The Lincoln at Doncaster may herald the start of the Flat season, but for many the campaign doesn't click into gear until Newmarket's Craven meeting and Timeform's Paul McIvor offers his thoughts on a placepot permutation for the opening day....
"Baileys Jubilee created a good impression on debut, winning a Kempton maiden by four lengths, a race that is already starting to work out well..."
13:50 - The meeting starts off with a tricky seven-furlong maiden, and with a number of unexposed types taking part, it may pay to take a conservative approach and have a few angles covered. The three to take against the field are Periphery, Poole Harbour and Qannaas. Periphery, out of Godolphin's Yorkshire Oaks heroine Punctillious failed only by a short-head to make a winning debut at Yarmouth at the back-end of last season, and was then a beaten favourite at the same track on his return earlier this month. However, he is now fitted with a tongue tie and is worth another chance to confirm that debut promise. Similar sentiments apply to Richard Hannon's Poole Harbour who hasn't been seen since flopping at Ascot last July. The form of his debut second at Newbury worked out well, though, and he is capable of better than he has shown so far. The safest conveyance looks to be Qannaas who was runner-up to tomorrow's Craven Stakes contender Beaufort Twelve over course-and-distance on his final start last season, and hails from the Charlie Hills yard who have won this race four times since 2005 with his father Barry at the helm.
14:25 - A four runner two-year-old conditions race is next up, and the favourite Baileys Jubilee should prove hard to beat. Mark Johnston's filly created a good impression on debut, winning a Kempton maiden by four lengths, a race that is already starting to work out well with the fourth and fifth winning next time. Baileys Jubilee can only come on for that experience and should prove too strong for her three rivals, two of whom are newcomers.
15:00 - Samitar heads the field on Timeform ratings for this Tattersalls Millions Sprint. Already a winner of one of these big sales races when taking the Fillies Million over seven-furlongs here last season, this daughter of Rock of Gibraltar had previously finished runner-up to Lyric of Light in the Group One Fillies Mile. Although the drop back to six-furlong is not considered ideal, her class edge should see her through. Charlie Hills' Balty Boys is another with Group One form, his coming over course-and-distance when third in the Middle Park Stakes. However, that was a slightly muddling renewal where he raced alone on the far side and it remains to be seen whether he is flattered by that effort.
15:35 - The first of the meeting's Classic trials is the fourth race on the card, the European Free Handicap, in which the favourite Zumbi holds sound claims. Sir Michael Stoute's colt raced just twice last year, winning an Ascot maiden on debut before finishing third in the Acomb at York. He looks nicely weighted here and should go close to making a winning return. One of the higher weighted runners should also be included and that honour falls to Redact who ran some fine races as a juvenile, signing off with a close second to Casper Netscher in the Mill Reef. The step up to seven-furlongs should pose few problems and he can go well for the Richard Hannon team who won this race last year.
16:10 - Just over half an hour later the fillies get the chance to stake their Classic claims in the Nell Gwyn. This looks a highly competitive and open renewal, but the two for placepot purposes are Pimpernel and Russelliana. Sir Michael Stoute's Russelliana has been off the track since running below form at Ascot last July, but her previous effort when second to Godolphin's Gamilati in the Cherry Hinton brings her right into the equation here. Pimpernel, a stablemate of Gamilati, finished runner-up to that rival in the UAE 1000 Guineas at Meydan in February before running below her best over an extended nine furlongs in the UAE Oaks later that month. Today's drop back in trip looks to be in her favour, though, and a reproduction of her second to leading 1000 Guineas and Oaks candidate Wading in the Rockfel Stakes over course-and-distance last October would make her the one to beat.
16:45 - With the two Guineas trials out of the way, the final leg of the placepot sees the first recognised Derby Trial as seven runners go to post for the Fielden Stakes. Perennial created a good impression in his two starts last season, latterly when finishing second in a Group Three at this course back in October. He promises to be suited by this extra furlong and can emulate his half-brother Redwood who took this race for connections in 2009. However, it would be foolish not to include John Gosden's Jungle Beat, a taking winner of a Newbury maiden on his sole start at two, and a very exciting prospect for middle distances this season.
13:50 - 10,11,12
14:25 - 1
15:00 - 14
15:35 - 2,5
16:10 - 8,10
16:45 - 1,5
= 24 lines