13:50 Newbury

Happy Romance got a charmed run down the outside when scoring at Chelmsford last time out, but it might have been a very different story had MISHAL STAR (best price 10-1) received a clear run and Tom Ward’s filly rates the value bet of the pair on ground that will inconvenience her less than most (meaty showers forecast).

A useful two-year-old, there’s always a danger a horse of her profile might struggle in her second season, but on the evidence of what we saw of her at the Essex track, she should turn out to have a productive campaign. Coming with what appeared a nicely-timed challenge just over two out 16 days ago, she had the door well and truly slammed in her face and by the time she’d wriggled out into the clear, the dye was cast. The way she hit the line, however, strongly suggested she would have had a huge say in the final outcome and on that basis, she looks overpriced compared to her old rival, who wouldn’t want the ground to deteriorate too much. Same comments apply to the main two in the market, Tactical and Creative Talent, whereas the daughter of Mehmas has got solid form on good-to-soft and heavy.

Mishal Star - 0.5pts @ 10/1
Mishal Star - top three finish - 0.5pts @ 11/8

14:10 Thirsk

A tricky mile handicap to solve, but both IRV (best price 7-1) and RUM RUNNER (best price 7-1) offered up enough encouragement from their last two starts respectively to warrant a small interest at the morning odds. 

The former hasn’t won for a little while now, but if his latest effort at Pontefract is an accurate guide, he might not have to wait much longer. Held up towards the rear in what turned out to be a moderately run, tactical affair, Micky Hammond’s gelding got denied a clear run on several occasions as he was trying to muster up a challenge and in the end, he had to settle for an unlucky fifth. Considering that was his first run for 178 days, his performance was pleasing to say the least and even though there are minor concerns attached to his chance if conditions were to deteriorate further, a repeat of his fine second on good-to-soft ground here on his last visit to today’s track last June would be good enough to see him in the mix. 
The latter can also be pigeonholed into ‘unlucky’ category based on his most recent display over today’s C&D and on that evidence, he looks like to be coming to the boil just nicely. Slowly away at the Yorkshire venue – which is often the case – Geoff Harker’s gelding found himself with plenty to do as the field turned for home, but he came home to such effect he was only just outside the money as he hit the line, and this position was achieved despite him meeting all sorts of trouble in running. Although the six-year-old hasn’t won in turf for a while, some of his better efforts have come on soft ground in the past and with today’s conditions likely to be slowing many if these down in the latter stages today, his ability to finish off his race well may count for plenty.

Irv - 0.5pts e/w @ 7/1
Rum Runner - 0.5pts e/w @ 7/1

15:15 Newmarket

BICKERSTAFFE (NAP) (best price 8-1) ran really well considering the ground was all against him over today’s C&D last time out, but now with conditions more favourable for his return visit, Karl Burke’s colt is expected to be a big player.

A resounding winner on his seasonal bow at Pontefract despite fears over the ground/lack of grass growth, the son of Mayson came to HQ to see whether he could handle a step up in grade and although he just came up a little short of the day, there were still pleasing aspects about his defeat. In a race run at medium early fractions, the tempo really increased from the three-furlong pole and it was at this point where the lightly-raced three-year-old just began to feel the heat. However, considering the winner was running quicker backend fractions than the five-furlong Palace House hero, Lazuli, it was little wonder he got done for toe, but he at least kept on well all the way up the hill to be a close-up third. Good on the numbers when there was plenty of give underfoot at Hamilton as a juvenile, any rain that falls in the area will be music to his connections’ ears and at the morning odds, he rates a solid each-way proposition. 

Bickerstaffe - 1pt e/w @ 8/1

16:15 Navan

Aidan O’Brien has a strong hand in this season’s Derby and it may be further bolstered by Wordsworth who was quite impressive when landing a competitive maiden at the Curragh on his seasonal debut. However, he does face a filly in the shape of PARTY HOUSE (best price 10-3) who won’t make life easy for favourite backers based on the evidence of her opening gambit at Naas 19 days ago. 

As one would expect from a filly making her debut, she was a little green in the early stages of well-contested maiden at the Co Kildare venue, but once she straightened up for home and the penny began to drop, she finished her race off with some purpose. Running through the line nice and strong, Ger Lyons’ filly ended up clocking a pretty smart speed figure for a race of that nature and considering it was her first day at school, connections have plenty of reasons to think big further down the line. Taking the natural and progressive steps into pattern company, hopefully the daughter of Camelot will pass the test, but either way, even if she does get beaten by the more experienced colt, it certainly wouldn’t be the end of the world for this highly-promising three-year-old with plenty of scope. 

Party House - 1pt @ 10/3

17:55 Navan

There was a lot to like about the performance of AZALLYA (best price 6-1) on debut at the Curragh and hailing from a stable whose first-time-out runners tend to come on a bundle for a run, Dermot Weld’s filly can more than hold her own against the colts. 

Sent off 28-1 for her opening bow at the Co Kildare venue, clearly not much was expected of this regally-bred filly and although that assumption looked like coming to fruition at halfway, by the time she’d hit the line, her overall performance was good deal rosier. Once finding her stride inside the final two furlongs, she was passing horses down the outside at will, and considering she wasn’t knocked about in doing so, her effort has to be upgraded. So far, the race in question a month ago has worked out pretty well enough to suggest the time figure is reliable and providing she’s a bit more switched on in the early part of today’s race, one would expect her to be a more potent force at the business end.

Azzallya - 0.5pts e/w @ 6/1