Our horse racing expert Andy Holding has four tips for today's meetings.
Probably not the strongest three-year-old maiden ever run at the track and it’s one SAFARI QUEST (best price 15-2) should prove good enough to feature if he makes the expected leap forward from his promising effort over the course last season.
Sent off 16-1 in a 14-strong field, Ger Lyons’ gelding was dropped right out the back early doors due to his poor stall position and by the time the field had raced out of the back straight, he still found himself in last place. Running on nicely in the latter stages without being duly punished, the son of Australia, however, made good inroads towards the main player to suggest he was the equal at least of many who finished ahead of him that day and when you consider the likes of Bolshoi Ballet, O’Reilly, Sir Lamorak and Earlswood have all boosted the form so far this season, his performance deserves extra special attention. Not that well berthed on his return to the Dublin venue, at least he has an extra two-furlongs to work his way into contention this time around and hailing from a stable who have begun their season in pretty decent fashion, this exciting three-year-old is worth a small each-way interest to see whether he can build on his initial display. Whatever his fate this afternoon, he remains one to follow.
CAPTAIN TOM CAT (best price 9-2) hasn’t run since finishing sixth of 11 in a competitive handicap at Aintree back in December, but as the soft ground wouldn’t have suited him that day and he has a much better record going well fresh, Dr Newland’s gelding rates a better proposition returning to track that suits his style of racing.
A dual winner last Autumn, the son of Dylan Thomas was a strong fancy on his first visit to today’s venue at the Showcase meeting in October and having travelled well throughout, he stayed on well in the latter stages to win with a bit in hand. A creditable third when returning to Prestbury Park a month later, soft ground would have hindered his chances of a repeat bid, but it was still a fair enough effort under the circumstances and under better conditions here this afternoon, the six-year-old looks primed to put up another bold bid.
PRINCESS SELA (best price 12-1) has caught the eye on all three starts to date and now stepping up in trip and facing handicap opposition for the first time, Gerard O’Leary’s filly could turn out to be the surprise package of the race.
Encouraging on her first start in a maiden at Naas, the daughter of Slade Power returned to the Co Kildare venue via a decent effort at Dundalk in between and she once again strongly hinted that there are races to be won with her further down the line. Pitched right out in the cheap seats in stall 25 of 25 on her seasonal reappearance, as a consequence, she found herself with plenty on her plate at halfway, so to end up finishing where did – only fourth lengths off the winner – was a creditable return following a 135-day absence. The way she shaped also strongly suggested she would do even better over further and with today’s extra furlong sure to come as some benefit on that score, a big run is anticipated off an opening amrk of 71.
OAKLEY (best price 6-1) has been plying his trade in top-quality handicaps for the last two seasons and following another creditable effort in the ultra-competitive Betfair Exchange Hurdle at Ascot when last seen, a repeat of the same level of form should see him go close to finally getting his head back in front.
Winless for two years, Philip Hobbs’ gelding has managed to finish in the frame on numerous occasions since and he looked like filling in the frame at the Berkshire venue back in December rounding the home turn until finding the competition too hot and soft ground a bridge too far. Running similar races in the Betfair Hurdle at Newbury and County Hurdle last season, it’s noticeable that he’s run well on his two visits to today’s venue when the ground has been good and with a decent record when fresh, hopefully the son of Oscar is fit enough to do himself justice after a break.