Four very nice rides at Sandown on Friday

On a fair mark for handicap debut

13:50 – Rifleman

I rode him when he was second to a fair sort at Kempton last autumn and he probably did what he was entitled to when winning at that track last time. He is related to some good horses of Aidan’s, most notably Racing Post runner-up Aloft, who I won a Queen’s Vase on, and I think a mark of 86 is fair enough for his handicap debut. The step up to a mile shouldn’t be a problem.

Has been pleasing us and he should go well

14:25 – Highest Ground

A winner of his sole start, he clearly shaped liked a very a good horse when winning on his return at Haydock and finishing a close second to Thunderous in the Dante, a race he maybe could have won on another day. We didn’t see him out again until October when he clearly didn’t show his true form, but I don’t think the conditions were to blame there, for all the ground was bad and he was slow out of the stalls. He just didn’t fire. He has been pleasing us this spring and hopefully you will see the horse we were looking at early last summer. If we do, then he should be on the premises, but it’s a decent and competitive Group 3, for all it’s a relatively small field. You really can make a case for six of these, but I think he will go well.

The boss is happy but this is a very tough Classic trial

15:35 – Sir Lucan

He obviously took a huge step forward from his debut run when fourth to High Definition in the Beresford Stakes next time and he went on to win his maiden, too. He may have only won that narrowly but the runner-up won a Group 3 afterwards and finished second to Bolshoi Ballet in the Ballysax on his return. The quicker ground is an unknown but Aidan is very happy with him, he has been going nicely, and he already has run to a level that would see him competitive here. And the extra 2f should suit this brother to Sir Dragonet.

But he is clearly meeting plenty of other unexposed 3yos who will have plenty of improvement in them, so this could be pretty tough. In fact, it is one of the best Classic trials we have seen at Sandown for a while.

Workable mark and stable are hitting form

16:10 – Fabilis

He was below-par when we last saw him at Southwell back in January, but you can forgive any horse a lacklustre show around there. No, he is better judged on his Nottingham handicap win, and he didn’t run that badly when upped to Group company in the Zetland afterwards, especially as the soft ground may have been against him there. He is a brother to the very smart 1m2f performer Monarchs Glen, so hopefully a mark of 91 is workable, and the stable are hitting form, too.


Get Ryan’s exclusive thoughts on the season ahead in this special episode of Racing…Only Bettor, with Kevin Blake