A first prize of nearly £40,000 has attracted a strong field for the fourth running of the Queen’s Cup at Musselburgh, the most valuable race on the Easter Saturday programme, including five from the Mark Johnston stable which supplied the last winner in 2019.
Themaxwecan could be the best of the Johnston contingent, and his form includes a fourth-place finish in a strong handicap at this trip at Royal Ascot last summer.
Alright Sunshine (3.35) was also in that race, though, around six lengths further back having met all kinds of trouble in running. He has hinted at a big run in a race of this kind more than once and is also fit from a spin over hurdles in March.
Musselburgh 1.50: Stone Soldier has made rapid strides on the Fibresand at Southwell over the winter and since joining Archie Watson. He could be very well handicapped back on turf on a mark 9lb below his latest all-weather rating.
Haydock 2.05: Only one of the seven runners is easily dismissed but there was a lot to like about the way Xcitations quickened clear at Fakenham last time and this looks like his ideal trip and ground. Lightly-raced Vision Du Puy is the obvious danger.
Musselburgh 2.25: Another tight-knit handicap and only juvenile form to work with, but Ventura Mutiny could be a bit better than his opening mark of 79 having readily seen off two subsequent winners in a maiden at this track last June.
Haydock 2.40: Debece is lightly-raced for a 10-year-old and looked well ahead of his mark on his debut for Dan Skelton – and also his first run after a wind op – at Sandown last time. Spring ground seems to bring the best out of him too.
Musselburgh 3.00: The season fizzled out a little for Came From The Dark after a big run to win at Haydock in September, but he returns to action as a gelding and also after a wind-op, with Hollie Doyle booked to ride. Ed Walker’s five-year-old has gone well after a break in the past too and makes as much appeal as any in a ferociously competitive sprint.
Haydock 3.15 It had been a forgettable campaign for Sue Smith’s stable until Vintage Clouds landed the Ultima at Cheltenham and Small Present could continue the yard’s revival with a third win on the bounce. His latest success on good ground at Doncaster was a career best in a strong time.
Silvestre de Sousa is an outsider to win a fourth Flat jockeys’ championship this season but his instincts remain as sharp as ever on the evidence of his winning ride on Bangkok, the 5-6 favourite, in the Betway Easter Classic here on Friday.
The field were coming down the Lingfield hill with a little over a quarter of a mile to run in the feature event on All-Weather Finals day when De Sousa made an abrupt move around the outside, which both locked James Doyle, on his main rival Forest Of Dean, into a pocket and allowed De Sousa to get first crack at the leader, Palavecino.
It was possibly the difference between victory and defeat, as it was not until well inside the final furlong that De Sousa forced Bangkok’s nose in front before crossing the line a neck to the good.
“Silvestre gave Bangkok a lovely ride,” Andrew Balding, the winner’s trainer, said. “He kept Forest Of Dean in at a vital stage and just had that little bit always up his sleeve.
“He has been a star horse. He has maybe not hit the heights we hoped at one stage when he won the Sandown Classic Trial [in April 2019], we thought he was going to develop into a serious Derby contender, but he seems to be relaxing into his races now, which gives him a lot of options going forward.”
Diligent Harry, who landed the Three-Year-Old championship, and Khuzaam, an easy winner of the Mile, will also be names to look out for on the turf over the summer.
Diligent Harry showed a fine turn of foot to run down the leader Mighty Gurkha and was cut to around 20-1 for the Commonwealth Cup at Royal Ascot in June, while Roger Varian’s Khuzaam, a five-year-old with just nine races behind him, is also still very much on an upward path.