Easterby set to land huge pot with well-weighted Azagal

Bill Esdaile
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ONE of the major success stories on the flat over the past decade has been the rise of the big sales races and this afternoon’s Weatherbys Hamilton Insurance Stakes (2.40pm) is worth a cool £175,000 to the winning owner.

What makes these races unique is that the weight allotted to a horse is dependent on its sales price rather than its rating. This means that a high class animal bought cheaply has an excellent chance of picking up a large pot and I fancy Tim Easterby’s AZAGAL to land today’s prize.

The daughter of Azamour was bought by Easterby for just €22,000 last October and she has picked up two races so far this season before a highly promising sixth in the Lowther Stakes at York last month.

Now, she may have been slightly flattered to finish so close in a Group Two, but she was short of room in the closing stages and was still only 2 ¾ lengths behind Lucky Kristale at the line.

Only three of her 21 rivals have a higher handicap mark than her, yet she is set to carry just 8st 4lb and Easterby landed two similar races to this last season with Body And Soul.

Another positive is that the local trainer is just starting to hit form, having registered a couple of recent winners following a slightly lean spell.

The one I am most worried about is John Gosden’s Ben Hall who undoubtedly has the potential to win a big prize like this.

He was well fancied at Royal Ascot, but five furlongs was too short for him and, although he disappointed in the Richmond Stakes at Goodwood last time, he should still go well.

Brian Meehan’s Stormy Paradise is also respected with Frankie Dettori in the saddle. He was gutsy at Ascot two starts back and is another with a decent looking weight.

However, Azagal looks solid from what could be an advantageous draw in stall 17 and I’m happy to make her the sole selection at 8/1 with Ladbrokes, who are again refunding second places in all races today.

The preceding Sceptre Stakes (2.10pm) sees Richard Hannon’s Maureen drop back to Group Three company for the first time since she won the Dubai Duty Free Stakes at Newbury back in April.

Her best performance since then was fourth in the Coronation Stakes at Royal Ascot and she will be hard to beat back at this level.

However, Ed McMahon might have the filly to do it in WINNING EXPRESS who finished two spots ahead of Maureen in the QIPCO 1,000 Guineas earlier this campaign.

She has since won a Listed race at Warwick and then went down by ¾ length to another of today’s rivals Annecdote at Goodwood last time.

I’m not sure that would be her ideal track and I fancy her to reverse the form with Jonathan Portman’s runner, especially as she is 3lb better off this afternoon. Take the 10/3 available with Ladbrokes.

The Gold Cheongsam won the big sales race on this day 12 months ago and she’s another I could easily see running into a place back over this course and distance.

The opening fillies’ nursery (1.40pm) is highly competitive, but the one I want to be on is Karl Burke’s TICKING KATE after her excellent run at Newmarket last time.

She only just failed to beat Charlie Appleby’s Safety Check and she showed a really good attitude to knuckle down and pull four lengths clear of the third.

The step up to seven furlongs clearly suited and this tough filly should go close with Joey Haynes’ 5lb claim offsetting the 4lb rise for that Newmarket run.

■ Pointers…

TICKING KATE e/w 1.40pm Doncaster
WINNING EXPRESS 2.10pm Doncaster
AZAGAL e/w 2.40pm Doncaster