Matt Gardner tackles the Placepot at Ascot on Sunday...
"The Ian Williams-trained Cashpoint arrives here at the top of his game and boasts plenty of solid recent form..."
14:30 - This is a very tricky opening leg, with eight newcomers to choose from and each of them making some appeal on paper. Early market vibes suggest that, though Hamdan Al Maktoum's second jockey Dane O'Neill has plumped for Etaad over Makhfar, the apparent second string, trained by John Gosden, could be the one to side with. Out of a two-year-old five furlong winner and hailing from a top yard it is easy to see why he has been latched on to, so he looks a worthy inclusion. We're also going to stick in Dutch Art Dealer, who fetched 50,000 gns at the breeze-ups and represents a yard that have done well with their juveniles this term.
15:05 - Bishop Roko is very lightly raced for one of his age and could easily have more to offer still, so he appeals as being the ideal starting point in what looks a pretty decent middle-distance handicap. Andrew Balding's Rawaki boasts a steadily progressive profile and he posted a career-best when scoring at Windsor last time; a 7 lb higher mark clearly demands more but he looks fairly solid and he ought to be thereabouts under the excellent claimer Thomas Brown.
15:40 - Grand Denial has looked a different horse since being fitted with blinkers but he is likely to face plenty of competition for the lead here so we're going to take him on with two that could be suited by a strongly run race, namely Can You Conga and Purcell. The first mentioned progressed well in his first three starts and it is worth forgiving his effort at Pontefract, where he shaped much better than the bare result after meeting traffic inside the final couple of furlongs, whilst Purcell will find this easier than his last few assignments and could still be on a workable mark.
16:15 - The Ian Williams-trained Cashpoint arrives here at the top of his game and boasts plenty of solid recent form, having finished second in a race at Newbury in May that's has worked out well and then finished third behind the improving Code Of Honor and Mushaakis, who has won since, at Sandown last time, interspersing those two runs with a win of his own. Hydrant and Take Two are both worthy of respect, but Cashpoint rates as a confident banker.
16:50 - International Love sets the standard but she hasn't looked an easy ride so far and, for all that the application of a hood for the first time may straighten her out, she is worth taking on. Expressly, a Godolphin newcomer, makes plenty of appeal on paper being a half-sister to Rio De La Plata so she goes in alongside Snow Powder, a very well related filly by Raven's Pass who cost 170,000 gns as a yearling. She was well supported on debut at Windsor but was far too green to do herself justice, and that experience ought to have brought her on.
17:20 - An ultra-competitive sprint handicap awaits us in the final leg and fortunately we have four places to aim at as we don't really want to take any more than two. The first one to make the cut is Taajub, who won this race off a 1 lb lower mark last year and caught the eye on his penultimate start. The back-up selection will be Ahtoug, who shaped well over C&D on his return a fortnight ago and comes here with an air of unfinished business surrounding him.
14:30 - 2, 5
15:05 - 5, 7
15:40 - 1, 2
16:15 - 6
16:50 - 2, 7
17:20 - 4, 11
= 32 lines
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