Aetna can erupt at Doncaster
Mick Easterby's filly looked progressive at end of last year
The last two winners of the Betway Cammidge Trophy, Jack Dexter and Dinkum Diamond, are among the 11-strong field in today's renewal of the Doncaster sprint.
Galway-born Graham Lee, who won the six-furlong Listed race on Jim Goldie's Jack Dexter in 2013 and finished third on him last year, is on the Henry Candy-trained Dinkum Diamond this time. Both horses have obvious chances, but neither inspires too much confidence, given that they didn't really progress throughout 2014.
Jack Dexter is the joint top-rated runner on a mark of 110 along with Kevin Ryan's Astaire, which Jamie Spencer is aboard. The 2013 Middle Park hero won three times in four starts as a juvenile and looked a fair three-year-old early last term, finishing second to Maarek at York in May before running respectably to be sixth behind Slade Power in the Diamond Jubilee at Royal Ascot.
Astaire handles a cut, and, if it's the case that he goes well fresh, he has a chance of justifying favouritism. On the other hand, he never threatened in the July Cup, the Nunthorpe or the Sprint Cup on his last three starts, so a watching brief is advised for now.
Marco Botti's Naadirr is another interesting four-year-old. Martin Harley's mount is rated 108 after signing off with a win at York in September. While he has the scope to move up the ranks, he isn't proven with an ease in the ground and he has plenty on here under a penalty.
The one that appeals as having the most going for her is Mick Easterby's Graham Gibbons-ridden Aetna. A relatively modest juvenile that won twice and was placed three times in seven starts, the daughter of Indesatchel proved progressive as a three-year-old.
From six starts, she won three and was beaten less than a length when third off a mark of 98, before signing off with a decisive triumph in Listed company over this course and distance in November.
On heavy ground that day, Aetna ploughed clear of Lancelot Du Lac, Spinatrix and Jack Dexter. That is rock-solid form in the context of today's opposition, with the runner-up recently performing with credit to be denied just over a length in a Meydan Group Three.
Today, Jack Dexter is three pounds better off for that four-and-a-half-length beating. On paper, that gives him a chance of turning the tables, but the suspicion is that Aetna is an improver worth keeping on side at odds of around 5/1.
In the preceding mile Listed race, Tullius is a short-priced favourite to account for four inferior-rated rivals. However, Andrew Balding's charge isn't as far ahead of his rivals as the figures suggest, and Baltic Knight is a solid alternative in first-time blinkers.
Richard Hannon's Lee-ridden five-year-old was caught napping when Lady Dutch got first run on his return at Kempton last month. He should be sharper for that, and the application of the head-gear might also invigorate him.
At odds of up to 9/2, he represents a bit of value.