While last year saw the welcome return of the market leader getting his head in front, it has been a poor contest for favourites, Withhold, (Oddsguru’s selection) being only the third Jolly to collect since the great Vintage Crop prevailed in 1992, and in the past decade we have seen winners returned at 66/1, two at 50/1, and another at 25/1 so don’t be put off by a long price. The race uniquely is run over 2 counties, (starts in Cambridgeshire and finishes in Suffolk) and has only the one slight change of direction, a gentle turn around the 10f marker, giving the 35 runners a nearly straight 2m2f to contend with. Always run at a furious gallop from flag fall, stamina is at a huge premium, so contenders without very solid staying credentials are best ignored. Irish yards, with just 2 wins in the last 50 year’s have a very poor record, but Willie Mullins, (3rd last year with Lagos To Vegas) is mob handed at the time of writing, and he’s making a determined effort this term to improve the Celtic record. He trains the current market leader, Stratum, and this son of Dansili certainly shouldn’t fail on the stamina front.
A 5yo gelding, he is out of the stoutly bred Galileo mare, Lunar Place, and demonstrated his ample stamina credentials in this year’s 2 1/2m Ascot Stakes, keeping on strongly for 3rd place, 2 1/4L behind the winner, stablemate, Lagos To Vegas. He followed up with a comfortable Newbury victory in the 2m1/2f JLT Cup in July, and was then sent off favourite for the 1m6f Ebor Handicap at York last time where he looked unlucky. Held up in the rear by pilot Robert Winston, he was left with an awful lot to do, but still looked a real danger, impressively weaving his way through the field only to be badly hampered 1 1/2f out where he lost all chance. He should be well suited by the step back up in trip and looks fairly treated on his York mark of 102.
Connections of the second Mullins runner, the 7yo mare, Limini, have had to be very patient as she was off the course for 503 days prior to making her comeback in a 2m1f Handicap for Qualified Riders at Galway in July, where she finished a commendable 2nd. Bought from France by the Ricci’s in May 2015 she was campaigned exclusively over hurdles in 2016 and 2017, with considerable success, winning three of her 7 starts, including a Cheltenham Festival victory over 2m1f in 2016, and she looked a tad unlucky the following year, again at Cheltenham, when beaten 1 1/2L by the top class Apple Jade over 2m4f, where presumably she sustained that injury that kept her off the racecourse for 503 days. She started a 5/1 shot for the very valuable Petingo Handicap at Leopardstown over 13f, 4 week’s ago, and under a super ride from Saturday’s pilot, Oisin Murphy, led at the furlong marker, and kept on strongly to hold her stable companion, Law Girl, by a head. Racing off the same mark on Saturday, and with Murphy again doing the steering, she has plenty to recommend her.
Ian Williams who trained last year’s ill fated runner up, London Prize, (Oddsguru’s E.W. selection) produced his 7yo, Stars Over The Sea, to win the trial for Saturday’s contest over course and distance by 10L three weeks ago. However he was allowed his own way out front and the time was slow so may struggle with another 8lbs on his back.
The Neil Mulholland trained Vis A Vis looked well suited by the step up in trip when winning a 2mile handicap on the Kempton AW last time (Aug 8) and had previously won a Class4, 14f Sandown Handicap, 53 days earlier on his debut for the stable. By the strong influence for stamina, Dansili, out of the Rainbow Quest mare, Pretty Face his pedigree is all about stamina and could be very well suited by Saturday’s trip. Neil has secured the services of last year’s winning rider, Silvestre de Sousa and looks fairly treated on his mark of 90.
The Aidan O’Brien trained 3yo, Southern France would be only the third 3yo to prevail in the last two decades, but that said, you don’t get many horses from the Classic generation, with the class to finish 3rd in a St Leger competing in The Cesarewitch, and as a son of Galileo, sire of the Ascot Gold Cup winner, Order Of St George and plenty of other staying types, it wouldn’t surprise to see the Ballydoyle colt play a leading role on Saturday.
The Ralph Beckett trained 4yo, Here and Now has won 3 of his 12 starts and was quite impressive in his penultimate race, the valuable Sky Bet Handicap over 2m1/2f at York in August. He stayed on strongly to beat the useful, Davy’s Dilemma by 5L off a mark of 91. Dropped back to 1m6f in a Chester Listed contest 6 week’s ago, he was slow coming out of the gate and never got into a challenging position, but did stay on well and was only 1 3/4L adrift of the winner, Duretto at the line. Well bred, Here And Now is By Dansili out of the top class Hernando mare, Look Here, ( won The Oaks in 2008, 3rd St Leger 2008, Btn Shd when 3rd Coronation Cup 2009) so on breeding should find Saturday’s trip right up his street, and only 4lbs higher than York looks good value at current odds of 20/1.
Selection : Vis A Vis
EW. : Here And Now. (If abs. Stratum)