The Betfred Cambridgeshire dominates Newmarket's meeting in handicap terms and I'll be addressing that later this week. The three days at the Rowley Mile are otherwise packed full of Pattern races, so forgive me for finding my attention largely taken by Haydock for this week's edition.
On his latest run at Ascot, first-time blinkers helped Eshtiaal recover some of the form he had shown earlier this year, such as when accounting for then-progressive filly Debdebdeb at Yarmouth in the style of a thorough stayer. His next two starts were less encouraging, although there were excuses, but his third to Excellent Result at Ascot last time suggested he is back in the game. A wide draw and a slow pace meant that he was both in the wrong place when the sprint began and unable to use his main asset of stamina. A step up in trip, a long straight and a galloping track make this race his ideal target.
This looks the perfect opportunity for Royal Skies to take the step up in trip that he wants. He won over a mile-and-a-half at Ascot's Shergar Cup, guided by the superb Gerard Mosse, but was unsuited by a dawdle-and-sprint there on his next start and found himself in a hot little contest at Yarmouth last time. Once again then, he stuck to his task likeably after being seen off by two well-treated rivals. This Haydock target offers rivals comprising mostly of more exposed, older handicappers. These are the small margins he needs to get his head in front for the fourth time this season.
It's back to Newmarket for the final selection and it's a corking contest to wrap up the Cambridgeshire meeting. At the time of writing, prior to the 48-hour declarations, it is fiercely competitive.
However, Urban Dance is unbeaten in two starts, hails from a superb family and looks very smart. He thumped Velox at Newmarket's July course last time, going away at the line, and an 8lb rise is unlikely to have got his measure. Autumn ground is likely to benefit him and he shapes as though a step up in trip will reap further improvement. His main dangers are the classy but raw Venue, whose tendency to hang might undo him on the tricky Rowley Mile, and Plutocracy, who last time was never going to be suited by a chase-the-leader contest that so often develops at Bath.