William Hill St Leger Stakes (Group1) 1m6 1/2f Doncaster Saturday

st leger historyFirst run in 1776, the St Leger is the World’s oldest classic. Contested over an extended 1m6f the race is invariably run at a sustained pace, and when turning in, the runners face a relentless battle up Doncaster’s long attritional strait, putting a huge emphasis on stamina. Non stayers don’t win the St Leger! Training honours in the modern era, with five victories apiece are shared by Saeed Bin Suroor and Aidan O’Brien, while the riding accolade goes to Frankie Dettori who only needs to hit the back of the net twice more to equal the immortal Lester Piggot’s seven wins, and he looks to have excellent prospects of getting one closer on the John Gosden (4 St Leger winners to his credit) trained filly, Lah Ti Dar.

a mug of Lester Pigott from june 1962

Lester won the St Leger on seven occasions

Unraced as a 2yo, the daughter of Dubawi has gone from strength to strength in her three races. She made her racecourse debut in April, hosing up in a lowly Class4 Newbury Maiden (1m2f Gd/Sft) and 16 days later took a big step up in class to win the Listed Pretty Polly Stakes (1m2f Gd/Fm) in equally impressive style at Newmarket. Further progress was evident last time when stepped up in trip she spread eagled a decent field in the Listed Galtres Stakes (1m4f Gd/Fm) at York 23 days ago, winning by 10L. More will be required at the weekend, but as a Daughter of the super mare,
Dare Re Mi, who was twice successful at the top level, including when winning the 2010 renewal of the Group1 12f Sheema Classic from the legendary Japanese Mare Buena Vista, (won over £10 million pounds in prize money) there should be plenty more to come from the Gosden filly. With only seven post war victories for Fillies in the final Classic, (Meld 1955 Cantelo1959 Dunfermline 1977 Sun Princess 1983 Oh So Sharp 1985 User Friendly 1992 and controversially, Simple Verse three years ago) the stats aren’t exactly encouraging but the 3lbs sex allowance is certainly a bonus in such a testing heat.

andrew balding st leger

Andrew Balding’s Maid Up has great each way claims

The only other filly in Saturday’s field is the Andrew Balding trained Maid Up, and she has demonstrated she has the requisite stamina for Saturday’s test, going down by a Shd over 14f in a Goodwood Group2 at the beginning of August, and comfortably winning the Group3 Lilly Langtry Stakes, run at a good clip, over the same course and distance 22days ago. This stoutly bred filly has a very progressive profile, and having paid plenty to supplement her, connections will be hoping, at the very least, to land some place money.

The Charlie Appleby trained Old Persian stayed on gamely to win the Group2 Great Voltigeur Stakes (1m4f) at York 24 days ago by a head from stable companion Cross Country with the current St Leger market leader, Kew Gardens, who was conceding 2lbs, 1 3/4L back in 3rd. While this was a considerable advance on his 6th in the Irish Derby there isn’t much in his pedigree to suggest that Saturday’s trip will bring further improvement, and it is 11 year’s since a Great Voltigeur winner (Lucarno 2007) went on to collect at Doncaster.

At the time of writing Kew Gardens heads a 7 strong challenge from Ballydoyle and following that effort in the Great Voltigeur last time is a warm order to give Aidan O’Brien a 6th victory in the race. The son of Galileo showed how well suited he is by Saturday’s trip when running away with The Queen’s Vase at The Royal Meeting in June and further enhanced his stamina credentials when winning the Group1
Grand Prix De Paris (1m4f Good) in July. In a fast run heat he kept on strongly to assert in the final 50yds where he had Saturday’s opponent, Dee Ex Bee 4 1/4L back in third.
2lbs better off with Old Persian and with Ballydoyle back in top form he is going to be difficult to beat.

