Richard Hannon and Richard Hughes can continue their classic run with Olympic Glory in the Poule d'Essai des Poulains. This race has always been the plan for the Greenham winner and that run will have help get him fitter and he will also appreciate the extra furlong in this. Havana Gold also holds an entry. I'll be back with my next preview at the beginning of the week ahead of York's Dante meeting.
Lightning Cloud in the Victoria Cup @ 14/1 with Sky Bet
Greatwood in the Lingfield Derby Trial
Secret Gesture in the Lingfield Oaks Trial
Olympic Glory in the Poule d'Essai des Poulains at Longchamp on Sunday