It takes a true stayer to succeed in this unique stamina test, as most of the race is run in a straight line, affording little if any opportunity to get a blow into your animal during the relentless pillar to post gallop. Having exited the stalls in Cambridgeshire, the field takes a sharp right turn and makes it a hell for leather charge across Newmarket Heath to eventually join the Rowley mile and pass the winning post in the adjoining county of Suffolk. Winning form over at least two miles on the flat, or good winning form over hurdles is highly desirable.The race is often targeted by National Hunt stables, with such names as Pipe, Revely, Fitzgerald, Henderson, Martin, and Hobbs figuring on the roll of honour in the last quarter century. Indeed Philip Hobbs has figured twice in the last decade, with Detroit City (2006) and last year with Big Easy. His candidate this year, the ex French Golden Doyen, would be worth a second look, but needs nine above him in the handicap to come out to get a run.
The market for this year’s renewal is headed by the David Pipe trained 8yo Low Key and he certainly has plenty to recommend him. He won the Cesarewitch Trial over course and distance three weeks ago with the very promising 3lbs claimer Tom Marquand in the plate, racing off a mark of 82. He stayed on strongly to beat another of Saturday’s contenders, Encrypted Message by 3 1/2L and should confirm the form at the weekend. He has now won five times, (twice over hurdles) for the Nicholshane Maestro, who clearly has discovered the key to this eight year old, who only joined the team last year. He has already improved by at least 25lbs since joining the Pipe Academy so Saturday’s mark of 86 looks highly doable and with young Marquand again claiming 3lbs his prospects look decidedly rosy.
Another National Hunt trainer, Lucy Wadham, has an interesting contender with her 6yo gelding Noble Silk, partnered by Oisin Murphy. He ran a fine race over 2m4f at Royal Ascot keeping on well to finish 4th to Clondaw Warrior to whom he was conceding 5lbs. Following a nine weeks break, he disappointed at York but ran a more promising trial for this last time at Doncaster, going down by 3L over an inadequate 14f off a mark of 94. Bound to be much better suited by Saturday’s trip and racing off 94 again, the current odds of 40/1 look generous, and having had a light campaign is one for the short list.
Tony Martin’s Quick Jack who finished a close third last year, tries again off a 7lbs higher mark and this tough competitor, who won the hugely competitive Galway Hurdle at the end of July merits maximum respect. He was a gallant second in the Chester Cup in May going down by 3/4L to the subsequent Ascot Gold Cup winner Trip To Paris to whom he was conceding 6lbs. After his Galway triumph he never got going when favourite for the Ebor Handicap at York seven weeks ago. Badly drawn over an inadequate trip the York form can be ignored, but in view of his run in this last year, and his second in the Chester Cup, I wonder if he quite gets home over 18f. Certainly off a 7lbs higher mark than last year he has it all to do.
There is the whiff of a “Prescott plot” about the way Sir Mark’s William Of Orange has been campaigned. Placed over 14f in his first two races this year, he ran his best race of the season when upped to 16f at York in July, running on strongly to take second at the post, 3/4L behind Eshtiall after a troubled passage. Subsequently tried over 21f at Goodwood he didn’t seem to quite get home, and then, having been sent to the front for the first time, in an attempt to make all,in his last race, the Doncaster Cup, he faded from two furlongs out to finish seventh behind stablemate Pallasator. He races off a mark only 5lbs higher than that promising run at York, so it would be no surprise to see him involved at the finish.
Roger Varian’s 4yo Montjeu gelding Steve Rogers looked well suited by the step back up in trip when taking a two mile Cl3 Chester handicap four weeks ago off a mark of 83. There was nothing special about the form, but he did travel really well throughout and went about his business very professionally when asked. A winner of five of his seven races since January and racing off a mark of 87 this very genuine animal may well live up to merit his Captain America pseudonym*.
*Steve Rogers was the alter-ego of Captain America.
Selection: Low Key
E.W. : William Of Orange