Just a week to go until the Oaks and the Derby, and a traditionally slightly quieter weekend for punters as they gear up for Epsom’s party atmosphere and its rapidly-approaching Group 1 delicacies.
Only slightly quieter though, as the weekend’s televised fayre includes some excellent handicaps from York, plus a trio of Group races from Haydock, which is where the Channel 4 cameras will be stationed.
The first of those is the mile and a half Group 3 888Sport Pinnacle Stakes at 2.00pm, which has attracted a quality field of 11 fillies and mares.
It’s a race which looks wide open on paper, and has even attracted a runner from Ireland, in the shape of County Meath trainer Dermot McLoughlin’s Dragon Fei.
The one I like though is Roger Varian’s Talmada, for whom it’s easy to compile an impressive list of positives.
Varian has had three runners in this race before now, winning it twice, and seeing the other finish third.
On a mark of 110, Talmada is top rated.
She has run well on her only previous outing on Good to Soft, which at the time of writing is the going description at Haydock.
She is also a course and distance winner, breaking her maiden at the track back in April 2014.
She is race fit, and has kept lofty company, finishing second to Secret Gesture at York in the Betfred Middleton Stakes last time out.
Furthermore, she’s actually dropping from a Group 2 to a Group 3 here, so in theory ought to find this a little bit easier to digest.
Lastly, Varian has Talmada entered in the Curragh’s Group 1 Pretty Polly Stakes at the end of next month, and will be hoping to use this race as a springboard to try and win a prize he previously took in 2013 with Ambivalent.
Later in the day, it’s hard to get away from Henry Candy’s explosive three-year-old sprinter Limato, as he lines up hot favourite in the feature Group 2 Sandy Lane Stakes (3.45pm).
This is a quality sprint, featuring the likes of Mill Reef Stakes winner Toocoolforschool, recent Newbury scorer Adaay, and hugely impressive Maisons-Laffitte Group 2 hero Mattmu.
The big question mark though rests upon whether any of them, eye-catching as they are, can hold a candle to Limato?
Further rain would undoubtedly be a concern for Candy and his team, but maybe that’s the biggest danger, and the forecast is dry after noon on Friday.
Limato is unbeaten in his only five outings to date, and smoothly swished past Mattmu when routing his rivals in the Two-Year-Old Trophy at Redcar back in October.
He was every inch as good at Ascot on his seasonal reappearance, and has been given an ideal month gap between races.
Henry Candy has him entered in both the Group 1 Commonwealth Cup at Royal Ascot, and the Group 1 July Cup at Newmarket three weeks later.
First though he has to come through this Haydock examination, a contest which has gone the way of the favourite seven times in the last 10 years.
Saturday’s best bets live on Channel 4 at Haydock Park:
2.00 – 888Sport Pinnacle Stakes – 10 Talmada (win) @ 7/2 with Paddy Power
3.45 – 888Sport Sandy Lane Stakes – 5 Limato (win) @ 5/4 with Paddy Power