Soft ground holds no fears for Gosden’s Aiken who still looks ahead of the handicapper

JOHN Gosden has made his customary strong start to the flat season and he looks to have an outstanding chance with AIKEN in the Investec Great Metropolitan Handicap (2.50pm). George Strawbridge’s four-year-old has won three of his four career starts and even though he went up 11lb for his latest win at Ascot last summer, he could still be ahead of the handicapper.

The son of Selkirk relishes cut in the ground, as is the case with most of his father’s progeny, and you couldn’t help but be impressed with his performances last season. He has reportedly been working really well at home and he should be very hard to beat.

Course form counts for a great deal at Epsom, so the main danger has to be Shesha Bear. Jonathan Portman’s seven-year-old mare has raced five times over this unique track and is yet to finish outside the first two, so she could be the one for the forecast.

There isn’t a quicker five furlong course than Epsom’s anywhere else in the world and you need an awful amount of luck in sprints here. Jockeys jostle for a position from an early stage, as there is a significant advantage racing against the stands rail, so it is absolutely crucial to break quickly from the stalls.

FATHOM FIVE had a disappointing season last year for David Nicholls, but he starts out for Gary Moore this afternoon and will surely go very close in the opening Investec Specialist Bank Handicap (2.15pm). The eight-year-old is getting on a bit, but his best performances have been at Epsom, winning this race in 2009 and 2010.

He is drawn 15 of 15, so he starts from the ideal position, and he also has the aid of Ryan Moore in the saddle. Soft ground holds no fears and purely from a handicapping point of view he looks thrown in. He races off 82 this afternoon having won this contest off 93 in 2009 and 91 a year later. Yes, he hasn’t won for two years, but he ran a couple of decent races last season and if his new trainer can find just a little improvement he will take all

the beating.

Spanish Duke won the Investec City and Suburban Handicap (3.55pm) in impressive style 12 months ago, but trainer John Dunlop has pulled him out. He would have been interesting, but I still think he would have found it too tough to see off Epsom specialist RESURGE, who was second to him in this race last year.

Stuart Kittow’s seven-year-old is a pound lower than last year and he went on to win a handicap over course and distance on Oaks day off a 3lb higher mark, so he is clearly well-handicapped. He has won three of his six races at Epsom and the only time he hasn’t been in the first two was in a Conditions race last August when he finished a fairly close-up fifth.

He goes well on soft ground and his trainer has had two winners and a second from four runs on the flat this campaign, so he looks a great each-way bet at around 13/2. Dick Doughtywylie and Ittirad are both unexposed four-year-olds and that age bracket have a very good record in this race so they are both feared.