Haydock hosts one of its bigger days of the Flat season this weekend, with two Group Twos the highlights.
Both the Sandy Lane Stakes and Temple Stakes see some of the quickest horses around and it will be some sight watching them in full flight on Saturday.
On top of that there is also the small matter of the Irish 2,000 and 1,000 Guineas to look forward to at the Curragh.
Here are the thoughts and best bets of our horse racing betting expert ahead of the action.
Sandy Lane Stakes
As the betting suggests, this should be pretty straightforward for Calyx. John Gosden’s high-class sprinter is 1/5 to remain unbeaten and based on his impressive win at Ascot on his seasonal reappearance, it would take a brave man to bet against him.
He’s a very good horse and I don’t see any of his rivals laying a glove on him.
While the Sandy Lane looks a one-sided contest, the Temple Stakes looks much more open. Battaash heads the market at 6/5 and he’s probably the right favourite given his record fresh. He’s won on his seasonal reappearance in the last two seasons, including here 12 months ago.
He’s been known to get very worked up prior to his races and does have the tendency to throw in a bad run as shown in York’s Nunthorpe last season.
When he’s good, he’s very good, but it’s hard to know which Battaash is going to turn up and so at the prices I’m going to take him on with the ultra-consistent Mabs Cross.
Michael Dods’ five-year-old mare went from strength-to-strength last season, where having just been touched off in the Nunthorpe, she followed up with a narrow victory in the Group One Prix de l’Abbaye at Longchamp on Arc day.
She then defied the penalty she had to carry for winning that race in the Group Three Palace House Stakes at Newmarket on her seasonal reappearance and even though she is giving weight away to all her rivals, I expect her to go in again at 5/2 with Grosvernorsport.com.
Irish 2,000 Guineas
The Curragh hosts the 2,000 Guineas on Saturday and it looks like being a contest which evolves around Magna Grecia and Too Darn Hot.
Aidan O’Brien’s Magna Grecia is the market leader at 11/8 having won the 2,000 Guineas at Newmarket, giving O’Brien a 10th win of the English Classic.
That was a mightily impressive performance and you can see why he justifies favouritism, but my fancy is Too Darn Hot at 6/4.
Many were surprised by his entry in this contest, bearing in mind it comes just nine days after suffering his first defeat in the Dante Stakes at York.
Following that loss jockey Frankie Dettori said he is a horse which will definitely get a mile, and now there is no pressure with the unbeaten record falling, connections will now be slightly more bolder in their approach, and I can see that paying off this weekend.
Irish 1,000 Guineas
It’s the turn of the fillies on Sunday, and Hermosa heads here on the back of the 1000 British Guineas win at Newmarket and is the 5/2 favourite.
The front-runner produced a great run on the day to hold off all her challengers and she will be tough to pass once again at the Curragh.
Aidan O’Brien has put forward five horses in the 11-runner field and that as ever shows the strength of the stable.
However, the British contingent is led by Qabala at 11/4, who went off favourite for the 1,000 British Guineas, but run out of steam when finishing third having initially being held up early on.
Although she warrants plenty of respect and could return to winning ways, my selection is Just Wonderful at 11/2.
She did her best work in the closing stages of the 1,000 Guineas and finished strongly, and has good course form at the Curragh when winning a Group Three over the same distance.
This time round she is unlikely to have to make up so much ground as she had in the British Guineas and I fancy her to come on strong late on to give O’Brien yet another Classic win to add to his vast collection.
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