Al Shaqab Lockinge Stakes ( Group1 ) 1m Str Newbury Saturday – Having won twenty one of the last thirty renewals, 4yo’s are clearly the dominant age group, and so it proved again last year, when the Roger Varian trained Belardo came home in front. The Oddsguru’s selection, he was returned at the tasty odds of 8/1, so here’s hoping we can point you in the right direction again. Group1 form, particularly at a mile, has been most important with sixteen of the last twenty one winners boasting success over 8f at the top level. Any runner sporting the Blue of Godolphin is worth a second glance as they have won seven of the last nineteen renewals. Mind you, the Red and White of the Cheveley Park operation haven’t done too badly either with four wins since the dawn of the new millennium. Both 2000gns winners who contested this in the last decade have won, so last years Newmarket Hero, Galileo Gold, has to be of considerable interest.
A winner of a Goodwood Group2 as a juvenile, he started his 3yo career in the best possible style, winning the Newmarket Classic on his seasonal debut. He couldn’t quite match Awtaad in the Irish equivalent, but put up a sparkling display next time, winning the 1m Group1 St James’s Palace Stakes at Royal Ascot (Sft) where he had his Irish conqueror 1 3/4L back in third. A close second in Goodwood’s Sussex Stakes followed, but he was disappointing in his last two races, finishing behind Saturday’s opponent, Ribchester on both occasions. However the first half of his season was impressive and racing in the colours of Saturday’s Sponsor, Al Shaqab, on ground which is likely to be soft, he has to be on the shortlist.
Having won the 6f Group2 Mill Reef Stakes over the course as a 2yo, the Richard Fahey trained 4yo Ribchester went from strength to strength in his 3yo career. He finished second at Maison-Laffitte on his reappearance before belying his odds of 33/1 to finish third in the 2000gns, 3 1/2L behind Galileo Gold. He went on to win the 7f Group3 Jersey Stakes on soft ground at the Royal Meeting, and confirmed his progress when, finishing best of all, he was only beaten a neck and short head by The Gurkha and Galileo Gold in the 1m Group1 Sussex Stakes. He made no mistake next time, winning the Group1 Prix Jacques Le Marois at Deauville, where Galileo Gold was 3 1/4L back in eighth, and put up another very solid performance when going down by 1/2L to the brilliant filly Minding, in the Group1 QE.11 Stakes at Ascot in October. He made a highly satisfactory reappearance at Meydan in March over 9f, finishing third, (and pocketing over 3/4 of a million pounds for his trouble). Back over 8f, on the likely soft ground which he handles so well, and with stablemate Toscanini to guarantee a truly run race, this very progressive colt must have serious prospects of providing “the boys in blue” with their eighth win in the race.
Aidan O’Brien won this with Hawkwing fourteen years ago, but has drawn a blank with his ten runners since. He tries again this year with the beautifully bred 4yo daughter of Fastnet Rock, Somehow. She is out of that fabulous mare Alexandrova who won the English, Irish and Yorkshire Oaks in 2006. Somehow, only had the one run as a 2yo and won three of her six races at three, but this year seems to be improving at a rate of knots. She made her seasonal reappearance, in a Naas Group3 on holding ground where she went down down by 1/2L, but made no mistake 5weeks, later bolting up in a Gowran Park Listed event over 9 1/2f on soft ground. Last time, thirteen days ago, she won the 9f Group2 Dahlia Stakes at Newmarket on good/firm ground with her head in her chest, and looked a filly going places. Somehow, has never won over shorter than 9f but her marvellous dam, despite her strong stamina credentials, had plenty of speed, and it will come as no surprise to see her involved at the business end on Saturday, particularly If conditions are testing.
Martin Meade’s Aclaim is another who won’t mind if the ground is soft at the weekend. The 4yo son of Acclamation has raced twice on easy ground and won both times, and he looks a very progressive type. He won a 1m Ascot Handicap off a mark of 97 at the beginning of last September, and two weeks later hosed up in a 7f listed contest at Newbury on soft ground. In his final race of the season he took the step up to Group2 level in his stride, winning the 7f contest comfortably from Lumiere with Saturday’s opponent Cougar Mountain 3 1/4L back in fifth. Clearly progressive we probably haven’t seen the best of him yet.
Selection : Ribchester
E.W. : Somehow