big-race-previewMost people will tell you the Lincoln at Donny kicks off the Flat season proper, but for the purists, it doesn’t really notch into gear until the Craven meeting at Newmarket, which starts today with the 1.50pm on ITV Racing…

The 1.50pm Weatherby’s TBA Handicap over 6f is one runner short of the 16 required to have four E/w places, but is a really good Class 2 heat, where John Gallagher’s Green Power catches the eye from his high draw under the guidance of Ryan Moore. This 4yo is tough to catch right, but does have conditions in his favour today. The bottom weight, Blackheath, must have a big chance under Luke Morris. The 4yo Excelebration gelding ran to an RPR of 91 when signing off his season with a 2nd at Yarmouth, which makes his handicap mark of 84 look very workable first time out.

The bet365 European Free Handicap aT 2.25pm is once again a compact but quality field of potentially smart 3yos. John Gosden’s Azano finished 2nd to Greenham winner Mohaather when last seen at Newbury and the Oasis Dream colt might be well treated off 104 on that form line. Shine So Bright has to be respected given he ran well in four Group 2 contests in a row after winning his Nottingham maiden, while Mark Johnston’s Arctic Sound also has major claims on the basis of his fluent success over subsequent Lingfield winner Bye Bye Hong Kong here last September. That course and distance experience may just give this son of Poet’s Voice an edge over today’s rivals.

Mark Johnston won the 3.00pm Feilden Stakes last season with Mildenberger and is represented by the consistent I’ll Have Another this time. But there is a classy look to the race, with Western Australia representing Aidan O’Brien and the unexposed likes of Kadar - who looked the part at Haydock - and John Gosden’s Kick On also in opposition. This is a tricky 1m1f Listed contest to call, and perhaps a watching brief is the safest option.

The main event on the card is the 3.35pm Nell Gwyn Stakes, a Group 3 contest over 7f which generally serves as a trial for the 1000 Guineas next month, but is also a good footing for plenty of quality 3yo prospects in the female division. Royal Ascot winner Main Edition, Mot Juste and pretty grey Angel’s Hideaway rate as the form horses here, with the latter named John Gosden trained filly perhaps the most open to progress. Roger Varian’s Qabala is a bit of a dark horse coming here on the back of just one run, which was a course and distance win and she could be open to any amount of improvement. Ed Walker’s stable is going places and his Sunday Star also has to be respected, given that she finished five lengths ahead of Mot Juste at Goodwood. At huge odds, Mercenary Rose may not be entirely out of it for Paul Cole. This Sepoy filly has a small mountain to climb on bare form, but the fact she is running here suggests connections think a bit of her.

That is all on the ITV Racing front on Day 1 at the Craven meeting, but the 5.20pm 3yo handicap is also a race to watch closely. It produced Old Persian last year and Charlie Appleby saddles up the interesting prospect Marhaban this time around. On form, War Tiger is the one they have to beat.

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