Sandown Park – Saturday July 2

13:50 – Coral Charge (Group 3) 5f

A classy start to the day sees eight runners go to post for the Coral Charge, a Group 3 contest over five furlongs.

We have no particular trends to go on here, with all of the last 10 years seeing as many different trainers and jockeys enjoying success, so the only real trend has been the winner’s age, with six of those 10 being three-year-olds.

RAASEL has done nothing but improve since the beginning of 2021, proving himself at every level. He won five off the reel last year and is 2-4 this term, winning a good handicap at Goodwood (5f, good) in April and adding the Listed Achilles Stakes at Haydock last time out (5f, good), with the favourite in second place.

Nothing in that race has done much for the form since but then none of them have been realistically tried either. For me, the level that Raasel ran to at Haydock suggests he is good enough to win this, even conceding the weight he has to do to all but one opponent.

It isn’t difficult to see why Mitbaahy is the favourite, after all he is on a hat-trick and won over C&D in Listed company last time (good). He’ll not be inconvenienced if it rains and is also an improver who has fewer miles on the clock than the selection. He is a big player, no doubt, but I don’t see any more value in his price than I do that of Raasel.

Equilateral ran a big race for a 66/1 shot in the Group 1 King’s Stand Stakes at Royal Ascot, especially given a lengthy layoff prior to that. He’s already won a Meydan Group 2 last year and is not written off.

14:25 Coral Challenge (Handicap) 1m

Sinjaari drops 1lb going into this, the handicapper perhaps acknowledging that he has run some big races from slightly higher marks in handicap company in the past couple of seasons without winning any of them. It may not seem much but a look at his form suggests he may be capable of getting his nose in front again, particularly if he reproduces his Newbury effort from his penultimate start. This stiff mile should suit.

However, he is exposed and the suggestion here is to side with one who certainly is not, in CHECKANDCHALLENGE. William Knight’s three-year-old was a debut winner at Wolverhampton (7f, Tapeta) last November and, after the winter off, returned to land the Listed Burradon Stakes at Newcastle (1m, Tapeta) in April.

A 33/1 chance for the 2,000 Guineas in his only other start, he beat just one home behind Coroebus at Newmarket. While that may have been a bridge too far, there is no reason why he should not equally as well on turf as away from it and he looks capable of getting back on track now put into handicap company for the first time from a mark that may look generous at about 2:30pm.

Lion Tower is up 3lb for winning a Class 2 York handicap over 7f last month and Grant Tuer’s gelding gets this trip. He is respected, along with Escobar, who won a similar York contest a month earlier, and Ouzo, who is better than his 29thand last placed finish in Royal Ascot’s Buckingham Palace Stakes.  

15:00 Coral Distaff (Listed) 1m

The short-priced favourite for this is the unbeaten HEREDIA, trained by Richard Hannon, who also sent out the 2016 winner Light Up Our World.

The selection began the season with success in a decent York fillies’ handicap (7f, good) and improved again when landing what looked a strong Sandringham Handicap (1m, good to firm) at Royal Ascot recently.

That suggests that she should be well up to winning a race of this nature and she acts on any going with good in the description, so any rain should not be a major concern. I’d expect her to be able to win this before making further progress up the grades.

Grand Dame was a close second in Listed company at York’s Dante Festival (1m, good) and is respected. She probably tried to bite off more than she could chew last time in the Group 1 Coronation Stakes and the return to this level can see her heavily involved.

Group 3 winner Fast Attack is far from ruled out and may actually represent the value for each-way players if the field remains eight-strong at the off. She’s a 6/1 chance and ran well on her first try at a mile in the German 1,000 Guineas last month.

Oscula has been second and then won in Listed company (both 7f) already this season but strictly on the form book, she will need improvement to win this and her form does appear to have plateaued.

15:35 Coral-Eclipse (Group 1) 1m2f

The big race of Sandown Park’s Flat season and one that has seen some stellar winners over the years. John Gosden has been responsible for training four of the last 10 winners, including the brilliant Enable, Roaring Lion and Golden Horn but this time finds himself in the unusual position of saddling the two outsiders in the six-runner field, Mishriffand Lord North.

The former is officially rated as the best in this field but trades at around 15/2, having finished last when favourite in the Group 1 Saudi Cup, when last seen in January. Third in this race last year, he went on to annihilate his field in the Juddmonte International at York last August but was below par when fourth in the Champion Stakes. It was no coincidence that it was good to soft that day and his trainer said he hated the ground.

Provided conditions remain good or faster, he ought to have a better chance than his price suggests but the 10lb allowance for the three-year-olds, plus that poor most recent effort will all have been factored in. You’d have to think that, while they will clearly want to win this race, the Gosdens are likely to have an eye on a return to defend the Juddmonte crown next month, when he ought to be cherry-ripe.