Aidan’s son, Joseph is hoping to become the first handler who has ridden a winner of the Classic, (Leading Light 2013) to train one, since Harry Wragg brought off the double with Intermezzo in 1969, and he must have a serious chance of doing so with his Irish Derby winner Latrobe. The son of Camelot kept on really well to keep his dad’s Rostropovich and Saxon Warrior at Bay in The Curragh Classic, and is easily forgiven his poor effort in the 10f Juddmonte International last time where the trip was too short. There are mixed messages from his pedigree but his half brother, Entangling, stayed quite well, albeit at a modest level, and his full brother, Pink Dogwood, currently racing as a 2yo, shapes like a stayer.

Selection  : Lah Ti Dar.   (If abs) Kew Gardens
E.W.            : Maid Up
John Gray

32Red Sprint Cup Stakes (Group1) 6f Haydock Saturday

Last week’s selection, Literalle Ci’s victory in the feature race at Newton Abbot, certainly helped the bank balance, coming home at the generous odds of 7/1 under an excellent ride by the 5lbs Claimer, Aine O’Connor. Always travelling comfortably he quickened close home, and won with a little more up his sleeve than the 1/2L victory would indicate, and could be worth following if turned out under a penalty. Whatever the horse does the talented Ms O’Connor is certainly worth keeping an eye on. With an impressive score of 12 wins from 23 rides she is clearly a claimer going places.

It’s a fair bet there won’t be any claimers aboard any of the contenders in Saturday’s 6f Group1 Sprint Cup in a contest where experience and quick reactions will be at a premium, and of course weight allowances don’t apply in any case. Three jockeys, Frankie Dettori, Adam Kirby, and Gerald Mosse, will be attempting to become the first riders since Pat Eddery in 1989 to ride a second winner of the race which was first run in 1966 under the sponsorship of Vernon’s Pools. Since receiving Group1 status in 1988, Henry Candy is the only double winning handler represented on Saturday which makes his Limato of interest.

The 6yo son of Tagula is a genuine top flight performer, winning two Group1s, (7f Prix De la Foret 2016 and the 6f July Cup the same year) and being placed five times at this level, including an excellent 2nd to Saturday’s opponent, Harry Angel, (rec 6lbs) in last year’s renewal of The July Cup. His first three starts this term were disappointing but he came good last time, winning the Listed, Hopeful Stakes at Newmarket a fortnight ago, comfortably beating Top Score. He will have to find plenty more on Saturday, but in the hands of that master trainer of sprinters, Mr Candy, I wouldn’t be surprised if he did.

Market leader and last year’s winner, Harry Angel is rated 7lbs ahead of his nearest rival, (James Garfield) but has to overcome an aversion to the starting stalls. Sent off the 5/2 fav in June for the Diamond Jubilee he got very upset in the stalls and injuring himself finished lame out the back. He has been on the easy list since, but his top trainer, Clive Cox is convinced that he has him back at the top of his game, and indeed sees a silver lining in his enforced 11 week absence, feeling that being a fresh animal is a definite bonus. Certainly if handling the stalls, (he behaved himself when winning The Duke Of York on his previous start) this double Group1 winner will be hard to beat.

The 3yo James Garfield, trained by George Scott has been campaigned at distances between 5f and 1m but his performance in the Group1 Prix Maurice de Gheest over 6 1/2f five weeks ago, would strongly suggest that Saturday’s distance is the son of Exceed and Excel’s optimum trip. In a truly run race he was ahead at the distance and was just run out of it close home by Polydream, (best at 7/8f) and had Saturday’s opponent The Tin Man 2 1/2L back in third. Starting at odds of 42/1 this was a big step forward and with further progress likely and Frankie again doing the steering he has to be worth a close look, particularly as the Classic generation have won 6 of the last 10 renewals.

The David Ellsworth trained 4yo, Sir Dancealot is another animal very much on the up and his win last time in the 7f Hungerford Stakes was pretty impressive. However, while he has won twice at 6f and was 2 3/4L 3rd behind Harry Angel in The 6f Duke Of York in May, he does seem to be better at further.

