German-Thoroughbred.com Sweet Solera Stakes 2yo Fillies 7f Group3

newmarket july course viewNewmarket July Course –  Saturday

The race is named after the unfashionably bred Sweet Solera, who won the 1000gns and Epsom Oaks in 1961, and became Timeform’s top rated filly of the year. Irish bred, she was foaled in the Emerald Isle in 1958, but we have yet to see a filly that hails from her country of birth win the race named in her honour, a situation that Irish trainers, Jessica Harrington and Joseph O’Brien will be keen to correct at the weekend.

Jessica Harrington
Moone
Photo: Patrick McCann 24.02.2017Jessica runs the daughter of Poets Voice, One Voice, and she certainly looked capable of further progress when winning a 7f Leopardstown Maiden by 3L 16 days ago, on only her 2nd racecourse appearance. She beat the debutant Auxillia who went on to win her next race by 5L, and while there is nothing special about the form as it stands, Jessica’s contender, is a nicely bred filly, by the highly promising young Stallion, Poets Voice, who sadly died last year. Mrs Harrington, now in her seventies is still a superb trainer and if her filly takes up Saturday’s engagement, (also entered at The Curragh on Friday) is well worth considering.

Joseph O’Brien is no mug either and his contender, Unforgetable, ran a solid race 16 days ago to finish 2nd in a Leopardstown Group3. She was beaten 3 1/2L by his fathers filly, Love, but there was no disgrace in that, as the daughter of Galileo had won her previous race, and may prove to be yet another high flyer from The Ballydoyle Academy. Back in 4th at Leopardstown was the 2/1 favourite, Precious Moments, who had run well in the Group3 Albany Stakes at Royal Ascot and finished a close 2nd in a Curragh Group2, giving plenty of substance to the form.

The Richard Hannon trained daughter of Invincible Spirit, Cloak Of Spirits, made a very pleasing racecourse debut 15 days ago, when winning a Fillies Novices Stakes at Ascot. She won by 3 1/2L despite running a little green, but a word of caution as the well backed favourite, Dubai Paradise, was leading at the 2f marker when weakening quickly and was eased right down.

charlie appleby lincolnThe Charlie Appleby trained daughter of Kodiac, Light Blush, made a winning debut over Saturday’s course and distance, (July13 Good-Firm) And was sent off favourite for a Sandown Listed race 12 days later. In a heat where Frankie Dettori, riding Saturday’s opponent, Walk In Marrakesh, was able to dictate things from the front, the Italian Maestro got first run, and managed to cling on from the closing Light Blush by 1/2L, with another of Saturday’s contenders, West End Girl, a further 1 1/2L back in 4th. It is quite possible that the Sandown form can be reversed, ( West End Girl was also keeping on when not getting a clear run and was hampered inside the final 60 yards). It’s worth noting that Light Blush is out of the Listed winning mare, Marsh Daisy, who’s best form was all on soft ground so if it does come up on the easy side at the weekend, confidence would be increased.

Despite losing 4L at the start, the Ed Vaughan trained Ultra Violet made a stunning start to her career, hacking up by 8L in a 6f Maiden Fillies Stakes over Saturday’s course 7 weeks ago. The form hasn’t really been franked and the time was ordinary, but she couldn’t have been more impressive, and being by the highly successful dual 2000Gns winner Gleneagles out of a mare that stayed 10f the trip on Saturday can evince further improvement.

It is 27 years since Sir Michael Stoute last won The Sweet Solera but runs a likely looking type in the Sir Evelyn De Rothschild owned and bred Soffika. By the miler, Zoffany, she has won her only start, a 6f Fillies Novices Stakes at Pontefract with a minimum of fuss and as a half sister to Dubka, (also trained by Sir Michael and stayed 14f) she will be well suited by further. Improvement will be required but with these connections it won’t come as a great surprise if it’s forthcoming.

