Pastoral Player looks ready to strike again at Haydock

THIS is one of the more low-key weekends on the racing calendar with both trainers and punters casting an eye towards Royal Ascot. The best quality events are up at Haydock and the most interesting race is the Timeform Jury Stakes (3.15pm).

Eton Forever is the likely favourite after his solid win over course and distance last month where he had two of tomorrow’s rivals behind him. However, he struggles a little for consistency and his best form has come with some cut in the ground.

Red Jazz, who was third to Eton Forever last time, always tries hard, but is starting to look a little exposed, while Premio Loco is now nine and could finally be getting a little long in the tooth.

Libranno doesn’t seem to truly stay a mile, so will appreciate the drop back to seven furlongs, but I’m keener on the chances of last year’s winner PASTORAL PLAYER.

Hughie Morrison’s six-year-old suffered a nightmare passage when fourth behind Eton Forever last month and he was very well backed that day. He loves fast ground and with Graham Lee booked and riding with confidence again, he is a strong fancy.

Earlier on the card, Roger Varian’s AMBIVALENT looks to hold really strong claims in the Group Three Bet Victor Pinnacle Stakes (2.40pm). She ran with the choke out for most of the Middleton Stakes last time but still managed to finish second, beaten just a length by Dalkala.

This is a drop in class and it isn’t the strongest of races, although the German-trained Nymphea is a fascinating contender. She won a Listed race at Baden-Baden last time, but it’s hard to weigh up that form.

It’s over to Newmarket’s July course for the other two selections and the first comes in the opening maiden (1.45pm) where GM HOPKINS is fancied to land the prize for John Gosden and William Buick.

This son of Dubawi made a pleasing debut on the Rowley Mile last month, finishing to good effect after a tardy start. In time he will want further than six furlongs, but he is very well regarded at home and there will be plenty of long faces at Clarehaven if he is beaten.

Sir Michael Stoute seems to have some progressive handicap sprinters this season and his ENROL is worth following in the Betfair Supporting The Animal Health Trust Handicap (2.55pm).

The Cheveley Park-owned daughter of Pivotal won nicely on her reappearance at Doncaster, after looking in a little spot of trouble three furlongs out, and you can be sure that there is plenty more to come from her.

For those of you yet to make plans for Royal Ascot, you could do a lot worse than booking a place in the Bessborough Restaurant. They have a new theme this year with a daily panel of special guests running through the card, including John Francome, William Buick and Michael Owen.

Fine dining experiences start at £570 per person and are now on sale. To find out more information or to make a booking please visit www.royalascothospitality.co.uk.

Pointers…

GM HOPKINS 1.45pm Newmarket (tomorrow)
AMBIVALENT 2.40pm Haydock (tomorrow)
ENROL 2.55pm Newmarket (tomorrow)
PASTORAL PLAYER 3.15pm Haydock (tomorrow)