The Kevin Ryan trained Brando must be a delight to own. Very genuine, he has banked over £3/4 million in prize money for connections, has won 8 of his 28 starts including at the top level (won last year’s Group1 Prix Maurice de Gheest) and rarely runs a bad race. He put in an excellent performance to finish 2nd in The July Cup but ran one of his poorer races last time, finishing 8th, 6 1/4L behind James Garfield in The Prix Maurice de Gheest last time.

The Willie Haggas trained 5yo Tasleet finished 2nd to Harry’s Angel in last year’s renewal, albeit at a respectable distance of 4L on heavy ground, but reversed the form 6 week’s later, when finishing 2nd in the Group1 Champions Sprint, he had the Cox Horse 1L back in 4th. He has only had the one run this term, finishing 3rd to Merchant Navy in The Group2 Greenland Stakes at The Curragh in May. Due to a slight setback he hasn’t been seen since, but his trainer reports him in rude health. He handles easy ground (there is rain about) and goes well after a break, so another to consider.

The Sir Michael Stoute trained Eqtidaar is in the same ownership as Tasleet and looked an animal going places when winning the Group1 Commonwealth Cup (3yo’s only) at The Royal Meeting in June, but found little when tackling older animals in The July Cup. However Sir Michael feels that Eqtidaar, a big horse, is now maturing and following a nice break a much stronger effort is anticipated, and it’s worth noting that excellent record of 3yo’s in the race.

Selection : Harry Angel

E.W. : Tasleet

John Gray

Newtonabbotracing.com Handicap Hurdle, 2m5 1/2f Newton Abbot Saturday

On a day when most of the flat racing is of a fairly pedestrian nature, Saturday’s Newton abbot Card provides this very competitive looking heat, so let’s hope that most if not all of the 13 four day declarations make it to the start.

Harry Skelton learning that he’s carry the weight of yours truly’s twenty pounds at Bangor last summer

 

Topweight, High Secret, only joined The Skelton Academy in June, (from Paul Nicholls) and hit the back of the net at the third attempt for his new yard when he impressively won a Class2 Market Rasen Handicap (2m4 1/2f Good) 6 week’s ago. Racing off a mark of 132 he made all, went clear before two out, and won hard held by 9L and the same, from North Hill, and Saturday’s opponent Voodoo Doll. He is 9lbs higher on Saturday and it’s a slight worry that his two previous victories over hurdles were also achieved on right handed tracks, but that performance at Market Rasen was most impressive, and a literal reading of the form with Voodoo Doll from their meeting at Worcester in June, (second run for Skelton) would suggest that High Secret had improved by at least 12lbs.

The Michael Blake trained Knight Of Noir is 4/18 over hurdles but has drawn a blank in all 6 starts since transferring from the Neil Mulholland yard last February. However there was some encouragement from his penultimate start when finishing 3rd, he was only beaten 1 1/2L in a Class2 Market Rasen Handicap racing off Saturday’s mark of 135. He can be excused his 4th on soft ground at Uttoxeter last time and it’s worth noting  that the 9yo has won off a mark 5lbs higher than Saturday’s in the past.

The above mentioned Mulholland has an interesting contender himself with the Tony Bloom owned 6yo, Sleep Easy. Since winning a Class3 Handicap at Wincanton off a mark of 130 in March 2017 he has been disappointing, but following wind surgery and a 91 day break, his 4th/6 here at Newton Abbot (2m2f) 32 days ago, racing off a mark of 134 was a little more encouraging. He was in contention until the 2nd last and may have found the trip on the short side. He races on Saturday off 132, and with his connections, any market moves are worth noting.

newton abbot odds

Newton Abbot race course

Harry Fry won last year’s renewal with the 6yo, Golden Birthday, and at the time of writing has two entries, Litterate Ci and Serosevsky. The former is 3/10 over hurdles and the JP McManus owned 5yo was quite impressive when stepped up to 2 1/2m for the first time. He won over this trip at  Ffos Las  off a mark of 125 under 7lbs claimer, Miss A O’Connor at the end of May, and he again ran well last time, under the same rider, in that heat won by Voodoo Doll at Worcester in June. Meeting trouble in running and not getting a clear run on the flat he finished strongly to finish 4th, 2L behind Voodoo Doll who he meets on 5lbs better terms on Saturday. He also meets High Secret who finished just ahead of him in 3rd on 9lbs better.

