THE first of three Pattern races at Sandown is the Group 3 Gordon Richards Stakes, with St Leger fifth HUKUM (2.25) expected to improve again this season.
The colt led two out at Doncaster before tiring and Royal Ascot scorer Hukum should have the necessary speed to cope with this drop to 1m 2f.
He is a bigger price than some of his flashier rivals, Highest Ground, Waldkonig and Thunderous. Highest Ground beat Waldkonig more than two lengths in a novice stakes at Haydock before losing out by a neck to Thunderous in the Dante Stakes at York. Those races came with some ease in the ground, so the horse that adapts best to today’s quicker track will emerge on top.
YIBIR (3.35) is likely to start favourite for Charlie Appleby in the Group 2 bet365 Classic Trial over the extended ten furlongs. William Buick’s mount won a conditions race at Newbury in September and the betting market will offer a clue to expectations, with Appleby also saddling impressive Nottingham maiden winner Adayar.
Aidan O’Brien sends over Sir Lucan but so far this spring the Ballydoyle A-team have been kept at home.
TEA TIME ON MARS (2.40) can provide Lucy Gardner with another Highland National success at Perth.
She rode the family’s Flying Award to victory in 2013 and Tea Time On Mars probably threw away victory with a slow jump at the last in the 3m 6f Devon National at Exeter in February. Boyhood, one of today’s principal rivals, was well held in sixth but has since run a stormer at Haydock, just losing out in a three-way photo finish.
Sponsors William Hill offer a tempting six places each-way, which opens up plenty of betting options at bigger prices. It is a surprise to see local heroine Lucinda Russell without representation but in-form Sandy Thomson, so painfully denied in the Scottish Grand National, seeks some consolation with Duc De Grissay, a fair third over 3m 2f at Kelso 27 days ago.