Lock in for Night of Thunder
Richard Hannon appears to hold the key for a well-contested Lockinge Stakes
A record field of 18 runners is set to go to post for tomorrow's Lockinge Stakes at Newbury tomorrow afternoon.
However, despite the fact that it is so well populated, it is probably not a vintage renewal of the Group One mile contest.
Of the field, just two have won on their last outing and it looks a race that trainer Richard Hannon has a firm grasp of with his two runners Night Of Thunder and Toormore.
Hannon may not be lighting up the the early part of the season as he or his father have in previous seasons but it's by no means been a bad start either and there's little doubt that if all these horses turn up with their 'A game' tomorrow, Night Of Thunder would be the pick of them.
Last year's 2,000 Guineas winner was something of a surprise victor of 2014's opening Classic and performed admirably without reaching such dizzy heights again for the remainder of the campaign but he still looks a worthy favourite here as he makes his seasonal debut in the hands of the confident James Doyle.
The sole Irish runner in the race is Aidan O'Brien's Cougar Mountain who tackles a mile for just the second time and it'll be interesting to see how he fares. At a big price, he could possibly be an each-way option but it looks a race to remain cautious in and Night Of Thunder may well be the safest bet.
While all the current talk is of the Classic Trials, with the opening Classics of the Irish season next weekend, there is also action for jump-race lovers to look forward to this weekend as Ireland's champion trainer Willie Mullins makes his now annual trip to France where he'll contest two big races in Auteuil, including the €850,000 Grand Steeple Chase de Paris.
Mullins has twice been represented in the French Gold Cup by Pomme Tiepy, who finished down the field in both 2008 and 2009, and on Sunday it will be On His Own who will bid to squeeze another feather into the Carlow trainer's bulging cap.
Mullins also sends over Val De Ferbet and Gitane Du Berlais for the Prix La Barka, which he won last year with the Katie Walsh-ridden Thousand Stars.
Ruby Walsh will ride Val De Ferbet, who was pulled up early after making a couple of mistakes in a handicap chase at the Punchestown Festival, and he reverts to hurdles on this occasion where he'll be joined by Gitane Du Berlais, who was also successful over fences earlier this year.