Now that the Flat season is well underway, Sandown Park’s second headline card draws upon us. A pair of Group Three’s, the Matchbook VIP Henry II Stakes, and the Matchbook Brigadier Gerard Stakes take place in British racing’s richest evening meeting.
Amid other stand out events on the horizon comes the regal pageantry of Royal Ascot and the Henry II, run over two miles of the Surrey turf, which forms a timely preparation for the Gold Cup in a month’s time.
There was no greater example of Sandown Park’s Brigadier Gerard race being put to golden use as when Big Orange took first prize two years previously. A short while later, he’d return to the winners’ enclosure at the Royal meeting after an epic duel with Order of St George.
This season, six are declared for post time and among them is last year’s hero Magic Circle. Owned by the eccentric Dr Marwan Koukash, he won by six lengths twelve months ago and, having re-appeared with a fine Group Three third back at Chester two weeks ago, expect him to be fighting fit.
The winner of the aforementioned Chester Cup this season was Mark Johnston’s Making Miracles. His electric performance that day came on a rain-drenched surface, but he’s in red-hot form. His trainer runs two others in the race, however. Austrian School was a ready winner on his seasonal debut and will appreciate the quicker conditions while last year’s Epsom Derby runner-up Dee Ex Bee has taken very kindly to the stayers’ division and has a touch of class to go with his 3lb penalty.
Making up the field are Nick Littmoden’s consistent all-weather performer Fearsome and the Sir Michael Stoute inmate Mekong, who achieved a career-best second in Listed company last time out.
The Brigadier Gerard also plays host to six protagonists and once more, Mark Johnston looks to hold the aces. Matterhorn flew to a seven-length triumph on All-Weather Championships day before re-joining the turf with a runner-up finish in Chester’s Huxley Stakes.
Cheveley Park Stud’s Regal Reality has strung together a hat-trick of thirds in Group company and is a big danger with a run now under his belt as his trainer specialises with older horses.
Five of the six in the line-up are four-year-olds. Two of those, Elwazir and Bombyx are having their first runs of the season. The former defeated Melbourne Cup winner Cross Counter in a novice event last season while the latter runs for the first time after a gelding operation to spark improvement.
Danceteria, of David Menusier’s, runs back in the UK after a Listed win over in France latest. He has never run in a Group contest before, but looks an improver ready to step up to the plate.
The final word goes to the admirable nine-year-old, Here Comes When. He has Group One winning form over a mile in his past and is yet to lose his spark, although the one problem may come from the ground as he prefers his surfaces on the soft side.
Buy tickets for London's Night at the Races 23rd May 2019.
Our guest article is written by Joe Napier, a freelance writer and blogger. Read more by Joe on his blog, https://joeblogsracing.wordpress.com/.