April 18 – Newmarket – Ottoman Fleet – 101

While many races at the Craven meeting didn’t quite live up to expectations, the same can’t be said for this Group 3, with the winning time backing up the feeling beforehand it was an above-average renewal. In what turned out to be a keenly-run affair, the winner was held up towards the rear and when produced with his challenge over two furlongs from home, he found the best burst of speed to pull clear in the closing stages. On this evidence there are plenty more pattern races to be won with the son of Sea The Stars, especially when there is some give underfoot. A special mention goes out to the runner-up, Poker Face, who shaped nicely on seasonal bow and proved that he belongs in this sort of company.

April 20 – Newmarket – Once More For Luck – 98

A competitive three-year-old handicap run at a very strong pace and not for the first time during the three-day meeting, a winner who came from well off the pace – bucking all previous trends at this venue. King’s Crown and Ferrous were responsible for the solid tempo from the start and it suited the deep-closers which included the winner, who was last with three furlongs to run. Not only did the son of Kodiac post a smart speed figure – easily the best on the card – his backend split of 34.8 compared favourably with the older horse Group-sprint won by Garrus (34.1), which is a sign we are dealing with a pretty decent race for the grade. Entered in the Duke Of York next month, he might be worth a second look in that company as connections are eying a tilt at the July Cup during the summer. Of the rest, Shouldvebeenaring caught the eye with the way he finished off his race and is worth noting in a similar race next time, while Pinafore shaped with plenty of promise on her opening bow.

April 21 – Bath – Juniper Berries – 93

Some of the better two-year-olds are beginning to emerge and the clock is usually a good guide in identifying the ones who stand out from the crowd in terms of Royal Ascot material. One such juvenile from last week was Eve Johnson Houghton’s filly, who made a winning start in pretty impressive fashion and she already looks up to that sort of standard even at this early stage. The way she travelled before quickening right away from her opposition marked her down as an above-average newcomer and she looks almost certain to be contested pattern races for the rest of the campaign.

April 22 – Newbury – Isaac Shelby – 103 

Winner of the Group 2 Superlative before struggling in the Dewhurst, Brian Meehan’s colt showed what he could do when conditions are in his favour and based on the time figure, there appears very little fluke about the result. Not entered in our Guineas, the preferred option according to connections is the French equivalent at Longchamp and if he gets soft ground on the day – which is highly likely – he could easily cause some damage against the the home contingent. Even though the runner-up, Charyn, stayed seven-furlong well enough on the day, he still could turn out to be a pure sprinter and the Commonwealth Cup could end up being his big mid-season target.

April 22 – Thirsk – Spycatcher – 101

There was no hiding place in this conditions stakes thanks to the exploits of Mount Athos and it suited the eventual winner who was one of those towards the rear in the early exchanges. Better known for his exploits over six furlongs, this win now opens up a variety of options for Karl Burke’s inmate and he can continue to thrive in a similar environment. Although beaten fair and square on the day, the runner-up probably did himself few favours by racing on the slowest part of the track down the straight, but it was encouraging to see him keep on well all the way to the line and he’s worth another chance back on better ground.

April 22 – Navan – Emily Dickinson – 99

There were three really good speed figures posted at the Co Meath venue, the other two coming from Ocean Quest and Village Voice, but the most impressive of the trio was produced by Aidan O’Brien’s inmate on her seasonal bow. French Claim ensured the gallop was strong from the outset and having sat in his slipstream for the first 1m4f, she pounced inside the final two furlong to stretch right away in the closing stages. Already proven over two miles, it’s just a question of whether she can raise her game to Group 1 level and tackle the very best stayers around in that division. On this evidence, she looks more than ready for the challenge.