I am hoping that we can celebrate William Hill’s longest standing Horse racing sponsorship by finding the winner of one of Britain’s most historic handicaps, the William Hill Great St Wilfrid at Ripon on Sunday afternoon.

Easterby’s charge can take Ripon feature

My leading fancy for the race is the Tim Easterby-trained STAXTON at 7/1, who got up to score by the tiniest of noses at the garden racecourse last time.

Conventional wisdom suggests that he might not be able to win again from a higher handicap mark in a more competitive race, but that only tells half the story. On that occasion, today’s rival Watchable (winner since) stole a march on the field racing solo on the far side, which looked a decisive advantage. Staxton did exceptionally well to chase him down out of the pack and the pair were nicely clear. Although he is up four pounds for that, he is still fully 11 pounds lower than when running a fine race to be second on his side (fifth overall) behind Dakota Gold in last year’s edition.

Of all the sprint courses in Britain, Ripon – with its changeable bias, rise and furrow surface – is the one where I like to see evidence of previous course form. As such, the aforementioned DAKOTA GOLD (8/1) can go well again, even with his hefty weight. Upped in class this season, he has been running his races upside down and not really switching off. I am hoping a return to calmer waters and a big field will enable him to show his true colours, in which event he would be a real danger to all.

Of the market principals, Kimifive (15/2) is of obvious interest after his fine run in the Stewards’ Cup, a slightly deeper race than this. That said, he was surely helped by running hard against the far rail, and I prefer BRIAN THE SNAIL to reverse the form, particularly with Megan Nicholls claiming. Richard Fahey’s charge should go well at 12/1.

Meanwhile, favourite Motagally (6/1) will be a popular choice given his connections and his progressive profile, but I am sceptical that he really wants a strongly run six furlongs, and think he might be better suited by a race like the Portland later in the season.

Of the bigger priced horses that could sneak into the frame, I would be interested in HYPERFOCUS (14/1), who is starting to look dangerously well treated (especially if it rains) and CITRON MAJOR (16/1), who always looks like he’s saving a bit for himself and might be quite well suited to this if it is run at a frenetic pace.

Nick Luck’s William Hill Great St Wilfrid 1-2-3-4-5:

  1. Staxton
  2. Dakota Gold
  3. Brian The Snail
  4. Hyperfocus
  5. Citron Major

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