KARL BURKE hopes Explosive Lady can live up to her name in today’s feature 888Sport Charity Sprint at York and confirm his stable’s wellbeing ahead of next week’s season-defining Royal Ascot meeting.
He continues to hold the three-year-old in the highest of regards – the filly has been placed in each of her five racecourse appearances and was a pleasing third on her comeback at Haydock last month.
“I was very pleased with how she ran at Haydock because I warned that she’d need the run and I feel she’s really sharpened up for it,” said Leyburn-based Burke.
“We’re hoping for a good run off 95 because I feel she’s a good bit better than that. She might need to be because Henry Candy’s horse and three or four others look big dangers, it’s very competitive. If I’m right, though, I still think she’s well handicapped.”
Burke – whose Libertarian was a shock winner of the 2013 Betfred Dante Stakes at York before finishing a creditable second in the Epsom Derby – is never short of confidence and holds high hopes of Royal Ascot glory next week with another filly Odeliz.
However he believes her chances of success in Wednesday’s Duke of Cambridge Stakes, a Group Two race for fillies and mares over the straight mile, will be much enhanced if there is significant rain at the Berkshire track ahead of the Royal meeting.
The consistent five-year-old picked up more black type at Epsom last week when third in the Princess Elizabeth Stakes, but she still only has a Listed win to her name.
With a small field likely in the race formerly known as the Windsor Forest, Burke is tempted to run her again quickly if sufficient rain falls. “She’s come out of the race in great form,” he said.
“We left her in the race at Ascot as there’s lots of rain about. Not too many looked like being confirmed and along with ours, there might only be three or four with a realistic chance.
“It’s so frustrating we can’t win a Group race with her, but the jockeys keep riding her for speed. Because she travels well the jockeys think she will pick up instantly, but she’s more of a galloper and needs more use made of her. One day it will all drop in her lap, I’m sure of it.”
As for today’s feature sprint, the centrepiece of the annual Macmillan charity day on the Knavesmire, both Martyn Meade’s Scalzo and Henry Candy’s Twilight Son bring hugely promising profiles to the track.
Scalzo ran only once last year, when he finished second in a Wolverhampton maiden on the all-weather, but that performance did not give anyone an inkling as to what lay in store this season.
The Paco Boy colt showed a smart turn of foot at Doncaster to win his maiden and the handicapper seriously underestimated him by only giving him a mark of 77.
In what looked a wide-open race at Haydock last month, Scalzo showed his rivals a clean pair of heels, sprinting clear to win by seven lengths but the assessor did not take too kindly to that and has hiked him 18lb in the handicap.
So impressive was he that Sheikh Hamdan Al Maktoum took the unusual step of buying a horse already established in other colours and Paul Hanagan, the owner’s retained jockey, will be on board for the first time.
Talking about having such a prestigious owner in his relatively new career, Meade said: “I’m very pleased and obviously the horse has shown his ability and to actually be able to have an owner like this in the yard is enormously exciting.
“After the Haydock run it was not in our minds to sell the horse, but the opportunity to train for that particular owner made it a no-brainer.
“What we have to do is produce the goods. Running him in the big sprint handicap at York, we can gauge how good he is and then hopefully introduce him into Group class after that.”
Twilight Son is unbeaten but has a slightly different profile in that he had two runs last season, winning at Salisbury and Thirsk, before his reappearance at Newmarket.
That represented a step up in class and he handled it with aplomb in winning by two lengths, but he is another who faces a steep rise in the ratings, lining up on an 11lb higher mark here. Candy said: “He’s in very good form. This has been his target since his win at Newmarket and I think he’s ready to run a good race.”
At the bottom of the handicap is Brian Ellison’s Northgate Lad, who has gone up 7lb for finishing second twice this season.
“He’s a horse I’ve always liked and I think he’ll run well,” said the Malton trainer. “The trouble is his draw, he’s in stall one and he might find it hard to get cover. Also, he could do with a bit of rain to take the sting out of the ground.”