Merlin looks a magic bet in the opener
13:50 Sandown - Back Merlin Magic @ 7.06/1
A cracking start to the two day meeting at Sandown with the Flat on Friday, and let's get straight to the first bet of the day in the opener - the Esher Cup.
With John Gosden and Charlie Appleby represented with runners, it might just help for our selection to dip a little under the radar. Step forward Merlin Magic.
He competed in some decent 2yo races at Ascot and Newbury last term, and he got off the mark in a Nottingham maiden towards the back end of his campaign. He was quickly away that day and made the running on ground described as good to soft.
I do like going with front-runners at Sandown, and with rain forecast, the surface should present no problems for Merlin Magic.
His trainer David Elsworth has been knocking on the door with some big-priced placed horses, and this 3yo starts out in a handicap from a mark of 88. He's a fascinating contender following his poor run in the Racing Post Trophy.
Morando to start season with a bang
14:25 Sandown - Back Morando @ 7.06/1
All eyes will be on favourite Crystal Ocean. He's the class act in the field with placed-form in the St Leger last season, but I have no interest in putting up an 11/10 (or thereabouts) shot for this Group 3 Gordon Richards Stakes.
I am more than happy to take a chance on Morando here at a decent price - who makes his debut for Andrew Balding having left Roger Varian last term.
He has to find a bit on form, as on official ratings he sits 6lb behind Crystal Ocean. Whether the fav will be tuned up to the max for his first start dropping back down to 1m2f I don't know, but Morando is a horse that goes well fresh and likes a bit of juice in the ground. Hopefully there will be rain on Friday.
The 5yo performed with credit at a similar sort of level last term over 1m, but it's the angle of catching him fresh which appeals at the price.
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