Between Epsom last weekend, and Royal Ascot on Tuesday week, an inevitable suspension of quality today produces one of the quieter Saturdays in the calendar.
It is another story over the ocean, where a fascinating Triple Crown series concludes by pitching the winners of the first two legs, Orb and Oxbow, against each other in the Belmont Stakes. To keep the home fires smouldering, however, Channel 4 relies on sheer competition to keep punters engaged.
Its opening contest at Haydock is a case in point, but Sun Central (2.05) represents a respected yard in what will only be his fifth handicap, and his second beyond a mile and a half. He has a superb pedigree, as a Galileo half-brother to George Washington, and was well backed for a competitive race at Salisbury last month. Though he only just won, he did well to overcome a steady pace after proving quite fresh on his return from an eight-month lay-off and will relish a greater test of stamina now that he steps up to two miles.
The Germans could not quite get involved with their first Derby runner last week, but their overall record overseas in recent years commands respect for Nymphea (2.40). Nor should her stablemate, Amarillo, be neglected at too big a price for the other Group prize on the card, but Pastoral Player (3.15) sets a good standard on his success in last year’s running. He shaped well behind Eton Forever, who is always effective fresh, over course and distance last month and looks primed to strike, granted a decent gallop, this time.
Newmarket weighs in with some pretty perplexing handicaps. Nabucco, a son of Cape Verdi, shaped nicely on his return and has every chance of reversing form with Ehtedaam (2.20) on revised terms. But the Godolphin colt is on a steeply progressive curve, one of the first to show signs of life for his stable after a difficult spring. Now that Saeed Bin Suroor is on such a roll, Handsome Man (3.30) also looks to hold solid prospects.
Enrol is the obvious improver in the big sprint handicap, but a small interest is perhaps warranted at big odds against Heavy Metal (2.55). He seems to have lost interest but had the class to win the Richmond Stakes last summer and might just bounce back tried in blinkers today.
Gerard Butler, who revealed in this newspaper last month that he is being investigated over the administration of steroids, was duly charged with several offences by the British Horseracing Authority yesterday.
No date has yet been set for the hearing, and the BHA meanwhile continues with its inquiries into the prescription of Sungate by several other trainers on veterinary advice.
CHRIS MCGRATH’S NAP
Greeleys Love (3.20 Chester)
Lexington Blue (4.55 Beverley)