Stobart Rail Northumberland Plate Handicap 2m 1/2f Newcastle Saturday

First run in 1833 The Northumberland Plate has never been an easy heat to solve, but, with four “jollies” in the last decade getting their head in front perhaps it’s getting a little more punter friendly. Last year saw the inaugural running of the contest on Newcastle’s new, All-Weather Tapeta surface, and the hugely valuable prize went to the Charlie Appleby trained Antiquarian for the “boys in blue” from Godolphin. Significantly his only experience of the Tapeta Surface had been gained at Wolverhampton in his first two races. He came second first time up, and then won next time, demonstrating his ability to handle the surface. Current market leader, Flymetothestars has had a similarly happy experience of the Tapeta Surface, winning his two races on it, both here at Newcastle.

The Sir Mark Prescott trained 4yo showed plenty of pace to win over 12f at Newcastle last October, and then demonstrated his strong stamina credentials, when winning on his reappearance over Saturday’s course and distance six weeks ago. Racing off a mark of 91 he stayed on strongly to beat Endless Acres by 2L, with Saturday’s opponent, Champagne Champ, 7L back in third. Beautifully bred, by Sea The Stars out of the Saddlers Wells mare Precious Gem, (won four of her eleven starts for Dermot Weld), Flymetothestars almost certainly, after only four runs, has plenty of improvement to come, and doesn’t look badly treated off a mark of 100. The one slight reservation would be his lack of experience, but his canny trainer knows how to prepare one for these big handicaps.

Top northern handler, and local boy, Brian Ellison, would dearly love to win “The Plate” and did go very close with his doughty stayer, Seamour, in last year’s renewal where he raced off a mark of 99. The 6yo son of Azamour, looked home and hosed when going 3L clear at the furlong marker only to be run down by Antiquarian in the shadow of the post. He only had two more runs last season, resulting in a fine second in a Class2 14f Doncaster handicap off a mark of 103, and then went down by a diminishing nose, when just failing to get up in a 2m Newmarket listed contest. He made a highly satisfactory start to this year’s campaign when finishing third to Dal Harraid over 14f at York five weeks ago, a race he used as a prep for last year’s contest. Despite being 4lbs higher this time around, but with the benefit of last year’s experience, (was also 6th in 2015 ) Seamour has to have a serious chance of fulfilling his talented trainers dream.

James Fanshawe won this in 1995 with Bold Gait carrying the welter weight of 9-10, and following the heroics of Big Orange in last week’s Ascot Gold Cup, must be hopeful that his Higher Power, who ran second to the Gold Cup winner in a Sandown Group3 last time out, might provide him with a second success. However Big Orange won that Sandown contest very easily and as the Fanshawe horse was beaten off a mark of 100 in his previous race, Saturday’s 107, giving him a racing weight of 9-9 looks a big ask. Indeed the only animal to carry more than 9-5 since his illustrious predecessor in 1995, was the Jonjo O’Neill’ trained Tormentor (9-10) in 2013, so perhaps the second Fanshawe contender, Lord George, is of greater interest, as he looks the type to improve for the step up in distance.

National Hunt trainers, with four wins in the past decade, have had their fair share of success, and the above mentioned O’Neill has an interesting runner in the ex French, Minotaur. With a win and two seconds at Listed level in France, he has a touch of class, and after a relatively slow start, the JP Mc Manus owned gelding seems to be getting his act together over hurdles, with two easy wins in his last two races. The 5yo son of Azamour was particularly impressive fifteen days ago, easily winning an Aintree 2 1/2m Novices, and with a win on the All-Weather in France on his CV, is worth considering.

Godolphin are attempting to repeat last year’s success, this time with the 4yo filly Natural Scenery, and significantly her record on a Tapeta surface is 3/3, winning at Wolverhampton and twice here at Gosforth Park. Last time out she started favourite for Lingfields very valuable All-Weather marathon in April, but drawn wide and having to come from behind, she met plenty of trouble and could only finish sixth. She is probably better judged on her previous run over course and distance when ridden by Josephine Gordon she won a Class2 handicap very easily by 2L from subsequent Imperial Cup winner London Prize off a mark of 95. Indeed Gordon has a 100% record on the filly having ridden her to all three wins on Tapeta. Natural Scenery is another beautifully bred animal, by Dubawi out of a Saddlers Wells mare, and it’s not too difficult to imagine her defying her mark of 103 on Saturday, and maintaining her talented riders 100% record.

