A good £25,000 handicap for horses rated between 86-105, run over the testing mile-and-a-half trip at this popular West Yorkshire venue.
There are some familiar names in the line-up for this fascinating six-runner contest that has attracted horses who may well get a run at Royal Ascot in a few weeks’ time, so there could be plenty resting on their respective performances here.
Andrew Balding’s charge will again have Oisin Murphy in the saddle having caught the eye with a good third place finish at York last month and there may be better to come.
Banksea, trained by Derby-winning Charlie Appleby (pictured), has top weight but is not without a chance, and thorough stayer My Reward should appreciate this stiff track. Manjaam will have plenty of supporters following his brave neck success in a similar grade event at York 16 days ago.
Just six runners here but this is a trappy affair. Manjaam will be a popular choice having showed a good attitude to scramble home by a neck from favourite Across The Stars at York. The pair pulled well clear of the remainder suggesting the form is solid and he remains feasibly weighted despite the 4lb rise. Ed Dunlop’s horses have hit form over the last week so this Tamayuz Gelding should make a bold bid for back-to-back successes.
Contango and Banksea both ran in the York handicap won by Hamada last month, the former finishing a respectable third while the latter finished last of the seven runners having got very warm in the preliminaries. CONTANGO was placed by Andrew Balding (pictured) to win his first three career starts last season and appears to be coming to hand now off his higher mark. He likes to be held up so connections will hope there is a decent pace for him. I expect there will be and believe the Casamento gelding will run a very big race.
Banksea won here in 2016 over 1m2f on his only previous visit to this track when trained by Luca Cumani for whom he won last year’s Spring Cup at Newbury. He joined the Godolphin team this winter and ran well to be placed in all three starts at Meydan over 10 furlongs then reappeared at York on his first start at a mile-and-a-half. It’s hard to know if he will stay as he looked fractious that day, and this track is a stiffer test than the Knavesmire. While he is respected, the five-year-old does have a few questions to answer at this distance.
It seems a given that in-form Tim Easterby’s good stayer My Reward will make the running as he likes to bowl along and stays two miles without a problem. A dawdle followed by a sprint finish will not suit him so expect David Allan to set decent fractions as he tries to draw the sting out of his rivals.
Baydar was in tremendous form in 2016 but has been on the slides for some time and has shown little sign of a revival for his new yard despite a tumbling handicap mark. Final, a progressive handicapper through 2016 and into last year, hasn’t been seen since running at Epsom a year go but Mark Johnston can get them ready to run after an absence so a check for any market move is advised.
Written by Paul Alster
Paul Alster has been part of the British and international racing media for more than three decades working as a race commentator, TV/radio presenter, journalist, betting correspondent, SP returner, and form analyst. He’s always sought out overpriced runners in handicap races, a quest that excites him as much now as it did at the start of his career.