13:50 Sandown – Esher Cup Handicap
Lestrade is taking a big step up in terms of class but his loss by a head last time out when giving away 7lb to the whole field at Lingfield wasn’t a bad effort at all – he had to race three wide and was staying on gamely despite his extra weight. He actually did race quite keenly that day and has worn a hood in all three starts to date so he will have to settle better here over a mile, but based on his last start it seems as if the step up in trip should suit. He can be backed at 16/1 but considering the fact that there are only 11 runners, Skybet’s extra place is more tempting at 14/1.
Lestrade 0.5pt e/w 16/1 (1/5 odds 4 places, Skybet, Paddy Power)
14:25 Sandown – Gordon Richards Stakes
Crystal Ocean is the obvious starting point, having gone close in the King George VI Stakes last year and winning three group races, including this one, at the start of the season. He certainly looks the most likely winner but is one that I can leave alone at 8/11. For an alternative, Knight To Behold is the one for me – he seems like a fairly unpredictable horse, having looked completely out of his depth in the Epsom and Irish Derbies last season. Prior to that, though, he did beat Kew Gardens at Lingfield – Kew Gardens went on to win two group 1 races. Knight To Behold finally got his day in the sun after Derby disappointments in a group 2 at Deauville, and then went on to run another disappointing race in a group 2 at Longchamp. He’s clearly good on his day, though, and the reason that he’s interesting for me today is simply that he has run well fresh in the past – he was beaten by just a nose first time out as a 2yo, running to more or less the same level as when he won on his next start, and victory over Kew Gardens came on his first start as a 3yo. There’s obviously a chance that he could put in another awful run, but his performance at Deauville was probably more or less on a par with what Crystal Ocean did in this race last year, and 12/1 seems a fair price.
Knight To Behold 1pt win 12/1 (general)
15:00 Sandown – Classic Trial
It seems somewhat unlikely that we’ll actually see a classic winner in the Classic Trial, but Bangkok did look like an exciting prospect at Doncaster on his first 3yo start. He looks a different horse to last season and the form from that race is working out well, with the 2nd and 4th both going on to win with considerable ease since. Bangkok could well emulate their success, and 7/4 seems generous.
Bangkok 1pt win 7/4 (Bet365, Ladbrokes, Unibet)
15:15 Perth – Mares’ Chase
Atlanta Ablaze had a wind op in August and it seems to have brought about significant improvement, with subsequent form of 1131U1F. She was still in with a chance on both of the occasions that she fell or unseated, the latter in the National Hunt Chase at Cheltenham when she was running an excellent race when falling at the third last. There may be some question marks over how much that tough race might have taken out of her, but it was 45 days ago and her 4 recent wins have come after similar gaps. Drinks Interval and Got Away will make it a competitive affair, but 5/2 just about looks a fair price for Atlanta Ablaze.
Atlanta Ablaze 1pt win 5/2 (Bet365)
15:35 Sandown – Bet365 Mile
Beat The Bank was only 11th of 13 on his final start of last season and that sees him come into this race as 3/1 second favourite, despite the fact that he has three group 2 wins under his belt (the only other group 2 winners in the field are Addeybb and Suedois with one each). The clear pattern in his form is field size – his form in fields of 11 or less is 1111151, with the 5th coming in the Sussex Stakes when he ran creditably and was only beaten by 2 lengths. His form in fields of 13 or more is 100060, and the time he clocked on his penultimate start in the Celebration Mile Stakes at Goodwood really sets the standard here. I make him a very nice bet at 3/1.
Beat The Bank 3pt win 3/1 (Bet365, Skybet, William Hill, BetVictor, Betway, 888Sport)