Royal Birth tries for back-to-back victories in the £45,000 Listed Betway Hever Stakes (2.05pm, eight runners), one of the features of an excellent seven-race card at Lingfield Park on Saturday.
Royal Birth (right) winning the Listed Betway Hever Stakes in 2017
Royal Birth (Stuart Williams/Sean Levey, 6/1 with Betway) came with a strong run to beat Lancelot Du Lac by half a length in the five-furlong Polytrack contest 12 months ago.
The seven-year-old has run some good races in defeat subsequently, including when second to Encore D'Or (Robert Cowell/Ryan Moore, 15/2) in a handicap on Polytrack at Chelmsford City in June. He also filled the same position behind Mythmaker in a six-furlong conditions race, also on Polytrack, at Kempton Park on January 10.
He has encountered trouble in running on his last two starts, coming home ninth in both the Listed Betway Cleves Stakes at Lingfield Park on February 3 and a valuable handicap on Tapeta at Wolverhampton won by Orvar (Paul Midgley/Luke Morris, 7/2) seven days later.
Trainer Stuart Williams said today: "Royal Birth is very well in himself. He won the Hever Stakes last year and has a good draw in four.
"He needs to bounce back from a poor run at Wolverhampton. He was drawn well there, but just got squeezed out on the bend and it was race over after that.
"When he ran two starts back at Lingfield, he got back in the field and the kickback was quite severe. I think kickback is more severe when the weather is cold, which it will be tomorrow, so we have put the eye shields on to hopefully help him a bit in that respect."
Listed scorer Gracious John (David Evans/Fran Berry) is the 3/1 favourite with Betway and heads the ratings on 110. He recorded his third victory over course and distance in a class two handicap in early December, when defeating Royal Birth by a length, but has not beaten a rival on his last two starts.
Improving four-year-old Karijini (Edward Greatrex, 11/2) takes a big rise in class for in-form handler Archie Watson. He turns out quickly after annexing a class four handicap at Kempton Park on February 21.
The runners are completed by Boom The Groom (Tony Carroll/William Carson, 7/1), Tomily (Richard Hannon/Hollie Doyle, 7/1) and Brother Tiger (David Griffiths/Paul Hanagan, 25/1).