Rachael Blackmore returns to Britain for the first time since winning the Grand National to ride Plan Of Attack in the Bet365 Gold Cup on Saturday afternoon, and the eight-year-old seems likely to start favourite with his rider’s historic success at Aintree still fresh in the memory.
The drying ground is an unknown for Henry de Bromhead’s runner, however, and a fall at Cheltenham in March – admittedly when still travelling well – also tempers enthusiasm at relatively short odds
El Presente (3.40) makes more appeal under Saturday’s conditions at around 7-1. He has been aimed towards this race from a long way out, should improve for the step up in trip and bounced off similar ground at Wincanton in November.
Sandown 1.55 At least a dozen of these novices would be plausible winners but On To Victory, rated 105 when last seen on the Flat, has a touch of class and appeared to have clicked over hurdles at Warwick last time.
Leicester 2.10 Pogo’s fitness needs to be taken on trust, but he ran well to finish a close second on his seasonal debut in 2020 and has plenty of form, including a second at Group Two level last October, that gives him a big chance if anywhere close to his best.
Sandown 2.30 Little doubt that the admirable Frodon is the likeliest winner here, though it’s easy to pass on a bet at around 4-6 after he typically gave his all until his stamina ran out in the Gold Cup at Cheltenham last time.
Haydock 2.50 The going was heavy when Persuasion finished second behind Tomfre at Leicester in October, recording a decent time in the process, but while the winner there was a confirmed mudlark who reeled off an autumn hat-trick, Charles Hills’s colt has form on quicker ground too and starts the season on a workable mark.
Sandown 3.05 Put The Kettle On and Altior head the betting for the final Grade One of the season and have won three of the past four renewals of the Champion Chase between them. Altior has questions to answer after his latest defeat on Boxing Day, however, and the new two-mile champion seems best suited to Cheltenham, which leaves Sceau Royal looking like a fair alternative at around 4-1. He lost as many lengths as he was beaten by when badly hampered in the Champion Chase last time and goes really well on spring ground.
Marquand back in business with Alenquer
Less than a week after winning a Group One in Australia, Tom Marquand made a seamless return to British racing at Sandown as the 25-1 chance Alenquer, outsider of 10 runners, held the late challenge of Adayar by half a length in the Bet365 Classic Trial.
Alenquer’s price perhaps owed something to the fact that he was one of only two horses in the field without an entry in the Derby in early June. He looked at home in Friday’s field, however, under a positive ride by Marquand, who was close to the pace from the off.
Adayar, by contrast, was slowly away and James Doyle had to switch left to get a run before coming up a few strides short. In time, he may prove to have been the best horse in the race, but Alenquer too is a useful prospect with plenty of scope to progress over middle-distances.
“I thought he did it well,” said William Haggas, Alenquer’s trainer, “but I think it paid to be handy. I was a bit surprised by the price he was, but it was different ground to last season as he ran on soft both times. He hit the line well and I think he will be seen to better effect over a mile-and-a-half. All options are open, he could be supplemented for the Derby but he is also in the German Derby.”
Palace Pier, an impressive winner of the Group Two Bet365 Mile, completed a double for John Gosden after the earlier success of Waldkonig in the Gordon Richards Stakes, after which the trainer confirmed that, contrary to earlier reports, his jockey Rab Havlin will not appeal against a 21-day ban under the non-trier rules, imposed by the stewards at Lingfield on Wednesday.
“He’s only followed my instructions [and] I think they’ve been severe,” Gosden said. “I talked to him last night about it. He’s probably worked flat out for 20 months, I told him to turn a negative into a positive and take a few days off, it will be the best thing ever.”