IT’S three weeks to the Northumberland Plate, and Sun Central can advertise his claims for the big Tyneside prize by landing the BetVictor Royal Ascot No Lose Hughes Stakes at Haydock.
The word from Newmarket is that the four-year-old is being lined up for a tilt at the Plate as he steps up to two miles for the first time. That’s expected to bring about further improvement to a horse that was progressive last year.
William Haggas won today’s event 12 months ago with Lordofthehouse, who was talented but unpredictable, while Sun Central, in the same ownership, is far more reliable.
The only time he failed to make the first three in five attempts last year was on his final appearance at Ascot, where he trailed home in last place.
However, he can be forgiven for that as he soaked up energy trying to get across from a wide draw and was eased when his chance had gone.
Sun Central still managed to win a couple of races and made the perfect start to the current campaign when short-heading Mysterious Man at Salisbury even though he would have preferred a stronger gallop. I doubt a 3lb rise will halt his progress over this longer trip.
Although Robot Boy has failed to build on his maiden success at Doncaster in April, it’s far too soon to put him on the back burner.
He will be suited by Haydock’s flat track and a return to six furlongs for the Download The BetVictor App Now Handicap.
Pastoral Player attempts to repeat last year’s success in the Timeform Jury Stakes but he has a bit to find with Eton Forever on their latest running over the course and distance.
Saddled with a 4lb penalty, Eton Forever beat subsequent winner Gregorian with Pastoral Player back in fourth. They now meet on level terms so, strictly on that form, the winner should come out on top again.
As one of the best trainers in the world, Sir Michael Stoute is back to something like his best after a couple of poor seasons, and the winners continue to flow.
Enrol, who ended last term with successive wins, started where she left off when reappearing at Doncaster and got into top gear in time to reel back Mississippi close home. I think she will cope with an 8lb rise in the Betfair Supporting The Animal Health Trust Handicap at Newmarket.
The one that could trouble her most is Nocturn, who was on a hat-trick at York only to find Mass Rally proving the stronger near the finish.
He remains on an upward curve.
Nabucco caught the eye behind Ehtedaam over the course and distance recently and it would be no surprise to see the placings reversed in the Ladbrokes Charitable Trust Handicap.
Ehtedaam won, just over a length ahead of Nabucco in third, but a 4lb turnaround in the weights should give the John Gosden horse the edge this time especially as he hadn’t run for 309 days. Area Fifty One will appreciate the return to quicker ground for the Crabbie’s Strawberry And Lime Handicap at Chester.
All his turf wins have come on a better surface and, bearing that in mind, he ran really well against Resurge at Epsom last week.
He has gone up a pound for that outing but is now ridden by a competent 5lb claimer so his handicap mark remains well within his capabilities.
Despite a 4lb rise for a neck defeat at Chester, Clockmaker can go one better in the totepool.com Handicap at Catterick.