Unlike Mishriff, the favourite Vadeni would probably want some rain to enhance his chance. Having said that, the way he won the French Derby on the flat track that is Chantilly last month was very impressive and has twice won on good. He won’t be crossing the channel for the travel experience and he’s very much respected.

However, I’d have to say that I’m in the NATIVE TRAIL camp for this race. His only defeat came to Coroebus in the 2,000 Guineas, since which he’s won the Irish equivalent. He steps up in trip this time and both his pedigree and style of running suggest that he should handle that and may even improve for it.

Certainly, the way he ran through the line at the Curragh suggests he will not be stopping up the Sandown hill. If it gets tactical, he’ll have the speed to cope and if they go lickety-split then we’ll have to trust he has the stamina that I believe will be the case.

You can also make some sort of cases for both Bay Bridge and Alenquer but for me they may suffer more at the hands of that three-year-old allowance than Mishriff, who is reported to have been working well. The last-named would be my idea of a small each-way play (bearing in mind only two places) if you’d rather not go with the shorties. 

16:10 Coral Play “Racing-Super-Series” For Free Handicap 1m2f

The day’s biggest field head to post for this and the up-in-class Chairman has been put in as the favourite for it at around 7/2. He is improving, unexposed and has those type of credentials that do well in this sort of race but he is a pretty skinny price based purely on what he has achieved.

Electrical Storm returned from a lengthy layoff with a very comfortable-looking win at York (1m1f, good) last month and his pedigree suggests he’ll be a huge player now upped to this longer trip, especially after that improved effort. Even though that was only a Class 4, it was easy to see why connections had kept him after whatever had ailed him, because he looks to have retained plenty of ability. He’d look better value than the favourite to me at 5/1 and I wouldn’t put you off a wager.

Aldhaja is an improving performer, although I’d like to have seen him get a bit closer when upped to 1m1f here last time and my preference here is for FOREST FALCON. Ryan Moore is quite an eyecatching booking for the Johnstons, who got a win out of this five-year-old last time, after a near miss prior to that.

The gelded son of Raven’s Pass showed a marked improvement when a close second at Ripon  in May (1m2f, good). He then went on to produce a slightly better performance to win the Class 2 Zetland Gold Cup at Redcar (1m2f, good) last time. A 6lb rise for that looks fair and he may still have a few pounds in hand on his rivals. He looks the value at 8/1 and can be backed each-way if desired.

16:45 Coral ‘”Beaten-By-A-Length” Free Bet Handicap 1m2f

Strictly speaking, the best piece of recent form to go with here is that of Land Of Eagles, when second at Yarmouth (1m1f, good to soft) on his penultimate start. He didn’t need to be at that level to win a novice event at Chepstow (1m2f, good) and you just wonder if that Yarmouth form was quite as good as it first appeared, given how it is working out.

Forward Flight would definitely have a better chance if the ground turns soft but both he and I Am The Sea have to be respected on their racecourse achievements but this is a race where I am siding with the favourite, PICUAL.

The Lope De Vega filly showed some promise in her first three starts but always looked the type to improve when entering handicaps. That proved to be the case when, despite being slowly away, she came with a sustained run to win a fillies’ handicap at Nottingham (1m2f, good) last month.

The runner-up has boosted that form since, while this stiffer 1m2f should suit the selection even better and she will probably improve again when upped to 1m4f. She looks to have a fair bit going for her and looks likely to be ahead of the assessor after just a 4lb rise. 

17:20 Coral “Get Closer To The Action” Handicap 5f

A tough end to a very good day’s racing and a race in which no favourite has emerged on top in the past decade. All of the winners in that time have come from stall 7 or lower, with seven of those winners from stalls 1-4.

The favourite this time is Lovely Mana, who made all for a decisive Newcastle win last time, recording a career-best in the process. She is respected but given the record of the ‘jollies’ in this race as well as her 0-11 record on turf, she doesn’t look a giveaway price at 4/1.

Mine’s A Double ticks a few boxes, except recent form, coming into this after a well below par effort at Ascot in May. If Clive Cox has him back on good terms then he would very much be a player from stall 2.

Fantasy Master looks interesting in a new first-time headgear combination but I’m going to suggest that today could be the day to side with KING OF STARS.

Mick Appleby’s runners are in good form and this five-year-old is proven in higher grade than this, having won a Class 2 at York (5f, good to soft) last September, when just 1lb lower.

This calendar year has seen him struggle to replicate that, with six straight defeats, after the handicapper caught up with him. However, there is now light at the end of the tunnel and, with this drop in grade, plus 5lb claimed off his back by Frederick Larson, he can strike again. He certainly looks worth an each-way interest at around 9/1 with most firms.

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