Harry’s second contender, Serosevsky, has won 2 of his 4 starts over hurdles and had little more than an exercise gallop when winning a Novice’s over the course (2m2f) ten days ago, at odds of 1/4. He makes his handicap debut off a lenient looking mark of 125 and while he has yet to race over Saturday’s distance under rules, he is stoutly bred and had no difficulty winning a PTP over 3miles as a 4yo.

The Philip Hobbs trained mare, Katy P is a course and distance winner, and the 6yo had a nice pipe opener following a 78 day break at Southwell, 13 days ago. Racing off a mark of 128, she looked to have every chance until weakening between the last two obstacles. A winner of 3 of her ten starts over hurdles she races off a mark of 127 and it wouldn’t surprise to see her involved at the business end.

The Nicky Henderson trained 8yo, Ballinure is 3/12 over hurdles and looks pretty exposed. His highest winning mark over hurdles is 122 so looks to have it all to do under 3lbs higher on Saturday.

The 8yo mare, Kentford Heiress, has been a great servant to connections, winning 7 of her 13 starts, and she also boasts an excellent record here at Newton Abbot, nearly always running well, and winning two of her 8 starts at the track. Indeed her last appearance here in July, (3m2f) only beaten 1 3/4L when finishing 4th off a mark of 122 was one of her best performances. However she finished 7/7 at Stratford last time and connections will be hoping the Devon air sparks a revival.

Selection. : litterate Ci (if abs) High Secret

E.W.           : Katy P

John Gray

Sky Bet Ebor Handicap 1m6f York Saturday

With £500,000 on offer, (to be increased to a million next year) Saturday’s Sky Bet Ebor is Britain’s most valuable Handicap and in recent years it has also proved to be one of the most difficult to solve. To find the last successful favourite we have to go back eleven years when Luca Cumani’s Purple Gem brought home the bacon, and in that same period five of the winners have been returned at odds of 20/1 or longer. Cumani and Stoute are the only handlers to have lifted the trophy twice, and in Sir Michael’s case we have to go back to 1996 to find his second winner, so following previous winning stables hasn’t been a particularly brilliant strategy.

The great Vincent O’Brien claimed the spoils in 1958

However it’s worth noting that Irish yards, who only managed two victories prior to 2009, (Gladness, in 1958 trained by the great Vincent O’Brien, and Mediterranean in 2001 trained by his namesake Aidan) have won four of the last nine renewals, and Willie Mullins mounts a strong looking challenge this year from his County Carlow base, led by the current favourite, Stratum.

Assuming that the son of Dansili gets into the race, (at the time of writing he needs three above him in the handicap to come out) the 5yo has plenty to recommend him. A winner of 3 of his 13 races, his sole success from 9 starts for John Gosden, came in a Class 5 Windsor Maiden, but since joining the Closutton yard of Willie Mullins he has really started making hay. He won the first of his three starts over hurdles, but it is since being returned to the flat in his last two races, that he has really blossomed. An excellent 3rd/19 in the 2 1/2m Ascot Stakes at The Royal Meeting, was followed by a facile victory last time in the JLT Cup over 2m1/2f at Newbury 5weeks ago, under an excellent ride from Robert Winston off a mark of 94. Clearly improving at a rate of knots Saturday’s 8lbs rise is unlikely to be the limit of his progress and with the excellent Winston booked again connections will be very disappointed if they don’t get a run.

The Saeed bin Suroor trained, 4yo, Game Starter, has only had four races but has won three of them, giving him a very progressive profile.

