An eight-runner Handicap Chase at Kempton is where we find today’s first selection. The selection comes in the form of the Harry Skelton six-year-old Thinger Licht. He switched yards from Tony Carroll to Skelton at the start of the month. He seems to have been rejuvenated for that switch, which has seen his form pick up as he has won and been 2nd on his two starts for his new yard. His first run for the Skelton team saw him beat By The Boardwalk by 5l at Worcester six days ago off the same mark as he runs off today. He travelled well and jumped soundly as his rivals had their problems with jumping despite a steady gallop. By The Boardwork was a winner at Towcester on Monday giving that form some strength. He went up 7lb for that success and it possibly told when he was turned out quickly just four days ago at Warwick in a Conditional Jockeys Handicap Chase, which was over 3m½f. It was a fine run and was only beaten by Moorlands George by a length, who raced off just 80 and ridden by Nico de Boinville, so was arguably stronger in the finish despite the horse idling. Today Harry Skelton takes the ride and he is back down to 2m4f, the distance when scoring at Worcester. There looks to be more improvement to come under the training of the Skelton team and looks the one to beat.
The 12-year-old Alright Benny has shot up the weights this winter and will also carry a 7lb penalty for his success at Fakenham eight days ago. The drying ground won’t be a problem and he is ultra-consistent, so will be the main threat to the selection. However, for him to win it would take a career best effort, which is a lot to ask of him at the age. Forresters Folly was rated in the 120s but had dropped to 94 before winning three starts ago. Since creeping up the weights he is back to 100 and may struggle against some of these younger more progressive types. Lord Lir hasn’t won under rules; he won a point-to-point all the way back in 2011, but he is dropping down the weights.
Thinger Licht (WIN)
We take a trip to the county town of Yorkshire and to the first day of the Dante festival. Conditions are currently described as good to soft and a dry night is forecast with sun. At the time of writing this in Leeds the dark skies don’t seem to want to hold that promise!
A 17-runner Class 3 handicap is the focus of my attention just after the Channel 4 cameras leave. Mount Tahan won at Wetherby 17 days ago. He broke well from the stalls and made all to see off Godolphin’s Fly With Emirates. The conditions should suit, even if there is rain that wouldn’t be a concern as his sire Lope De Vega won a Group 1 on soft ground. Ideally drawn in stall one too, should help him follow the tactics that saw him win takingly at Wetherby. He seemed to have improved for his pair of two-year-old starts and showed a likeable attitude last time out. In the future it looks like he could go up in trip with the way he shaped. Jamie Spencer takes the ride and has had a few nice winners over the last few days, including on Saturday when he won on Speculative Bid.
Many of these would prefer quicker ground, so there may be a few non-runners on the day when the ground conditions are more known. Swift Emperor is one of those. He won a maiden at Redcar on good to firm ground, so may find this ground a little slow. If Intiwin can overcome a wide draw in stall 15 he looks the main danger. On his second start last year he was 2nd to Celestial Path, who went on to finish 5th in 2000 Guineas and that looks the strongest piece of form going. As pointed out the draw is the concern but he does stay on as shown when winning two of his races by a nose. His recent win at Ripon came over a mile, so has the stamina to get across if required.
Mujassam has won on soft ground and disappointed on his seasonal reappearance at Newbury on quick ground. This track and ground should suit, so is a threat as he is drawn handily. George Bowen looks the best chance of Richard Fahey, who has aimed him at this race since winning at Wolverhampton. He is stepping up to this trip for the first time and ran on well late to win last time out on the all-weather. Foreign Diplomat must get a mention. Never out of the first three on his four starts, with one victory, which was last time out on good to firm at Thirsk. Again he is another that has to overcome a wide draw
Mount Tahan (E/W)
For the final selection we’ll stay at York for their closing race on Day One and another handicap over the trip of 1m4f.
Gabrial The Duke made it three wins from five starts when winning at Musselburgh on Good Friday. He is in-form and it is hard to find an argument against him considering he is still off a mark of 76, which would require a career best but he seems to have found a trip that suits him well. Richard Fahey said in his Sporting Life column that he didn’t think the soft ground at Musselburgh would suit him however he handled it very well and travelled strongly. He wasn’t ridden out until the furlong mark and stretched the winning margin to 2¼l to a tiring Titus Bolt. Pressure Point was 4th in a race in October behind Titus Bolt and was 4th again in the race Gabrial The Duke won.
The other Fahey horse Innocent Touch was 2nd to Mizzou, who went onto win the Sagaro Stakes at Ascot at the end of last month. He ran off 79 that day and today is off 80 with Jack Garritty claiming 5lb making him off a workable mark. He was just 5l behind Astronereus at Newmarket at the Guineas meeting and should enjoy this drying ground plus is drawn well. He was keen at Newmarket, so he would have to settle to not blow his chances.
An 110,000gsn juvenile Osaruveetil is likely to go off favourite for William Haggas but may be worth taking on. A wide draw shouldn’t play a major part in a race of this distance, as he will be settled in rear like he was when winning a maiden at Kempton. This is his seasonal reappearance and first race on turf, so fitness and track leave question marks giving the impression he is vulnerable. The form of that maiden doesn’t look the strongest. The 2nd Panatella hasn’t yet won in eight races, the 3rd Frederic has won, but over hurdles. He is likely to improve, so worth a market check to see how strong he is.
Libran has to overcome a 6lb penalty for his win at Beverley but comes from a yard very much in form. When he raced off this mark last time he was a well-beaten 8 of 13. Three starts ago over a mile he was 5 of 6 in a race Moohaarib won; he is now rated 100+ after his success as Ascot. If he comes to improve for that second run this season then he’ll be in the frame in the closing stages.
Seamour is the interesting having won a bumper on the all-weather before going a spell over hurdles. Again he looks to need soft ground.
Gabrial The Duke (E/W)