ITV’s live racing focuses on Sandown’s dual purpose meeting on Friday and Saturday. It is the turn of the flat first, with a pair of accompanying races from Perth, and we have tips from all seven of Friday’s races.
Auditor (1.20 Sandown)
The handicapper may not have left AUDITOR much room to manoeuvre, especially after such a long time off the track. Nevertheless, he has a good sprinting pedigree and could easily develop for Martyn Meade this term.
The three-year-old was initially campaigned over 6f during his juvenile campaign, finishing fourth at Salisbury and third at Newbury. Neither were bad efforts, but he failed to land any blows late on and was dropped back to 5f thereafter.
That proved an inspired move by Meade, as he won a Windsor maiden by a four-length margin. The form is decidedly questionable, with none of those immediately behind him competing off marks in the 70s in subsequent handicap starts.
As such, Auditor’s opening handicap rating of 89 may seem harsh, but he is in very capable hands for this sort of trip. He kicked clear in very likeable fashion last time out and may have had even more in hand to kick on.
Al Marmar (1.50 Sandown)
Godolphin’s form is such that Blue Trail is likely to be well supported for this. However, on their most recent match, he and Kind should be separated by a fair few points in the market, with John and Thady Gosden’s charge well on top last time.
However, neither of their respective performances screamed that they would be all that kindly treated off these marks. Andrew Balding’s AL MARMAR meanwhile, may have plenty to come off a mark of 88.
He was beaten only half-a-length by an odds-on favourite who followed up under a penalty on debut, then made very light work of a Lingfield maiden. The runner-up that day was beaten just a short head next time out, rather than the six lengths Al Marmar beat him by.
David Probert accompanied him on a trip to Doha for local Group 2 on his first turf start, in which he placed fourth. That was an encouraging enough effort back in February and four of his half-siblings achieved higher ratings than he has so far. There is definitely potential for him to improve.
Platinumcard (2.05 Perth)
Gordon Elliott loves a venture across to Perth and holds two of the five entries for this handicap hurdle.
Eclair De Beaufeu is probably the most interesting as a horse with significant class back in his better days. He has won a handicap chase at the Dublin Racing Festival and twice been placed at the Cheltenham Festival, in the Grand Annual and County Hurdle.
That said, his form this season has been very poor and not indicative of a horse with a revival in the offing. HIs stablemate, PLATINUMCARD, may not have shown much over hurdles when with Keith Dalgliesh, but made into a fine flat performer, and won on his bow over timber for Elliott.
He found plenty for pressure under Sean Bowen that day and given how much he improved on the level, there should be more to come over hurdles with a rating of just 111.
Mostahdaf (2.25 Sandown)
Not much can be said about the extremely disappointing turnout for the Group 3 Gordon Richards Stakes. Three runners is unacceptable for any such event.
Given Crystal Ocean was a two-time winner of this race, one may have thought the prestige level of the contest may have increased slightly. As it is, we have two four-year-olds with some potential to improve and a solid five-year-old performer for the level.
Whether any of these can ever realistically make it to the very top is debatable but MOSTAHDAF’s record of five wins from six starts is formidable enough. His only defeat came when well beaten in the Group 1 St James’s Palace Stakes at Ascot, but there were excuses for the margin of defeat. He has been very difficult to depose elsewhere.
Foxes Tales could be the one to follow him home if also taking a stride forward from three to four, but if neither he or the selection does, then Juan Elcano could easily pounce.
Slipway (2.40 Perth)
The field for Perth’s Highland National is far healthier, with 15 going to post and further Irish representation.
This time, the focus is on the Brits at Perth and Ben Pauling’s SLIPWAY is favoured to come out on top. Staying looks to be his game and if taking to this 3m6½f test, he is well treated in the handicap.
Though his chase debut at Exeter was disappointing, he made amends very quickly by winning a Southwell novice handicap at the start of January. The form of that has worked out well, with the runner-up winning since off 2lb higher.
Chepstow’s soft ground and Newbury’s shorter trip may well have been against him in two races since, but he is only 3lb higher than his winning mark and he shapes as a horse who will revel in a marathon.
Alcohol Free (3.00 Sandown)
Another race in which it is difficult to get away from an odds-on favourite. ALCOHOL FREE is a Group 1 winner and has over a stone in hand on official ratings when taking her sex allowance into account.
Her 2021 season gradually waned after a fantastically consistent start. A win in the Group 3 Fred Darling Stakes preceded an excellent run from the wrong side of the track in the 1,000 Guineas. Her first Group 1 came in the Coronation Stakes at Royal Ascot before finishing third in Newmarket’s Falmouth Stakes.
Stepping up against the boys and older rivals, she stormed home in the Sussex Stakes at Goodwood. The 1m2f trip caught her out in the Juddmonte International at York before Baaeed was too strong in the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes back at Ascot.
All told, it was a season which involved six straight Group 1 starts. Her rivals have just one between them. The application of a first-time hood is a slight concern as to her wellbeing, but it is impossible to side against her on any known form.
Westover (3.35 Sandown)
It is possible to pick holes in Godolphin-owned favourite Goldspur’s claims here. He may want a slightly softer surface, especially as stamina may well prove his strong suit.
He won over this 1m2f trip at two, which is usually the hallmark of a future stayer. None of his rivals are as exposed at this level and could easily prove at least his equal.
River Thames for Aidan O’Brien and Cracksman’s full brother Frantastic are obvious names which jump out, but WESTOVER may be the one worth chancing. Though he is another who may want just a touch of give underfoot, he did a lot right as a juvenile and looked though the opportunity to race over further at three would be to his liking.
He is another who is flashily bred, being a brother to four-time Pattern race winner Monarchs Glen, who was at his best around this trip. Narrowly, he gets the verdict, but all seven have claims.