Sandor can answer Spanish inquisition
The outcome of this afternoon's Sunderlands Handicap at Sandown will depend to a large extent on whether or not the handicapper has got hold of Spanish Duke.
John Dunlop's three-year-old, unbeaten in its four starts under Eddie Ahern, hacked up at Newmarket a fortnight ago, and will compete today off a 9lb higher mark.
Having won off 83 in May, that means he is now a stone higher than when he set out this year. If you factor in Spanish Duke's nursery win at the end of the last campaign, that climb rises to 19lbs, so there must be a fear that the assessor's net is closing in.
Still available to back at around 9/1, Spanish Duke represents excellent value if you conclude that he remains on the right side of the handicapper. However, this is by far the stiffest test he has faced, and he isn't helped by being drawn widest of all in stall one, nor by the fact that this week's rain has apparently missed Sandown.
Marginally preferred to the favourite is Sandor. Over today's 10-furlong trip, Peter Makin's charge met trouble in running in the John Smith's Cup at York last month when a staying-on fifth to Wigmore Hall, a horse that lines out in the Grade One Secretariat Stakes in America tonight.
Sandor confirmed the promise of that effort when beaten less than a length over two furlongs further at Ascot in the meantime, yet has remained unchanged off 92 since winning off 90 in May.
On each of his three outings since then, he has acquitted himself well, and deserves to land one of these valuable pots now.
While it is possible that 12 furlongs could prove to be Greg Fairley's mount's optimum trip, the stiff 10 at Sandown ought to hold no fears. He was a course and distance winner at the London venue a year ago and it also was the trip over which he won in May, so he seems versatile.
In contrast to Spanish Duke, Sandor has a particularly favourable draw in stall 15. It is also worth noting that, with six of the last nine runnings of the race going the way of four-year-olds, the son of Fantastic Light ticks that box, too. At a general 10/1, Sandor has plenty going for him.
The opening Danepak Atlanta Stakes sees the promising Seta bid for a hat-trick. Luca Cumani's classy filly has solid form and she is the pick on that basis, but she is expected to trade at prohibitive odds. Chachamaidee is a better option.
Trained by Henry Cecil, the Footstepsinthesand three-year-old isn't the most straightforward. She tends to break slowly and then take a keen hold, flaws that probably cost her the race last time. On that occasion at Ascot, Chachamaidee lost seven lengths at the start, yet was eventually only beaten three behind Field Day.
With the winner going on to be second in a French Group Three, and the third, Alsace Lorraine, successful in a Listed race at Salisbury, the form is undoubtedly solid.
Chachamaidee will need to behave better if she is to draw now, but she is bound to improve with racing and may be overpriced at 9/1.
Another to consider is Panpiper in the Life Build Handicap. Twice a winner over six furlongs, Gary Moore's charge ran well to be second in all-age company at Windsor two weeks ago, form that was franked by the third horse winning at Brighton this week.
Panpiper drops to five today, but that isn't a concern as he has an abundance of early pace, and the stiff finish will aid his cause. Back among his own age group, with Martin Lane taking 3lbs off bottom weight, he ought to be hard to beat.
Up at Perth, Gordon Elliott bids to end his Ebor-winning week on a high with four raiders. King Roonah, with Paul Carberry up, may be the best value in the novices' handicap chase. Having unseated last time, he will line up a relatively fresh horse.
Best bet: Panpiper
The column obliged with two winners at Newbury last week. Sans Frontieres scored at 3/1, while Fleeting Echo collected at 5/1.