Saeed Bin Suroor sends out Game Starter

His only start as a 2yo in a lowly Class 5 Redcar Maiden, resulted in a moderate 2nd but his career took off at three, winning all starts, culminating in a convincing victory over Amazing Red in a Class2 Newmarket Handicap off a mark of 100 last September. The way he won at Newmarket suggests that Saturday’s trip will suit as do entries in the Irish St Leger (14f) and The British Long Distance Cup (16f), and the main concern would be his ability to handle the demands of a 20 runner handicap around The Knavesmire. However his in form trainer has won the race before, (All The Good 2008) so knows what is required, and off his mark of 108 is worth considering.

The John Gosden trained, Weekender, has won 3 of his 9 starts, (2 on the AW) and put in an excellent effort last time when going down by a hard fought neck over course and distance to the talented Marmelo in a Listed heat. As the winner went on to win a Longchamp Group2 next time the form looks strong and despite having to shoulder the steadier of 9-12 as top weight his mark of 112 is fair and with Frankie Dettori doing the steering has to be a danger to all.

The Tom Dascombe trained Teodoro has never raced beyond 12f but the manner of his victory over that distance at Newbury in June suggests that Saturday’s trip might be within his compass.

tom dascombe trainer

Tom Dascombe’s Teodoro is fancied to go well

Tracking the leader he took it up 3f out and when asked drew clear to win readily by 6L in a decent time. He can be excused his 4th in the Old Newton Cup where he never looked comfortable in a muddling contest and last time when ridden more prominently he made all to win a Class1 Haydock Handicap, (1m2 1/2f) off a mark of 101. Only 4lbs higher at the weekend the son of Teofilo could be interesting if seeing out the trip.

The Ian Jardine trained 7yo, Nakeeta, won last year’s renewal and followed up with an honourable 5th/23 in The Melbourne Cup. All three of his starts since have been at 2m+ and none of them inspire much confidence but his handicap mark has been protected and he goes to Post on Saturday only 4lbs higher than last year and back at 1m6f it wouldn’t be the biggest surprise to see him involved.

Selection : Stratum.

Danger: Teodoro

E.W. : Nakeeta

John Gray

The Ladywood Stud Hungerford Stakes Tips Group2 7f Newbury Saturday

First run in 1949, the Hungerford Stakes has been won by plenty of talented animals in its near seventy year history, not least the triple Group1 winning 3yo, Paco Boy in 2008. He was the first of four winners from the Classic generation in the past decade, and Tipperary Maestro, Aidan O’Brien, with three 3yo’s entered at the time of writing, will be hoping to keep the sequence going. The trio are headed by Gustav Klimt, followed by Fleet Review and St Patrick’s Day, and if the market is to be believed his best chance of landing a first Hungerford lies with the St James’s Palace Stakes runner up, Gustav Klimt.

Following that excellent effort in the St James’s Palace over a mile, the son of the all conquering Galileo (pictured), again ran well over the trip when finishing 3rd in the Group1 Prix Jean Prat, and 4th, (beaten 2L) in the Group1 Sussex Stakes 18 days ago.

galileo oddsguru

The great Galileo’s son Gustav Klimt has a great chance on Saturday

While he clearly gets the mile at the highest level, all of his three victories, (from 9 starts) have come at seven furlongs, and he put in an excellent effort in last year’s Superlative Stakes, winning despite interference, over the straight 7f at Headquarters. Beautifully bred, he is out of the speedy Danehill mare, Massaara, all of who’s three wins came at 6f, and may find the straight 7f at Newbury right up his street.

Although it can be a dangerous thing to say, neither of the other two Ballydoyle contenders make a huge amount of appeal. Fleet Review has never won beyond 6f and finished 14/20 in the 6 1/2f Prix Maurice de Gheest at Deauville 13 days ago, and St Patrick’s Day, despite being a full brother to the US Triple Crown winner, American Pharaoh, hasn’t exactly set the world alight in his two starts since leaving Bob Baffert to join the O’Brien operation.