Selection : Light Blush

EW.           : unforgetable if abs, Soffika

John Gray

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Unibet Stewards’ Cup Class2 Handicap 6f Goodwood Saturday

goodwood guruWith a maximum field of 28 runners, charging down Goodwood’s tricky undulations, one could be forgiven for thinking that The Stewards’ Cup is the ultimate “Pin Job” but rather surprisingly, winner finding hasn’t been impossible, as indicated by the fact that 15 of the last 20 victors have been returned at odds of 14/1 or less, and one currently trading at around those odds is the David Baron trained, Gunmetal.

A 6yo son of Clodovil, he has won 6 of his 24 starts and was quite impressive when winning the 20 runner Great St Wilfrid Handicap over Ripons’ undulations last August, where he had Saturday’s opponent, Growl (placed in The Stewards’ for the last 3 years) 2 3/4L back in 3rd. He ran a decent race last time, finishing 6/26 in The Wokingham Handicap at Royal Ascot off Saturday’s mark of 103, but does appear to have it all to do off a mark that is 6lbs higher than he has ever won from in the past. However, he should be well suited by a race like The Stewards, and his talented trainer has won this twice, albeit back in the Nineties.

The Declan Carroll trained Justanotherbottle was only caught in the shadow of the post in last year’s renewal when losing out by the shortest of short heads to Gifted Master, and thanks to some judicious placing of the 5yo, he gets into Saturday’s contest on a 4lbs lower mark. Declan, who trains at Malton, wouldn’t be the best known of the Yorkshire trainers but plenty from this neck of the woods have landed The Stewards’ in the past, and he is certainly going to war with a well handicapped horse.

Newmarket handler, Roger Varian has never won Saturday’s heat, but has two likely looking candidates this time in the 4yo, Flavius Titus, and the 6yo Spanish City. The former has been campaigned until this season, mostly at 7f, and his overall record is 4 wins from 14 starts, but since being dropped to 6f this term, his figures read an impressive 2/3. He won his last race, a Newmarket Class2, 8 weeks ago, in workmanlike fashion off a mark of 95, and looks nicely handicapped on a 4lbs higher mark at the weekend. Well bred, Flavius Titus is by Lethal Force, out of the mare Furbelow, which makes him a half brother to this year’s winner of the Group1 Commonwealth Cup, Advertise, and it certainly wouldn’t be the biggest surprise if he gave Roger his first Stewards Cup.

Stable companion, Spanish City was 3rd, 1 1/4L  behind his stable companion in that Newmarket race and is 3lbs better off on Saturday. He seems to be attracting plenty of interest in the markets so has to be considered, but his best form does seem to be over a furlong further.

charlie hills oddsguruCharlie Hills won with the 3yo, Magical Memory 4 years ago and will be hoping to land a second Stewards with another from the Classic generation, Khaadem. The son of Dark Angel ran well last time to finish 2nd in a Newbury Group3, 1 3/4L behind the German outsider Waldpfad, (has won at Group3 level in his home country). This was a decent performance but Saturday presents an entirely different test and unlike Magical Memory who had raced 11 times before his Goodwood success Khadeem has only had the six runs and races off a mark 5 lbs higher than his erstwhile stable companion.

The Robert Cowell trained 6yo, Raucous, has struck up a very happy partnership with the seriously upwardly mobile young apprentice, Cieren Fallon. Their record from 5 starts reads, 2/12, 2/6 6/9 4/26 1/7 and the last two are of particular interest. They finished 4th at odds of 50/1, 2L behind Cape Byron off a mark of 99 in the 26 runner Wokingham and comfortably defied a 1 pound higher mark when winning a Yarmouth Class2 24 days ago. A 6lbs penalty makes life difficult but Raucous is a Course and distance winner, Mr Cowell trained the winner 5 years ago, and young Fallons 5 lbs claim could prove invaluable.

