Escobar and Baron out to seal Hunt Cup berth.
RACE OF THE DAY 1.30 Nottingham Introducing Racing TV Handicap 1m1/2f, 3yo+ RTV Card and Spotlight, page 27 Why is it interesting? TIME is ticking towards Royal Ascot and Nottingham has dangled a PS25,000 carrot with its feature contest, which represents one of the final opportunities for Britain's top handicapping milers to stake their claims for the Royal Hunt Cup.
David O'Meara is preparing two runners including topweight Escobar, who ended last season by finishing a narrow second to subsequent Group 2 second Sharja Bridge in the Balmoral Handicap and Baltic Baron, a yard debutant in the colours of stable star Lord Glitters after arriving from Andre Fabre.
Seldom does a week go by where Masham Star does not grace the track for Mark Johnston and he is turned out quickly again after finishing a respectable fourth to Gossiping at Epsom last week.
Sylvester Kirk ruled the roost with a treble at Ascot three weeks ago, which included premier fillies' handicap heroine Bubble And Squeak, and she bids to follow up as she faces the boys.
The field is completed by last year's Hunt Cup third Circus Couture, Bless Him for David Simcock, the Andrew Balding-trained Max Zorin and Mutafani, who represents Simon Crisford.
What do the stats say? Danny Tudhope is operating at a 25 per cent strike-rate over the past fortnight and takes the ride on Escobar.
Masham Star is 9lb lower than when making his seasonal bow behind Auxerre in the Lincoln at Doncaster.
Circus Couture is fitted with first-time blinkers and is 9lb lower than when third to Settle For Bay in the Hunt Cup last season.
Jason Watson and Sylvester Kirk have a 27 per cent strike-rate when teaming up and combine with Bubble And Squeak.
What do the trainers say? David O'Meara, trainer of Escobar and Baltic Baron Escobar is a very good horse when he gets his conditions. His second in the Balmoral behind Sharja Bridge at the end of last season reads very well and he's in good form. Any rain that arrives would be a bit of a negative to him. Baltic Baron makes his first run for us since arriving from France. He's a nice horse so we're looking forward to seeing what he can do.
Jane Chapple-Hyam, trainer of Circus Couture He's trained well and ran in this race last year as a stepping stone to the Hunt Cup. We're taking the same path this year with Ascot again the aim.
Charlie Johnston, assistant trainer of Masham Star He seems to run every week at the moment! In fairness, he had quite a tough trip out a bit wide at Epsom the other day but still ran a good, solid race. The trip, track and conditions should all suit and he'll run his race as he always does.
What do our tipsters say? Spotlight verdict: Andrew Sheret Mutafani is one of those furthest out of the weights but could still be worth siding with as he left the firm impression he needed the run on his York reappearance and his ready defeats of some useful sorts in novice events last term suggest he could still make up into a smart handicapper.