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43 stand their ground at latest entry stage for Balmoral Handicap (sponsored by QIPCO)

12 Oct 2020

Raaeq seeks treble as ante-post favourite remains well fancied for £100,000 Handicap

Ante-post favourite Raaeq is among 43 entries left in the race that brings down the curtain on QIPCO British Champions Day, the £100,000 Balmoral Handicap (sponsored by QIPCO) over a straight mile.

The three-year-old colt, a son of Kingman trained by Brian Meehan and owned by Sheikh Hamdan Al Maktoum, made his debut just over a year ago and was having only his fifth run when romping home by five lengths in a 7f handicap at Ascot on 2nd October.

Meehan holds Raaeq in high esteem and said: “The plan is to go there but we will see how he is over this week and make a final decision on Thursday morning. He’s an exciting horse with a big future and I don’t want to rush him for the sake of it.

“He’s gone up to 108 and, if he runs, will be off 103, which hopefully gives him a head start, but in big handicaps such as this you’ve got to be cautious.

“His rating means he’s in stakes category now and I’ve no doubt whatsoever he is up to it. Ground-wise, he handled it the other day [softish going] and I don’t think the forecast this week is that aggressive, so that should be fine.”

David O’Meara knows better than anyone what is required to win the Balmoral Handicap. He saddled Escobar to victory last year as well as Lord Glitters in 2017. Escobar is on course to try and become the first two-time winner of the race.

“We thought he was [fast] ground dependent but he won it well on heavy last year, so he’s versatile in that respect,” O’Meara said. “He won it off 105 and is now on 108: that might make him more vulnerable but this seems to be his time of the year.”

Montatham, trained by William Haggas, is another who has enjoyed a good season and heads the weights. His exploits this year include finishing runner-up in the Royal Hunt Cup in June before going one better in a tremendously competitive renewal of the Clipper Logistics Stakes at York in August.

Roger Charlton struck with Yuften in 2016 and has two live contenders in course winners Tempus and Blue Mist. The former was a creditable sixth in the bet365 Cambridgeshire at Newmarket last time, while Blue Mist landed the Moet & Chandon International Stakes at Ascot in July. The pair are owned by Prince Khalid Abdullah.

Jessica Harrington could be represented by the reliable Njord, while Keats, winner of a Listed race at Cork last time, has been left in by Aidan O’Brien.