If the rains come, Jedd O’Keeffe’s Air Raid would be one to be interested in. The 4yo son of Ravens Pass has made pretty dramatic improvement this term and is now rated 17lbs higher than he was when making his seasonal debut in May. He won Hamilton Parks Class2 Stewards Cup on soft ground 15 days ago off a mark of 95 by 1 1/4L and 1 1/4L from two 100 rated animals so doesn’t look too badly treated on 101 at the weekend. The key to him is the going and connections wouldn’t want to see the word Firm anywhere in the description.

The David O’Meara trained Summerghand made an excellent start to his season when running Flavius Titus to a neck at Newmarket in April and meets the winner on 5lbs better terms on Saturday. Both were making their seasonal debuts and the winner has
Improved since but Summerghand hasn’t gone backwards either and it could be close between them.

Selection.   : Flavius Titus

EW.              : Summerghand.  Justanotherbottle

John Gray

Moët and Chandon International Stakes Class2 Handicap 7f Ascot

ascot moetI hope many of you were on last week’s selection, Casablanca Mix, (odds of 10/1 generally available when first advised) who was one of 4 winners for Nicky Henderson’s Seven Barrows yard, landing a 103/1 accumulator. The son of Shirocco was always travelling well within himself, and when he took it up at the 3rd last the result was never in doubt. The Handicapper has raised him 8lbs which seems fair, and the 7yo is definitely one to keep on the right side of this Summer and Autumn. Saturday’s International over 7f up the straight course at Ascot, presents an entirely different challenge, but with a pot of £93,375 for the winner, and a possible field of 29 runners, we can be pretty sure that whoever wins, he or she will have earned their corn. Previous form over Ascot’s straight course is always a positive, and one with an excellent record is last year’s 3rd, Ripp Orf.

A 5yo, son of Rip Van Winkle, his record at Ascot reads, 5/26 2/15 1/20 3/27 and 1/27, a pretty impressive record for sure, but racing off the same mark as last year (92) when he finished a length behind Burnt Sugar you can’t say that he looks particularly well handicapped. However he did run well off a 3lbs higher mark when 5th in The Victoria Cup in May, and his course form has to be respected.

With rain forecast for the weekend we could see some easing of the ground which should suit David Baron’s 5yo, Kynren. Lightly raced, he has won 3 of his 14 starts but his best performance to date came when beaten a neck by the upwardly mobile,
Cape Byron, on Good-Soft ground over course and distance in The Victoria Cup in May. He ran another sound race when finishing 5/27 in the Royal Hunt Cup over a mile last time off a mark of 101 and back over 7f off the same mark on Saturday could be a potent force if getting his ground.

The Jamie Osborne trained 7yo, Raising Sand, is another who reserves his best for the Berkshire track and is 3/10 at the course. He ran a fine race when finishing 2nd in The Royal Hunt Cup last time, and is another who won’t be inconvenienced by a soft surface, but does need the Handicapper to relent a little.

kevin ryan ascotThe Kevin Ryan trained 4yo, Hey Jonesy, has done most of his racing at 6f (including at Group level) but tackling 7f for only the 2nd time in his 15 race career last time, he saw the trip out really well when beaten 1/2L by the 104 rated Marie’s Diamond to whom he was conceding 7lbs in a Haydock conditions event. A literal interpretation of the form would make his mark on Saturday of 103 look very fair and he has been rated as high as 110 in the past. He finished on the heels of the leaders (beaten 3 3/4L) in the 6f Wokingham Handicap at The Royal Meeting off a mark of 106, and it wouldn’t be the greatest surprise if his excellent trainer, who is no stranger to success at these big southern meetings, landed another.

Meeting older horses for the first time in his brief 4 race career, the 3yo Land Of Legends came through with flying colours when comfortably winning a Class2 7f Newmarket Handicap 30 days ago. By Iffraaj out of an unraced daughter of the Group 2 winning mare, Last Resort, he is well bred, and could prove to be much better than his current rating of 96. There has been plenty of interest in him in the markets, (10/1 at the time of writing) and a lightly raced 3yo like him is likely to continue to improve, but he does need 12 above him in the handicap to come out to get a run, and his lack of experience has to be against him.

