Betfair ambassador Kevin Blake heads to York this Saturday, where he selected two bets worth siding with on a glorious afternoon...
"Dark Shift looks to be fairly handicapped on 88 for his handicap debut and he appeals as one that will be better suited to handicaps than novice races."
This weekend isn't one of the bigger ones of the year. It is very much a case of the calm before the storm that is Royal Ascot rolls into town next week. However, there are still plenty of winners to be found and I'll do my best to find a couple of them at York.
The first race of interest is the 14:35 JCB Handicap. It looks set to be run at a solid tempo with the likes of Ostilio, Manigordo and National League all being potential leaders in the field. One that a solid pace will suit is the Roger Fell-trained Admirality and he is my selection.
The seven-year-old has only won once in his 20 starts since joining Fell, but he has been consistent in the main and has dropped back to a mark that he went close to winning off last season. He has run over this course and distance on two occasions in the past and finished second both times, including in the 2019 renewal of this race.
While his two runs this season won't have set everyone alight, it seems as though he is being brought along steadily and conditions were not in his favour last time. Returning to this course and distance on firmer ground will very much play to his strengths and with the race being likely to be run to suit him, it will be disappointing if he doesn't run a big race.
The other race that I have found one in is the 15:40 Pavers Foundation Catherine Memorial Sprint Handicap and the one I like is the Charlie Hills-trained Dark Shift.
The son of Dark Angel made a very impressive winning debut in an auction novice race at Ascot back in September, streaking away to win by four lengths in a race that worked out reasonably well afterwards. He was beaten in a messy race on his next start at Salisbury, but showed that he had come through the winter in good shape when making a winning return in a novice race at Nottingham last month. The ground was testing on that occasion, which doesn't appeal as being likely to be ideal for him given he is a good mover, yet he still won in good style.
Dark Shift looks to be fairly handicapped on 88 for his handicap debut and he appeals as one that will be better suited to handicaps than novice races. Being held up off the likely strong pace will help him to relax and conserve his turn of foot until the closing stages. He should also very much appreciate the return to this sounder surface.
All told, it wouldn't at all surprise if Dark Shift can find enough improvement to make a big impact on his handicap debut in this strong contest.