Horse Racing

Saturday’s Race Of The Day

by Dave Stevos

This Saturday the highlight has got to be the Group 2 Sandy Lane Stakes at Haydock and you can catch all the action live on Channel 4 at 15.45. William Haggas has won it twice in the last ten years and he is represented by Ajaya in this year’s renewal. Favourites have an excellent record in this 3yo race with seven of the last ten obliging. No winner has been priced bigger than 6/1 in that period (Adaay last year) and this season’s edition looks a tricky puzzle to solve. Below are my thoughts on the main players in what looks an intriguing contest.

AJAYA (HAGGAS/ATZENI)

Weight: 9st 3lbs
Official Rating: 114
Best Odds: 12/1 Skybet

This 3yo colt is a son of Invincible Spirit and he is very well related on his dam side. He comes from a yard with a good record in this race, and indeed Haggas won it last year with Adaay. This fella took a couple of races to learn his job, but when he clicked he just took off. He hacked up in a maiden at York (5.5f gd) and then went agonisingly close in a Group 2 at Maison Laffitte (5.5f gd).

He made up for that head defeat in fine style at York in the Group 2 Gimcrack (6f gd) and he did it impressively. The 2nd home that day, Ribchester, went on to be third in the 1000 Guineas at a big price so the form is rock solid. He signed off last season with a cracking effort in the Group 1 Middle Park when he came home fourth, a couple of lengths behind Buratino. If he is 100% fit for his seasonal reappearance he could run a big race at Haydock on Saturday.

BURATINO (JOHNSTON/DOYLE) 

Weight: 9st 3lbs
Official Rating: 117
Best Odds: 5/1 Stan James

This typically tough Mark Johnston son of Exceed And Excel had 8 races last season and only once ran below form. The highlight was undoubtedly his Royal Ascot win in the Group 2 Coventry (6f gd to fm) when he beat the highly touted Air Force Blue. That rival turned the form around next time at the Curragh in the Group 1 Keeneland Phoenix Stakes (6f gd) but there was too much juice in the ground for Buratino that day.

He signed off last season with a close second in the Middle Park at Newmarket (6f gd) when he had Ajaya a couple of lengths behind. He ran no sort of race on his seasonal return in the 2000 Guineas (8f gd to sft) but both the trip and ground were against him. That will have blown away the cobwebs and the drop in trip on better ground looks sure to suit. A big run would come as no surprise and he beat Gifted Master at Newmarket (6f gd) last season off level weights in a novice event. He has to concede 3lb to him this time though, and that could make all the difference at Haydock.

DONJUAN TRIUMPHANT (FAHEY/MOORE) 

Weight: 9st 3lbs
Official Rating: 115
Best Odds: 6/1 Boylesports

This son of Dream Ahead has been the pick of his promising young sire’s progeny so far. He failed to win a maiden but he did nothing but improve as the season progressed. He hasn’t looked back since landing a nursery at Ayr off 88 (6f gd), following up in Listed company in good style at York (6f gd to sft) on his next run.

He then headed to Maison Laffitte in France for his first crack at Group 2 level and he ploughed through the soft ground for an easy 5.5L success. He was then stepped up to Group 1 level at Saint Cloud (7f very sft) and he ran a very creditable race in fourth, never nearer but staying on well. He would like to see plenty of rain falling before Saturday comes but the forecast is not in his favour. If the heavens open it will increase his chance, but he hasn’t run for quite some time and he may well need this outing to put him right. I think he is best watched today and he could be one to stay longer trips later in the season.

GIFTED MASTER (PALMER/SMULLEN) 

Weight: 9st 0lbs
Official Rating: 115
Best Odds: 7/4 Bet365

This trailblazing son of Kodiac has looked a hugely exciting prospect this season. He is a dual Group 3 winner, landing his first at Newmarket last year (8f gd) by half a length from Beacon Rock. He returned to action this season with an easy victory at Newmarket (6f gd to sft) before following up at Ascot last time in devastating fashion.

He made mincemeat of the field in that Group 3 contest (6f), relishing the good to soft ground and storming to a 2L victory under Pat Smullen. The result was never in doubt and he kept on really well. The fact that he has won over 8f and 7f proves that he has stamina in abundance and Smullen will ride him aggressively from the front again. If he can break quickly from stall 7 and get to the front he could be hard to peg back. He has a favourites’ chance and with race fitness on his side he is sure to be popular with punters.

LA RIOJA (CANDY/MURPHY)

Weight: 8st 11lbs
Official Rating: 110
Best Odds: 7/4 Bet365

Henry Candy is one of the shrewdest handlers in the business and this daughter of Hellvelyn looked a very exciting prospect last year. She is lightly raced but she has shown huge ability on her last two starts. She hosed up in her maiden at Newbury (6f gd to fm) and Candy showed how highly he rated her by stepping her into Group 3 company on just her third start.

She repaid her trainer’s faith in style at Salisbury in the Dick Poole Fillies Stakes (6f soft), showing a smart turn of foot on the easy ground to demolish the field by almost 5L. Atzeni just pushed her out under hands and heels and he gave her just one smack for the cameras inside the final furlong. It was a visually impressive performance but she may well be best with a bit of cut in the ground and for that reason she is best watched, unless the rain arrives.

QUIET REFLECTION (BURKE/COSTELLO) 

Weight: 8st 11lbs
Official Rating: 109
Best Odds: 10/1 Paddy Power

This daughter of Showcasing is another massively exciting prospect and she is the current flag bearer for the Ontoawinner syndicate. She has been a credit to her trainer Karl Burke and she has won four of her five career starts. After winning her maiden first time out at Hamilton (5f gd to sft) she was stepped into Group 2 company at York (6f gd to sft) on her next run. It was possibly too much too soon for her and she finished fifth, 7L behind the winner Besharah.

That experience looked like it stood to her on her next start when dropping back into Listed company at Ayr (5f gd). She won that race in impressive fashion, storming clear and showing a good turn of foot in the process. She showed that was no fluke on her final run of last season, taking a Group 3 at Newmarket (5f gd to sft) by nearly 3L. She reappeared in Chantilly last month in a Group 3 (6f heavy) and held off the late challenge of Jimmy Two Times by a head. She should come on for that and she will be fitter on Saturday. She looks a big price and she is one to be interested in each way.

VERDICT 

This really is a cracking contest with some seriously talented animals in the field. Gifted Master is a worthy favourite and he will make a bold bid from the front. However, Ajaya is another that likes to get on with things and if they take each other on they could set the race up for a closer. Buratino looks overpriced at 5/1 dropping back in trip on better ground, but his 3lb penalty tempers enthusiasm.

At the current prices the one that I like each way is Quiet Reflection at odds of 10/1 with Paddy Power. This filly made a pleasing return to action in France and with that run under her belt she will be even better on Saturday. She should be suited by a strong pace over this trip and she will get that with Gifted Master and Ajaya in the field. She gets weight from them all bar La Rioja and I think this fast filly can run a huge race and reward each way support at odds of 10/1.

STEVOS’ SELECTION: QUIET REFLECTION E/W 10/1

1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Gordon Nightingale (Pinpoint)

    May 29, 2016 at 10:33 am

    A real treat of an analysis, so informative, and for the selection to run away with it at a good price was the icing on the cake. The moment I read it I lump on, even though I’d already bet on my own selection(still running). Thanks SD.

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