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Graeme Rodway believes Sandy Lane favourite could be something special

Dragon Symbol: a runaway winner at Hamilton last time
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3.35 Haydock
Casumo Bet10Get10 Sandy Lane Stakes (Group 2) | 6f | 3yo | ITV4/RTV

The market is rarely far wrong nowadays and it can be particularly revealing with regards to what to expect from unexposed runners on the Flat. One simple method I use to measure market strength is to divide the Betfair Starting Price (BSP) by the number of runners in the race. That provides a decimal figure and the lower the number, the higher the expectations.

Take Dragon Symbol as an example. The lightly raced three-year-old has quickly developed into one of the most exciting sprinters in Britain, but the market has known how good he is from the start. On his debut he went off a BSP of 2.19 in a 12-runner race for a figure of 0.18 (2.19/12) and in four runs, he has yet to return a decimal higher than 0.29. He averages 0.17. 

Compare that to the rest of the field’s career averages and only Method, with a decimal figure of 0.27, gets close to him. In fact, only Dragon Symbol, Method, Isabella Giles (0.47), Light Refrain and Umm Kulthum (both 0.65) weigh in with career average figures of less than one.

Dragon Symbol has yet to compete in Group company and the strength of the opposition, or lack of it, has obviously also played a part in him returning short prices. But make no mistake, this horse has a tall reputation and he has already gone a long way to justifying it. 

Backers who have taken the short odds won’t have had any worries because he is unbeaten in four and nothing has got within three lengths of him, let alone given him any kind of scare.

It’s always hard to assess promising young horses when they have yet to be seriously tested, but evidence from both the market and the track suggests we are seeing something special.

The last four winners of this race all went on to score in Group 1 company and Dragon Symbol has that potential, but it’s worth noting that all four of those winners competed in Group company at two and Dragon Symbol, Rohaan and Light Refrain fail on that score.

Method justified short odds when winning his first two starts at Doncaster (11-10 favourite) and Newbury (5-6 favourite), but his two defeats came when weaker in the market in Group company at Newmarket last autumn. However, he shaped well when a staying-on second behind Winter Power in the Cornwallis over 5f last time and this longer trip is his optimum.

Winter Power franked that form when bolting up in Listed company at York last week and it will be interesting to see if the market confidence returns for Method on this reappearance.
Race analysis by Graeme Rodway


The Lir Jet ready to take flight in Ascot prep  

The Lir Jet had been on course to run in the French 2,000 Guineas at Longchamp, but a minor setback paused that plan and he has been rerouted to Haydock for the Sandy Lane Stakes.

Like most of his nine rivals, The Lir Jet will be using the Group 2 as a trial for next month's Commonwealth Cup at Royal Ascot.

The Lir Jet (centre) finishes third in the Greenham Stakes at Newbury

Michael Bell’s stable star knows all about the royal meeting, having won the Norfolk Stakes there last year, and returns to sprint distances after his third in the Greenham Stakes at Newbury last month.

David Redvers, racing manager to part-owners Qatar Racing, said: "The Lir Jet is fine and we're hoping this is a stepping stone to the Commonwealth Cup, which is the race we believe suits him best. He should handle the ground if it's soft, but we don't want any extremes of going."


What the rest say

Archie Watson, trainer of Dragon Symbol
He's going back up to six furlongs and we're hopeful he'll handle the softer ground, having won on good to firm at Hamilton last time. This is a big step up in class and it should give us an idea of where we are with him.

Freddie Meade, son and assistant to Martyn Meade, trainer of Method
We thought last year six furlongs was his right trip. Unfortunately, we had to miss the Pavilion at Ascot as his bloods were not quite 100 per cent, so we decided not to push on and identified this as a target to get ready for. He seems to have trained on and we're excited to run him.

Richard Hills, assistant racing manager to Shadwell Estates, owners of Mujbar
He's a half-brother to Massaat, who loved soft ground, so this will suit him better than the Greenham at Newbury last time when the ground was too quick for him. He's not short of pace, so hopefully he should handle the drop to six furlongs.

Roger Varian, trainer of Saint Lawrence
He's up in class but he has been unlucky not to win both his races so far this season, instead of finishing second. He should handle the ground and this will tell us if he's a Commonwealth Cup horse or not.

Clive Cox, trainer of Isabella Giles
I'm not at all disappointed with her two runs this season. At Newbury, she was the last one off the bridle, so she clearly has a high cruising speed. We wanted to step her up in trip, but conditions have led us this way as she can run without carrying a penalty.

William Haggas, trainer of Light Refrain
She should enjoy the ground. She has a bit to find on the book, but six furlongs on soft ground is ideal for her, so we thought it worth a go.

Richard Fahey, trainer of Umm Kulthum
Strictly on ratings she comes out best, but there's still a question mark over whether she's trained on or not. We didn't really learn a lot in that regard in the Fred Darling at Newbury, but I’ve been pleased with her at home.
Reporting by David Milnes


Read more on Saturday's racing:

2.10 Goodwood: Paul Kealy believes likely pacesetter shouldn't be underestimated on his return

2.45 Curragh: Glen Shiel bids to defy testing conditions in big sprint

3.00 Haydock: can eyecatching Thirsk winner Raadobarg land a hat-trick in Silver Bowl?

3.20 Curragh: get the thoughts of Aidan O'Brien before Saturday's Irish 2,000 Guineas

4.10 Haydock: trainer record gives Liberty Beach and Keep Busy strong claims in Temple


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This horse has a tall reputation and he has already gone a long way to justifying it
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