Balding’s Aztec Empire handed handicap debut in hot Southwell contest

A busy eight-race card at Southwell is the main focus of attention on Sky Sports Racing on Thursday, all live from 1.20pm.

3.25 Southwell – Aztec Empire takes on Gumball & Evania in feature

The feature BetUK’s Acca Club 5 Free Bet Apprentice Handicap (3.25) has attracted a strong field of nine for the mile-and-a-half contest.

Likely favourite Aztec Empire is a lightly-raced four-year-old making a handicap debut for trainer Andrew Balding off what could be a lenient mark of 86 after scoring on his third start at Kempton last month.

A son of Sea The Stars, he was impressive on that occasion and was only narrowly headed over this course and distance two starts back, so looks the one to beat.

Evania won her first two starts on the track – albeit 629 days apart – before finishing down the field in eighth in the Listed Churchill Stakes at Lingfield in November.

She now drops in class for Kevin Phillipart de Foy and Mark Winn and goes back up in trip.

Popular grey Gumball tops the weights for Fergal O’Brien as he switches back to the flat having finished runner-up over fences at Ludlow in December.

Evania wins The Ladbrokes Watch Racing Online For Free Novice Stakes at Lingfield
Image: Evania wins The Ladbrokes Watch Racing Online For Free Novice Stakes at Lingfield

1.50 Southwell – Recent winner My Genghis tops 11 runners

A field of 11 line up for the Huge Daily Boosts Only At BetUK Handicap (1.50) where Tony Carroll’s My Genghis will head the market under Kevin Stott.

The four-year-old got off the mark over five furlongs at Wolverhampton on his last start and bids to follow up upped in trip.

Several look to hold some sort of chance including Em Jay Kay and Dark Shot. The former is trained by Phil McEntee with Josephine Gordon in the plate. He has been in great form of late finishing in the first three on his last four outings and bids for a second career success.

Dark Shot is a ten-year-old now but has course and distance form to his name and has dropped another few pounds in the weights.

4.00 Southwell – Course and distance winner Written Broadcast faces Little Gem

Written Broadcast ended a frustrating run of three consecutive runner-up efforts with victory over this seven furlong trip last month and returns from a 1lb higher mark to top the weights in the Spreadex Sports Get 40 In Bonuses Classified Stakes (4.00).

Little Gem has run with credit since joining Mark Weatherer and will hope to go one better than her second at Wolverhampton 14 days ago.

Stuart William’s Lord Cherry is still a maiden after eight starts but showed bits of promise in finishing second at Yarmouth and Kempton in June and a return to that form could see him feature.

Thursday racecards | Latest Sky Bet odds

Watch every race from Southwell live on Sky Sports Racing on Thursday, February 2.