The Roger Charlton trained Makzeem, was well beaten in last year’s renewal on
Good/Firm ground, but the way the 6yo quickened clear to land a Newbury Class2 on easy ground 9 days ago was impressive, and even on a 6lbs higher mark, if similar conditions prevail on Saturday, is worth a second look.

The Willie Haggas trained 3yo Fanaar surprised a few when finishing 3rd in the 28 runner Brittania Handicap at odds of 50/1, 37 days ago. He was hampered at the start of the one mile contest, and had to be switched two furlongs out to get a run, so did really well to finish 1 1/4L and 2L behind the well handicapped Biometric, and the favourite Turgenev. He has had a nice 37 day break, is another 3yo likely to be improving, and it’s worth noting that his sole success has come over 7f.

mark johnston ascotThe Mark Johnston trained 4yo, Vale Of Kent, showed that races like Saturday’s are right up his street, when landing Newmarket’s 7f Bunbury Cup a fortnight ago. Leading from the outset, Dettori got the sections exactly right, and when headed two furlongs out, the son of Kodiac battled back and stayed on well to win by 1/2L from the 4/1Fav Solar Gold in a good time. A slight concern would be his lack of form at the track but he is a half brother of the Group1 winning Vale Of York, is only 4lbs higher than Newmarket, and Ascot Maestro, Frankie, is again doing the steering.

Selection : Vale Of Kent

EW.           : Hey Jonesy.   Fanaar.

John Gray

Betway Summer Plate Handicap Chase 2m5 1/2f Market Rasen

peter bowen training

Welsh handler Peter Bowen’s record in the Plate is exceptional

With a relative dearth of top class flat racing on Saturday, we have one of the highlights of the Summer jumping season, Market Rasen’s, eponymous Plate, to get our teeth into. Some of the top yards are represented, but the first port of call has to be the Yet-Y-Rug stables, down Haverfordwest way, of Welsh Maestro, Peter Bowen, as he has won exactly 25% all the runnings of The Plate since it’s inception in 1995, a pretty remarkable achievement for a small yard operating so far from racing’s centre!
Of his 3 entries at the time of writing, last year’s Hero, More Bucks looks the most interesting.

In a heat run at its usual pillar to post gallop, the son of Presenting, jumped fluently throughout, and held on very gamely, to beat the Skelton-trained Too Many Diamonds by 1/2L, and land Peter his 6th Summer Plate. More Bucks has only caught the judges eye once in his subsequent 10 races, ( a Ludlow Class3 Chase in January) but as a result races on Saturday off a mark only 7lbs higher than last year. He showed little in his last two races, (a race on the flat at Bath and a Hurdle race at Market Rasen 13 days ago) but back in a race that suited so well last year, and coming from this yard, the 9yo has to be considered.

7yo’s have won the contest 8 times, and Warwickshire genius, Dan Skelton, will be hoping to improve that record even further with his son of Beneficial, Gortroe Joe.
He is a winner of 2 of his 5 starts over fences for the Alcester handler, including last time out, when he cruised up by 12L over Saturday’s course and distance 90 days ago. It was only a 4 runner affair, and Saturday’s 16 runner field, all racing with the choke out, will present a very different challenge, but the Skelton’s, with a win and a 2nd in the last 3 years, know what is required, and their contender is owned by that great supporter of National Hunt racing, Terry Warner.

Like many a horse before him, the 11yo, Ronava, has improved dramatically for coming under the Tutelage of Worcestershire trainer, Dr Richard Newland. He only arrived at the Claines yard a mere 54 days ago, on a mark of 117, and he is already rated 19lbs higher. The ex Irish son of Blueprint, had plied his trade in the PTP field, over hurdles, and over fences, for the meagre return of a couple of PTP victories, 3 wins over hurdles, and a single chase victory in a 7 year career. Since joining the good doctor, the veteran has won two of his three starts, and was pretty impressive at Hexham last time, winning by an eased down 8L off a mark of 124. He has to cope with a hefty 12lbs rise at the weekend, and would be only the third 11yo to win the contest, but in the hands of Dr Newland, who won with Bobowen 6 years ago, nothing seems impossible.

