Firmament making Balmoral bid

The view from connections ahead of the Balmoral Handicap that closes the Champions Day card at Ascot on Saturday.

Tullius: Back in handicap company on Champions Day.

Firmament, touched off in two competitive seven-furlong heats at Ascot, bids to make it third time lucky in the Balmoral Handicap at Ascot on Saturday.

The four-year-old failed by just half a length to peg back Dutch Law over the course early last month, before being mugged close home by Librisa Breeze a fortnight ago.

Trainer David O'Meara reports the Cape Cross gelding to still be in fine shape and is looking forward to the horse putting up another bold performance in this fascinating one-mile puzzle.

"Some of the races he has run in this year the form has worked out really well," said O'Meara.

"He's in good form and hopefully he's got a good chance tomorrow."

Trainer Robert Eddery has his fingers crossed things drop right for Donncha, who was only beaten two and a quarter lengths in Librisa Breeze's race two weeks ago.

The five-year-old, a regular in this type of contest, needs the race to be run to suit his hold-up style.

"He's in good form. I suppose under the circumstances of the race a couple of weeks back he ran well. I'm hoping for a decent run from him," said Eddery.

"He's a hold-up horse and he has to have cover. If things drop right for him, I could be lucky."

Morando is the least experienced horse in the field with just four starts to his name.

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However, he has won his last three and trainer Roger Varian has been thrilled with his improvement.

"Morando has proved thoroughly progressive all season and he is a colt who has really thrived on his racing," the Newmarket handler told www.varianstable.com.

"A mile with some ease in the ground look his optimum conditions and I do not think we have got to the bottom of him yet.

"This race has been the plan for a good while, although it is by far the toughest assignment he has faced. I think his draw is fine in stall three and I hope he can run with credit."

Andrew Balding saddles three admirable veteran performers – Tullius, Here Comes When and Highland Colori.

"We've got three old favourites. It's tough and I don't think anyone in the yard knows which one they should be supporting really," said the Kingsclere trainer.

"Any of three of them will be suited by any rain. The more the better for them.

"Highland Colori won last time out and has a penalty, but he's just a grand old horse. He looks really well at the moment.

"He rarely runs a bad race but will give of his best and be competitive.

"Tullius hasn't run in a handicap since he was second in the Lincoln a couple of years ago. He's a high-class horse.

"He's a wonderful horse and has had another great season. I'd hope he'd run well but he has to give them all weight.

"Here Comes When won a couple of Group Twos in his day. He's another terrific older horse and he's the youngest of the three.

"He won well last time out. He's in good form, I'd hope he'd run well, but the more rain the better for him."

Brian Ellison would also like to see plenty of cut in the ground for Dream Walker, who has enjoyed a lucrative campaign in 2016, winning three times and picking up plenty of prize money on his jaunts to Ireland.

"The more rain the better for him," said the North Yorkshire trainer.

"He's in good form and has had a great season, so we're hoping."

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