Saturday’s televised fayre is a must for Flat racing fans, with action live with us on Channel 4 from Beverley, Chester and Sandown Park more than enough to whet the appetite, alongside an increasingly large combined pot building a head of steam in the Scoop6 win and bonus fund.
It’s certainly a case of all to play for, and if you’ve just about had enough of the action on the level then don’t forget over the sticks there’s also Newton Abbot’s big meeting of the year, where the big race is the £40,000 listed Lord Mildmay Memorial Handicap Chase, attracting runners from the stables of David Pipe and Jonjo O’Neill that wouldn’t look out of place in a handicap at the Cheltenham Festival.
One man who looks out of place almost everywhere he goes is my acquaintance Lord Culcheth, who’s off to Sandown Park to cheer on his nap with his French exchange partner Adrian De La Touch, who hasn’t been racing over here for a couple of years.
Maybe it’s the Gallic influence, but to be fair to them they’ve got a solid looking option in the shape of the Andre Fabre-trained Shamardal filly Fintry in the Group 3 Atalanta Stakes at 3.15pm.
Anything the master trainer Fabre sends across the Channel from his Chantilly base deserves maximum respect, and in three-time winner Fintry he looks to have a big chance on improving upon an already impressive strike rate of 30% in this country over the last five seasons.
Rated 114 she has only been beaten once in four starts, holds dual Group 1 entries at Newmarket and Ascot later in the year, and vitally is tried and tested on Soft ground.
Her easy Group 2 win in Chantilly’s Prix De Sandringham last time out sets a high standard, and although the likes of Middleton Stakes third Odeliz, fast improving John Gosden inmate Water Holeand German Guineas third Diamond Dove will provide a stern test, they’ll have to be really sharp to topple Fintry.
Paddy Power are even money.
A little earlier on the Sandown card trainer Andrew Balding can capture the first slice of an across the card tv double with his Elm Park fancied to land the Group 3 Solario Stakes over seven furlongs at 2.40pm – as long as he runs here rather than in Friday night’s listed mile option at Salisbury.
For one showing clear signs of his inexperience Elm Park ran really well to finish third over course and distance on his debut a month ago, and showed all the benefits of that when bolting up at Newbury a fortnight ago on his second outing.
Based on that display Soft ground is perfect, and if Balding sends him here rather than Salisbury then the 7/1 with Paddy Power looks too big, given that this fella holds an entry in the Group 1 Racing Post Trophy.
For football fans you may also recall Elm Park was the crumbling but atmospheric home of Reading FC until 1998, prior to their move to the bland and soulless Madejski Stadium.
Back to the racing though and there’s also plenty of cash on offer at sure to be jam-packed Chester, where one Balding runner who looks certain to line is Whiplash Willie, engaged in the listed 1m 5f Chester Stakes Handicap at 3.30pm.
The likes of De Rigueur, Noble Silk and Big Orange look to be using this as a prep for the Betfred Ceserwitch, but Whiplash Willie may soon have even bigger fish to fry, as entries in the Irish St Leger and Ascot Long Distance Cup firmly suggest.
His profile is certainly unusual, as after winning back to back races in the summer of 2011 followed by a second in York’s red hot Melrose Handicap at the Ebor Meeting, he then vanished due to injury.
That connections have persevered for so long speaks volumes, and they’ve been duly rewarded with Whiplash Willie returning to the track after a near three year absence to record a gusty success at Salisbury in May.
A subsequent third behind Brown Panther was a very fair effort next time up, and providing Chester’s unique turning circuit doesn’t unsettle him then the 3/1 with either BetVictor or Paddy Power looks a fair reflection of this horse’s chance.
Saturday’s best bets:
2.40 Sandown Park – European Wealth Solario Stakes – 3 Elm Park (win) @ 7/1 Paddy Power (N.B. possible NR, also engaged at Salisbury on Friday night)
3.15 Sandown Park – TBA Atalanta Stakes – 1 Fintry (win) @ Evs (Paddy Power)
3.30 Chester – Betdaq Colossus Chester Stakes (Listed Handicap) – 1 Whiplash Willie (win) @ 3/1 (BetVictor or Paddy Power)