One of the most eagerly anticipated clashes of the season so far takes place at Ascot as Shishkin and Energumene do battle in the Clarence House. There’s also some good action at Haydock and Taunton and here are Nick Luck’s fancies.


STELLAR MAGIC gets the nod ahead at 9/2 of a few possibles in the opening TV handicap at Ascot on Saturday (1.45pm). He looked a real prospect when beating the very useful Alaphilippe on the square at Taunton this day last year before picking up an injury at Warwick. His Haydock return was more than decent behind a horse that ran creditably in that competitive Lanzarote last weekend and he should move forward for that. He remains unexposed, and a strongly run race, perhaps courtesy of Stoner’s Choice and Kateson, should suit.

ANYTHINGFORLOVE (9/1) might just outrun her rating in the mares’ hurdle (2.20pm). This has all the hallmarks of a real slugfest, with Western Victory (new yard) and Molly Olly’s Wishes likely to go very hard up front. This should play perfectly for the selection, who is as tough as they come and who excelled herself at Sandown last time. The extra distance can only suit and the yard has been nicely among the winners.

KILLER CLOWN can follow up his Wincanton win in this better race (2.55pm) at 11/2. It was more the style than the substance of his victory that struck home, as he looked right back to the horse that he threatened to be midway through last season. A tongue tie might just have helped him (retained here), and the yard has hit some form.

SHISHKIN will hardly make you rich at 8/11, and is likely to be given a searching examination by Energumene and First Flow in the Clarence House (3.35pm), but I expect him to be well suited by a blistering gallop and feel there is a shade more substance to his CV than that of his main and undoubtedly exciting rival, who will do well not to be slightly compromised by the attentions of last year’s winner.


DONNY BOY (18/1) is hardly likely to beat the apparently flawless Jonbon at Haydock (1.25pm), but it might be worth backing him to do best of the rest and in case anything should go amiss with the favourite. I think I know where I’m at with the others, but this horse could be way better than his rules form. He walloped a horse that has subsequently notched a Racing Post rating of 135 in his point, while the way he has travelled and jumped in two small races this season suggests he hasn’t found a horse to go quick enough for him yet.

HUNTERS CALL might be able to end Tommy’s Oscar’s winning spree in the Champion Hurdle Trial (2.00pm) at 9/4. Despite his age, the low-mileage selection looks best at a flat two miles, having not really got up the hill at Cheltenham. He travels strongly, so the likely Navajo Pass/Global Citizen pace scenario should suit perfectly.

SAM BROWN is an each-way play at 16/1 in the Peter Marsh (2.35pm). He doesn’t run much, but there’s not enough evidence to suggest he’s a busted flush just yet. He ran well on ground too quick at Punchestown in the spring, while his comeback in atrocious conditions at Aintree was okay up to a point. His career defining moment to date has come at this track, his trainer’s horses are running really well, and he’s been given a bit of gentle slack from the handicapper. Aidan Coleman is 3-5 on him.


RAMSES DE TEILLEE is not without risks, but has possibilities of upsetting Yala Enki’s hat-trick bid in the Portman Cup (3.15pm) at 5/1. He beat the favourite on similar terms at Cheltenham last season and, while it has been a mixed bag since, he went very well for a long way in the Welsh National (much better, for instance, than Elegant Escape, who is significantly shorter at the time of writing). This less gruelling test might suit perfectly, and he will ensure Yala Enki doesn’t have its own way, perhaps drawing the sort of error that very nearly undid the market leader in this race last year.