NORTH Yorkshire trainer Alan Swinbank sidesteps his local Catterick venue today in favour of concentrating on Epsom where Ebony Express has a leading chance of capturing the £50,000 Investec City & Suburban Handicap in the hands of new stable jockey Ben Curtis.
The five-year-old looked an improved performer in the second half of last season and wound-up by gaining a hat-trick of wins at Redcar, Windsor and Nottingham.
On his reappearance this season, Ebony Express ran a most respectable race to finish second to Estreaming at Newcastle. That outing should have had the desired effect of bringing him to concert pitch for this valuable event and, off bottom weight, and with Melsonby-based Swinbank in good form, he is taken to make a bold bid in a race in which Richard Fahey runs the useful Hi There.
Fahey will also be represented in the Investec Great Metropolitan Handicap by Bayan Kasirga, who enjoyed a rich vein of form last autumn. She, however, might be handicapped to the hilt at present and is passed over in favour Red Runaway, the mount of Ryan Moore.
Trained at Newmarket by Ed Dunlop, Red Runaway was a most impressive winner on the Polytrack of Lingfield on his latest start when he crossed the line with two and a half lengths to spare. He won back-to-back races at Leicester and Chester last spring and is clearly very effective at this time of the year. He promises to go well.
The Investec Derby Trial is unlikely to have any impact on the real event on the first Wednesday in June, but there are several potentially smart horses in opposition, including Marzocco from the powerful John Gosden yard.
He won his only start as a juvenile, a maiden at Kempton in October, when he looked a decent prospect in the making. This race should tell us much more about him and it would be no surprise to see him play a leading role under William Buick.
Gosden and Buick, who have made a splendid start to the campaign, can also strike with D'Avignon (4.00), a useful maiden, who should not be long in breaking his duck, while Andrew Balding's Mime Dance (4.35) was a winner at this track last September and that experience on such a tricky course should stand him in good stead on his reappearance.
Catterick stage an eight-race card and Solar Spirit makes plenty of appeal in the Pin Point Recruitment Handicap over seven furlongs.
Tracy Waggott's gelding went down by only a neck to Llewellyn over this course and distance recently. He should be even sharper this time and will again have the assistance of smart apprentice Ian Brennan, who has rejoined John Quinn's Norton stable this season after returning home and riding in his native Ireland for the last two seasons.
Tony Coyle has his horses in excellent heart and the Norton trainer has a useful chance with Thatcherite in the catterickbridge.co.uk Handicap.
A dual-winner last year, Thatcherite made a pleasing seasonal debut to finish fifth to My Name Is Rio at Thirsk. Although not ideally drawn in this five furlong dash, he is entitled to go well under Stephen Craine, who gets on well with him.
Gold Show (2.30), who shaped well when third to Pertius at Pontefract and nap selection Secret City (5.20), who occupied the same position behind Graceful Act at Newcastle on his reappearance, are two others to note on Catterick's bumper programme.
1.30 Baltic Spirit, 2.00
Thatcherite, 2.30 Gold Show, 3.05 Polar Eyes, 3.40 Solar Spirit, 4.15 Mornin Mr Norris, 4.50 Trinity Star, 5.20 Secret City (NAP).
1.45 Fair Value, 2.20 Red
Runaway, 2.50 Marzocco, 3.25 Ebony Express, 4.00 D’Avignon, 4.35 Mime Dance.
Today’s other meetings: Perth, Southwell and Taunton.
Beverley, Warwick, Perth, Brighton, Newcastle.