Something for everyone on another cracking day of racing
After the return of the Flat turf season in Britain and a bumper day of action on Saturday, you may be tiring approaching the final few furlongs of the weekend, but you need to find a second wind for Sunday as there is something for everyone on another intriguing day.
Day two at Donny
Solving handicap puzzles is testing at the best of times, but when you turn the page or click on the race (whatever your technological ability) the sight of 22 runners, of varying fitness levels that not even trainers really know, will either make you determined or cower.
Handicap contests on day two of the Lincoln meeting at Doncaster have attracted two fields of 22, one 20-runner event and another 18-runner race. It could be a costly perm on the Placepot or Jackpot.
The one handicap on the card with a lower number of runners (ten) is another minefield in itself, with all but one of the contenders arriving with a win in their last two starts.
The action at Town Moor is not restricted to handicaps, with the 1m4f conditions stakes (3.55) attracting St Leger fourth Muntahaa and Group 3-placed Chemical Charge, who has finished first or second in his seven career starts.
Prize-money on offer for title-seekers
The return of the Flat may have taken centre stage on Saturday but the British trainers’ title race rumbles on with Nicky Henderson and Paul Nicholls saddling runners at Ascot on Sunday.
There is some good prize-money on offer with Henderson’s Fred Winter sixth Percy Street and eyecatcher Domperignon Du Lys taking on Nicholls' Dolos in the £40,000 juvenile handicap hurdle (2.30).
Nicholls will have his eyes on the prize in the £47,000 2m handicap chase for novices (3.40), in which the Ditcheat maestro saddles San Benedeto and Clic Work.
Neither Henderson nor Nicholls are represented in a race that will warm the heart – the £30,000 veterans’ handicap chase (4.15). Shuil Royale, Fox Appeal, Forgotten Gold and Astracad are among the familiar names in the 12-runner line-up.
There is another name on the Ascot racecard that will bring a smile to your face with Oliver Sherwood’s Puffin Billy returning to action after 715 days off the track in the 2m7½f conditional jockeys’ handicap hurdle under Harrison Beswick. Good luck, Billy!
Trainers’ title battle II
Willie Mullins and Gordon Elliott once more lock horns in their tussle for the Irish jumps title as Fairyhouse hosts three Grade 2 events on Sunday.
Mullins’ selective approach in the 2m1f Normans Grove Chase (2.20), saddling Ballycasey, is not mirrored by Elliott, who instead has adopted the scattergun tactic in running Ball D’Arc, The Game Changer, Tell Us More and Realt Mor.
With eight runners and prize-money down to sixth place, a leading supermarket’s slogan ‘Every little helps’ comes to mind.
Avenir D’Une Vie, previously trained by Mullins but now with Henry de Bromhead, and Joseph O’Brien’s Outspoken, who is partnered by Barry Geraghty on his return to the saddle, are other notable runners in a cracking renewal.
It’s three versus two in the final Grade 2 event, the 2m4f novice hurdle (4.05), with Walsh opting to ride Invitation Only from the Mullins trio, while Elliott saddles joint top-rated Runfordave, the mount of Jack Kennedy, and Minella Till Dawn.
Ted Walsh may have the last laugh, however, with the talented Any Second Now.
Midgley hoping to be popping Cork
Cork steps up to the plate on the second weekend of the Irish Flat turf season.
They must treat Paul Midgley well on his trips to Ireland for Listed/Group sprint contests because he is back for more – this time with Giant Spark in the 6f Cork Stakes (2.05).
The five-year-old, winner of a Navan handicap last autumn, has a bit to find on official ratings but it would not be the most remarkable result of the weekend if he triumphed under Pat Smullen.
On their handicap marks, Joseph Murphy’s Only Mine and Daniel Rabhi’s Spirit Quartz, who makes the journey from France, are the leading contenders, although Dandyman Port is a fascinating runner receiving weight all round on her first start for Des Donovan.