Time to go Dutch at Sandown
DUTCH Connection can make a perfect start to the season by turning around previous form with Toormore to land the bet365 Mile at Sandown.
One of three Group Two events on the opening card of a two-day fixture at the Esher venue, this mile heat has attracted a fine field with Toormore one of two previous Group One winners in the line-up, along with Belardo.
While Dutch Connection has yet to score at the highest level, Charlie Hills’ four-year-old is second only to Belardo in terms of ratings, having enjoyed an excellent campaign in 2015.
Beaten in the 2000 Guineas, he bounced back to land the seven-furlong Jersey Stakes at Royal Ascot before going on to show he is just as effective over a mile when second in the Prix Jean Prat.
Dropping back to seven did not really seem to play to Dutch Connection’s strengths when beaten by Toormore in the Lennox at Goodwood while a subsequent trip to America ended with a fifth place at Keeneland.
He was staying on at the death that day, suggesting a mile is the minimum requirement and while soft ground would not be ideal, the weather is set fair and could well turn out a bit quicker on the day.
Midterm’s planned run at Newbury was scuppered by the weather last week but that could prove to be a fortunate twist of fate as the bet365 Classic Trial looks ideal for an early Group Three win.
This son of Galileo has quite a tall reputation as the first foal of multiple Group One winner Midday and he created a favourable impression when winning a Newbury maiden last term.
That might not have been the strongest contest but he overcame his evident inexperience to run out a cosy winner for Michael Stoute.
Western Hymn landed the bet365 Gordon Richards Stakes last year and John Gosden’s charge can double up in the Group Three.
The five-year-old beat Postponed by three-quarters-of-a-length in 2015 and given that rival’s subsequent exploits, it was a very good performance indeed.
Western Hymn went on to claim a fine third in the Prince of Wales’s Stakes at Royal Ascot but he has been off the track since finishing a well-beaten third behind stablemate Golden Horn in the Eclipse at this track last July.
Clearly there was no shame in that effort and Western Hymn has proved more than capable first time back before.
Nicholls extends lead in title race
PAUL Nicholls extended his lead over Willie Mullins after another intriguing afternoon in the race to be crowned British champion trainer yesterday.
Nicholls began the day a shade over £43,000 in front of his rival and hit the bullseye twice at Warwick to enhance his chances of claiming a 10th National Hunt title.
El Bandit (15/8) scooted clear in the hands of Sam Twiston-Davies to win the second division of the Close Brothers Maiden Hurdle, earning £3,249.
The Close Brothers Finance Handicap Hurdle was particularly fruitful for the Ditcheat maestro, with even-money favourite The Eaglehaslanded scooping the first prize of £7,148 and Easter Day picking up £525 for finishing fourth.
Stilletto was even-money to win the most valuable event on the card, the Close Brothers Novices’ Limited Handicap Chase, and while he proved disappointing and finished last of the three runners, he still picked up a cheque for £2,310.
Tom Jonason, assistant trainer to Nicholls, said: “After the Ayr meeting (last weekend), we were absolutely buzzing on the way home.
“It was all a bit dreary after Aintree. A long time ago Paul said he was not going to send everything to Aintree to save a few bullets and that showed at Ayr.
“Hopefully we have saved a few more for the weekend.”
It was not all bad news for Mullins, who added £8,519 to his total at Perth.
Townshend (1/2 favourite) came good to claim victory and £3,899 in the Crabbie’s Alcoholic Ginger Beer Novices’ Hurdle, before Tennis Cap filled the runner-up spot behind last year’s winner Witness In Court in the Lindsays Handicap Chase, earning £4,620.
The show continues today when Nicholls has four runners at Chepstow, while Mullins saddles just one at Perth, Rolly Baby in the McCarthy & Stone Chase.