This ever-popular mile-and-a-half handicap features a mixture of those proven at the trip and those who for one reason or another will need to get better, but despite all the main contenders being aged four or five there appear to be plenty of improvers in the field.
The weather is making a big difference now this week and this trip will take some getting for some of them, but we reckon we have the horse with enough ticks next to his name to make him good value in the market.
Having now been gelded, Peter Chapple-Hyam’s five-year-old could yet produce more improvement over this trip and especially on rain-softened ground.
A winner of four starts in a row between 2017 and 2019 for Jeremy Noseda and Chapple-Hyam, Deja faced another break between July and November last year when he reappeared with a decent fifth at Newcastle. Assuming fitness is now not a worry, there is more to come from this one and he must be feared.
Jim Crowley has been on fire this week and he gets the ride for the first time on David Simcock’s four-year-old Sea The Moon gelding, one who has a third to Technician on soft ground to his name and who will be having only his eighth career start.
A winner twice last summer, Durston appears to be versatile as far as course types go while he also has racing conditions to his liking here and if still handicapped well enough of a mark some 18lbs higher than his last winning one, he can run a place at least.
While unproven on softer turf going, it’s not to be forgotten that this horse was never considered as one who simply makes up the numbers within his very high-profile yard.
Plenty was expected last year of what has proven to simply be a horse who has been slower than some to come to hand, so there remains little doubt that El Misk’s best days are still ahead of him and that is a major thing to consider in a handicap of this nature.
A confirmed stayer over this distance, El Misk has won at Newcastle and twice at Kempton including when taking a small handicap very easily last time out and if the ground holds no fears, he should prove to be a good few pounds ahead of the handicapper for John Gosden and Frankie Dettori.
Andrew Balding’s runner is already ten races into his career, but that’s not to say he can’t pull more out of the bag yet.
His seasonal reappearance behind West End Charmer was nothing too special, but he is perhaps best judged on last year’s form when he won a valuable race at Beverley before running a very good third behind Lord North in the Cambridgeshire, though he is unproven as yet at this distance.
Rock solid for Qatar Racing, Archie Watson and Oisin Murphy, this four-year-old gelding is lightly raced and comes into the race carrying plenty of expectation from his yard.
Race fit after a good comeback win at Newcastle earlier in the month, Medal Winner has stayed a mile-and-a-quarter on a testing surface well enough and shapes as though he will love things here.
Liable to be a 105 horse give or take in time, his current mark of 96 underestimates him overall and that makes him a key runner in this event.
West End Charmer
Mark Johnston’s runner gets in here with a 4lb penalty having taken a Newmarket handicap last time, and while the extra two furlongs are no worry given where he’s trained the ground just may be.
While he has won on good to soft before, he flopped on proper soft ground last summer and has done all of his best work on good or faster going to date, though in this particular race his trainer can never be discounted and he remains of interest.
Once more there are some unknowns despite the field being reasonably experienced, with Medal Winner and Deja obviously capable of turning it on in these conditions.
While the ground remains a slight unknown however, the sheer class of EL MISK could come to the fore and we know he stays very well, making him a betting proposition for the brilliant Gosden and Dettori team and he ultimately gets the vote.