We have a great day of racing to look forward to on ITV on Saturday with a Group 1 card at Sandown and very competitive action at Haydock. There are two runners that I am keen on and hopefully they'll both represent this column well.
Front runner may have race run to suit
The main race of interest Sandown is the Coral Charge (13:50) and it looks a fascinating contest on paper. Regular readers of this column may recall that I have selected Atalis Bay in his last two runs and I am going to make it three in a row here.
Atalis Bay gained his second win of the season in a Listed race over this course and distance last time, making all the running and looking in charge for much of the race. Now, that race came against three-year-olds only and was a much lower-class affair than this contest. However, he gives the impression that he is improving all the time and there are reasons to think that he could progress enough to be very competitive in this company.
One of the most encouraging aspects of this race regarding Atalis Bay's prospects is how the race is likely to pan out. He looks to be the only front runner in the field and is well drawn to get to the inside rail, which is often favoured over this course and distance.
With two of his main rivals, Arecibo and Came From The Dark, very much being the types that are best suited by being held up off a strong pace, the prospect of Andrea Atzeni dictating a below-average pace in front could cause them and some of the other hold-up horses some serious problems.
It should also be noted that the main negative surrounding Atalis Bay prior to his last start was that Marco Botti had really been struggling for winners at the time and looked notably out of form. However, Botti has very much turned the corner in the last week, with him having had five winners in that time. That can only be taken as a positive for Atalis Bay given that his latest win came when the yard was in much worse form.
All told, Atalis Bay may well face a tough test on paper, but it wouldn't at all surprise if he improves enough to go close.
Improving 3yo set to run a big race
Over at Haydock, the Bet365 Handicap (14:05) is a very competitive contest and I'm looking to lean into an angle that has yielded good results in recent years.
In two of last three renewals of this race, horses that didn't have things drop right for them in ultra-competitive competitive handicaps at Royal Ascot gained compensation by winning this race. There are a few that fit this bill in this year's renewal, but the one I like the most is the Brian Ellison-trained Tashkhan.
The son of Born To Sea has already improved 29lb this season, but his run in the King George V Handicap at Royal Ascot suggests that he might well have more improvement in him. He was drawn in stall one that day, which (counterintuitively) is a poor draw over a mile-and-a-half at Ascot. As well as that, the ground was the firmest he has ever run on.
On the day, it all seemed an insufficient test for him. Having been locked up in heavy traffic on the rail, he stayed on well to close all the way to the line, being beaten just 4¼ lengths.
A stronger test of stamina and a more positive ride will both be in his favour. He is selected in the hope that he will get both here and run a big race.