With a pot of just under £100,000 for the winner, and with a maximum field of 35 closely handicapped horses, the race, up the straight 9f of Newmarket’s Rowley course, is always run with the choke out, putting a premium on stamina, and is often won by an animal that stays beyond 9f. Inevitably, in a race like The Cambridgeshire, there have been the occasional big price winners, but in the main, the victors have not gone unconsidered, and 15 of the last 20 successful animals have returned an SP of 16/1 or less.
Three year olds have won 2 of the last 4 renewals, and two from the Classic generation, Good Birthday and Desert Icon, who fought out the finish of the 10f William Hill Silver Cup Handicap at Beverly 29 days ago, certainly demonstrated their ability to stay beyond 9f. In a strongly run heat, the Andrew Balding trained Good Birthday, despite a very tardy start, prevailed by 1/2L. He made good headway over 2f out, and bravely squeezed through on the inner entering the final furlong, and collared the Willie Haggas trained, Desert Icon, in the last 50 yards. The runner up meets Good Birthday on 2lbs better terms on Saturday, so it should be close between them, but that said, the Balding horse looks to have the better profile for a race like The Cambridgeshire. A winner of 3 of his 8 starts, he has performed with credit in the three large field handicaps he has contested, and the Beverly contest came after a 50 day break. There is plenty of rain in the forecast so the son of the French Stallion, Dabirism’s, proven ability on soft ground, could prove a very definite plus. With a lovely racing weight of 8-8, he will have plenty of assistance from the saddle in the shape of Champion Elect, Oisin Murphy, and he certainly looks one for the short list.
Another 3yo that fits the bill on the stamina front, is Roger Varian’s Son Of Dark Angel, Fifth Position. He has only won once from his 5 starts, but has performed creditably in his last three races, including last time, when finishing 5th in a Sandown Group3, 58 days ago. 4 weeks prior to that, racing over 10f, he had finished 5th, 3 1/4L behind the talented Elarqam in a Listed contest at the same venue. There is plenty of stamina on the distaff side of his pedigree as his dam won over 1m7f, and she has bred a 3 mile Irish Chase winner. However, despite his top connections, his overall profile doesn’t convince as a potential Cambridgeshire winner.
Hughie Morrison won The Cambridgeshire 10 years ago with the 6yo Supaseus, and must be hopeful of landing a second with his very progressive 3yo, Le Don De Vie. A son of top class US turf winner, Leroidesanimaux, he has won 3 of his 7 starts, including last time, when winning a 10f Goodwood Class2 Handicap, 5 weeks ago. Always travelling well within himself, he stayed on to win very comfortably from the 96 rated Great Example. Clearly very progressive he races on Saturday off a mark of 101, 20lbs higher than he was at the start of the season, and it wouldn’t be the greatest surprise to see him end the year on a still higher mark.
John Gosden has won The Cambridgeshire 4 times, and will be hoping for further success with one of his 2 contenders this year, Star Of Bengal or Lord North. The former, a 4yo son of Oasis Dream, has won 2 of his 6 starts, both successes coming on The AW. He has yet to win on turf and there wasn’t a lot of encouragement that he was going to break his duck soon, when finishing last of 5 in a Windsor Group3 36 days ago. However he does stay 10f well on The AW, and at the time of writing is the chosen ride of Frankie Dettori.
Three of Gosden’s previous winners were from the Classic generation, which makes his second contender, the 3yo, Lord North, more interesting . The son of Dubawi has won 2 of his 4 starts and looked as if he would be suited by further when a staying on 2nd in a 1mile Ascot Handicap following a 106 day break, 23 days ago. There are positive messages from his pedigree too, as his dam stayed a mile, his half brother, Chronicles, won over 10f, and his exceptional sire, Dubawi, gets plenty of top class middle distance winners.
The Jed O’Keefe (pictured) trained 4yo,Jazeel, won last year’s consolation race, (The Silver Cambridgeshire) and again showed his liking for the track when going down by 1/2L over course and distance on his reappearance this year. He ran another excellent race in July, going down by 1/2L, to the Good yardstick Fayez at Goodwood, and while totally genuine, he has been done no favours by the Handicapper, and has to race off a 3 lbs higher mark on Saturday. However with that master tactician, Jamie Spencer, doing the steering, it wouldn’t be the greatest surprise to see him pull off yet another one of those “miracle finishes” for which he is rightly so famous, and one can just imagine him putting Jazeel’s head on the line where it matters.
One trainer who would be quite happy to see the rain arrive at Headquarters is Aidan O’Brien, as his contender, Amedeo Modigliani, revelled in soft conditions when landing his sole success to date, a Galway Maiden by 5 1/2L on soft in August 2018. A 4yo, son of the great Galileo, he has only raced 4 times and hasn’t been seen since finishing 4th, 1 3/4L behind the now 107 rated Imaging at Leopardstown in April. His mark of 98 on Saturday looks pretty fair and if taking up the engagement, (also entered in The Joel Stakes on Friday) looks good value at the generous looking odds of 20/1 available at the time of writing.
Selection : Good Birthday
EW. : Amedeo Modigliani, Jazeel