Nicholls plays strong hand in York opener
AS FAR as prestige goes the Betfred Dante Stakes is the feature race at York on Thursday but, from a punting point of the view, two big-field handicaps offer the biggest odds of reward.
Thursday's card kicks off with a fiercely competitive 5f handicap, with the majority of bookmakers going 5-1 the field.
Sprint king David Nicholls, who last won the race with Tournedos in 2008, runs Mister Manannan and Fitz Flyer in this year's contest and can see both making the frame.
Nicholls said: "Mister Manannan was a good two-year-old but then lost his way. He came back with flying colours at Beverley and then wasn't favoured by the draw at Chester. He wouldn't want too much more rain.
"Fitz Flyer ran in the same Chester race last week and didn't have much luck either before staying on strongly. You've got to go to York with confidence and I'd say they could be second and third or first and second."
Equally competitive looks the Betfred Hambleton Stakes, a Listed race over a mile featuring 16 runners.
Four-year-olds have fared best over the last ten years, with six victories. Punters have the choice of just three from that age group this time, namely Fort Bastion, Es Que Love and Sound Hearts.
Roger Varian, trainer of Sound Hearts, said: "She was progressive last year and has done very well over the winter. She is probably better over ten furlongs but this is a nice starting point for her."
On tonight's card at Ludlow, perennial champion jockey Tony McCoy returns from a four-week absence when he partners Church Field in a novice handicap hurdle.
Fontwell Good, good to soft in places
Ludlow Good, good to firm in places
Salisbury Good to soft, good in places.
York Good, good to soft in places.