Betfred Melrose Stakes Handicap 1m6f York Saturday – With so many higher rated older animals qualifying for the Ebor, it is almost impossible for a progressive 3yo to get into the contest, and as a result the Melrose Handicap, which is run over the same distance, and is confined to the classic generation, has become the target for the improving 3yo stayer. This indeed has resulted in the “Melrose” becoming the classier of the two contests, surely an undesireable situation for the York executive! John Dunlop won the race three times between 1999 and 2009 and Luca Cumani collected on two occasions, but of Saturday’s contenders only Haggas, Johnston, and Stoute have managed to hit the back of the net.
Yorkshireman William Haggas enjoys nothing more than a victory on the Knavesmire, and has high hopes of emulating his 2012 win with Guarantee. He carried 9st 4lbs to victory, and coincidentally, the Haggas contender at the weekend, Dal Harraild, is set to carry the same weight. A winner of three of his eight starts, he impressed when taking a Class3 handicap at Musselburgh off a mark of 87 at the beginning of June. As the runner up, and third both scored next time out, the form looked solid and he was duly sent off a 5/1 shot for an Ascot Class2 handicap next time out. Racing off a mark of 95 in the 12f contest he looked unlucky when going down by a couple of heads, but made no mistake three weeks later when winning a valuable Class2 Goodwood handicap off a mark of 98. He had five of Saturday’s opponents behind him that day, and some of them must fancy their chances of reversing the form on better terms on Saturday, not least Jaameh and Shaaroh.
The former, a colt by Iffraj and trained by Master Trainer, Mark Johnston, finished 4th at Goodwood where he was beaten less than a length despite getting upset in the stalls, and looking ill at ease on the track. He meets Dal Harraid on 3lbs better terms so has to be considered, but it has to be said that the Haggas horse also had to wait, and wait, for a gap, so it wont come as a great surprise if the placings are confirmed.
The Sir Michael Stoute (pictured above) trained Sea the Stars colt Shraooh might prove a tougher nut to crack. Ridden by Frankie Dettori he was only a short head behind Dal Harriad at Goodwood and as it was only his fifth time on a racecourse plenty of improvement can be anticipated. He finished strongly that day and with plenty of stamina on the distaff, the step up to 14f looks sure to suit. Two pounds worse off and with Dettori again doing the steering on Shraooh the Haggas runner is going to have to pull out all the stops.
Irish Maestro, Aidan O’Brien has never won this, but two of his three previous contenders have been placed, so any runner from this yard is worth a second look. At the time of writing the Galileo colt Kellstorm is his most likely representative, and this very lightly raced full brother to staying sensation, Order of St George, you would think is highly likely to improve for the greater stamina test. Unplaced on his only 2yo appearance, he finished 3rd, only 4L behind stablemate US Army Ranger, on his seasonal debut, and followed up with an easy win in a Tipperary maiden. He can be excused his second in a muddling four runner affair at Naas 101 days ago, and gets in here off a mark of 92, giving him a nice racing weight of 8st8lbs. Up in trip and racing on good ground for the first time in his career we might be forgiven for thinking by 3 .O’Clock on Saturday, what a handicap snip he was.
The Willie Mullins trained Laws Of Spin demonstrated that the trip would hold no fears when comfortably winning over a furlong further at Leopardstown sixteen days ago, and this son of Lawman has quite a progressive profile. He won a 10f Ballinrobe handicap (July 18th), despite stumbling over a furlong out, off a mark of 75 but, stepped up to 15f in the Leopardstown contest seventeen days later, he won going away, off a mark of 82. The step up in trip has clearly been the key to this animal and in the hands of this trainer it will come as no surprise to see further progress at the weekend off his new mark of 89.
Unraced as a 2yo the Michael Bell trained Forth Bridge has only had the three runs and showed very little in the first of them, coming home a well beaten third of four in a 10f soft ground Nottingham maiden in April. However stepped up to 12f a fortnight later, he ran a much more promising race when finishing second in a Sailsbury maiden. He was beaten 2 3/4L by Harbour Law, and had the 3rd, Real Dominion, 4 1/2L behind. As all three won next time out the form looks solid. Forth Bridge duly won his maiden in battling style at Haydock thirty nine days later in a contest which hasn’t really worked out but he remains an animal of some potential.
E.W. : Laws Of Spin