bet365 Mile (Group 2) | 4yo+ | 1m | ITV4/RTV
Sharja Bridge 'needs career best'
The urge not to get too carried away with early-season form runs head-long into the seduction of a visually very impressive recent performance at Doncaster from Sharja Bridge.
Sheikh Obaid's lightly raced five-year-old rounded off his 2018 campaign with success in the Balmoral Handicap on Champions Day at Ascot, and he showed every sign of having progressed again when travelling strongly through his Listed return to action, putting away his rivals in the Doncaster Mile with a degree of authority.
While he still has 6lb to find with top-rated Addeybb – winner of this race 12 months ago off an even bigger leap up the ladder, having previously won the Lincoln – Roger Varian has restricted Sharja Bridge to just ten starts.
"We're looking forward to the race as he's in great form and has trained well since Doncaster," said Varian, whose team are operating with a 22 per cent strike-rate this season.
"He'll need a career best but looks like he's ready for this grade. We’ll have to see whether he's good enough to win but I'm very pleased with his training and his preparation."
While several of his rival trainers will be looking anxiously to the skies, Varian is relaxed about underfoot conditions for Sharja Bridge.
"He's versatile and, while it's not often they're uncomplicated, he appears to be," he said. "If I had the choice I'd prefer a drop of rain, but if it doesn't come he's run perfectly well on good to firm before."
Rain a must for Addeybb and Mitchum Swagger
Last year's record temperatures and lack of rainfall were a constant thorn in the side of William Haggas when it came to campaigning Addeybb, who won this race stylishly but was restricted to just two more turf starts for the rest of the year.
Haggas said: "He's desperate for rain. He's ready to go, and has been for a while, but there are only a certain races he can run in and it hasn't been conducive for soft-ground horses so far.
"The only meeting where it's been really soft was at Newbury and there wasn't a race for him. He won't run unless the word soft appears somewhere in the going description."
Facing a similar dilemma is Ralph Beckett, who picked up the Listed Ben Marshall Stakes with Mitchum Swagger at Newmarket last November and backed up that performance when beating all bar Kourkan at Saint-Cloud on heavy ground three weeks later.
"I'm not sure anyone knows what's going to happen with the weather," said Beckett. "He's working well and I want to run him but he's ground dependent."
What they say
Silvestre de Sousa, rider of Beat The Bank
I spoke to Andrew [Balding] the other day and he's hopeful he'll run a big race.
Richard Hannon, trainer of Oh This Is Us
He gained his 12th success last week at Lingfield and is better than ever. This looks like another nice opportunity for him to get involved at Group company. He's fit and well and should be right there at the finish. He loves his racing and it would be fantastic if he managed to bag a Group race one day.
Chris Richardson, racing manager for Cheveley Park, owners of Regal Reality
The combination of a tough race on heavy ground at Haydock that wasn't suitable, and then perhaps rushing him back a little for Newmarket, means we're pretty confident his last two performances weren't a real reflection of his ability. He's had a relatively straightforward preparation this spring and this looks a good starting point, although it's quite possible he might need a bit further in due course.
David O'Meara, trainer of Suedois
It's a good race and he can often improve for his first run, but he's had a good preparation.