The David Simcock trained Breton Rock won this back in 2014 and now as an 8yo, is attempting to become the first horse since Jimmy Reppin in 1969 to win the contest twice. A terrifically genuine and consistent animal, he showed the talent was still there last time when going down by a battling short head and a head, to Sir Dancelot and Suedois in the Group2 7f Lennox Stakes at Goodwood 19 days ago. Starting at 20/1 he kept on gamely to lead inside the final furlong, only to be collared close home, and now, rated a pound higher than for his victory over Gregorian in that 2014 renewal, has to be well worth a second look.

It can be argued that Sir Dancealot would have been an unlucky loser if not getting up in that Goodwood heat, as he met plenty of trouble in running, and his two previous runs strongly suggested that he is an improving animal. A win in the 7f Group3 Criterion Stakes at Newmarket in June was followed by an excellent 4th in the Group1 July Cup over an inadequate 6f the following month. Obviously well suited by 7f, and despite being 3lbs worse off with Breton Rock and D’Bai on Lennox Stakes running, David Ellsworth’s 4yo looks a danger to all.

The Dean Ivory trained Librisa Breeze has only won 3 of his 15 starts, but one of those was at the top level ( The Group1 Champion Sprint Stakes 2017), and he also boasts a second to Massaat in last year’s renewal. He was well beaten in the 6f Diamond Jubilee Stakes at Royal Ascot in June, but the 6yo ran a much more encouraging race last time in The Group1 Prix Maurice de Gheest over 6 1/2f, finishing a staying on 4th. Saturday’s trip will suit and he handles most conditions, so is worth considering but he does seem to reserve his best efforts for Ascot.

michael stoute horse

Sir Michael sends out Dream of Dreams

The Sir Michael Stoute trained Dream Of Dreams has won 3 of his 14 starts, and ran well over the course last time, when finishing strongly, he was only a neck and a head behind Saturday’s opponent, Yafta and Projection in the Group3 6f Hackwood Stakes. Mostly campaigned at shorter than Saturday’s trip, both pedigree, (his half brother Fiftyshadesfreed was best around a mile and his half sister, the 2yo filly, Miss Serenity, seemed to stay 7f on her racecourse debut in July) and that run in The Hackwood would suggest that the step up in trip could suit.

The above mentioned Yafta has won 4 of his 8 starts, and that victory in The Hackwood was a career best performance. The Richard Hannon trained 3yo has never won beyond 6f but his two attempts at Saturday’s distance have resulted in very solid runner up placings. His dam, The very useful Swiss Dream, won 6 of her 21 starts, three of them at Listed level, but never raced beyond 6f. However the way she won her penultimate race, (Newmarket 6f Listed Soft) before being retired to the paddocks, strongly suggested that she would have stayed further. All in all the step back up in trip should suit the Hannon runner.

D’Bai, from the hugely successful yard of Charlie Appleby was only beaten 1 1/2L when finishing 5th behind Sir Dancealot in the Lennox at Goodwood which has to make him of interest, but his subsequent 6th in The Prix Maurice de Gheest 13 days ago where he finished behind Librisa Breeze tempers enthusiasm.

Selection : Gustav Klimt (if abs. Sir Dancealot)

E.W. : Yafta

John Gray

Unibet Stewards’ Cup Handicap 6f Goodwood Saturday

First run in 1840, a race with a maximum field of 28 runners, racing downhill for the first two furlongs, resembling something like the cavalry charge at Balaclava, can seem something of a lottery, but surprisingly, with some pretty strong trends, winner finding hasn’t been impossible, and 16 of the last 20 runners have been returned at odds of 14/1 or less. While 2 of the last 3 renewals have been won by 3yo’s, (Magical Memory

