THINK Big in the Cambridgeshire (3.35 Newmarket).
BIG COUNTRY ran a cracker in the John Smith’s Cup at York last time where he might well have won in a few more strides.
He didn’t get the clearest of runs through the 20-strong field on the Knavesmire and finished with plenty left in the tank.
The slight drop back in distance may actually help him here and there’s guaranteed to be an even stronger pace, which will suit him perfectly.
The draw could have been slightly kinder but it’s not a game-changer and the fact that champ Silvestre De Sousa takes over from a young claimer is another big plus.
Trainer Michael Appleby knows what he’s doing and he’s given this still-improving four-year-old a nice break since York, which should leave him spot on for this.
Thundering Blue warrants plenty of respect on this bid for four wins on the spin. He goes in any ground and took another step forward when beating a useful field at Sandown last time out.
He was out in front for a long way there and wandered around in the closing stages, so the official margin of a length-and-a-half doesn’t tell the full picture. He is clearly on the upgrade and will be fine over this distance.
Very Talented is intriguing given that he hasn’t run since finishing third in this 12 months ago. That’s obviously not ideal but he has always been best when fresh and owners Godolphin don’t need to run him, so he must have been showing strong signs at home.
The boys in blue have another strong chance with Linguistic. He is another with an absence to overcome but he’s dropping out of Listed class and his finest hour did come at Newmarket when he won one of the big sales races last year. He has a decent draw and could hit the frame.
KANE THE BOOKIES
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One to watch at very tasty odds is Eddystone Rock. He loves a big-field handicap as he showed when winning at York last month. He has since run another solid race at Newbury and is only 4lb higher than that Knavesmire success.
This ground and distance are ideal and he’s another who could be troubling the judge.
SANDS OF MALI can have a walk in the Middle Park at 2.55.
Richard Fahey’s speedster won a novice event in bottomless ground before skipping over the quicker conditions to win the Gimcrack at York last time out.
He made all over the 6f trip and is likely to try something similar again. Of course, he’ll have a couple of pacemakers from Ballydoyle to contend with so he’ll probably sit just behind them.
Sioux Nation is the pick of the Irish challenge on form but he didn’t take to soft ground when beaten at the Curragh earlier this season so the going has to be a worry.
That won’t matter to Paul Hanagan’s mount who can take the pot back to Yorkshire.
Steve Mullen’s TV tips
3.35 Newmarket – Big Country: ‘Ran a cracker last time and finished with plenty in the tank after a troubled run’ (add to your betslip)
2.55 Newmarket – Sands Of Mali: ‘Goes on the gound and looks a bright prospect’ (add to your betslip)
3.15 Haydock – Johnny Barnes: ‘Will love conditions and has form in these kind of races’ (add to your betslip)
JOHNNY BARNES can fly down the wing to take Haydock’s Gold Cup at 3.15.
The race has been cobbled together after Ayr was washed out last week and a high-class field has turned up.
John Gosden’s five-year-old will love the muddy conditions and he’s got plenty of strong form in a big field too. He won a 19-runner contest at Goodwood last time on the back of an excellent fourth at Ascot where he didn’t get the run of the race.
He’s probably best over 7f but it will feel like that at Haydock in testing conditions and a 5lb penalty looks fair.
Sainted will find this a lot harder than the handicap she took over course and distance last time but she’s another who likes it soft.
She’s got few miles on the clock and you would expect a lot more to come.
2.55 Sands Of Mali
3.35 Big Country
4.10 Bye Bye Baby
1.35 Pioneer Spirit
2.05 Lord Of The Rock
2.40 Quench Dolly
3.15 Johnny Barnes
4.25 Bold Reason
5.35 Royal Line
2.30 Gabrial The Saint
3.05 Dark Devil
3.40 Bahama Moon
4.15 Collingham Park
2.35 Poet’s Dawn
3.45 Red Pike
4.55 Penny Pot Lane
2.10 Eragon De Chanay
2.45 Mountain Path
3.20 I’m An Izz Wizz
3.55 Red Tornado
4.30 Guitar Pete
5.05 Get Home Now
5.40 Buckby Boy
6.20 Priors Brook
7.50 Show Stealer
8.20 Justice Rock
8.50 Royal Caper