By: Paul Harrison
There are a number of interesting contenders in the opening race on Haydock’s Saturday evening card: The BetfredTv Maiden Stakes (6.15). Michael Dods took this prize in 2013 with Mecca’s Angel. That horse turned out to be a Group class performer and as trainers tend to be creatures of habit, the chances are that his representative this year, Stormy Art has at least shown some fair promise on the gallops. Dod’s is on a pretty remarkable run at present, whilst none of his previous 17 runners have managed to win, no fewer than ten have finished second. We see this one making the frame, but 5f is one of the toughest trips for a horse to win over on debut. Richard Fahey was the trainer to take this race last year and his Mayfair Lady also makes the shortlist. A keeping on third on debut at Catterick, she was nevertheless over seven lengths adrift of the winner. She may find this flatter track more to her liking and we at least expect her to finish much closer this time. The one we are backing though is Love On The Rocks from the yard of Charles Hills. His Lambourn operation has been slowly coming into form and will be buoyed by the Success of Dutch Connection at the Royal meeting this week. This Chestnut filly by Australian star sprinter Exceed And Excel certainly looks a likely type on paper. Her full brother Double Up, is two years her senior but has already scored twice over this trip. This one’s debut effort at Nottingham suggested she can quickly follow in his footsteps. She finished fourth that day, but was up with the pace for a long way and was only beaten just over a length in the end. Likely to be suited by Saturday’s better ground and granted normal improvement for that first run, she looks tough to beat.
Trainer Roger Varian has his yard in pretty decent form at the minute, with eight of his last 30 runners coming home in front. In addition he boasts an impressive 21% strike rate with his three-year-old maiden runners in the past five seasons. All of this points towards Rifle Range having a pretty solid chance in the penultimate race on Haydocks card. A small field of six go to post for the Betfred “Still Treble Odds on Lucky 15’s” Maiden Stakes at 8.15. With the yards of Hannon, Bin Suroor, Haggas and Varian represented this looks a pretty solid contest for the grade. Saeed bin Suroor’s, Memorial Day looks a big danger to Rifle Range, but has to concede 10lb to the selection by virtue of being a four-year-old. That could make all the difference here. This will also be his first run in 226 days whereas the selection ran just 17 days ago so may well strip fitter. That run at Chelmsford was actually the first run of Rifle Ranges career and offered plenty of encouragement. He couldn’t lay a glove on the odds on favourite that day but was given a pretty easy time of things and was clear best of the rest. By Shamardalout of a Danehill mare, his is nicely bred for a mile and this switch to turf should suit him well.