2015 and Dancing Star 2016) they have been the only two of the Classic generation to succeed since Danetime in 1997. Of the more mature contenders, last year’s winner, the 7yo Lancelot Du Lac, was the only Victor older than six, since the 8yo Sikari’s Son won in 1995, so with just three 6yo’s winning in the last forty years, the 4 and 5yo’s have clearly been having the best of the argument. The last animal to win twice was

Skydiver, fifty years ago, which makes Lancelot Du Lac and Dancing Star’s chances of a repeat, look even more difficult. None of Saturday’s handlers have managed to win more than once, but the Malton Maestro Richard Fahey wouldn’t be doing it out of turn if his son of Oasis Dream, Growl, who has been placed 4th in the last two renewals managed to get his head in front.

He was only beaten 1L racing off a mark of 109 last year, when badly drawn in stall 8, and was similarly placed behind Dancing Star the previous year. He ran well last time, finishing 4th/14 in a York Handicap last Saturday (soft) and could be well suited by the likely faster ground on Saturday, ( finished 2 3/4L behind Harry Angel on Good/Firm in last year’s Group1 July Cup). 10lbs lower than last year he looks well handicapped and connections will be hoping it’s third time lucky

The Paul D’Arcy trained Spring Loaded, has won 11 of his 36 starts, 8 of them on The AW and the 6yo put in an excellent effort last time when winning over the minimum trip at Ascot three weeks ago. He won easily by 2L from Poyle Vinnie, racing off a mark of 100 on Good/Firm ground and with the considerable advantage of having Ryan Moore in the plate on Saturday has plenty to recommend him. However lack of form on a downhill track, (19th/27 in the 2016 renewal in his only attempt) and a 7lbs higher mark tempers enthusiasm.

Andrew Balding won with the 3yo, Magical Memory three years ago and following Foxtrot Lady’s battling victory at Newmarket 4weeks ago he must fancy his chances of repeating the trick. As a half sister to the 2016 winner, Dancing Star, and from the same family as the brilliant Lochsong the 3yo is certainly bred for the job. She is 8lbs higher on Saturday putting her on a mark of 102 but it will be very surprising if in the fullness of time she doesn’t merit a higher mark.

The Clive Cox trained 4yo, Tis Marvellous, has only won 2 of his 13 starts but showed the last twice that Saturday’s test could be right up his street.

clive cox odds

Trainer Clive Cox surely has a fantastic chance with Tis Marvellous

He finished 5th/15, 1 1/2L behind the winner, Saturday’s opponent, Gifted Master, following an 80 day break in May, and 7 weeks later put in an excellent effort when finishing 4th/28, 1L behind the winner, Bacchus, in the Wokingham at Royal Ascot. He meets Bacchus on 3lbs better terms at the weekend and this winner of the Group2, Prix Robin Pappin as a 2yo, looks a danger to all.

The transfer of the 6yo, Aces, from the French yard of JE Hammond in April to Ian Williams has seen a revival in the son of Dark Angel’s fortunes. 3rd on his seasonal and stable debut in May, he followed up with a facile victory in a 16 runner Class2 Epsom Handicap 3 week’s later, off a mark of 87, and last time won over 7f at Headquarters off an 8lbs higher mark. He is only 2lbs higher on Saturday and is well worth considering for a yard that continues in such good form.

Since Sprint Maestro, Robert Howell (won with the 4yo Intrinsic in 2014) took charge of Blue De Vega in October 2017, the 5yo has been mostly campaigned at 5f, and the son of Lope De Vega put in a sterling effort last time when winning an Ascot Class2, 5f heat off a mark of 93. He is only 4lbs higher on Saturday, and having won twice over 7f, including at Group3 level, as a 2yo when trained in Ireland, plus having finished 3rd in the 2016 Irish 2000gns, it would suggest that Saturday’s trip could prove ideal. It will come as no surprise to see him involved at the business end at the weekend.

Selection : ‘Tis Marvellous.

E.W. : Blue De Vega. Growl.

