It’s a case of quantity over quality in Britain this afternoon with the bulk of the ITV4 action coming from Musselburgh, where the feature race is the Queen’s Cup Stakes. The one who appeals here is Austrian School.
The son of Teofilo won his first two starts last season and though he failed to add to that tally in nine subsequent starts, the half-brother of dual Grand National hero Tiger Roll posted several fine efforts in defeat, finishing second five times, third twice, and fourth twice.
One of those narrow reversals came to today’s venue where Mark Johnston’s charge was only just touched off by Timoshenko, to whom he was giving lumps of weight, the front two pulling miles clear of their three rivals.
That tendency to find one too good is a slight concern but he’s only a four-year-old and the sense is there’s more to come. The hope is that journey will begin today.
The preceding Scottish Sprint Cup Handicap looks fiendishly tough, with the tentative each-each nod going in the direction of the veteran Line Of Reason at double-figure odds.
The nine-year-old has been pitched into more scraps than James Bond but like 007 he keeps coming back for more and Paul Midgley excels with sprinters.
The Royal Mile Handicap looks a more solvable challenge, with the William Haggas-trained Politicise looking a worthy favourite.
Well beaten on his debut last season, the Camelot gelding got off the mark at Newbury on his second start before ending his two-year-old campaign in October by finishing second at Windsor to Shoot For Gold, a horse who wasn’t disgraced when sixth in a Group 1 in France later than month.
On what shapes as tricky card for punters, Politicise looks the safest bet. The Silver Arrow Handicap kicks off the Musselburgh action and course specialist Raselasad may be able to make all.
In three starts at Musselburgh, Raselasad has won once and finished second twice and he may be hard to peg back if allowed dictate from the front.
Turning to the jumps, The Paddy Pie appeals in the Betway Challenger Staying Chase Series Final Handicap Chase at Haydock.
Sue Smith’s charge won at this venue in February and has finished second in his two subsequent starts, most recently at Newcastle earlier this month, where his jumping was less than convincing.
Today’s longer trip will allow him more time to organise himself at his obstacles and, if his jumping holds up, he should go close.
Conditions promise to be quick at Haydock and that should play to the strengths of the Ben Pauling-trained Skidoosh in the Betway Challenger Stayers’ Hurdle Series Final Handicap Hurdle.
The six-year-old seemed to relish the step up to an extended three miles when winning on good ground at Doncaster in February and gets those conditions again today.
Being ridden by in-form claimer Lorcan Williams is a further positive so Skidoosh deserves his position towards the head of the market.
The Betway Challenger Two Mile Hurdle Series Final Handicap Hurdle looks another puzzle but Cubswin, trained by Neil King, will arrive at Haydock on the back of a game success over this distance of just short of two miles at Wincanton earlier this month and may be able to follow up.
The BoyleSports Irish Grand National takes centre-stage on Monday and Willie Mullins, having finally laid his Cheltenham Gold Cup hoodoo to rest last month, can win the Easter highlight for the first time.
Though Mullins’ team of seven is numerically dwarfed by Gordon Elliott’s 12, Ireland’s champion trainer looks to have the stronger hand with Burrows Saint and Pairofbrowneyes both looking massive players.
Not for the first time this season, Ruby Walsh has faced a tricky dilemma but his decision to go with the potential of Burrows Saint may be rewarded.
The progressive six-year-old won impressively over two and a half miles at Gowran Park last month before following up in similarly convincing style when stepped up to an extended three miles at Limerick three weeks later.
The way he finished that race suggests the National trip should not be beyond him and while his lack of experience is a concern, novices have
excelled in this race in recent years.
The luck factor obviously comes into play in a 30-runner handicap but granted reasonable luck in running, Burrows Saint will surely put up a bold bid.
Musselburgh 1.50: Raselasad
Haydock 2.05: Cubswin
Musselburgh 2.25: Politicise (Nap)
Haydock 2.40: The Paddy Pie
Musselburgh 3.00: Line Of Reason
Haydock 3.15: Skidoosh (NB)
Musselburgh 3.35: Austrian School
Fairyhouse (Monday) 5.00: Burrows Saint