nicky henderson oddsguruSomewhat surprisingly, Nicky Henderson still awaits a first victory in the Market Rasen feature, but with 3 contenders this year, Theinval, Pacific De Baune, and Casablanca Mix, he looks to be determined to fill the gap in his outstanding CV.  Theinval finished 3rd three years ago as a 6yo, when despite travelling well throughout, he didn’t seem to quite get home, and was beaten 11L. Indeed the rest of his career would suggest that 2m4f is the limit of his stamina so Nicky’s best chance of bringing the prize back to Seven Barrows would seem to lie with one of the other two.

Pacific De Baune is a 6yo son of that good dual purpose French stallion, Al Namix,
(sire of Petit Mouchoir and Saphir Du Rheu amongst many other good horses) and has won 2 of his 4 starts over fences. He showed last time that his recent wind operation had been a success, when comfortably winning a Class2 Newton Abbot Handicap off a mark of 142 from that good yardstick, Wait For Me by 3 1/2L, which makes Saturday’s mark of 149 look fair. A slight concern would be  Pacific De Baune’s lack of experience in a race like The Plate, but he looked a sound jumper in his last 2 races and put in a near flawless round over Warwicks tricky circuit last November.

The 3rd contender from Seven Barrows is the ex French 7yo Casablanca Mix, and he is 2/9 over fences since joining the Lambourn genius in April 2017. He looked well worth his rating of 142 for Saturday when winning an Aintree Class3 Handicap 64 days ago off a mark of 138, and could be well suited by Saturday’s race. All his best efforts have come on flat tracks, and he has looked particularly well suited by a right handed circuit. He has won and been placed twice at Huntingdon, where he gave the now 152 rated
Willoughby Court a fright in 2017, and didn’t quite see out the 3miles trip when failing by only 1/2L to win a Class1 Listed Chase here at Market Rasen last November. Back over a more suitable trip and with Nico De Boinville doing the steering, he could be the one to fill in that gap in the Master of Seven Barrows CV.

Selection  : Casablanca Mix

EW          : Gortroe Joe

John Gray

Darley July Cup Stakes Group1 6f Newmarket (July Course)

vincent obrien guruThe immortal Vincent O’Brien (pictured), won Saturday’s feature a record equalling 5 times, and his successor at Ballydoyle, the eponymous Aidan, (no relation) will be hoping that one of his contenders at the weekend can land The July Cup, enabling him to join his illustrious predecessor, with win number 5 in the event. Aidan, who won last year’s renewal with the 3yo, US Navy Flag, is mob handed at the time of writing, but his best chance of landing a fifth success would seem to lie with either, Ten Sovereigns or the filly, Fairyland.

The former, a son of the top sprinter, No Nay Never, was unbeaten in his 3 races as a 2yo and and rounded off his juvenile career with a splendid victory in Newmarket’s Group1 Middle Park Stakes. Sent off the 9/4Fav for The 2000Guineas he didn’t stay and finished 5th, 4 3/4L behind stable companion, Magna Grecia. He reverted to 6f last time for Royal Ascot’s Commonwealth Cup where he started favourite but could only finish 4th, 2 1/2L behind Saturday’s opponent Advertise. There didn’t seem to be any excuses that day, but it was the softest ground he had raced on and back on a firmer surface (won The Middle Park on Good/Firm) it could be closer between them.

