Suraj can turn Silver into gold

The John Smith's Silver Cup (2.25 York) is a typically strong 15-runner handicap in which a case can be made for a number of the runners, but perhaps the most compelling of all can be built around the progressive Suraj, who sits neatly at the very bottom of the racecard.

Michael Bell's horse is the only three-year-old in the race, a fact that can be construed as negative for such an extreme test of stamina against older, more experienced horses.

However, at this stage of the season, the gap between the maturity of Suraj's generation and the older brigade begins to narrow quite rapidly and the receipt of a 15lb weight-for-age allowance in testing ground should not be underestimated.

The result of the allowance is that Suraj is in receipt of at least 12lbs from all his rivals, and there's the added bonus that Hayley Turner is able to do the allotted eight stone, two pounds.

Suraj didn't have a two-year-old season. The son of Galileo made his racecourse debut in May of this year, finishing a very respectable fifth in a Newmarket maiden won by Model Pupil.

Leaving the selection aside for a moment, the form of that particular ten-furlong contest has received a number of real boosts in the meantime.

Winner Model Pupil was just touched off in the Group 3 Chester Vase, while runner-up Shantaram ran up behind subsequent Derby runner-up Main Sequence in the Lingfield Derby Trial before winning a Newmarket maiden.

And, on Thursday, he ran away with the Group 3 Bahrain Trophy at the same track. Yazdi, third in the maiden, also cantered away with a maiden on his next outing.

Adding to the substance of the maiden, Suraj was very well backed for his second outing and he certainly delivered in style, winning a Doncaster maiden by 11 lengths. He was a beaten favourite off a mark of 89 on his next outing but I'm more than happy to put that defeat down to the good to firm going.

Back on more suitable ground at Doncaster for his most recent run, he resumed his progress, travelling well and kicking clear to score by a wide margin.

There seems little chance that the going will be any better than good to soft at York today and that suits the selection very well. This is his fifth run of the season but there’s little doubt that he remains on an upward curve and his shrewd trainer looks to have spotted a real opportunity for the colt.

It’ll be surprising if he’s unable to make a mark in Pattern Company later in the season and he can use his valuable allowance to put these rivals to the sword.

There are dangers abound, one of which is High Jinx, who also comes from astute quarters.

James Fanshawe’s four-year-old didn’t travel particularly well in a Newmarket handicap last time out but he found plenty as he battled to get the better of Anatolian.

The race hasn’t received a notable boost but the winner won for attrition and the extra couple of furlongs of today’s race should suit. He is potentially progressive but, again, he must concede 18lbs to Suraj.

Motivado is interesting for the fact that he was very heavily supported for the Northumberland Plate at Newcastle on what was his seasonal debut recently.

Connections must feel he remains well treated but there wasn’t enough in his performance to make him immediately appealing.

Top-weight Mount Athos deserves respect but it’s a case of the faster the ground, the better for him and he’s unlikely to get that here. Of his five wins to date, four have come on good to firm ground and the other came on the all weather at Dundalk.

It’ll take a huge effort to carry ten stone to victory if, indeed, this 14-furlong race turns into a real test of stamina on punishing ground.

If there’s an overpriced outsider in the race, perhaps it’s Alan Bailey’s Barbican. He has some good form in better company and looks capable of making a mark here.

But, like so many others, there is an issue with the ground. He has, almost exclusively, been campaigned on good ground and a it’s more a case of uncertainty rather than a fact that he won’t appreciate a little bit of cut.

His two most disappointing runs came after he returned from Meydan but there was more of spark in his two most recent efforts.

He may get away with good to soft ground and on form he’s capable of outrunning odds of 25-1.

However, it’s hard to get away from Suraj.

Odds of around 7-2 may not appear overly generous in this big-field handicap, but he has so much in his favour, it’s hard to imagine him finishing out of the frame. He should prove better than this level in time and looks capable of taking full advantage of a generous weight-for-age allowance.

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