Chance two in Sandown opener
There are two runners in Sandown's opening contest available at each-way prices that I cannot resist backing. This is a very open 0-90 Handicap for 3yo over 1m1f at 13:40 admittedly, but that presents some fair prices about a few of the runners.
I ran the trends on this race which revealed some interesting preferences. The first is the ideal rating for this race which is a mark of 80 however, that can incorporate horses rated up to 86 as well. A high draw is preferable as is a horse who tends to be held up. Coming into this race on the back of one or two runs is a positive and a horse doesn't have to have run well last time out. Ideally, a horse ran two weeks to one month ago.
Each of those trends helped me to narrow down this open field. I'm concerned that the current favourite, Aldhaja has had enough racing already this campaign and he comes into this race on the back of a win which was over one month ago. Maplewood is also vying for favouritism however, he's drawn low in stall 2 and again, has had more than an ideal amount of runs already so far this season.
Therefore, the two horses who ticked the most boxes were Hamaki and Nasim. Hamaki is trained by the all-conquering William Haggas team. This gelding by Churchill makes his reappearance start here which isn't ideal admittedly however, he's running off a good mark for this race on 82.
He's also drawn high in stall 8 and he's a hold up performer. He didn't run up to his best last time out but as mentioned, that isn't a negative for this contest.
He's been given a wind operation since his latest outing in October and is able to run off the same mark as last time out. He has disappointed twice in his five career starts, both of which were his only starts on ground with soft in the description. The drying forecast looks sure to be in Hamaki's favour and there should be much more to come from this three-year-old.
The other runner I like at a bigger price is Nasim who is available at 13.012/1 and represents another in-form team of Andrew Balding. Nasim is running off the same mark as Hamaki of 82 which sees him nicely weighted as well. He is drawn low which isn't a positive but he is a hold up performer. He's had three runs so far this season, each of which have come over one month apart though.
He ran a joint-career best last time out despite finishing fourth of five at Wolverhampton in a Class 3 Handicap where he was only beaten 2 ½ lengths. He's been given 1lb back for that run and for all he still needs to prove himself on turf, there is every chance he has more to come.
He's had a perfect turnaround time for this race and isn't a horse to underestimate reaching the frame provided he can show his best form back on the turf.
Back the Lion at York
The second race on York's card is a very competitive 0-105 Handicap over 7f at 14:35 where I like one horse in particular to take on the favourite. That favourite is the wonderful Boardman who has been a superb horse for me personally but on this occasion, I must take on my old friend in favour of Lion Tower.
Grant Tuer had a wonderful season last campaign and he's started this season in a similar vein of form. He sends out the consistent Lion Tower in a bid to run another solid race at York. York is a strange track as there are no notable idiosyncrasies however, horses either take to the course or not. Therefore, it's always worth siding with course form when it comes to the Knavesmire.
Lion Tower certainly has that, for all he's yet to win at York. However, he's run his last two starts at the track where he placed on both occasions. The first of which, on his penultimate start, was when third in a very competitive Class 2 Handicap won by Cruyff Turn. Lion Tower was beaten under one length in that bunch finish where he only lost second near the line.
Off a 1lb higher mark, he posted a very similar performance to finish second, beaten over two lengths when dropped in grade into a Class 3 Handicap last time out. That was still an ultra-competitive contest however, being a part of the Sky Bet Sunday Series.
He was ridden in contrasting style where connections elected to sit and pounce instead of potentially setting the race up for a closer. Both of those starts came over the same course and distance of one mile but he drops back in trip here to 7f.
By the way he's shaped in his finishing effort, a return to shorter may well suit Lion Tower and he's able to run off the same mark as last time out as he's upped in grade. He's very consistent, likes the track and may even appreciate this smaller runner field.
Kemari to get back to winning ways
A race that really catches my eye on Saturday is the 15:05 at York which is the Listed Sky Bet Race To The Ebor Grand Cup Stakes. This is a very competitive affair with plenty of likeable types for all we only have six declared runners.
The horse I like in this race is Kemari who represents the Charlie Appleby/ William Buick combination. This four-year-old was a very smart horse last season where he won his maiden at the second time of asking in impressive style at Yarmouth.
That led him to a tilt in the Group 2 Queen's Vase when markedly dropped into the deep end. Such is the genius of Appleby however, that Kemari justified the faith and won over the 1m6f trip in good style.
Understandably so, the son of Dubawi was well fancied for the Group 2 Great Voltigeur where he looked to come with a winning run before weakening away tamely. It was a strange run however, York is one of those courses which can catch horses out. That is of course therefore, a slight concern about Kemari's chances back at the track.
He bounced back with a second behind his stablemate, Manobo at Longchamp in another Group 2 before a lesser run when not seeing out the test presented in the Prix Royal-Oak.
He was a slightly disappointing favourite on his reappearance start at Meydan in January in a Listed race where again, he weakened away in the finish over the 1m6f trip.
I'm still of the belief that this is a very smart horse and I think it's notable that he's being refitted with cheekpieces here. He remains open to plenty more progression as a four-year-old and on the back of this four-month break.