The Al Shaqab Lockinge Stakes is the feature contest on a blistering Newbury card on Saturday afternoon and it might be another chance for in-form trainer Roger Varian to strike.
The Newmarket handler continues to be in sparkling form, while his horses are hitting the target with a 20 per-cent strike recently. He has a lively outsider in the big race.
Sharja Bridge has now finished out of the money in only three of 11 career starts and remains progressive following his close second in the bet365 Mile behind Beat The Bank last time, his first foray in a Group 2 field.
He re-engages that rival at Newbury, along with high-class performers like Lauren and Le Brivido, for Karl Burke and Aidan O’Brien respectively. The filly Laurens is greatly respected on her seasonal bow, having won four times at the top level last season, but Sharja Bridge is a value call in what looks an open mile race.
He ended last term with a fine Ascot handicap success and took the step in Listed company in his stride on reappearance at Doncaster to win again. He lost little in defeat behind a battle-hardened Beat The Bank and will likely have learned plenty. He’s got more to offer and can go close in the Lockinge at a good price.
There aren’t many more reliable middle-distance runners than Crystal Ocean. Sir Michael Stoute’s charge is a rock-solid barometer and, having won the Gordon Richards Stakes on his reappearance (as he did last year), he can also retain his crown in the Al Rayyan Stakes at Newbury on his way back to Royal Ascot. He had plenty in hand last time and, with ground to suit, looks to have too much for these rivals.
At Headquarters, Simon Crisford unleashes Jash for the new season, a course winner as a juvenile last season. His term ended with a pleasing second behind Ten Sovereigns in the Middle Park Stakes and, back at Newmarket, the Listed King Charles II Stakes appears to be a perfect starting place for him.
Back to Newbury for our final Saturday selection as Oisin Murphy partners the promising handicap debutant Sinjaari for William Haggas in the London Gold Cup. He’s progressed with his three runs and came home very strong when landing a Windsor maiden recently over 1m2f. He finishes his races off very strongly and should get a decent pace to suit here with the likes of Forest Of Dean and Solid Stone amongst his rivals. An opening mark of 89 is quite possibly underestimating Sinjaari, who holds strong each-way claims in this field.
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