Mister Sketch backed to cope with tough conditions

Eve Johnson Houghton’s Mister Sketch will tackle testing conditions in the Dubai Duty Free Mill Reef Stakes at Newbury on Saturday.

The colt made a taking debut when just missing out by a neck in a July maiden at the same track, after which he headed to Salisbury for a six-furlong novice where he was a runaway nine-and-a-half-length winner.

Those outings were on good to soft and good ground respectively, conditions the now Wathnan Racing-owned youngster will not find this time, as wet weather has left the ground heavy, soft in places.

Johnson Houghton is hopeful he can still produce a good effort, however, and is mindful that her runner is not the only one for whom the ground is less than ideal.

She said: “He’s in great form and really well. It’s not ideal ground for him, but it’s the same for everyone and I think he’ll run a big race.

“He’s a lovely, strong horse, so I hope he’ll be able to handle the ground.

“He was obviously impressive last time. This is a big step up, but where else do you go?”

Andrew Balding is represented by Array, a Juddmonte-owned and bred son of No Nay Never.

The colt won for the first time in a Newmarket novice after two encouraging runs beforehand, with his most recent effort being a narrowly-beaten third place in the Group Three Sirenia Stakes at Kempton.

Barry Mahon of Juddmonte is not concerned about the going, especially considering he encountered similar conditions at Goodwood when finishing second in a maiden earlier in the term.

He told Sky Sports Racing: “I think the ground won’t be an issue for him, Andrew always felt he’d go with a bit of ease in the ground and obviously he ran well at Goodwood on desperate ground.

“He’s a nice horse who probably hasn’t been the luckiest, but he looked good winning his maiden and he’s shown a good level of form to partake in such a race.”

Michael Bell saddles the Middleham Park Racing-owned Red Zone Hero, an impressive nursery handicap winner at Doncaster’s St Leger meeting.

Prior to that, the Starspangledbanner colt finished a length behind George Scott’s Seven Questions in a Yarmouth maiden and was the decisive winner of a five-and-a-half-furlong contest at Ayr next time out.

“He won well at Doncaster on easy ground, it’s a big step forward and we’ll see how he gets on,” Bell said.

“That was big step forward from him at Doncaster and I’m sure he’s got more to offer going forward.”

Seven Questions also heads to the Group Two after his runner-up effort in the Sirenia Stakes, with Richard Hannon’s Vintage Stakes winner Haatem another due to take his chance.

Balding has another string to his bow with Spanish Phoenix, while Ralph Beckett’s Matters Most and John Ryan’s Roman Emperor complete the field of eight.

Source link