Gabrial may have no answer to Angel
On a relatively low-key Saturday, Musselburgh steps bravely into uncharted territory.
With challenges facing tracks right across Britain, Scottish venues are emerging as the most innovative. Only last week, Perth, a simple but picturesque racecourse that is hugely popular with Irish trainers, announced a 30pc rise in prizemoney for 2012.
In the environment that currently exists across the water, with minimum tariffs often not met, that is a commendable advance. On top of excellent local sponsorship, Betfair has coughed up to ensure that no race at Perth will offer less than £5,000.
Today Musselburgh stages a valuable afternoon's racing without any financial support from the British Levy Board as part of an ongoing and concerted effort to raise the Edinburgh track's profile.
In this case, Betfred has pledged £100,000 in race sponsorship, yet the suburban course requires another £60,000 to meet costs. It isn't expected to do so, but is playing a long game.
The £50,000 Royal Mile is the programme's main event -- a decent handicap featuring a dozen three-year-olds.
Mark Johnston saddles the top weight Switzerland, an eight-length winner at Wolverhampton a month ago. Unexposed and improving, Joe Fanning's mount could well be up to defying a 12lb ratings hike, but others have more appeal.
Richard Fahey, Tony Hamilton and Marwan Koukash, last week's successful Lincoln partnership, are represented by Gabrial, a potentially smart type that was beaten only in the Coventry in three starts as a juvenile.
While the Dark Angel colt could take plenty beating, Bronze Angel might have his measure under Hayley Turner.
Lambourn-based Marcus Tregoning's only runner on the card, this one took longer to find its feet at two, finally winning on its reappearance after a break at Lingfield in December.
Back at the same track on its handicap bow two weeks later, Bronze Angel held on to deny a bang in-form Mr Red Clubs and Shabora over today's mile trip.
He is 4lb higher now, but Shabora has gone on to score twice since, so it looks a particularly solid piece of form.
Turner's only other mount is also fancied. She rides Bear Behind for Tom Dascombe in the Whistlejacket, a five-furlong conditions race with eight runners. One of just two three-year-olds in the field, Bear Behind contested a bundle of tip-top races last year, and always did so with credit.
His best single piece of form was arguably when second in Listed company over the minimum trip on good to soft going in August, so identical conditions here should help his cause. More importantly, thanks to the age allowance, he comes out well at the weights with most of his rivals, and it's also worth noting that his stable is on fire.
Over jumps at Haydock, three competitive handicaps feature.
In the two-mile-six-furlong chase, Tiger O'Toole gets the nod for Paul Moloney and Evan Williams.
Having taken his time to get the hang of fences, this King's Theatre seven-year-old collected in fine style at Ludlow on March 1. He then finished third in a handicap here over two and a half miles on unsuitably slow going three weeks later.
Back on drier ground now, Tiger O'Toole can confirm his progression up the ranks, while Owen Glendower might take the shorter edition under Barry Geraghty. Third to Hunt Ball at Cheltenham, Nicky Henderson's runner appeals off the very same mark.
Best Bet: Owen Glendower