The 3yo filly Fairyland (pictured below cost £925,000 as a yearling) won 4 of her 5 starts at 2, including The Marble Hill Stakes at The Curragh, York’s Group2 Lowther Stakes and Newmarket’s Group1 Chevely Park Stakes, all on Good/Firm ground over 6f. fairyland fillyShe didn’t seem to get home in either the English or Irish 1000Guineas and reverted to 5f for Royal Ascot’s King’s Stand Stakes last time. Starting at 16/1 she ran well enough to finish 5th but probably found the trip too sharp. By that strong influence for speed, Kodiac, she is out of an unraced daughter of that speedy mare, Land Of Dreams, (won Doncaster’s 5f speed test, the Group2 Flying Childers, and is the dam of the triple Group1 winning speedster, Dream Ahead) and it won’t come as the greatest surprise if  Fairyland should emulate those two outstanding 3yo Fillies, Marwell And Habibti, who landed the spoils back in the eighties.

Sir Michael Stoute is seeking his 4th win in the race and current market leader,
Dream Of Dreams must have serious prospects of providing it. michael stoute darleyThe 5yo son of
Dream Ahead has looked a much improved performer this term, landing 2 conditions races, at Chelmsford and Windsor, before putting in a career best effort last time when failing by a fast diminishing head to catch Blue Point, (now retired) in Royal Ascot’s Group1 Diamond Jubilee. Indeed he would have landed the spoils in another few strides and is definitely worth his new rating of 120, 9lbs higher than his previous best. Despite a poor performance in his only other race over the course, (10/11 nearly two years ago following a break) he will be difficult to beat.

Top handler, Roger Varian has yet to get his name on the roll of honour, but the way his son of Shamardal, Cape Byron, demolished a field of 26 handicappers to win The Wokingham at the Royal meeting last time it may not take too long. Campaigned at 7f and above, it was his first attempt at Saturday’s trip in his 13 race career, and the way he cruised into the lead a furlong out and went on to win so comfortably, connections must have been asking themselves why it had taken them so long to work out that 6f is clearly the 5yo’s trip. Saturday presents a different challenge with the step up to Group1 Class, but now that he has found his optimum distance he could well be up to it.

The Martyn Meade trained 3yo Advertise won 3 of his 5 starts at 2 including the Group1 Phoenix Stakes at The Curragh, his only defeats coming, when out stayed by Too Darn Hot over 7f in The Dewhurst, and when racing on the wrong side in The Coventry, he was beaten a length by the talented Calyx.

trainer martyn meade

Newmarket handler Meade saddles Advertise

He failed to stay in The 2000Guineas but showed that sprinting is definitely his game when comfortably landing The Commonwealth Cup last time and the son of Showcasing must have excellent prospects of maintaining the good recent record of the Classic generation,
(have won 3 of the last 4 runnings).

Despite an honourable 2nd in The Irish 1000Guineas, the filly Pretty Pollyanna, has failed to stay in her last three races, all over a mile, and she now reverts to 6f, a trip she had top class form over as a 2yo. She won Newmarket’s Group2 July Stakes over course and distance by an impressive 7L from Angel’s Hideaway, collected Deauville’s Group1 Prix Morny against the boys, and finished 4th, 1 3/4L behind Fairyland in The Chevely Park. Her excellent trainer, Michael Bell is in top form, and the daughter of Oasis Dream could get involved at a nice price.

Selection   : Dream Of Dreams

EW.             : Fairyland

John Gray

Dubai Duty Free Irish Derby (Group1) 1mile 4 furlongs Curragh

the curragh oddsguruVarious versions of The Irish Derby have been run on The Curragh since 1817, but it only assumed it’s present format in 1872. It remained a pretty local affair until 1962 when The Irish Hospital’s Sweepstake took up sponsorship of the event and virtually overnight became one of the major heats in the international racing calendar. The standout statistic in the race is undoubtedly Aidan O’Brien’s 12 victories (starting with
Desert King in 1997) a truly fantastic record, but spare a thought for Curragh trainer, Dermot Weld who with considerably less ammunition at his disposal has landed the prize 3 times, (last win Harzand 2015) and he goes to war this time with the beautifully bred Rakan.

