Andrew Balding: Conditions are perfect for Lariat at Chester
The Betway ambassador assesses his chances at Chester, York and Sandown on Saturday, and previews next week's Royal Ascot meeting.
We’ve had a couple of disappointing Saturdays in a row now, but that’s racing and it’s all character building.
I actually thought Flashcard ran with some promise in the seven furlong handicap at Newmarket. They didn’t go much of a pace and he showed us what we thought, that he’s ready to step up to a mile now.
He’s going the right way and wasn’t beaten that far, so we’ll look at some of the mile handicaps over the next few months.
Caliburn won nicely at Pontefract on Monday. We haven’t had him that long and he’s a nice type. He could well develop into an Ebor type at some point. He’s effective on any ground which helps.
In terms of a next target, we’re looking at the 1m6f handicap at Newmarket’s July meeting or the Old Newton Cup at Haydock the week before.
With the ceiling so high to get a run in the Ebor this year, we’ve got to be careful we don’t jeopardise the horse’s future for one race. We don’t want to force round pegs into square holes.
We only have three on Saturday, but I hope they all have some kind of chance.
Lariat runs in the 1m4½f Class 2 handicap at Chester (14:40). It looks a very competitive race with a small but select field.
He has been so consistent this season, finishing second three times, and he is unlucky not to have won.
The softer the ground the better for him. He ran well when second to Sam Cooke here at the May meeting and I think he was a very well-handicapped horse. A repeat of that run would make him the one to beat here.
He’s very genuine, he’s just been beaten by three good horses and he has his optimum conditions here, so we’re hopeful.
Firelight goes for the big six furlong handicap at York (15:35) and I think she’s really improved for her reappearance run at Windsor last month.
I’m very happy with her and we go there with as much hope as you could have in a 20-runner race. She was fourth in the Lowther last year, beaten only two lengths, which is very good form.
The only worry would be very soft ground. She won with some cut at Newmarket last August and she wasn’t at her best at Ayr in the autumn, so I don’t think you could put that entirely down to the ground.
I would like to see some drying conditions, though.
We run Diocletian in the closing 1m6f handicap at Sandown (17:35) and he will love the ground. He didn’t get the trip in the Chester Cup consolation race, but he travelled well for a long way.
This is his type of race, the track will suit and we have each-way hopes.
Salisbury on Sunday
We have four runners at Salisbury, starting with Stay Forever in the apprentice handicap (13:55). I’m really pleased with her and if it was not too soft, I’d like her chances.
It’s a race for inexperienced jockeys, but Kayleigh Stephens has ridden a winner and it would be nice if she can get another.
Yellow Label is a big horse, so he should have no problem with the ground if it’s very soft in the 1m4f handicap (14:30). Let’s hope he can run a nice race.
Tribal Craft is a filly we like a lot and the ground should be fine for her in the fillies’ novice (15:05), so we’d be fairly hopeful.
We also run Eagle Queen and they are both having their second start. Eagle Queen is a work in progress.
We are all really excited about Royal Ascot, it’s the best week of the year and we had a great event with another of our sponsors, Favourbrook, on Thursday night.
They specialise in formalwear. If you notice anyone with a super waistcoat next week it is probably from Favourbrook.
I went through the key races with one of our jockeys Rob Hornby and it certainly whetted the appetite ahead of the greatest five days of Flat racing all year.
We’ve got the possibility of 22 horses going to the meeting, which is around 12 per cent of the string, so I’d say that will be an achievement in itself if they all get there.
We have one more work morning on Saturday and if that goes to plan, they’ll all be heading there next week.
It’s slightly frustrating that we’ve got two who would love soft ground on the Saturday when it’s likely to be at its quickest, while some of the ones earlier in the week would prefer quicker ground.
That’s just the way it goes.
I think Beat The Bank is overpriced if it’s not too soft in the Queen Anne on Tuesday. I reckon he would have almost won last year with a clear run and if you can forgive him his Lockinge effort, he must have a very good each-way chance.
Dashing Willoughby has been working well and he has strong credentials in the Queen’s Vase on Wednesday. He ran well in the Chester Vase and should appreciate the extra two furlongs.
We haven’t decided where Bangkok will go quite yet, it will depend on the ground. We wouldn’t want to go a mile-and-a-half with him on soft. He is in the Hampton Court and the King Edward VII. Fox Chairman has also been given a Hampton Court entry.
It’s a very exciting time. I will be doing a daily blog for Royal Ascot next week.
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