Several of last year’s principals travel to renew rivalries in this historic £150,000 handicap and it could be one who only just missed out who grabs the spoils this time.
Handicapping is a big issue in this race, more so than the draw or previous two-mile form, and that may yet be enough to rule out several high profile runners such as Amazing Red and Lagostovegas.
Here are six against the field who could all be a little ahead of the handicapper for varying reasons, with our selection a very reasonable price going into the weekend:
Being trained by Ian Williams this one will be popular with many in the ring as staying the distance will not be a problem. The 7yo has only had 14 runs on the flat and 26 in total meaning it would be no surprise were he to run a career best on the day.
Having run just ok over the course and distance last spring he’s improved since and should appreciate conditions more now, especially in a large field handicap which will allow him the sort of pace he’ll need to show up to his best.
David Simcock’s runner has more the look of a journeyman horse than one plotted to win this having already taken in seven runs since the turn of the year, however that is no negative given that he has thrived on racing and continued to improve.
He may well have just run out of puff now however and will need to take another step forward from this handicap mark, though doing so would not be a huge surprise.
Last year’s winner has unsurprisingly been prepared specifically for a repeat having last run 51 days ago and he once again has a great chance.
A thoroughly decent run behind Weekender at Chelmsford confirmed his wellbeing this season and he is only 1lb higher in the handicap than when taking the race under Tom Queally in 2017. Frankel’s jockey is back on board again and he is one who will make many a shortlist.
Just touched off in the race last year when ridden by Josie Gordon, the Godolphin runner once again stands a huge chance and is this time ridden by Paul Hanagan who knows exactly how to win around Gosforth Park.
This is a relatively lightly raced mare who has wintered in Dubai, somewhere her form appears average at first glance though a closer look at her last race there in March reads pretty well considering she finished only six lengths behind Vazirabad who has since gone on to push Stradivarius all the way in the Gold Cup at Ascot (Group 1).
She is rated 2lbs lower than last year despite the fact that she may even improve and in fact she has a 4lb pull in total with Higher Power – every chance.
Time To Study
Mark Johnston can never be discounted in these races and his typically busy performer Time To Study is not here to make up the numbers.
Contesting pattern races has shown in what regard the Middleham yard hold this horse, however I think that has done nothing for his handicap mark and he may just struggle to hold off the pack in the final quarter mile.
Roger Charlton’s runner landed one of the gambles of the season in the Cesarewitch last year, the horse pulling out the improvement the stable knew he could having had a prep run following a year off the track and a change of stable.
He has been laid out for this race and once again the money has flooded in, the weight of which has meant the son of Champs Elysees plummeting down to a very skinny price.
He is definitely on the shortlist on merit and has a proper chance, however that chance doesn’t really reflect in his price and it may be a tough ask to come out first time in 2018 and take this.
Plenty in with chances then as you’d expect, but all things considered it would seem the weights have really favoured Godolphin’s NATURAL SCENERY who went so close to scoring last year. The 5yo mare can take a step forward now having run in the spring but been trained for this by Saeed bin Suroor, who shows proper ambition in wanting to win it, with Paul Hanagan a very good choice in the saddle.
Curbyourenthusiasm and Byron Flyer may be the ones to chase the daughter of Dubawi home with previous winner and gamble of the week Higher Power and Withhold next on the list.