Warming up for Ascot

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The world is divided into those that believe the glass is half-empty and those that it is half full. The former will want to keep their cash in their pockets on Saturday, with cards from Sandown and Ripon sandwiched in between the Derby and Royal Ascot week at York. But if you are more of the half-full disposition there are some good opportunities to refresh the coffers ahead of next week’s marathon of punting.

Ripon’s feature race, the totesport.com Heritage Handicap Stakes, is a typically competitive affair. With a maximum field sprinting over a straight six furlongs the winner will need to have a little luck, but on paper Viking Spirit has an outstanding chance. Trainer Walter Swinburn was full of praise for this colt when he dismissed a decent field at Nottingham last September.

Viking Spirit returned to run a fine second to classy Eisteddfod at Goodwood last month. He was arguably unlucky in running that day and was checked twice. None of his competitors ton Saturday have shown anything like that sort of potential and a replication of that form should be good enough. A three pound rise in the weights may be shown to be lenient.

The big race at Sandown is also a sprint, the Paddypowerpoker.com Scurry Stakes. Pike Bishop looks to have an outstanding chance on the basis of two smooth victories last season. The form of his last win is working out well, with the second home Beckermet since winning twice.

Trainer Roger Charlton has been reportedly working Pike Bishop with group class sprinters at home, so should have a good idea of his qualities. An entry in the King’s Stand at Royal Ascot shows the high regard in which the horse is held. A 360-day lay-off is a slight concern but if he’s on song he’ll use this race as a stepping stone to bigger prizes. Coleorton Dancer may be the biggest threat.

Selections

3:25 Ripon Viking Spirit (win)

3:45 Sandown Pike Bishop (win)

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