Tony Calvin returns with a look ahead to the live ITV racing on Friday from Sandown including the Classic Trial and the Gordon Richards Stakes...
"He is one of the two Group 1 winners in the field and, while he is better known for his French exploits (all of his five wins have come there), I thought he shaped tremendously well at Newmarket last week."
Tony Calvin on Robin Of Navan
The Sandown going is currently good, good to soft in places but matters are complicated by the fact that the BHA site says there is rain around first thing on Friday and there could be as much as 10mm by the evening.
And other forecasts are predicting even more than that so, by the time racing starts, we could be looking at decent ground, or verging towards soft. Your guess is as good as mine.
And that is pretty much the case when I looked at the Sandown card really, but let's crack on in chronological order and see what unfolds.
Draw might make life difficult for Kings Shield
It is no surprise to see Kings Shield the short-priced favourite in the Esher Cup at 13:50, at around the 7/4 mark.
That may seem a bit skinny considering he is confronted by some fair types, and a mark of 96 is certainly no gimme on what he achieved in winning at Kempton earlier in the month, but the trainer was talking in terms of the French Guineas after that win, so the odds are predictable enough.
It could be the others are playing for places if John Gosden is to be believed, but he is yet to do it on the clock or on turf - though he made an enormous 675,000gns at last year's Newmarket Breeze-Ups - and he is most definitely not my kind of bet, especially being drawn nine of nine.
There are a few in here that like to go forward, so there is no obvious pace play either, and I didn't have a firm opinion at the prices.
I was actually a little disappointed by Lawn Ranger's run behind Kings Shield last time, as I didn't think he had enough use made of him. He has a 7lb pull for just over two lengths with the favourite on that Kempton form and he would be my double-figure selection at around 14/1, if forced - I think he should look to dominate from stall one - but it is easy to leave the race alone.
Crystal Ocean will be hard to beat
Crystal Ocean should take all the beating if straight enough in the Gordon Richards Stakes at 14:25.
If you knew he was fit enough to do himself justice, then he probably isn't a bad bet at odds-against, even if he is stepping down over half a mile in trip after just losing out to Capri in the St Leger last time.
He is 6lb clear on official figures and I don't think the step down in distance will bother him, having finished third in a Dante. He also won the Gordon Stakes in soft ground, so he will be fine if they get a lot of rain early doors, and he also obliged first time out last season.
Sir Michael Stoute has had a slow start to 2018, but the signs are they are beginning to come right - and he also has a good record in this race - and I think the favourite looks rock solid. It's just the fitness angle that is the niggling concern for his backers.
Classic Trial one to savour
The Classic Trial at 15:00, is not always what is says on the tin, but it is an interesting renewal and it includes recent Epsom springer Sevenna Star (put up by ATR's Hugh Taylor at 40s, I believe).
He certainly looked smart when winning a heavy-ground Windsor 1m2f maiden by 14 lengths, his first start back after a wind op, and Gosden was very complimentary about him earlier in the week, as he would be, I guess.
He was getting 7lb from the placed horses at Windsor and clearly faces stiffer opposition on better ground here, but he could be a fair tool and it is not surprise to see all the 6s and 7s earlier this week has long gone.
In fact, he looks like going off favourite ahead of the clear form-choice Chilean, who made his winning reappearance in a heavy-round Group 3. Then you throw Aidan O'Brien's recent Naas winner Hunting Horn into the mix, as well as the red-hot Charlie Appleby's Ispolini and the rest of the unexposed winners, and this looks a race to watch and savour.
Robin can deliver the goods
If I thought that Classic Trial was tricky, the bet365 Mile at 15:35, does not get any easier.
If you believe the betting it does, though, as Addeybb is around the 15/8 favourite here, which is a touch surprising. I know he was ridiculously impressive when winning the Lincoln on bad ground off a mark of 99, and was probably beating a potential Group 1 horse in Lord Glitters, but this is another level up.
He is actually the third lowest-rated horse in here (Mr Owen and Khafoo Shemeni are 3lb lower) and he meets two Group 1 winners off level weights, a recent Group 3 winner in France and some other very smart sorts.
I think Robin Of Navan is the bet win and place on the Exchange, at [17.0] and [3.75] respectively. The 16/1 with the Betfair Sportsbook is clearly very enticing, too, but there are a dead-eight in here and one non-runner would reduce the each-way terms to just 1,2 (original place terms stand on the exchange whatever happens).
He is one of the two Group 1 winners in the field and, while he is better known for his French exploits (all of his five wins have come there), I thought he shaped tremendously well at Newmarket last week.
Okay, he was eventually beaten six lengths in the Earl Of Sefton and was a bit of a weak finisher there - even more disappointing since he had the benefit of a comeback run in France - but he travelled like the winner for the best part of a mile of that 1m1f contest (traded [2.6] in the run) and I think this stiff mile could well suit him, with any more rain a bonus.
He is tactically-versatile too, so Frankie, on board for the first time, can either press on if the need and opportunity rises, or sit tight nearby if the pace is strong enough. He shouldn't be the outsider of this party, even if he hails from a stable without a win in this country since January.