This is a Handicap which lacks the competitiveness of what one would have seen in recent weeks in this very similar slot. Not too many of the runners in the line-up give the impression to be either particularly well handicapped or have conditions in favour to achieve a career best performance. That makes Tha’ir a very fair favourite and his last win was rates a big performance, no doubt. I wouldn’t be surprised if he could follow on and he has every chance here, but I’m not sure if he should be much shorter in the betting than what he is now, given that he has to deal with a rise in the mark.
Mushreq is a consistent performer, though doesn’t seem to be as good this season as he was the last years. First time tongue tie fitted doesn’t instil much confidence and as the top weight is one to avoid here today. Berling ran a fine second behind Tha’ir recently, and another bold bid is one the cards. He’s to overcome a wide draw once again and may find one or two too good today. Belgian Bill didn’t quite have the run of the race in the very same race and stayed on nicely. If that is an indication that he gets the trip these days, then he’ll be a big runner. Francis Of Assisi, if fit after a break, is a very interesting runner, now in Godolphin colours, while Star Right may well be able to build on a promising last run.
However the most interesting runner and also the only really overpriced one in my mind, is Mike De Kock’s Flying The Flag. He was a Group 3 winner in Ireland over 10f back in 2013, joined subsequently De Kock’s yard without setting the world alight in two starts in pattern class in the UK. Dropped into handicap company on his seasonal reappearance earlier this month, he travelled very well but had a tough ride turning widest and losing loads of ground. He really stayed on very strongly eventually.
That performance came over 1m but general perception is that he is best over further. The step up in trip should suit perfectly today and his mark of 106 gives him a very nice chance to run big. De Kock was pretty bullish talking about Flying The Flag which is a significant boost for his chances: “He’s catching the eye in his exercise gallops. He ran on well after a rest last time and I fancy he’ll be very competitive here.”
6.15 Meydan: Class 1 Handicap, 10 furlongs
Flying The Flag @ 7/1 Paddy Power – 5pts win