IT HASN’T been the best start to the season for Andrew Balding, but in the past couple of weeks the tide has definitely turned.
The Kingsclere handler has started to fire in the winners and I fancy him to scoop the valuable Pavers Foundation Catherine Memorial Sprint Handicap (3.35pm) at York tomorrow afternoon with FOXTROT LADY.
This half-sister to stablemate and 2016 Stewards’ Cup winner Dancing Star is on a hat-trick, having comfortably landed two fillies’ handicaps in the past few weeks at Chester and Carlisle.
Prior to that, the daughter of Foxwedge was easily beaten by Equilateral at Doncaster last month, but there was no shame in that as he is now the 4/1 favourite for next week’s Commonwealth Cup.
Foxtrot Lady has moved up to a mark of 94 and she could well turn out to be a Group class sprinter, although it wouldn’t be a surprise if her trainer is eyeing up the Stewards’ Cup first.
Leading 5lb claimer Jason Watson has been in the saddle for her last two wins and he gets the leg up again which is a bonus.
Tim Easterby has won three of the last five renewals, so you’d have to respect his Staxton who ran in some decent races last season.
There are plenty of others with solid claims too, but none appear to have the same potential as Foxtrot Lady who looks the bet of the weekend.
The best quality race on York’s card is the Listed Sky Bet Grand Cup Stakes (3.00pm) where Hughie Morrison’s Marmelo is the one to beat.
Sent off the 6/1 favourite in last November’s Melbourne Cup, he could only finish ninth, but was then an excellent second to Vaziribad in a Group Two at Longchamp on his reappearance last month.
Ryan Moore takes the ride, but I have a feeling John Gosden’s WEEKENDER can improve past him and take this at 5/2.
This four-year-old son of Frankel is a progressive stayer, as he showed when easily winning a 1m6f Conditions race at Chelmsford City last month.
He couldn’t quite handle the Chester Cup winner Magic Circle in the 2m Henry II Stakes last time, but the drop back to 1m6f should suit tomorrow.
Gosden is a master with this type of horse and Weekender looks set to make his way back into the winners’ enclosure.
York’s opening Queen Mother’s Cup (1.50pm) is a really popular start to the card, as it is a race for lady amateur jockeys.
The 1m4f contest is always hotly contested and it’s that local man Easterby again who has the best recent record, with three wins in the past seven years.
He is represented this year by Mukhayyam, who went off favourite 12 months ago and wasn’t beaten far into second.
The six-year-old ran well to be second at Chester last time behind stablemate Aasheq, so he’s coming into this in good form and is fairly handicapped.
However, the one that really interests me is Kevin Ryan’s ARMANDIHAN at 11/1 with Coral.
His two races this season haven’t suited him and a fast pace over this trip is what he’s been crying out for.
He’s dropped down to a mark of 80, which I’m sure he can win off at some point soon.
Armandihan e/w 1.50pm York
Weekender 3.00pm York
Foxtrot Lady e/w 3.35pm York