John Gray

King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes (Group1) 1m4f Saturday

ascot king george saturday.jpgThis middle distance, mid summer highlight of the racing calendar, was first run in 1951,  as a Top level contest open to all ages. Historically the classic generation, with 30 victories have had the better of the argument, (including last year with the John Gosden trained Enable) but with only the five wins since the dawn of the new millennium their star has become slightly tarnished. Training honours, with an impressive five victories apiece, are shared by Saeed Bin Suroor, and veteran Newmarket Maestro, Sir Michael Stoute, and the latter, with the two market leaders, Poets Word and Crystal Ocean, in his care at the Freemason Lodge Academy, must fancy his chances of landing a sixth success.

Poet’s Word has won six of his fifteen starts, accumulating an impressive, near £2,000,000 in win and place prize money but has only managed to bag a single top level success. However that was achieved in his last race, the 10f Group1 Prince of Wales Stakes at Royal Ascot where he put the 2/5 fav, Cracksman firmly in his place. A slight concern is his lack of success at the top level over Saturday’s trip, but his canny trainer is in no doubt that he will be equally effective over a mile and a half, and a quick glance at the 5yo’s pedigree would suggest that he might even improve for it. By Poets Voice, out of the Nashwan mare, Whirlybird, who was a winner herself at 11f, and is the dam of two animals who were best at two miles. Poets Word is a late maturing animal, the type The Master Of Freemason Lodge excels with, and a repetition of his Ascot effort will make him hard to beat.

His stable companion, Crystal Ocean has yet to score a top level success, but the 4yo put up a tremendous effort in his sole attempt at a Group1, when going down by a battling 1/2L to Capri in last year’s St Leger. crystal oceanThe son of Sea The Stars (pictured) may have been found out by the trip at Doncaster, but back at Saturday’s distance, over which he’s won on three occasions, including last time out, when taking the Group2 Hardwicke Stakes at The Royal Meeting (over Saturday’s course and distance Good/Firm) is bound to prove a very live contender. Beautifully bred, he is a half brother to the Group2 winning mare, Crystal Capella, and the Group1 winning stallion, Hillstar. All in all he has plenty to recommend him at the weekend.

With five entries at the time of writing, Aidan O’Brien is mob handed but if the markets have got it right, his best chance of landing a 5th win in the race lies with his improving, 3yo, Kew Gardens. Always well thought of at Ballydoyle, he finished of his 2yo career in some style, beating the subsequent Derby runner up, Dee Ex Bee by 3 1/2L in The Zetland Stakes at Newmarket last October over 1m2f. Disappointing in his first four races this term, he came good at the fifth time of asking, winning the 14f Group2 Queen’s Vase at Royal Ascot by 4 3/4L and a neck from his stable companions Southern France and Nelson. The drop back to 12f proved no obstacle next time, when he won the Group1 Grand Prix De Paris by 1 1/4L from Neufbosc, with Dee Ex Bee 4 1/4L back in 3rd. The son of Galileo is improving at a rate of knots and it wouldn’t take a lot more to see him in the winners enclosure on Saturday.

Despite winning the Group1, Prix Ganay on his reappearance with his head in his chest, the John Gosden trained Cracksman has looked less than enthusiastic in his last two races. While it is dangerous to dismiss such a talented animal, the Gosden yards best chance of landing a 4th King George may lie with the 4yo filly Coronet. A daughter of Dubawi, she performed with plenty of credit as a 3yo, but her two runs this campaign would suggest that she is an improved filly. She won the Group2 Middleton Stakes at York on her reappearance over 10f, and four weeks later only lost out by a nose in a bobbing finish to the Andre Fabre trained Waldgeist in the 12f Group1 Grand Prix De Saint-Cloud on Good/soft ground. Fabre has withdrawn his talented colt from Saturday’s contest because of the likelihood of a fast surface, but the Gosden filly will relish a return to such ground.

Selection : Kew Gardens
E.W.          : Coronet

John Gray