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Monday 16 April 2018

1.50 Newmarket, Wednesday, April 18

In the Weatherbys General Stud Book Handicap (1.50) at Newmarket on Wednesday, Ekhtiyaar is a lightly raced, progressive young sprinter who won twice over 6 furlongs at Newmarket last season, including on good to soft going on the Rowley Mile Course, and appears to have every chance of making a winning reappearance. On the final start of his three-year-old campaign, he could never quite keep tabs on the front-running Nobly Born in a well-contested 0-105 handicap at Ascot, but kept on at one pace to finish fifth of 13, beaten 2¾ lengths. 

That was his first defeat on good, or softer, going, but came after an 85-day break and, at least, demonstrated that his current mark of 100 to prove prohibitive, especially with another winter on his back. He ran well on his seasonal reappearance at Doncaster last April and, although he has to concede weight to all bar two of his 16 rivals, he was being touted as a bona fide contender for the Ayr Gold Cup at one point last season. Fitness is an obvious worry, after another 194-day break, but Ekhtiyaar looks the type to go on to better things in due course and is an exciting prospect.

Selection: Newmarket 1.50 Ekhtiyaar to win

Tuesday 3 April 2018

5.20 Wolverhampton, Thursday, April 5

The Book Tickets at Handicap (5.20) is, at best, a moderate contest, in which it may be worth taking a chance on course and distance winner Zapateado. The Zoffany filly won a similar egg-and-spoon race, off a 6lb lower mark, for Richard Hughes here in November and, although her subsequent efforts in claiming and selling company were less encouraging, she appeared to show some improvement on her debut for Karen George at Lingfield earlier this month.

Although only fourth of eight, she was only beaten 1¼ lengths in that 0-70 contest at odds of 66/1, losing two places close home. On her final start for Richard Hughes, she finished last of five, beaten 12½ lengths, in a seller over course and distance, so her most recent effort represented a huge improvement. Dropped back into 0-60 company off a 2lb lower mark, she looks to have every chance of regaining the winning thread. Tom Marquand takes over from 5lb claimer Rhiain Ingram, which cannot be viewed as anything but positive, so Zapateado must have a sporting chance at decent odds.

Selection: Wolverhampton 5.20 Zapateado to win 7/1