11:45 - Gifted Master
A lot will depend on how the track is riding. If it is the same as on trials night here - when basically everything that made the running won - then something is going to have to put up a massive performance to win from off the pace.
This is my horse's first run on dirt, which is an obvious and considerable question mark, but he shaped okay on turf here last month and a draw in four is fine for a horse that likes to go forward. Whether he has the class is another matter but he doesn't have that much to find on official ratings and the blinkers may help him, too; he has an each-way chance at a price, I suppose.
Heavy Metal could prove very hard to beat if the track is riding the same as it did when bolting up here earlier in the month and I think prices of around 7/1 and 8/1 appear generous about him. But he is drawn in eight, and North America did give him weight and a beating here in January, and also likes to get on the lead.
I don't know too much about the American horses but Sharp Azteca is the highest-rated horse in the field and won a Grade 2 easily at Gulfstream last month, but if you want a bet in this race then I suggest you take a chance and take the 20/1 about Kafuji Take. Now if a horse can't make ground up in the conditions, then it can't make up ground, and he won't be winning. And this is a hold-up horse drawn on the wide outside. But I rode in the race in which he finished a good third in a Grade 1 at Tokyo last month, and he has a lot more quality than his odds suggest. He is a very good horse, and is just 1lb off Sharp Azteca on official ratings.
12:50 - Kingfisher
This is the best renewal of the race that I can remember and at least seven or eight of these will be fancying their chances. My mount is arguably one of the more unlikely winners, as he hasn't run since the 2015 Melbourne Cup. Then again, never underestimate Aidan - I haven't spoken to him about the runners yet, by the way - and I don't need reminding of his unlucky Ascot second to Trip To Paris in the Gold Cup that year, thanks.
And if he is back to his best after his break then he is entitled to be right in the mix here, and 25/1 probably underestimates his chances. His record suggests he does tend to need his first run, though.
This race features the 1-2 in this race last year, when Vazirabad just got the better of Big Orange, and the winner ran a satisfactory prep race when second to Beautiful Romance, where Sheikhzayedroad was third having his first since winning at Ascot in October, last month.
A lot of these are very closely matched on form - Hugo Palmer's upped-in-class Wall Of Fire was progressive in handicaps last season, gets the 4yo weight allowance and is not totally out of it - but my pick would probably Heartbreak City at around 7/1. We haven't seen him since he ran over hurdles in January but I think his second to Almandin in the Melbourne Cup in November probably marks him out as the one to beat and the official ratings back that up. It is wide open, though.
13:25 - Lancaster Bomber
This is the first time I have ridden him but he obviously has the high-class form to figure, and his style of racing should suit around here, being nicely drawn in three. This half-brother to Excelebration was something of a revelation when ridden prominently when second to Churchill in the Dewhurst - the subsequent Group 1 winner and recent course scorer Thunder Snow back in fourth - and he proved that run was no fluke when second in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf despite not making the quickest of exits at Santa Anita. The big and obvious question mark for him is that he has never raced on dirt.
I think Epicharis has the best dirt form coming into the race. I rode the fourth in the race when he won what they call a local listed race in Tokyo last month and he is a straightforward horse with a lot to recommend him. However, the horse that he beat ¾ length in that Tokyo race, Adirato, is no 50/1 chance. He made the running when second there and if he can get on the lead here from his outside stall and then he could massively outrun those odds.
You obviously have to respect Thunder Snow, the highest-rated horse in here; Fawree is temperamental at the start but very talented; and while Spirit Of Valor is unproven on dirt he certainly has the pedigree for it being a War Front half-brother to Street Life. You can make a case for all of those - and Todd Pletcher's Master Plan, too - but Adirato, stepping up in trip, at 50/1 each way looks okay to me.
The 6f is perhaps a slight question mark for Washington DC given that his best recent form has all been over 5f. But he clearly stays 6f well, and beyond in lesser company too, he usually runs his race, and you can him an outside place chance. But I think Limato is the best by far in here and if he comes back to the form of his July Cup win, or his Foret victory over 7f, then I can't see anything beating him, even if his draw in 11 may not be ideal. But, granted, Ertijaal has looked sensational over 5f this year.
If you wanted one at a bigger price then Amazing Kids could be for you. He has strong 5f and 6f form in Hong Kong and I think a straight 6f will suit him, although how it pans out for him from stall one will obviously be key. Ideally, you probably want to be drawn in midfield here - Ertijaal looks likely to go on from six - to give you options but you ride the race you are given.
I don't have a ride but I think the favourite Mind Your Biscuits could be worth taking on. He will be coming from off the pace and could be vulnerable - being drawn 14 of 14 may not be ideal - and this looks a race where you can give a few a chance against him.
15:30 - Deauville
This is the deepest race he has ever been in, even with last year's winner Real Steel out of the race, and he certainly needs to improve to win. But he is already a Belmont Derby winner who finished off last season with a third in the Arlington Million, and he is relatively lightly-raced.
Zarak was very impressive in an admittedly modest race here last month and, although coming up short in the highest grade last season, I expect him to be winning Group 1s this year. It is no surprise that he is favourite, though Ribchester is the stand-out on form on his Jacques Le Marois win and his second to Minding at Ascot. He can take a fair hold though and I just wonder whether the 1m1f will drain him stamina-wise.
Mutakayyef is another solid one on form but I would be inclined to take a chance on Decorated Knight myself. He has won two lesser races narrowly this year but I quite like the look of him at a double-figure price from stall four.
The smallest field of the night but the one with the most quality. Postponed is the highest-rated in the field - just - and won this race last year convincingly. And he was very impressive in the summer with wins in the Coronation Cup and Juddmonte at York, where he beat Highland Reel.
But you had to be disappointed with him in the Arc and when beaten by Prize Money here last month, even if he didn't get the best of runs. The horse who we saw here last year would have won that day, even if connections seem very happy with him out here. I wouldn't back him at the current prices myself.
I saw my horse was available at 5/1 earlier in the week and, at his best, it would take a good one to beat him. When he gets on the lead in these 1m4f races he is difficult to stop, stall three is fine, and 9/2 is still probably a hell of a price, but the one doubt in my mind is that he wasn't at his best when fourth in this race last season. And we know what a long campaign he probably has ahead of him again.
Jack Hobbs has prospects stepping back up to 1m4f but I can certainly make a fair case for Seventh Heaven at the prices. I see she is 9/1, which surprised me. We couldn't get competitive from off the pace behind Queen's Trust in the 1m2f Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Turf at Santa Anita but the combination of a smaller field, and a bigger and wider track, here and a return to 1m4f could really suit her. She was very impressive when winning the Yorkshire Oaks and at the Curragh and Seamie gets on really well with her.
Sounds Of Earth was a good second in the Japan Cup and has been trained for this race ever since running below par in the Arima Kinen in December, but he comes up short at this level.
16:45 - Lani
Arrogate was 2/5 in a place earlier in the week and, if he still is, then that's a good price. The Breeders' Cup Classic winner has 16lb in hand of this field and will go round on the bridle here if in that kind of form. The only thing that can get him beat is if something goes badly wrong at the start from his stall in nine or if he meets continual trouble in running throughout.
Outside of him this looks a pretty modest race for the money - Gun Runner and Awardee are the next highest-rated horses on 118 - so hopefully my mount Lani can get into the places. I was keen on his chances in this column last year when he beat Polar River in the UAE Derby and, while he has run well on occasions and been placed in Grade 1 company since, I have to admit that his effort for me earlier here in the month didn't mark him down as a likely winner here, to put it mildly. But it was his first run since December and this would have obviously been the long-term plan, and his draw in four is fine.