MARK JOHNSTON saddles three runners in a strong challenge for Musselburgh’s new race – the £50,000 Betfred Royal Mile (3.50) tomorrow, but may have to play second fiddle to Shabora.
Roger Varian’s colt makes the long trek north from Newmarket in search of a hat-trick and he looks well treated by the handicapper for his debut on turf.
So far, the three-year-old has raced only on the all-weather, all six of his runs coming in the last six months and he has been successful on three occasions.
His first victory came over seven furlongs at Wolverhampton and he has won on his last two appearances at Lingfield – over a mile and ten furlongs.
It is his latest success which could prove the key, for he had Switzerland almost two lengths back in third place and now meets that rival on better terms. Johnston’s colt has top weight and turned in a good effort on turf when fourth at Newbury last autumn before winning two of his three all-weather starts during the winter.
But he seemed not to see out the mile when behind Shabora and the lightly-weighted Kinloch Castle may prove best of the Johnston trio, while Bronze Angel is another southern challenger with sound credentials.
He made the frame in all five of his turf starts as a juvenile and came back from a three-month break to score at Lingfield during the Christmas holidays over seven furlongs.
But Shabora is a half-sister to three winners, comes from a powerful stable in good form and gets the vote.
Hamish McGonagall has a great record at Musselburgh and has netted four of his eight career victories over this sharp five furlongs here, while he has also been placed on several occasions.
Another success looks on the cards in the Betfred The Bonus King Whistlejacket Conditions Stakes (2.45). After taking this prize 12 months ago, he moved up into the top echelon of sprinters and was placed in Group Three events in Ireland and France and in Listed prizes at York and Newmarket.
The veteran Borderlescott may prove his main rival. He managed just three outings last year because of injury, but ran well when eighth on his reappearance at Lingfield last month. However, he is now a ten-year-old and has to prove that the engine is still as good as it was.
Polish World has a win over seven furlongs here to his credit and can score again over that trip in the Betfred Goals galore handicap (3.20).He finished last on his reappearance at Doncaster last week, but made much of the running and was eased once he lost the lead.
That was his first run since October, and he is sure to strip fitter now and this sharp track will play to his front-running style. If he gets an easy lead, the eight-year-old may prove hard to peg back.
Greenhead High is another front runner who can lead his rivals a merry dance in the Betfred Bingo Handicap (5.35).
The Dandy Nicholls-trained gelding has been in great form on the all-weather during the winter, winning twice and finishing runner-up on five occasions.
He was favourite when unplaced at Wolverhampton recently, but had a wide draw and was hampered in that six-furlong affair and this loner trip should play to his strengths.
Selections: 2.45 Hamish McGonagall; 3.20 Polish World; 3.50 Shabora; 5.35 Greenhead High.