The Stanley House trainer has clearly hit the ground running and, as a long standing fan of Sandown’s Spring meeting he will be keen to add some extra readies to the coffers this weekend.
That looks very much on the cards as Western Hymn and Von Blucher have strong prospects of completing a double on a fascinating opening day which is a must for all Flat enthusiasts.
Western Hymn (1.50pm) needs no introduction to Esher regulars as he fairly bounded up the hill twelve months ago when taking the prized scalp of Postponed by three-quarters of a length in the Bet365 Gordon Richards Stakes.
That has proved something of a feather in his cap as Postponed went on to land the King George VI And Queen Elizabeth Diamond Stakes at Ascot in July and his recent victory for Roger Varian in the Dubai Sheema Classic has marked him down as one of the best middle distance performers in the World.
Western Hymn was making his reappearance on that occasion and he went onto land the Brigadier Gerard Stakes by a head from Arab Spring over this course and distance a month later before finishing a honourable third to Free Eagle and The Grey Gatsby in the Group 1 Prince Of Wales’s Stakes at Royal Ascot in June. It was back to Sandown the following month when he finished a creditable third, beaten eight lengths, to stablemate Golden Horn and there looks little in the way off opposition to suggest he can’t make a winning reappearance for the fourth season in succession in this year’s Gordon Richards Stakes.
Von Blucher (1.20pm) took a little time to get his act together last season and the smell of burnt fingers was something akin to fumes that his namesake inhaled during his spell taking on a French General in the Napoleonic Wars when he was a beaten favourite at Newmarket in July and Epsom the following month.
However, Gosden hasn’t acquired his Napoleonic skills without reason and when Von Blucher showed up over a mile at Lingfield in October the lessons had clearly been learnt as he sped to a length-and-a-half defeat of Ennaad.
Followers of the runner-up on that occasion have since been rewarded with a maiden victory at Lingfield in December, a handicap success at Chelmsford in February off a mark of 91 and a head success from Adventurous in the a conditions event at Kempton this month. Clearly, Ennaad has improved since his defeat from Von Blucher but there can be little arguing that the selection looks on a tempting mark in the Bet365 Esher Cup off a mark of 86 and he looks well drawn in stall one.
If there was a vote for the best bred horse on show then there is little doubt that would result in a landside victory for Midterm (2.20pm) who bids to enhance his Derby claim in the Bet365 Classic Trial.
The Sir Michael Stoute-trained colt is by Galileo out of Midday whose CV included Group 1 victories in the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf, Nassau Stakes and Yorkshire Oaks for the late great Sir Henry Cecil. Midterm had clearly inherited some of the family traits as he showed when beating Magnum a length in a mile maiden at Newbury last October and, although there is a long way to go before the Blue Riband at Epsom on June 4,he has wintered extremely well and his work this Spring has been well up to scratch.
Sir Michael Stoute is another with his team in great heart and the Freemason Lodge handler can start and dream of a sixth Derby win in his illustrious career.
Belardo (2.50pm) showed he was very much back on song when chasing home Solow to three quarters of a length in the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes over a mile at Ascot in September and confirmed that impression when hacking up in the Doncaster Mile at Doncaster at the beginning of the month.
The Roger Varian-trained horse had two-and-a-quarter lengths to spare from Calling Out on that occasion and, although the opposition could prove sterner, he would appear to have the Bet365 Mile at his mercy.
The attention turns to the Jumpers at Sandown on Saturday but at Leicester, Home of The Brave is fully expected to return to winning form in the King Richard III Stakes.
The Hugo Palmer-trained colt romped away with the Free Handicap at Newmarket first time out last season when slamming Tupi a length-and-three-quarters and is fully primed to do likewise at the Oadby course on Saturday.