Ante-Post Preview Thursday May 24

Sandown – Brigadier Gerard Stakes Evening

Sandown Park

Race Preview

Sandown Park takes centre stage on Thursday with one of the highlights of early summer in their Group 3 Matchbook Brigadier Gerard Stakes evening, the undoubted midweek evening highlight of the racing year in many eyes.

The feature event is due off at 8.10 and will see the irrepressible Ryan Moore looking to win for a remarkable fourth time in eight years.

Fabricate can halt Moore’s run

Ryan Moore has stamped his name on the Brigadier Gerard Stakes (8.10) with four wins in seven years, ensuring he’s rapidly closing in on Lester Piggott’s record tally of six wins. Three of those victories have come in partnership with his old boss, Sir Michael Stoute.

The deadly duo team up again here with Poet’s Word, the 4/5 favourite with Coral. He was a Group 3 winner at Goodwood last summer and has proved himself in top-level company around the world since with some stellar runs in defeat in Group 1 company (see video below).

At odds-on in this five-runner field he’s got strong claims but the cramped price rather tempers my enthusiasm and I’d prefer to take him on with FABRICATE, trading at 4/1 with William Hill.

Michael Bell’s six-year-old ran a cracking race over C&D last month in the Group 3 Gordon Richards Stakes when giving best to another Stoute inmate, Crystal Ocean, in a head-bobbing finish (see video below). That form went up a notch on Saturday as Crystal Ocean readily dismissed Second Step at Newbury by six-lengths in a Group 3 run over a mile and four furlongs.

James Doyle is riding with real confidence right now and, at the prices, Fabricate has a very fair chance to take down Poet’s Word and carry the Royal silks to victory in Sandown’s feature contest.

Just five will line up in the race, a bit of a disappointing turnout, and the front two in the market look to have things between them.

The Owen Burrows-trained Laraaib will likely have plenty of improvement in him this season at four, but he’s having his first run since August and will do well to gun down a pair of high-class and race fit rivals. Desert Encounter has proved no match for Poet’s Word already this year, while the field is completed by Air Pilot, a solid performer who has his chance compromised by conceding a penalty to his rivals in this race.

Advice: Fabricate (4/1 with William Hill)

Hannon the Wedding planner

The Listed National Stakes (6.35) over five-furlongs could easily be better known as the Hannon’s Sandown benefit such has been the sheer domination of the race by their yard.

Richard Hannon Snr. landed this contest on no less than ten occasions after it was first introduced in 1989. Since taking over the license at their Marlborough base, Richard Jnr. has added wins of his own with Tiggy Wiggy and King Of Rooks in 2014/15.

To my eye, he has another outstanding candidate here in the shape of the filly WEDDING DATE  6/1 with Paddy Power.

The daughter of Dandy Man played second fiddle on her debut at Windsor early this month behind James Watt, who has since taken a step forward by winning again at Windsor.

Wedding Date has also proved she is a filly to take seriously with her own win at Chester’s May Festival (see video below). She was pitted in there against promising colt Ynys Mon, who saw plenty of money coming from his supporters on the day and went off a very warm order.

Despite a slow break and a position in the rear early on, far from ideal on the Roodee, Wedding Date came around the field and brushed aside the challenge of Ynys Mon with some disdain. It was a visually impressive effort and one that had her going in the notebook for me as a filly to follow this summer.

She’s certainly got a chance to prove that theory here, taking on a host of previous winners and three colts boasting unbeaten records after one race in the shape of Konchek, Sabre and Vintage Brut. Of that trio, the first-named is given most credence at Sandown but the main danger might come from Kinks.

Mick Channon’s colt won a nice race at Ripon last month, taking his record to two wins from three starts having just been touched off on his all-weather debut at Kempton. He’s 13/2 with Paddy Power and rates a solid contender, but hopefully Wedding Date will prove up to this task.

Advice: Wedding Date (6/1 with Paddy Power)

Frankie’s the man on Weekender

The third and final focus race in this early look at the Sandown card is the Group 3 Matchbook Henry II Stakes (7.35), a recognised trial for next month’s Ascot Gold Cup and run over a trip just in excess of two-miles.

The go-to man in this race has been Frankie Dettori who won for the sixth time last year on Big Orange, before Michael Bell’s popular charge famously went on to win an absolute classic Gold Cup at Royal Ascot just a month later.

Whether we’ll see a Gold Cup winner in the making in this Group 3 event this time around remains to be seen, but Dettori has once again got an ace-hand to play as he rides WEEKENDER for John Gosden, the current 3/1 favourite with bet365.

Four-year-olds have a very strong recent record in this contest, with six winners since Dettori guided Mr Dinos to success in 2003. They’ll have decent claims of adding to that tally now with half of the eight-runner field being made up of that post-Classic age group.

A colt by the mighty Frankel, Weekender was first past the post in an Ascot listed contest on his final start last season (see video below), only to lose the race in the stewards’ room to Raheen House – a decent benchmark himself.

Gosden’s charge reappeared this month on the all-weather at Chelmsford with an impressive victory in a conditions race, scarcely having to go through the gears in doing so.

This will be his first foray into Group-race company and also his first run beyond a mile and six furlongs, but’s he improved with each and every step out in trip so far and the manner of his latest win strongly hinted this will be in his compass.

He could be a very exciting stayer for Gosden, who has his team in mighty form right now (27% strike rate from 59 runners previous fortnight).

Advice: Weekender (3/1 with bet365) horse racing tipster

Written by Enda McElhinney

Enda McElhinney is an Irish-based racing writer with an increasing portfolio of work on British and Irish racing. His daily routine is race-by-race form analysis, both on the Flat and over jumps. While the racing world must keep on turning, he is quite sure that no horse will ever pull at his heartstrings quite as much as the 2008 Cheltenham Gold Cup hero Denman.