irish hospitals sweepstakeHe is by the 2009 Derby winner, Sea The Stars, out of the top class mare, Tarfasha who besides winning at Group2 level finished 2nd to Taghrooda in the 2014 Oaks, and her half brother, Galileo Light, finished 2nd in the 2013 Irish Derby, and 3rd in
The Doncaster St Leger, a pretty impressive pedigree guaranteeing, if nothing else, that Rakan won’t fail for lack of stamina. Indeed it was only when stepped up to 12f last time that he showed his true colours, winning by 3/4L from last week’s Royal Ascot runner up Barbados, (beaten 1/2L in the Group2 Queen’s Vase). He runs in the same colours as Sheik Hamdan’s other runner, the better fancied, Mahdmoon, but I’m pretty sure he isn’t running just to make up the numbers.

The Derby Hero, Anthony Van Dyck, (Oddsguru’s selection) and stable companion,
Broome, who finished 4th at Epsom, 3/4L behind the winner do look the best of the Ballydoyle runners, and Ryan Moore, who needs a win in The Irish Derby to complete a clean sweep of all the English and Irish Classics will be hoping he picks the right mount this time, (rode the 5th home, Dragonet, at Epsom).

anthony van dyck horseAnthony Van Dyck (pictured), is by Galileo, out of the Exceed And Excel mare, Believe N’Succeed, whose best previous offspring is the talented Australian sprinter Bounding, so connections must have been relieved when he demonstrated stamina aplenty, to win the Lingfield Derby Trial on soft ground. He had to call on similar reserves when winning The Derby, and like most of the best horses, he seems to handle any ground. It  will come as quite a surprise if Ryan isn’t aboard this time, and he should confirm his superiority over Broome.

Whether that superiority is confirmed over the Epsom runner up, Madhmoon, though, is certainly open to conjecture. He was only beaten 1/2L and one has to wonder how much his chance was compromised when he clipped heels and stumbled 4 furlongs out. He did really well to regain his balance on Epsom’s difficult camber and battled on with great reseloution to pip the impressive winner of last week’s Hardwicke Stakes at Royal Ascot, Japan, for 2nd Place. Veteran handler, Kevin Prendergast, has won 7 Classics on the Curragh but unlike his famous Dad, “Darkie” who won the Irish Derby on 4 occasions has yet to score in Ireland’s premier Classic. There would certainly be no more popular winner if Madhmoon does manage to bring home the bacon.

That other veteran on the Irish Racing scene, Jim Bolger, has won two Derby’s on the Curragh in his stellar career and certainly won’t be without hope of landing a third when his son of Teofilo, Guaranteed, goes to post on Saturday. Campaigned mostly around a mile he showed his best form to date when beating the 111 rated 7yo,
River Light over 10f at The Curragh 22 days ago. There are mixed messages from his pedigree as his dam, Gearani, who was pretty useless on the racecourse, has produced 3 decent offspring all of whom have been best at distances short of 12f but his sire, Teofilo, (trained by Jim) gets plenty of middle distance winners including Mr Bolger’s winner of the 2013 renewal of Saturday’s contest, Trading Leather. Guaranteed needs to improve but there are indications in his pedigree that the step up in distance might well bring about a serious step forward.

Selection.   : Anthony Van Dyck

EW.              : Rakan

John Gray

Diamond Jubilee Stakes Preview (Group1) 6f Ascot Saturday

andre fabre sheikh

French maestro Andre Fabre and Sheikh Mohammed have a fine chance with Inns of Court

First run in 1868, the contest achieved its Group1 status in 2002 and is the last top level event in what I hope has proved to be a successful week for the punting fraternity. Since it’s elevation to Group1 status, two trainers, James Fanshawe and Aidan O’Brien have hit the target twice, and the former will be hoping his 2017 winner, The Tin Man, can go in again.

