Early Morning can defy a steep hike in the ratings to claim the Stella Artois Handicap at Ascot.
Harry Dunlop’s four-year-old has been thoroughly consistent throughout his career with the fifth place he notched on his racecourse bow back in 2013 the only occasion he has finished out of the first four.
While he has regularly hit the frame, Early Morning has just two wins to his credit in nine starts, with his first victory coming at Kempton back in April of this year.
A couple of subsequent placed efforts showed he was more than capable off his new mark in the late 80s and lining up off 89 at Haydock last time out, Early Morning eventually got his head in front again.
He saw off Manchestar by just over two lengths over a mile that day, but the winning margin does not really do him justice as he could be called the winner a fair way from home and was eased down at the line.
That effort has not escaped the notice of the handicapper who raised him 11lb to a mark of 100 and while that new perch obviously presents a much stiffer task, Early Morning still appears to be on an upward curve and can rise to the challenge.
Steel Train has all the hallmarks of a typical David O’Meara improver as he lines up in the Betfred “Text IJF To 78000 To Donate £5” Handicap at Haydock.
Formerly trained in France, the four-year-old changed hands for just 9,500 euros last November but did not surface until Doncaster in May, where he got a good sighter before scoring at Thirsk later that month.
Steel Train has had just two starts since then with a disappointing performance at Doncaster in June firmly consigned to the past as he returned to action with a fair second at Thirsk last month.
The Zafeen gelding should strip fitter for that run and O’Meara has a real skill of ekeing out further improvement from this type of animal.
* Selections -
Ascot: 2.10 Yeah Baby Yeah, 2.40 Milady, 3.10 Mediation, 3.45 Richard Of Yorke, 4.20 EARLY MORNING (NAP), 4.55 Franklin D.
Haydock: 1.30 Sister Dude, 2.00 Highway Lass, 2.30 Jadaayil, 3.00 Maybe Definitely, 3.35 Thorntoun Lady, 4.10 Steel Train, 4.40 Think Ahead, 5.10 Sleep Easy.
Kempton: 5.55 Fleckerl, 6.25 Kasseopia, 6.55 Silent Attack, 7.25 Sun’Aq, 7.55 Landwade Lad, 8.25 Guard Of Honour, 8.55 Duffel.
Musselburgh: 4.45 Top Of The Rocks, 5.15 I’ll Be Good, 5.45 Billy Ranger, 6.15 Dark Crystal, 6.45 Invoke, 7.15 Slipper Satin, 7.45 Ya Boy Sir.
Newcastle: 1.20 Croft Ranger, 1.50 Spanish City, 2.20 Grand Beauty, 2.50 Dalby Spook, 3.25 Real Smart, 4.00 Morocco, 4.30 Jebel Tara, 5.00 Blue Jacket.
Double: Early Morning and Steel Train.