Hollie Doyle discusses her five rides on Sandown Park's stellar card on Thursday evening, including Extra Elusive in the Group 3 Coral Brigadier Gerard Stakes, and reflects upon another big performance from the Willie Mullins-trained mare True Self in Ireland at the weekend.
Elusive ready for Group 3 test
Soft ground on a track he's proven on is very much in EXTRA ELUSIVE'S favour when he takes his chance in the Group 3 Coral Brigadier Gerard Stakes (7.25) at Sandown Park on Thursday evening.
He's run solid races there on all three visits, including in the Group 3 Gordon Richards Stakes over the same mile and a quarter on his return to the track last month. Earlier in his career he was third again to the brilliant Crystal Ocean in the same race.
I was very happy with his comeback run, as he's highly strung but handled the whole thing very well. It was a solid effort behind John and Thady Gosden's highly progressive Waldkonig on his first start since running in the Saudi Cup in February and he's entitled to come on for that.
Sir Michael Stoute's Sangarius looks the one we all have to beat. He also has form on the track but produced arguably his best performance yet when chasing home Aidan O'Brien's Armory in the Group 2 Huxley Stakes at Chester. Like my lad, he will also enjoy some cut in the ground.
It's a lovely touch by Sandown to dedicate the race to the memory of the great Joe Mercer, who so sadly passed away last week. His association with Brigadier Gerard is legendary so it's a fitting tribute to one of the all-time greats.
Old Friend Rainbow chasing a pot of gold
I'm back on board one of my favourite horses RAINBOW DREAMER in the Group 3 Coral Henry II Stakes (6.50) at Sandown.
If this was being run on the All-Weather I'd expect him to take all the beating but he needs to show he is at least as good on soft ground.
He got the better of leading contender Ocean Wind in a Fast Track Qualifier on the All-Weather at Kempton Park in February and wasn't far behind Nayef Road in last year's Sagaro Stakes when it was switched to the Newcastle Tapeta.
Nayef Road was below his best in the Yorkshire Cup but still sets a high standard on his previous Group 1 exploits and Mark Johnston's horses are tough and resilient enough to bounce back very quickly.
'Watch' out for William in Sandown finale
It's always a pleasure riding for William Stone, who has supported me since my days as an apprentice, so I'm hoping to ride him a winner on FINAL WATCH in the closing mile handicap (8.30) at Sandown.
This gelding stayed on really well to win a seven-furlong handicap at Newmarket on re-appearance for apprentice Marco Ghiani and, despite a 7lb rise, is open to enough improvement to run another big race over this extra furlong.
I've enjoyed some magical moments in Henry Ponsonby's white and red silks so I'm hoping to be competitive on his Sword Beach in the Coral Whitsun Cup Handicap (8.00). He clearly needs to improve on his latest run at Newbury but soft ground is the key to him and the first-time visor that Eve Johnson Houghton has added should keep him focussed.
I'm also riding Thanielle for Alan King in the opening mile and a quarter Handicap (5.45). I haven't ridden this filly before but know her from her time at Richard Hannon's. She has the ability to win races and Alan can be relied upon to have her fit enough for this first run since January.
Nice to exceed Willie's expectations
Although this game is all about winners, I was absolutely thrilled to finish third on TRUE SELF for Willie Mullins in the Group 1 Tattersalls Gold Cup at the Curragh on Sunday.
When I rang Willie before the race, he said he'd be happy if she finished fifth or sixth, but as I said in last weekend's blog, I was convinced she could do better than that!
She settled perfectly well off a nice even gallop and I was happy all through the race, just holding onto her and waiting. She has one burst of speed and was never going to pick up as well in that ground as she did when she won in Saudi Arabia, but still stuck on really gamely.
It's amazing that an eight-year-old mare by National Hunt sire Oscar can still be improving on the Flat but there's no doubt she is, and that's all credit to Willie and his team. I'm not sure where he will send her next but I'm just hoping I'll keep the ride.
Not Glen's day, but still happy with comeback run
I was bullish about my Champions Day hero GLEN SHIEL going into Saturday's Group 2 Greenlands Stakes at the Curragh but despite finishing only fourth I certainly haven't lost any faith in him.
Archie Watson's Group 1 star travelled smoothly for much of the race and only tired inside the final furlong in testing ground that had to pass a morning inspection.
He's a big horse who was returning to the track after seven months off so was entitled to get a bit tired. The first two home were match fit and the third horse finished behind us twice last year, so there's plenty more to come.
Glen didn't really come into his own until the second half of last year so with that run behind him it's all systems go for his first main target, the Diamond Jubilee Stakes at Royal Ascot next month.
Thrilled to secure first Oaks ride
It's been my aim this year to ride in more big races so imagine how thrilled I am to find out that I've got the ride on Archie Watson's filly SHERBET LEMON in the Cazoo Oaks at Epsom next week.
It will be my first ride in the Classic and I'm so thankful to Archie and her owners Apple Tree Stud for giving me the opportunity on a filly who has the credentials to out-run her big odds, particularly if there's some ease in the ground.
She proved she can handle a similar track when she won the Oaks Trial for Paul Mulrennan and Lingfield earlier this month when she came down the hill really well. She's been thriving at home since and has done some nice pieces of work so I can't wait for Friday week to come.