As we build up to Royal Ascot next week it’s a Sandown special on Saturday and there’s plenty to like along with a few from York, along with a bonus selection in the Belmont Stakes.  

Read on for Nick’s thoughts on EIGHT races this Saturday.

Sandown 

ALDHAJA should go very well again at 5/1 in the televised opener at Sandown on Saturday (1.40pm). A winner of a deep race at Haydock last time, his pedigree suggests he should have further improvement in him at this trip, particularly granted a slightly livelier surface. There is plenty of pace on here, which will suit.

SHEER ROCKS might be the answer at 17/2 to the mile handicap (2.15pm). This isn’t the strongest Class 2 you’ll find, and this lightly raced three-year-old could easily remain very well handicapped. He put up no show on his seasonal debut at Epsom, but that was a much better race where he appeared not to stay. He has plenty of pace and he should be able to make good use of that from a decent draw.

ILLUSTRATING is a little bit of value at 8/1 against the favourite in the Scurry Stakes (2.50pm). She just ran ok on her comeback at Bath, but she went off 9/2, suggesting connections thought she had trained on at the very least. Nothing really happened for her there, but her smart juvenile form warrants lots of respect and she can do better with cheekpieces applied.

York 

THRONE HALL could be the interesting one at 10/1 in the Queen Mother’s Cup at York (2.00pm). He’s not set the world alight for his new yard, but showed easily enough at Kempton two back (when 40/1) to suggest he can still run well off this mark. He is very well treated on the basis of his two most recent runs at this track and is ridden by the trainer’s partner, who is a very good amateur.

TITAN ROCK looks overpriced at 14/1 in the seven furlong handicap (2.35pm). He didn’t quite break through last year after looking a promising two-year-old, but he ran consistently nonetheless and always shaped as though there was more to offer. You wonder whether, with a breathing op under his belt, he might be ready to take the step up. Either way, there aren’t too many other potential improvers in here and he’s a big price.

JOHN LEEPER is getting one more chance at 9/1 in the Grand Cup (3.05pm). A small build on his Chester run puts him right in the mix here, but he’s priced on a bad effort at Sandown last time. They left the hood off that day, however, and a real grind up that hill wasn’t really for him. This flat galloping track at this trip should just about be ideal and the hood goes back on.

INGRA TOR may be favourite for the big 3yo sprint (3.40pm), but he’s a reasonable price at 4/1 and can confirm his Newmarket superiority over Harry Three if adapting to this track (and no reason why he shouldn’t).

Chester 

OUTGATE can get back on track at 5/1 in the Chester feature (3.20pm). He had a bit of a nightmare run at Haydock last time, but ran very well, is off the same mark at a track where he looked impressive the previous time and gets Richard Kingscote from a great draw. Big chance.

Belmont Park 

NEST is my pick at 7/1 to win the Belmont Stakes tomorrow evening (11.44pm). Trainer Todd Pletcher won this with a legendary filly in Rags to Riches and, while I’m not suggesting she’s in her class, neither does she have anything like the same calibre of colt to beat. A good second in the Kentucky Oaks, despite not looking at her absolute best, she’s had a nice layaway since and could get a perfect trip just behind the likely tepid speed here. She races evenly through a race which, combined with her good staying pedigree, gives her as good a chance as any to get home over twelve furlongs. The inbuilt prejudice against fillies in open races in the USA means she can still be backed at decent odds.