Horse racing: Clayton steps up for the Cup

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Musselburgh stage their biggest fixture of the year tomorrow with the Totepool.com Edinburgh Cup (3.30) as the highlight on an excellent card sporting more than £150,000 in prize money.

The £50,000 contest has attracted runners from several of the big Southern yards while Mark Johnston will saddle no less than five runners in a determined attempt to land the mile-and-a-half prize.

But they may all have to play second fiddle to Clayton, who went down in my book as an unlucky loser here early last month and who looks an improving three-year-old.

He never ran as a juvenile and was extremely green and inexperienced on his debut at Southwell in March, but still won that mile contest by nine lengths before coming to the East Lothian track. Well supported in a competitive affair over an extra furlong, he missed the break badly and came from well off the pace to get into the action approaching the final furlong where he held every chance.

But the exertions told and he was eventually third, beaten just two lengths before turning in another excellent effort at Newbury when stepping up in trip and class yet again. This time he broke well and was always tracking the leaders before finishing third in what looked a very hot contest. The winner was completing a hat-trick and has since finished second in Listed company, the runner-up was chasing a hat-trick and the fourth and fifth horses had both won their three previous starts.

Ruacana is chasing a hat-trick after victories at Pontefract and Chepstow, while fellow Newmarket raider Commitment won on his reappearance at Pontefract.

Good Morning Star was a shock 50-1 winner of the Cheshire Oaks at Chester and could prove best of the Johnston quintet, while Richard Fahey saddles top weight Sparkling Portrait – another chasing a hat-trick after wins at Beverley and Newmarket this term.

But Clayton gets the vote. He steps up an extra quarter of a mile tomorrow, but he should stay the trip around this tight circuit.

Tatlisu made a successful debut on the seaside circuit last month and turned in a spectacular effort at York – even though he finished only fifth. A well-backed favourite, he fluffed the start and then spent much of the opening furlong bucking and rearing like a bronco, so that he was soon all but tailed off.

Somehow the youngster made up all the lost ground and threatened to actually take a real hand in the finish as they entered the final furlong, before he ran out of steam. Given a proper run race, he would undoubtedly have landed the spoils and, provided he is on his best behaviour, he should take the toteplacepot Edinburgh Castle Stakes (1.55) which opens the card.

Johnston, meanwhile, saddles three runners in the totepool Tradesman’s Derby (2.25) in which Party Line can prove best. The filly showed only a modicum of ability in three starts as a juvenile, but it has been a different story stepped up to middle distances this year. She was runner-up in a photo-finish on her reappearance at Leicester before going one better in a driving finish at Beverley over tomorrow’s trip.

In his pomp, Tax Free was a leading sprinter in Europe and his 15 career wins include at Group race level in this country, France and Ireland and, although he is now well into the veteran stage, his effort at York last week suggests the motor still works well. The ten-year-old made much of the running before being headed inside the final furlong and beaten just over a length into sixth place behind Dancing Freddy, but he can take his revenge on 4lb better terms in the totescoop6 Scottish Sprint Cup (2.55).

Musselburgh selections: 1.55 Tatlisu; 2.25 Party Line; 2.55 Tax Free; 3.30 Clayton.