The third day of the Yorkshire Ebor Festival is upon us and it is another exciting day of Flat action. The Nunthorpe Stakes and the Lonsdale Cup will be the main events for many, but the other two races that ITV are covering are the ones that make most appeal to me as betting races.
Dragon's day to fire?
The Sky Bet Handicap (13:50) really is a fiercely competitive contest, but I'm returning to the edge of the cliff in the hope that the Alan King-trained Scarlet Dragon can deliver an overdue win for his persistent supporters.
The eight-year-old had his biggest day on the Flat when winning the Duke of Edinburgh Handicap at Royal Ascot off a mark of 97 last year and he has shaped notably well on quite a few occasions off higher marks without winning since then.
The thing about Scarlet Dragon is that he is a difficult ride. He usually races notably freely and makes it hard for his jockey to ride him in an efficient way. We saw a clear example of this in his bid to retain his Duke of Edinburgh Handicap at Royal Ascot, as having initially been anchored towards the rear, the field raced off the running rail approaching the straight and Scarlet Dragon powered into the space, making rapid headway to lead two-and-a-half furlongs out.
It is next to impossible to win a top handicap when distributing an effort as unevenly as that and he predictably weakened late on, but was only beaten seven-and-a-quarter lengths in sixth.
Things once again didn't drop his way at Haydock last time, as having been well anchored towards the rear early, space was at a premium for him in the straight and he had to do his share of weaving on his way to finishing sixth.
There looks to be good pace on paper here and Scarlet Dragon is drawn low enough to help Tom Marquand's task in getting him covered up and relaxed. One of these days, a big handicap like this is going to pan out ideally for Scarlet Dragon and he'll reward his persistent supporters. Hopefully this will be the day.
Berkshire can leave rivals in his Shadow
The other race of interest is the Al Basti Equiworld Dubai Gimcrack Stakes (15:00) and it is a really good race on paper. Lusail looks sure to be the favourite, but I worry that six furlongs at this track might be a shade sharp for him, so I'm siding with the Andrew Balding-trained Berkshire Shadow.
Hold on, I hear you say, you oppose Lusail on the grounds that he might find this a bit sharp, yet tip Berkshire Shadow who got outpaced over a longer trip in the Vintage Stakes last time? It's not an unreasonable point to make, but I don't believe Berkshire Shadow was struggling for pace at Goodwood, I feel he was struggling on the ground.
He didn't look at all short of pace at six furlongs when winning the Coventry Stakes on just his second start, so for him to be made to look so short of tactical pace in the Vintage Stakes makes me believe that the ground was the culprit and that his wheels were spinning on it.
So, while plenty will no doubt want to oppose Berkshire Shadow on the basis that the return to six furlongs won't suit, I'm happy to take the chance that the return to a sounder surface will see a return to the version of him that we saw at Royal Ascot. If that proves to be the case, he might well go and win.