LIBERTY BEACH (1.50) and Lazuli are too very speedy three-year-olds and they can outgun the older sprinters in the Coral Charge.
Liberty Beach spread-eagled her rivals on seasonal debut at Haydock and lost nothing in defeat at Royal Ascot behind brilliant Battaash. John Quinn’s filly was a wide-margin winner over course and distance last July.
In an intriguing battle of the sexes Lazuli carries the Godolphin colours and he was most impressive over course and distance 22 days ago when making all to score by more than three lengths.
CROSS COUNTER (2.25) must be sick of the sight of Stradivarius but the great stayer isn’t in opposition this time in the two-mile Henry II Stakes. Cross Counter could never strike a blow in the Ascot Gold Cup but will find things less arduous against principal rivals Dashing Willoughby, Spanish Mission and Withhold.
The Coral Challenge, a one-mile handicap, sees a re-match between the Royal Hunt Cup first and second DARK VISION (3.00) and Montatham.
Mark Johnston’s winner finished the strongest of the pair and the Sandown hill will play to his strengths. A 6lb rise makes life harder but the Hunt Cup form was made to look rock-solid when third horse Pogo bolted up by more than five lengths at Windsor last week.
Montatham won effortlessly on debut at Newmarket before his excellent Royal Ascot run and a gelding operation has clearly worked wonders. The William Haggas-trained grey seems sure to be in the firing line.
DEJA (3.15) and Scarlet Dragon fought out a thrilling finish at Royal Ascot and they resume hostilities in the bet365 Old Newton Cup at soggy Haydock. They both had hard races in the Duke Of Edinburgh Stakes and are up 5lb, but the ability to act on very soft ground is a big factor. Peter Chapple-Hyam’s Deja is just preferred this time in an open contest, with some firms offering five places each-way.
Le Don De Vie was a staying-on fourth at Ascot which offers encouragement that Hughie Morrison’s charge will stay this 1m 4f trip on testing terrain and the handicapper has left his mark untouched, another bonus.
Ranch Hand ploughed through the mud to score here over 1m 6f last autumn and will be sharper for his sixth at Royal Ascot, while Laafy, who finished behind Ranch Hand on that occasion, hacked up on his re-appearance at Newbury. He has won on heavy in the past and is by no means out of things, but a 9lb rise demands more.
Babbo’s Boy was certainly perked up by the application of blinkers when beating subsequent scorer Harrovian three lengths here over 1m 2f early last month and is another to consider.
MANUELA DE VEGA (2.40) returns to the scene of her demolition job last month and is a worthy favourite to bag the bet365 Lancashire Oaks.
She was sent straight to the front and after poaching a huge lead, was never going to be caught. Runner-up Fanny Logan went on to land the Group 2 Hardwicke Stakes at Royal Ascot and similar forcing tactics will make Manuela De Vega very hard to peg back.
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