Royal Brave has become a real course specialist at Musselburgh and he can lift yet another prize on the East Lothian track this evening.
The gelding has notched four of his eight career wins on this track and is ideally suited by the sharp 5f – the trip he faces again in the Bernard Hunter Mobile Cranes Handicap (7.20).
He was successful three times here last term and scored again over this course and distance in May when he looked to have lost all chances when rearing as the stalls opened. But the seven-year-old is as tough as they come and worked his way through the field to launch a strong challenge inside the final furlong before leading almost on the line.
The runner-up has won twice since then to boost the form and the handicapper pushed Royal Brave up 3lbs in the ratings afterwards before Royal Brave disappointed and finished last in a big field for a valuable sprint at York.
But since then, he has run well on all three of his recent starts, finishing third here and at Thirsk before a slow start at Carlisle put him on the back foot from flag fall.
In the circumstances he did well to be beaten just two lengths into fourth place and he has slipped down the ratings a little so that he now runs off a mark of 83, just a single pound higher than for his last success.
Trainer Rebecca Bastiman has her string in good shape and provided he does not negate a decent draw near the stands rail by fluffing the start again, I expect Royal Brave to take the prize.
Keith Dalgleish does well here and can serve up a double for the locals, beginning with War Department in the Togetherthemoney Handicap (6.45). The five-year-old has been runner-up in his last two races over a mile at Ayr and may well find the drop back in trip to 7F here just up his street. He cost 160,000 guineas as a yearling and made a winning debut as a juvenile for Newmarket trainer Michael Bell before lining up for the Coventry Stakes at Royal Ascot where he was slowly away, badly hampered and tailed off.
His form deteriorated after that experience and he changed hands for just 20,000 guineas and joined Dalgleish almost exactly two years ago. So far he has netted three wins and seven places for current connections, with all three of those victories coming over 7F on the all-weather surface at Newcastle.
The gelding acts well on turf though and has dropped 18lbs in the ratings since his last victory just over a year ago.
Woodside Wonder can complete the Dalgleish double by defying top weight in the Beatsons Building Supplies Nursery (7.50) over the minimum 5f trip. The youngster cost 20,000 guineas as a yearling and is a half brother to a winner. He showed promise on his debut before finishing second on the track and at Hamilton Park in June. He justified odds-on favouritism to go one better on the latter track last month.
The colt finished only 15th in a big field for the £125,000 Super Sprint at Newbury recently, but was far from disgraced in being beaten just over four lengths. He looks better class than these rivals.
Odds On Oli broke his duck at the 11th attempt at Newcastle in April and promptly followed up at Thirsk just 11 days later. He has run well since then off higher marks, finishing third twice at Doncaster and 4th at Newcastle.
Richard Fahey’s gelding was favourite when last of five runners at Ayr recently, but was beaten just 21/2 lengths and can recoup the losses here off a slightly lower mark in the Boogie in the Morning Handicap (8.20).
Selections: 6.45 War Department; 7.20 Royal Brave; 7.50 Woodside Wonder; 8.20 Odds On Oli