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The flat season moves up a significant notch this afternoon with the opening day of Newmarket’s three-day Craven Meeting.
The antepost favourite for the 1000 Guineas Clemmie (2/1 with BetVictor) was reported by trainer Aidan O’Brien on Sunday to be a doubtful runner and she has been removed from the betting.
O’Briens Happily (3/1) now heads the market at BetVictor with stablemate September (7/1) and Andre Fabre’s Wind Chimes (7/1) next in the list.
Clerk of the Course Michael Prossor described the ground for HQ’s opening day of the season as good to soft on Monday but no rain is forecast and we should have perfect early season conditions come post time.
The stalls are positioned on the stands’ side for the Alex Scott Maiden and the suggestion is a high draw will be an advantage. John Gosden has won a division of this race three times in the last four years and his Elhafei (1.50) shaped with promise having been slowly away from a poor draw in a Lingfield all-weather maiden over a Mile back in November.
The selection is entitled to come on for the experience and Jim Crowley keeps the ride. Of the newcomers Aurum makes most appeal but if Crowley gets the stands’ rail from his plum draw in thirteen, I hope he can give a bold show.
Gosden’s Jawwaal has the beating of History Writer (2.25) on a line through Hannon’s Rum Runner but the David Menusier trained colt caught the eye at Sandown on debut and can reward each way support. Of the newcomers, a market move for either of the well-drawn pair Mutafani or Stormer would be worth noting.
Symbolisation (3.35) stays at 7f for his seasonal reappearance but this Guineas’ entrant (50/1 at BetVictor) will get further as the season progresses and gets the vote in an informative 3-y-old conditions event. Gosden’s Purser holds a fitness advantage having ran well in a listed contest at Newcastle on Good Friday but he carries a 3lbs penalty and the Charlie Appleby colt is preferred.
The listed Feilden Stakes is the feature race on the card and it is a top-class renewal with Aidan O’Brien’s Zetland Stakes’ winner Kew Gardens (4.45) taking on Royal Lodge third Mildenburger and Charlie Appleby’s Group three winner Stage Magic who carries a 5lbs penalty for that Chantilly success.
Kew Gardens (25/1 for the Derby at BetVictor) will get further in time but there is plenty of pace in the race and he can score in what promises to be a most informative race.
At Exeter, Irish Thistle (4.55) has been given a chance by the handicapper and he is entitled to come on for his Chepstow comeback on ground softer than ideal. There is a small possibility of a shower at the Devon track on Tuesday, which is a slight concern, but Sam Twiston-Davies keeps the ride and I think he can go well for Dai Williams.
The mare Palmaria (5.30) is reunited with William Biddick in the Novices’ Hunters’ Chase and she must go close having won two of her last three starts between the flags. Her recent third was at the hands of a couple of decent yardsticks (second has won a point since) and she can take advantage of the 7lbs she receives from likely favourite Herbert Park who finished 4L behind Label Des Obeaux in a Novice chase for David Pipe last February.
Scales (2.10) may have run into one at Hereford last time and can reward each way support from a 2lbs higher mark in the Carlisle opener for Kerry Lee and Richard Patrick whose 3lbs claim certainly helps in this conditional jockeys’ event.
The handicapper has certainly given Scales’ stablemate Grey Gold (5.05) a chance in the 2m handicap Chase and I hope the teenager shows there is one last hurrah in a horse who has been a wonderful servant to the yard winning over fences at Newbury, Sandown and Punchestown as well as over today’s C&D - albeit five years ago.
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