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