Talking Horses: River Nymph can scupper Safe Voyage at Haydock

The Group Three John Of Gaunt Stakes is the feature event on Saturday’s card at Haydock but from a betting angle it looks more like a handicap and Safe Voyage, the likely favourite to repeat his success in 2019, is giving 5lb to his most dangerous opponents.

John Quinn’s eight-year-old has been admirably consistent throughout his career and hit new heights with a pair of Group Two victories last year. He was also within half a length of the winner in a Group One at Longchamp in October. However, he showed little on his seasonal reappearance in the Lockinge and it is a nagging concern that his penalty leaves him vulnerable to a younger, more progressive rival.

Toro Strike put up a career-best on his four-year-old debut at Thirsk last month but that was on quicker ground. River Nymph (3.30), the Victoria Cup winner, makes more appeal at the likely prices.

His smooth Ascot win off 100 was also a career high and with Saturday’s trip and ground conditions ideal, early odds of around 13-2 make plenty of appeal.

Haydock 1.45 Bielsa has been a beaten favourite on his two starts this season but looked to be back to something like his best when a close fifth – despite some late trouble in running – at York’s Dante meeting. The cheekpieces that seemed to help him there are back on on Saturday and a big run looks likely at around 6-1.

Beverley 2.00 A trio of debutants from strong yards – including Jazzy Princess, representing the same trainer and owner who won with Chica La Habana four years ago – make this more of a race to watch than to bet on. That said, Kyber Crystal outran her odds significantly when second on debut at Doncaster this month and sets a fair standard for her 10 rivals.

Haydock 2.20 A wide open Listed sprint. El Astronaute is the probable favourite after a successful return at Chester this month but conditions were in his favour there and Aljady could be worth chancing at around 7-1. Robert Cowell has few peers when it comes to sprinters and while his six-year-old was a little below par last time, a return to anything like last season’s best form would make him a major player.

Chester 2.40 Boardman has been a big improver since joining Tim Easterby for his five-year-old season and while his hold-up style is a worry at this tight track, that is built into his price to some extent. He was highly impressive when seeing off a big field at York this month and even a 10lb jump in the weights is unlikely to stop him completing a hat-trick.

Haydock 2.55 A drop back to 10 furlongs was not to Cabaletta’s liking in a Group Two at York last time but she is back at around a mile and a half here and in lesser company, too. First-time blinkers could also eke out a little more improvement from Roger Varian’s filly and she is hard to get away from at around 6-4.

Beverley 3.10 Ryan’s Party cost £200,000 at the breeze-ups and was expected to run well on debut at Hamilton this month, attracting enough support to set off at 6-4. A slow start did not help his cause but he showed enough when running on to finish a length behind Tipperary Sunset – who reopposes here – to suggest that he will be able to reverse the form with the experience behind him.

Beverley 3.45 Sibaaq, the likely favourite, is two-from-two over this track and trip but has looked uncomfortable with cut in the ground and Saturday’s conditions are a big concern. That could leave Byron’s Choice as the pick of several each-way alternatives. He has shown little in two starts since a win at Catterick in October, but that ready success was on heavy going and something similar should put him in the frame at least.