Steve Hughes looks ahead to a busy Saturday of racing action
One of those Saturdays with big races everywhere you look, but my main focus is on Haydock where top sprinter Battaash makes his comeback. I have selections from three races at the Merseyside track and two for the big sprint at York. The Sweeney was a winner in the previous column on Sunday (advised 4/1).
Haydock 2.15: Eden Rose
The big question here is whether the recent rapid improvement of Eden Rose is down to a switch to an All Weather surface, or to the step up in trip to 2m.
I am hoping it is more the latter as she has been a revelation in two runs at the longer distance. An 8l winner at Lingfield (could have been much more if the jockey had wished) in March she took a step up in grade in her stride when landing the Queens Prize at Kempton last month.
Whilst that race does not have the lustre of years gone by, it is still a class 2 handicap and proves she is up to this level. Her turf form is modest though and she was unplaced in two runs in the autumn on her last tries on grass. However they were over much shorter trips and I suspect she is just improving generally as she is still lightly raced.
Haydock 2.50: Oasis Prince & Spirit Warning
Always one of my favourite handicaps featuring a mix of good 2yo’s trying to give weight to improving horses we did not see much of last season. It is two of the latter I fancy here.
Oasis Prince only made his racecourse debut in March but has been improving rapidly since. Even that first run showed promise given how green he looked when only fifth at Wolverhampton. He is three from three since, always racing prominently which is a plus around this tight mile. Indeed his last win was over this course and distance, showing typical determination in a Mark Johnston trained inmate. I think there is more to come and with the assistance of the always under-rated Franny Norton in the saddle, can make use of a decent racing weight of 8-8.
As an each-way alternative Spirit Warning looks interesting. He is more exposed having been busy through the winter, but showed he acts on grass with second places at Epsom and Chester recently. I liked the way he travelled under more restrained tactics at Chester last time (necessary due to a wide draw) and they may have found the way to ride this horse now rather than front run leaving him vulnerable to a closer. He acts on any ground and can pounce off a fast pace.
York 3.45: Marnie James & Eee Bah Gum
Two against the field in this fast and furious sprint – both of whom were placed here just last week in a similar contest.
Marnie James had an unsuccessful journey to Dubai in the winter, but on the evidence of his run last week is showing no ill effects from that trip. All his best form has been on fast tracks on decent ground, headlined by wins here as a juvenile and a wide margin win at Haydock last summer. He loves to chase a strong pace and should be able to do that again today despite his big weight.
I fancied Eeh Bah Gum last week and he made the frame despite a stumble at the start and being drawn away from the main action in the race. Drawn more towards the centre today there is no doubt he remains fairly weighted being able to race off the same mark of 88 today. He too has winning form here having made all to win at the Ebor meeting last summer.
Haydock 4.00: Battaash
If the real Battaash turns up on his seasonal debut then there should only be one winner here and as he can be backed at odds against, he looks worth a wager.
He made a successful comeback in this race last year and indeed has won first time out three times from four starts, so lack of a recent run is no great issue. Trainer Charlie Hills has been quoted as saying he never really felt he had the horse in perfect condition last season, yet he still won two Group 2’s and was placed in three Group 1’s.
He is apparently going well at home and a recent wind op might have a positive influence. A real speedball this is largely a speed favouring track so if he is ready enough for this he should take plenty of stopping.
1pt win – Eden Rose – 2.15 Haydock – 4/1 William Hill, Paddy Power
1pt win – Oasis Prince – 2.50 Haydock – 6/1 general
0.75pts each-way – Spirit Warning – 2.50 Haydock – 20/1 William Hill, Unibet
0.75pts each-way – Marnie James – 3.45 York – 14/1 general (Skybet, Paddy Power 1/5 odds 1st 6)
1pt each-way – Eeh Bah Gum – 3.45 York – 15/2 general (Paddy Power 1/5 odds first 6)
1.5pts win – Battaash – 4.00 Haydock – 11/10 general