While rain would certainly be expedient before Aintree next month, for now the sunshine forecast for Lingfield today can be welcomed as a downpayment on the summer to come. For Flat racing aficionados, this card not only represents the climax of the all-weather calendar – upon which they have subsisted through the winter – but the cue for an immediate shift to top gear.
So Turf racing resumes at Doncaster next Saturday, even as the world's richest meeting is staged in Dubai, and those Ballydoyle horses meanwhile due to work after racing at the Curragh tomorrow include Camelot himself.
Admittedly ante-post punters have already suffered their first blow, with connections of Harbour Watch reconciled to his missing the Qipco 2,000 Guineas after another setback.
His trainer, Richard Hannon, who finally intends to transfer the licence to his son, assistant and namesake this year, was back in hospital this week for precautionary vascular surgery. One way or another, the champion stable could do with a tonic from the Blue Square Winter Derby, and there has been auspicious support for Cai Shen.
This colt won a listed race over this trip first time out last spring, but probably produced his best form dropped to a mile at Royal Ascot and may struggle to conserve fuel from his wide draw. Premio Loco has the highest rating, but was just worried out of this in 2009 after travelling strongly, and a Group Two win over seven furlongs last year confirmed speed as his forte. Junoob must improve again, so the value at bigger odds may instead rest between Myplacelater, starting over for a new stable, and Circumvent (3.25).
Clearly not himself on his last visit, Paul Cole's charge has been freshened up since and had previously relished the switch to this surface – for the first time since his juvenile days – when just failing to collar a Godolphin hotpot in listed company over course and distance.
Blue Jack is tempting at big odds if bouncing back in the Blue Square Hever Sprint, but it is impossible to resist Noble Storm (2.55) now that he makes his belated Polytrack debut. This is one very quick horse when on song – as he patently was not, when last seen at Goodwood last summer – and he is likely to relish the demands of a turning five furlongs.
The Blue Square Spring Cup requires some useful operators in juvenile sprints – Bannock divided Harbour Watch and Caspar Netscher, no less, in the Richmond Stakes during a hectic first campaign – to stretch their speed over a seventh furlong. Though he lost his form horribly after the Coventry, his unlucky fifth there makes it worth giving Gatepost (2.25) the chance to turn over a new leaf.
In the same colours, Kingscroft (4.0) was foiled only in a photo when napped at Wolverhampton a fortnight ago and will be suited by the drop back to a mile, albeit sadly he will not be 16-1 this time.
Those persevering over jumps at Newbury must factor the drying ground into calculations. Kentford Grey Lady was beaten only by Quevega at the Festival but must show that she has absorbed that effort in the EBF Ultima Mares' Final, while Cross The Flags – newly dignified as a half-sister to Synchronised – impressed in very different conditions last time. But Cue To Cue (2.40) gets plenty of weight from both and definitely has more to offer at this trip.
The same card also features a valuable novice chase confined to mares, where Gan On (2.05) can prove value against a couple on a more obvious roll. She goes very well fresh.
Chris McGrath's Nap
Noble Storm(2.55 Lingfield)
Cue To Cue (2.40 Newbury)