Shrewd Jardine keen on Cup bid
View from connections ahead of Saturday's 32Red Casino Handicap at Haydock Park.
Iain Jardine believes Shrewd has every chance
Trainer Iain Jardine believes Shrewd has "every chance" of providing him with a second successive victory in the 32Red Casino Handicap at Haydock Park on Saturday.
The Scottish handler claimed the race better known as the Old Borough Cup with stable star Nakeeta 12 months ago and his latest contender appears to hold even stronger claims going into the prestigious one-mile-six-furlong contest.
Following stints with four previous trainers, Shrewd joined Jardine in the closing stages of last season and has proved an excellent acquisition having won five times since the turn of the year.
However, perhaps his best effort came in defeat when splitting the Tony Martin-trained pair of Heartbreak City and Quick Jack to fill the runner-up spot in last month's Ebor at York.
Irish apprentice Donagh O'Connor takes 5lb off his back for his latest assignment, and Jardine is expecting a bold show.
He said: "He came out of his last race well. He'll have a good chance but he has a lot of weight, so we've got a claimer again.
"He'll run his race and a bit of rain will help. At that end of the handicap you have to give them a bit of help.
"He's a class horse and he's improved all season. If he gets his ground he'll have every chance and hopefully get a bit of luck in running."
"He just ran too free at York last time with the blinkers on. He's in great form and he has been all year in truth, he's run well in some good races. This race looks ideal for him, the trip is perfect but he could just do with a splash of rain."
Heading the market is the Ralph Beckett-trained Magic Circle.
A previous course winner and impressive over an extended two miles at York in early July, the four-year-old has plenty going for him, but Beckett is slightly concerned about the drop back in distance.
The Kimpton Down-based trainer also saddles the talented Green Light, who has a change of headgear, with blinkers replacing the visor.
"We'd like to see a drop of rain for Magic Circle, ditto Green Light," said Beckett.
"With Green Light it depends what side of the bed he gets out of. We're putting blinkers on him for the first time.
"Magic Circle has won at Haydock and was good at York, but the trip might be a bit on the sharp side for him."
Luca Cumani, who last won this prize with Melbourne Cup runner-up Bauer in 2011, relies on recent York second Shakopee.
He said: "He ran very well at York last time out and I don't think the distance will be a problem for him. The worry is his draw in 17. He's been drawn in Chester while all the others are racing at Haydock.
"He didn't take to Goodwood the time before but other than that he's been very progressive.
"He'll have to be very good to win from out there, though."
Andrew Balding is hoping to see an ease in the ground for Montaly, another previous winner at the Merseyside venue.
"He is a course winner and he's in great form," said the Kingsclere handler.
"He's been ticking along nicely at home, I couldn't be happier with him. But he does want some rain, and there is some forecast."
Justice Belle has a likeable profile, but has not been seen in competitive action since November and trainer Ed Walker expects his Montjeu filly to strip fitter for the run.
He said: "She was a very progressive filly last season but became hard to win with. She had a setback in the spring and is just ready to get going.
"Any rain would be welcome but I believe there is a bit forecast, it was lovely ground on Thursday but she wouldn't want it quick.
"She should stay very well but she will improve for the run.
"As a daughter of Montjeu we'll be looking for black type after this rather than the big handicaps. There are races in France for her towards the end of the season where she should get her ground."
Sylvester Kirk believes Gold Prince will not be winning out of turn if managing to come home in front.
"He just ran too free at York last time with the blinkers on," said the trainer.
"He's in great form and he has been all year in truth, he's run well in some good races.
"This race looks ideal for him, the trip is perfect but he could just do with a splash of rain. He is versatile regarding ground but I think he's at his best with just a little cut.
"His perfect conditions are a mile and a half or a mile-six with a nice bit of cut in the ground.
"He's been so consistent he deserves to win a big one."
Richard Fahey saddles four runners for owner Dr Marwan Koukash in Gabrial's Star, Gabrial The Hero, Angel Gabrial and Suegioo.
Speaking in his Sportinglife.com column, the trainer said: "We've four in the 32Red Casino Handicap but I do fear all are vulnerable to any progressive and less exposed types.
"Suegioo has been competing at the very highest level this year and drops in grade here, although whether he's up to winning a race like this off a mark of 105 we'll have to see.
"Angel Gabrial is as high as he'd want to be in the ratings and isn't getting any younger for all he's in good order at home.
"Gabrial's Star would have a small chance on his very best form and ran okay at Chester last time, while Gabrial The Hero is another with a squeak if he runs to his very best."
Other contenders include Karl Burke's Intense Tango and My Reward from Tim Easterby's yard.
Walpole has won three of his four starts for Hugo Palmer and is another with claims if he skips an engagement at Ascot on Friday.