Al Shaqab Lockinge Stakes Group1 1m (Str) Newbury Saturday
Since the race was elevated to the top level in 1995 some strong trends have been evident, not least the dominance of four year olds. They have won thirteen of the twenty renewals, with five year old’s collecting five times, and six year olds twice. Winning form at the top level has also been most significant, with sixteen of the twenty victors boasting a Group1 victory. Considering how few fillies or mares have contested the race their record is quite impressive, with three wins in the last twelve years, so their two representatives Amazing Maria, and Euro Charline are of interest.
Amazing Maria won a Group3 at Goodwood for previous trainer Ed Dunlop, but since her owner, Sir Robert Ogden, transferred her to David O’Meara at the end of her three year old career, her progress has been phenomenal. Having won the Group2 Prince of Cambridge Stakes at Royal Ascot, in June last year, she became her hugely talented trainer’s first Group1 success the following month at Newmarket. She followed up three weeks later with further top level success at Deauville. Her last race of the season was disappointing, finishing 10L seventh, on yielding ground at Leopardstown, but she seemed to be back on track on her reappearance at Newmarket three weeks ago. She finished third over 9f, probably not aided by the extended trip, so given good ground or better at the weekend she must have a serious chance.
Euro Charline has been enjoying the Dubai sunshine, and collected some very nice prize money in her last race there, when finishing 1/2L behind Real Steel in a Group1 contest over 9f, worth nearly two and a half million pounds. She was running on strongly at Meydan and probably now, needs further than Saturday’s mile to show her best.
Limato is one of the current market leaders, but was slightly disappointing in his last race, a 7f Group1 contest at Longchamp on October 4th. Slow to break, he was held up by Ryan Moore, but when asked to close couldn’t get to the winner, hanging left under pressure inside the final furlong. He had previously looked at Doncaster, when winning easily over 7f, as if the step up to a mile would suit, but to this observer the jury is still out.
Roger Varian’s (pictured above) 4yo Belardo looked a really impressive animal when winning the 2014 Dewhurst as a 2yo, but was most disappointing in his 3yo campaign, until getting his act together in the Group1 Queen Elizabeth11 stakes last October, where he finished second, 3/4L behind the winner Solow. He won a listed race easily on reappearing at the beginning of April, and was sent off the favourite for a Group2 at Sandown three weeks later, but could only finish 4th, behind Toormore, Dutch Connection, and Breton Rocks. “3lbs worse off with Toormore on Saturday he does seem to have a mountain to climb now. However the Sandown race may not be that reliable as the pacemaker Barchan didn’t set fast enough a pace, and James Doyle gave Belardo too much to do. He was at least a dozen lengths off the winner turning in. The memory of his scintillating victory in the Dewhurst still lingers, and if in that form is going to make them all go.
Following a recent sale, the 4yo Dutch Connection is now racing, like Belardo, under the Godolphin banner, and he did seem to get the mile well enough at Sandown. However he has now had four attempts at the trip without hitting the back of the net and I suspect is likely to be found wanting again at the weekend.
According to handler Clive Cox his 4yo Kodi Bear is lucky to have survived a horrendous infection, acquired after a knee injury sustained last Spring. He was a revelation, only weeks after this traumatic illness, when winning a Windsor listed race in June, (1m1/2f) followed by a Group3 at Salisbury in August, and a Group2 the same month at Goodwood. He disappointed in the Queen Elizabeth11, where he ran too freely, but after his trials and tribulations earlier in the season, is easily forgiven. His talented trainer reports him in fine fettle for his reappearance and is shortlisted.
Richard Hannon’s Toormore is towards the head of the market and showed his wellbeing with that win at Sandown. However the 5yo’s lack of success at the top level, since his Group1 victory at The Curragh in 2013 is a concern, and I feel that he may come up short again.
There has been some support for his stable companion, Estidhkaar, and it would be no surprise to see him play a prominent role. He looked top class when winning the 7f Group2 Champagne stakes at Doncaster in September 2014, and was sent off favourite for the Dewhurst five weeks later. He finished a well beaten 4th behind Belardo but was found to be suffering from a hairline fracture, probably sustained before the race. He only ran three times as a 3yo, finishing second in the Greenham at Newbury in April, but disappointed in the 2000Guineas,and later in a Group1 at Deauville. If recapturing his top class 2yo form he would certainly be a player.
Selection : Belardo (if abs Amazing Maria)
E.W. : Kodi bear.