Talking Horses: Flat is back but does the Nell Gwyn Stakes still offer a pointer?

The Flat season gets serious as the Nell Gwyn Stakes takes centre stage at Newmarket. Photograph: Steven Cargill/

It is nearly four weeks since the first thoroughbred set foot on a turf racecourse in 2018 and Addeybb bolted up in the Lincoln Handicap, but this, at last, is the day when the Flat season gets serious. The ITV cameras will be in attendance for the last two afternoons of the Craven meeting – starting today as the Nell Gwyn Stakes, the first significant trial for the 1,000 Guineas next month – takes centre stage.

It is now a dozen years since Speciosa took this race and went on to follow up in the Classic, and a less auspicious pattern has become the norm in recent years: win the Nell Gwyn, unsighted in the Guineas, as often as not behind a runner from the Aidan O’Brien stable that is making its seasonal debut. Daban, who was John Gosden’s second consecutive winner 12 months ago, did at least make the frame behind Winter, but overall, the trial winners have just been making up the numbers.

Mark Johnston’s Threading, last year’s Lowther Stakes winner, is the narrow favourite this morning, and she also represents the form of the Cheveley Park Stakes, in which she finished seventh behind Clemmie, who now seems unlikely to make it to the Classic. Nyaleti, another Johnston runner, finished ninth behind Laurens and September in the Fillies’ Mile last season but was disappointing on her seasonal return at Newcastle and it could be that a less-exposed runner will take the spoils today.

If so, Altyn Orda (3.35) is the obvious candidate. Roger Varian’s filly ran second in two maidens in August and September and set off at 25-1 for the Oh So Sharp Stakes in October but showed considerable improvement to win by a neck in a useful time. At around 9-2, she looks the value bet to win this afternoon.

Deauville (3.00) should make his class tell in the Earl Of Sefton Stakes earlier on the card, while Aeolus (1.50) could go well in the opener. There are big fields at Cheltenham’s April meeting where Diable De Sivola (3.15) and Buckle Street (4.25) both catch the eye, while Bird For Life (6.45) and Sayesse (8.15) both have live chances on the evening card at Kempton Park

Cheltenham 2.05 Silver Kayf 2.40 Shantou Village 3.15 Diable De Sivola 3.50 Baden 4.25 Buckle Street 5.00 Lovely Job 5.30 Capitaine

Kempton Park 5.45 Arthur's Spirit 6.15 Reverberation 6.45 Bird For Life (nb) 7.15 Il Primo Sole 7.45 Barton Mills 8.15 Sayesse 8.45 Soghan 9.15 Ubla

Newmarket 1.50 Aeolus 2.25 Snazzy Jazzy 3.00 Deauville 3.35 Altyn Orda (nap) 4.10 Hard Forest 4.45 Qazyna 5.20 Sea Of Class 5.55 Old Persian