Neither of our selections in last week’s Gp2 Hungerford Stakes got a run in a contest that cut up badly due to ground conditions. As the race was won in a time only four seconds slower than standard the going can’t have been that bad, so perhaps some were over hasty in withdrawing their runners. Having said that the winner, Adday, won in taking fashion, and may well progress to win at the top level. Hopefully there won’t be any dramatic changes to the York surface resulting in a similar mass withdrawal from Saturday’s feature, The Ebor Handicap.
Aidan O’Brien provides the favourite for this year’s renewal with his 3yo Galileo colt Fields Of Athenry, and judging by his last two runs deserves his position as market leader. He didn’t make his racecourse debut until last October, where he finished seventh in a seven furlong Cork maiden. He reappeared on the all weather at Dundalk in May and duly won an 11f maiden easily. Given a rating of 99 and conceding 22lbs to the winner he was beaten 1L in a valuable Down Royal handicap over 1m4f. He started joint favourite for a 1m6f listed race at Leopardstown four weeks later and won impressively, beating the useful Dermot Weld trained filly, and joint favourite, Silwana by ten lengths. Dropped back to 1m4f for a Gp3 three weeks later, he put another useful Weld inmate, the progressive Edelpour to the sword. Three year olds don’t figure in recent renewals of this great handicap, being unexposed they fail to get sufficient weight to qualify, but it is worth noting that O’Brien is the one trainer to have bucked this trend. He handled the last three year old winner, Mediterranean, in 2001,and went close with Changingoftheguard, (2009) the last of the classic generation to get a run in the race. Fields Of Athenry looks a highly progressive animal who will be particularly well suited by Saturday’s trip, and despite his burden of 9st7lbs is short listed.
Tony Martins 6yo gelding Quick Jack showed plenty of pace when winning The Galway Hurdle three weeks ago, and will be well served by, what is likely to be a strongly run race, here on the Knavesmire. He was beaten only 3/4L by the subsequent Ascot Gold Cup winner, Trip to Paris, to whom he was conceding 6lbs, in this year’s Chester Cup. As he went down by a similar distance in last year’s Caesarawich it may be that he has not been quite getting home over these extreme distances and could be suited by Saturday’s trip. A slight reservation would be the poor record of horses older than five but coming from this yard it would be no surprise to see him involved at the business end.
Amanda Perrett, who won with Give The Slip in 2000, and whose father, Guy Harwood won it twice in the eighty’s, fields a likely type in the 4yo Sea The Stars colt, Astronereus. He ran two fine races over 1m4f this year at Newmarket and Royal Ascot, but it was his performance over course and distance in July that really catches the eye. Racing off a mark of 102 he was headed inside the final furlong, but digging deep, he was actually going away at the finish. Last time at Goodwood, (1m6f) a course that doesn’t suit him, he finished a very satisfactory third, beaten a couple of necks, again finding plenty at the finish of a mark of 107. This thoroughly genuine horse would be a most deserving winner if managing to defy the same mark at the weekend, and is another for the shortlist.
Hughie Morrison’s 4yo gelding, Fun Mac has been given an easy time of it since his gallant defeat by Clondaw Warrior at Royal Ascot. He was outstayed by the Mullins horse over the extreme 2 1/2 mile trip going down by 1/2L, and is now 4lbs better off. As Clondaw Warrior went on to collect a valuable 1m4f at Galway off a 7lbs higher mark the form looks good, so expect a top showing from the Morrison horse, who will be well suited by Saturday’s trip.
Luca Cummani’s 5yo Dubawi gelding, Ajman ran well on his first attempt at the trip when finishing a nose behind Astronereus in the Goodwood race. Despite not getting the run of the race he was staying on well at the finish. As he meets the Perrett horse on similar terms on the Knavesmire we can expect it to be close between them, but perhaps Astronereus’ course form may prove decisive.
Selection: Fields Of Athenry