Now seven, the son of Equiano has been a marvellous servant to connections, winning 9 of his 22 starts, 3 of them at the top level, and netting nearly £1.2 million pounds in prize money. He showed that he was still capable of doing it at the top when winning Haydock’s Group1 Sprint Cup last September (6f Heavy) keeping on strongly to beat Brando by a length. He has an excellent record at Ascot, winning 3 of his 8 races over Saturday’s course and distance and despite a troubled passage in last year’s renewal (Good/Firm) ran an excellent race to finish 4th, 1 1/4L behind the winner, Merchant Navy. He had a nice pipe opener (3rd, 6f Good Windsor) 5 weeks ago and with his talented trainer in form is one to be interested in, particularly if he gets his preferred soft ground.

james tate trainer

James Tate saddles Invincible Army

 

Another who will handle soft ground is the current market leader, Invincible Army. Trained by James Tate, the 4yo colt had a moderate strike rate of 3/11 in his first two seasons, but has a 100% record from his two runs this term, including an impressive win on the Knavesmire last time, winning The Group2, Duke Of York Stakes by a very comfortable 2 1/2L from the useful Major Jumbo. Testing conditions shouldn’t be a problem as he won over Saturday’s course and distance on soft ground when taking  the Group3 Pavillion Stakes on his 3yo debut from the now 110 rated Eqtidaar, and was a good second in the 5f Molecombe Stakes as a 2yo in similar conditions. He is by the excellent stallion Invincible Spirit out of the Group1 winning mare, Rajeem, and like his sire, looks a real tough type, and deserves his place at the top of the market.

Having landed The Kings Stand Stakes over 5f with Blue Point, Godolphin will be hoping for further Group1 sprinting success with either Tuesday’s winner, or their French trained Inns Of Court. I’ve no doubt that Blue Point would be at least as well suited by Saturday’s extra furlong and if turning out again would have to be seriously considered, but the Andre Fabre trained Inns Of Court has also plenty to recommend him. Another son of Invincible Spirit, the 5yo has won 7 of his 17 starts and showed that he has speed to burn when cruising up in Group3 Chantilly heat over the minimum distance 20 days ago winning by 2 1/2L and 1/2L from Sestilio and Major Jumbo in a fast time. Considering that he has lost out by only a Short Head in two Group1s at a mile and seven furlongs, this was a pretty remarkable performance. His breeding also wouldn’t suggest that he should possess such speed as the distaff side of his pedigree is all about stamina. His dam, Learned Friend, failed to win any of her 3 starts but is a daughter of the middle distance mare, Lune D’Or, dam of the Japanese Group1 winning two miler Fierement, and Inns Of Court’s half brother, Age Of Wisdom, has won over 2miles on the flat and 2 1/2miles over hurdles. Wherever his speed comes from, he has it in abundance and he will be a potent threat to all on Saturday.

Wesley Ward won this for the US in 2015 and will be hoping that last year’s 3rd,
Bound For Nowhere can go two places better this time. The 5yo entire has continued to thrive and was just pipped by Imprimis, (6th in The Kings Stand on Tuesday) on his reappearance in a Keeneland Group2 11 weeks ago. He raced alone in last year’s renewal and was only beaten 3/4L so given some company may do better.

Last year’s runner up, the French trained City Light may have been a little unlucky as he lost ground at the start with an awkward stalls exit and was only beaten a Short Head. The son of Siyouni made a satisfactory seasonal debut when going down by 1/2L to Inns Of Court, (also making his seasonal debut) in a 6f Listed race at
Maisons-Laffitte 8 weeks ago which puts him firmly in the mix.

The Richard Fahey trained 4yo colt, Sands Of Mali ran the race of his career when landing the Group1 Champions Sprint Stakes over course and distance on soft ground last October. He also ran a great race to finish 2nd, 1/2L behind Eqtidaar in last year’s Group1 Commonwealth Cup On much faster ground, again over course and distance. He had an abortive trip to Meydan in March, but had a satisfactory pipe opener (3rd, 4 3/4L behind Brando) at Hamilton 16 days ago, and back at Ascot, where he has done so well, it wouldn’t be the greatest surprise to see him play a very prominent part.

Selection. :   Inns Of Court      Danger : Invincible Army
EW.            :      Sands Of Mali

John Gray