Just the two selections for Monday, with Furzig looking well handicapped. Also, Outbox can make the odds on favourite work very hard at Leicester.
All eyes will be on Sir Michael Stoute's runner, Highest Ground, but he'll have to improve a lot from his seasonal reappearance if he is going to beat OUTBOX.
Highest Ground was a second in the Dante last year, and he was highly touted to be a big player over the middle distances, but it's not quite worked out how a lot of people expected it to. His seasonal reappearance was very disappointing, and I'm more than happy to take him on, as he's a very short priced favourite, around 4/9 at the time of writing.
Outbox looks to be the main player, in my opinion. He is a smart horse on his day, and ideally, if Hollie Doyle gets an uncontested lead, which is highly likely, she could lead them a merry dance and not be for catching.
Enthused raced up with the pace on his debut for Chris Dwyer, but that was in a much easier race than this, so whether they'll go with the same tactics, knowing that Outbox is a front-runner, I'm not so sure. Enthused has a cracking pedigree, being related to a few classy types like Pink Dogwood & Latrobe, but his pedigree wouldn't suggest a step up to 12f to suit, as the Dam was a sprinter and his Sire, Zoffany stayed a mile.
Outbox definitely brings the strongest form into this race. He's finished 3.25 lengths behind Hukum in a decent Listed race last time out. Hukum finished miles ahead of Highest Ground when they raced against each other on Highest Ground's first run of the season. Before the run at Goodwood, he had ran many consistent races, including two wins. This is a conditions race, which means the handicapping system doesn't take place in the weights. Outbox will have to carry a joint top weight, which is 4lbs heavier than Highest Ground, which makes the task harder.
Battle Of Toro is an interesting runner as he makes his debut for Simon & Ed Crisford. He was previously trained in France under A Fabre, and has some decent form, but he's not ran in 352 days and will probably need the run. I imagine this will be a pipe opener for him as he's got two big handicap entries, and I doubt they'll want him winning and raising his handicap mark.
A four runner race, but it's a decent one, with all four having a good chance of winning, but at the bottom of the weights, FURZIG is my play is my fancy.
Though this horse is apparently 22lbs better on the AW, he does handle the turf and does look well handicapped off his reduced mark of 82. The way he travelled through his race last time at Ripon was impressive, he was held up throughout and made the ground up with ease and could've won by many lengths if he wanted to. Surprisingly the handicapper has only put him up 3lbs for that win, and that gives him a very strong chance of following up.
This race is tougher, but considering he's a 104 rated horse on the AW, he's used to racing against good horses. Even in previous seasons, he's ran in good handicaps on the turf, off higher marks, but he wasn't disgraced. A prime example of this is when he finished 6th in a 44k handicap at York behind Forest Of Dean over 10f, which was a cracking effort knowing that he is much better over further. The stamina test at Pontefract could play to his strengths, knowing he's a strong stayer at this trip and he carries bottom weight.
He is entered in a the John Smith's Cup handicap this weekend, but is currently a fair few lbs out of the equation for that race. Even with a clear-cut win in this race, he'd be extremely lucky to get into that handicap, but the fact connections have entered in him that race, gives the confidence that he is well in on his current rating.
One to keep an eye on…
If You Can Dream (Windsor 6:00) was a horse I was about to tip but the price went from 9/2 to 15/8 within 5 minutes of opening up. I was expecting around 8/1 or larger, so the fact it's been smashed in suggests this is a good 2yo. Clive Cox sends useful 2yo's to Windsor, but at those prices I will not be backing him. Maybe one to follow closely.
12:05 Thirsk - Race: 1
12:20 Stratford - Race: 1
12:40 Thirsk - Race: 2