This is a tight little handicap with several horses open to progress; our pick to land it is MATAALEB ahead of Comedy Act. Our pick is hard to assess to some degree ahead of handicap debut, having won readily at Haydock last time. That said, prior to winning there he'd taken a solid second to now 109-rated Green Moon and a bare reading of that form suggests he's worth siding with off 88. He's beautifully bred and in the right hands to progress so we'll chance this son of Dalakhani ahead of his handicap debut. Comedy Act has, unsurprisingly, improved since stepping up in trip and taking to handicaps. A game winner off 68 last time, he has more to do now 7lbs higher but Sir Mark Prescott will surely withdraw whatever ability is there and he rates better than the bare form of his narrow Leicester success, having idled late on. Similarly Vulcanite arrives on the back of a Leicester success and is also now 7lbs higher. Ralph Beckett's charge is bred to want at least this trip so there are no stamina concerns, whilst quick ground isn't a worry either. He's got scope to continue his progression and should run well. Domination did well to win last time at Newbury in what looked a warm heat. Hughie Morrison's horse is asked to carry a 10lb higher mark now but was impressive that day and the form should stack up, although rain would harm his chance. Maxim Gorky is better than he showed at Chester last time and will be more at home here while Tajaarub hasn't confirmed his debut promise but the winner of the race he last contested went well at Royal Ascot, so again he's not to be ignored. Each horse has claims in this tight encounter with Mataaleb narrowly preferred.
Mataaleb 7-2 (8-11) Made all, set steady pace, ridden and quickened 2f out, ran on, unchallenged, won at Haydock 1m 4f mdn stks (5) gf in May beating Reality Show (8-11) by 5l, 5 ran.
Vulcanite (IRE) 12-1 (9-3) In rear, ridden and no impression from 3f out, switched left over 1f out, ran on strongly to lead final strides, won at Leicester 1m 2f 3yo hcp 0-85 (4) gf in May beating Buffett (8-13) by 1/2l, 7 ran.
Maxim Gorky (IRE) 5-2fav (8-12) Held up in touch on inside, headway over 3f out, effort to chase winner 2f out, soon ridden, stayed on same pace, lost 2nd inside final furlong, 3rd of 7, 4l behind Alrasm (9-9) at Chester 1m 4f 3yo hcp 0-95 (3) gd in May.
Ipswich Lad 12-1 (8-9) Held up in touch, outpaced 4f out, weakened over 2f out, tailed off, 5th of 7, 36l behind Alrasm (9-9) at Chester 1m 4f 3yo hcp 0-95 (3) gd in May.
Tajaarub 4-1 (8-13) Tracked leader until 2f out, ridden and weakened final furlong, 6th of 8, 12l behind London Stripe (9-2) at Newmarket 1m 2f 3yo hcp 0-100 (2) gs in May.
Domination 7-1 (9-0) Always prominent, led over 2f out, edged left and in command over 1f out, readily, won at Newbury 1m 4f 3yo hcp 0-75 (5) gf beating Yashrid (9-7) by 3 1/2l, 13 ran.
Comedy Act 5-6fav (9-10) Made all, ridden over 2f out, joined inside final furlong, driven and found extra, won at Leicester 1m 2f 3yo hcp 0-65 (6) gd beating Shades Of Grey (9-7) by nk, 12 ran.