Best bets for the horse racing Friday 26th April 2024

Before the Jumps season finale at Sandown on Saturday they have a decent card of Flat racing Friday afternoon including three Group races. My focus for Friday is at the Esher track. The going is good, good-soft in places with the chance of showers during racing. 

Best bets for the horse racing at Sandown Park

Racing gets underway at 1.15 with the 5f bet365 Handicap. The first race of interest to me is the 1m2f Group Three bet365 Gordon Richards Stakes at 2.25. I mentioned Desert Hero may run in this at the start of the week and the four-year-old will make his seasonal debut. Last seen finishing third in the St Leger Tower Of London has been doing a lot to boost that piece of form but Chesspiece and Arrest could only manage fifth and seventh in a 1m4f G.3 at Newbury last weekend so the race form has taken a couple of knocks; the 1m2f trip today also looks too short. Israr is top-rated in the field and has to be shortlisted and his run in the 1m4f G.3 H H The Amir Trophy in February can be forgiven as he was prominent out wide there not perhaps getting the best of trips. The five-year-old will surely also strip fitter for the run. Okeechobee missed all of 2023 after a promising three-year-old campaign and returned to the track as a five-year-old when second to Dubai Honour in the Listed Magnolia Stakes on the Polytrack at Kempton earlier this month. Another that will certainly strip fitter for the run, he may have more to give yet if over his various problems that have seen him run just five times; after so long off before the Kempton run the 'bounce factor' is a concern. Having looked a prospect as a two-year-old winning a couple of Listed races and finishing third in a three-way photo in a muddling renewal of the G.2 Juddmonte Royal Lodge Stakes the three-year-old campaign of Flying Honours was a nightmare. He raced just once last season in the 1m2½f G.3 Dante Stakes back in May where he reared at the start and never really got involved. Trainer Charlie Appleby put the poor run down to the fact that he was unsuited by the good to firm with jockey William Buick adding the colt anticipated the gate and was slowly away; he also finished lame in his right-fore. Gelded in the autumn his official mark of 109 could well be left far behind this season if he can get his career back on track. He has a long absence to overcome but is open to improvement yet and this is his sort of trip. I have some of the 5-1 this morning in the hope all is well with the gelding. The team at Moulton Paddocks see this as a good starting point before possibly stepping-up in trip, the galloping nature of Sandown Park with an emphasis on stamina with the gradual climb from the home turn to the line should prove perfect. 

The Group Two bet365 Mile at 3.00 has Lord North at the head of the market dropping in trip and grade following his run in the G.1 1m1f Dubai Turf at Meydan last month. Second in the 1m2f G.3 Winter Derby Stakes before that in February I have already mentioned this year I am not convinced he is as good as he was and looks vulnerable to the horses half his age in here. I tipped Nostrum when he was second in the Mile G.3 Bonhams Thoroughbred Stakes at Goodwood last summer. His three-year-old campaign came to an end when he finished lame in the 1m1f G.3 Strensall Stakes at York in August having gone off odds-on. A lightly raced four-year-old that clearly has some talent in the hands of Sir Michael Stoute it would be no surprise to see this one improve a pound or two this season. I am on at 5-2, my main concern is they don't get too much rain.

The 1m2f Group Three bet365 Classic Trial is at 3.35. Godolphin made no secret of the fact Arabian Crown would be aimed at the Derby and he puts his credentials to the test here. A close third in a 7f Novice Stakes on debut at Sandown in July 2023 he then won over the same C&D later in the month. He followed up in grand style in a Listed race at Salisbury over a mile in August and was very impressive when winning the 1m2f G.3 Zetland Stakes by 5½ lengths at Newmarket in October before being put away for the winter. I am on at 5-6 and fully expect him to book his place at Epsom. I have also taken 12-1 about him for Epsom each-way as that won’t be around after he wins this. Trainer Charlie Appleby said this week “Arabian Crown has track experience at Sandown, which is always handy, and we were pleased with his recent racecourse gallop at Newmarket. It’s the same situation with a lot of early three-year-olds as we are trying to find out where the rest of the season lies. We will hopefully be a lot wiser afterwards as to whether he’s a Derby horse or not.” G.2 Royal Lodge Stakes fourth Macduff will likely enjoy the step-up in trip and can be in the mix whilst Portland over from Ballydoyle has to be respected.

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