A top quality 0-100 seven furlong handicap tops the bill at Newmarket today, and there is a nice blend of upcoming three years olds together with handicap veterans.
Ultimate Avenue is one of the two three year olds in this race, and he is actually making his handicap debut here today. He won a useful looking maiden last summer before finding a Group 3 here at Newmarket a little too hot to handle, although he wasn't helped by racing keenly and then not finding enough room when making his challenge. He ran well for a long way in a Conditions Stakes on his only start this year, before fading inside the final furlong, and a return to seven furlongs looks the right thing to do. He has been given an opening mark of 97, which is plenty high enough, however, he looks a high class prospect and will receive a nice three year old weight allowance from all bar one in this race. He hasn't raced on ground this soft before, so there is a bit of unknown with how he will cope with this.
The other three year old in the race is the Mark Johnston trained Khamaary, who is a good looking filly that went handicapping after having just the one run. Her opening mark of 71 clearly underestimated her, and after demolishing a field at Recar over a mile, she was raised a hefty 16 pounds. She still managed a second place from the higher mark in a 0-90 handicap and has subsequently been given another four pounds hike. The drop down to seven furlongs looks a smart move and she looks to have plenty of improvement in her, as well as being at home on this softer surface, as she won her maiden race on good to soft.
Makzeem is trying seven furlongs for the first time and it looks a good move, as he was going extremely well at Sandown last time out before folding very tamely inside the final furlong. His trainer, Roger Charlton, has been in exceptional form over the past couple of weeks. He's had six winners (42.86%) and eight places (57.14%) from 14 runners, for level stakes profits of 3.94 and 4.55 respectively. He also has the added bonus of having Ryan Moore riding him again, and Moore himself has a very good long term record here at Newmarket. I have a feeling Moore will try and break away quickly to be able to dictate the pace, where he will then try and make all. He has a lovely position to do this from stall one, so it will be interesting to see how much he has in the finish this time around.
Silvestre De Sousa is on the joint top weight Twin Appeal, and seven furlongs definitely appears to be his favourite distance. He hasn't won since five runs ago at Musselburgh, where the subsequent four pound rise in the weights appeared to halt his progress. He has been running in some high quality races though, and has slipped back down the handicap a couple of pounds, so assuming he handles the ground well enough (he has won on good to soft over course and distance), then I think he could be a big player. He has only had the one race here previously, which he won, and he is another who is likely to be very prominent through the first few furlongs.
Twin Appeal - 1 point each way @ 8/1 (Paddy Power)