Return to seven furlongs can give Ouqba the edge in the Hungerford

IT may well be over a year since he last won a race, but Barry Hills’ OUQBA looks the one to beat in the Hungerford Stakes at Newbury this weekend. The four-year-old son of Red Ransom is ideally suited by a fast-run seven furlongs on decent ground and he should have all those conditions in his favour tomorrow.

He arguably ran the race of his life when chasing home Paco Boy over a mile at this very track three starts back and I was certain connections would drop him back to seven furlongs. However, he has been campaigned without luck over the same trip on both of his latest starts and finally has a chance back over his ideal trip tomorrow. He has won four of his 16 lifetime starts and all of those victories have been over seven furlongs or shorter. Lord Shanakill and Himalya warrant plenty of respect, but I’m sticking with Ouqba.

Ripon’s feature race is the William Hill Great St Wilfrid Handicap and unlucky Goodwood loser TIDDLIWINKS will be a popular selection at 9/1 with the sponsors. Kevin Ryan's gelding ran a belter at York two starts back and followed that with an arguably even better run at Goodwood last time.

He spent most of that contest running against the unfavoured stand-side rail until switching out late on. He is well drawn in stall 10 this time where last year’s winner Markab was housed and four of the last six winners have come from stalls 10, 11 or 12. I love siding with sprinters in form and he comes here in the form of his life.

David Nicholls’ Tajneed is likely to be sent off favourite and he won this race two years ago. His record at the Yorkshire track is unblemished with three wins from three runs and he will take a lot of beating from stall 20. However, the other one I’ll be backing each-way is Henry Candy’s SIGNOR PELTRO back over six furlongs. He keeps finding trouble but is going to pop up sooner rather than later.

Looking at today’s action and Buckland will be hard to beat in Newbury's opening contest after a really eye-catching debut run at Newbury earlier in the month. Brian Meehan trained two-year-olds tend to improve bundles for a run and this son of Oratorio wouldn't have to step up that much to take this. However, it may pay to take a chance on the Barry Hills trained debutant PIVOT BRIDGE who is reportedly one of the stable’s better juveniles.

There is every chance we will see a Royal winner half an hour later when GENERAL SYNOD makes his debut for the all conquering Hannon/Hughes combination. He is held in very high regard at home and it will apparently take a smart one to lower his colours.

Finally, York stages its famous Ebor meeting next week and I’ll be backing French raider BYWORD in the International Stakes on Tuesday at around 3/1 on Betdaq. I’m also sticking with DANDINO in the Great Voltigeur at around 5/1 and will be keeping a close eye on Irish raider ELYAADI at a massive 14/1 with William Hill for Wednesday’s Ebor. She came from another county to grab second in the Ascot Stakes and has enough class and speed to play a leading role in one of the biggest betting races of the season.

PIVOT BRIDGE 1.30pm Newbury (today)
GENERAL SYNOD 2.00pm Newbury (today)
OUQBA 3.05pm Newbury (tomorrow)
TIDDLIWINKS e/w 3.30pm Ripon (tomorrow)
SIGNOR PELTRO e/w 3.30pm Ripon (tomorrow)
DANDINO 2.50pm York (Tuesday)
BYWORD 3.25pm York (Tuesday)
ELYAADI e/w 2.15pm York (Wednesday)