Selection : Flymetothestars
E.W. : Natural Scenery (if abs Seamour)

John Gray

Diamond Jubilee Stakes (Group1) 6f Royal Ascot Saturday

Trainer Henry Candy has a fine chance landing the spoils for a second consecutive year.

Henry Candy and Ryan Moore teamed up to win this last year with Twilight Son, and they must be entertaining strong hopes of bringing off the double with the talented son of Tagula, Limato, this year. The 5yo started last seasons campaign over a mile at Newbury where he finished fourth. He then returned to his optimum trip of six furlongs in The Group1 July Cup at Newmarket, and he showed what he was capable of. He put up a blinding performance to beat Suedois by 2L, when, taking it up over 1f out, he stormed clear, earning the highest speed rating of any 6f sprinter all season, and leaving four of Saturday’s opponents, Suedois, Washington DC, Magical Memory, and Jungle Cat in his wake. He couldn’t quite get to grips with the speedy Mecca’s Angel in the Group1 5f Nunthorpe Stakes at York, but still put up another very solid performance on the clock when finishing second. He showed what a versatile performer he is when taking the 7f Group1 Prix De La Foret on Arc Day in his next race, but may just have had the one visit to the well too many, when only finishing 6th over a mile at The Breeders Cup in November. He made his seasonal debut nearly five months later in a 6f Meydan Group1, and on ground he wouldn’t have liked, can be excused his poor showing in tenth place. On his two previous course and distance appearances at Ascot, (both on good/firm) he has won a Group3, and finished second in the inaugural running of the Group1 Commonwealth Cup, he’s trained by one of the best handlers of sprinters around, and has the best jockey in the world in the plate, so what’s not to like!

Having won with Society Rock in 2011 James Fanshawe knows what is required and his 5yo, The Tin Man is of definite interest.The son of Equiano made a great start to last year’s campaign winning easily at Windsor and was then sent off a warm order at 7/2 to win last years renewal of the Diamond Jubilee, but could only finish a disappointing eighth. However he subsequently proved the form all wrong by winning his next race, a Newbury Group3, finishing second to the outstanding filly, Quiet Reflection, in Haydock’s Group1 Sprint, and finally, taking the Group1 Champion Sprint over course and distance in October. He made a satisfactory reappearance in a York Group2 where he had to carry a 5lbs penalty for his Group1 success finishing 5th to Saturday’s opponent Tasleet, who had the benefit of a previous outing. While The Tin Man acts on a good/firm surface, (has won three times on it) the suspicion lingers that he prefers softer and is worth particular consideration if there is any rain.

Despite a tardy start in last year’s contest the Charlie Hills trained Magical Memory ran a great race to finish fourth, only 1/2L behind the winner on good/soft ground, and indeed, some observers feel that had he been held onto a little longer might have gone very close to winning. The rest of his season went the wrong way but this impressive winner of The Stewards Cup as a 3yo and the winner of two consecutive group races last year, made an encouraging start to this campaign when finishing second to Tasleet in a York Group2 thirty eight days ago on soft ground. Well suited by a good/firm surface, it looks as if he will have his optimum conditions on Saturday and is one for the shortlist.

Tasleet’s win in that York Group2 was achieved purely on merit in a decent time for the conditions, and represented a step up on any of his previous form. The son of Showcasing is clearly progressive but does seem to need some cut to perform to his best so is another who would like to see the heavens open.

The French have never won the race but have a live contender this year with the 6yo The Right Man. A winner of nine of his seventeen starts he put up the best performance of his career last time when winning a Meydan Group1 where he had Long on Value, Jungle Cat, Washington DC, Limato and Finsbury Square behind. A repeat performance would certainly put the son of Lope De Vega in Saturday’s picture but he is yet another who seems to enjoy some give underfoot.
Selection : Limato

E.W. : Magical Memory

John Gray

Kings Stand Stakes (Group1) 5f Royal Ascot

Betting Preview : Kings Stand Stakes (Group1) 5f Royal Ascot Tuesday – Having won the contest with Prohibit in 2011 and Goldream two years ago, that master trainer of sprinters, Robert Cowell certainly knows what is required, and is quite hopeful that his talented 8yo might regain his crown. The son of Oasis Dream was an excellent third to last year’s Prix de L’Abbaye heroine, Marsha, on his reappearance in the Palace House Stakes at Headquarters in May, and was probably a little unlucky to be beaten by Priceless in the Temple Stakes at Haydock. He lost ground with an uncharacteristic slow exit from the gate, and was only beaten 1/2L. The 8yo seems to be as good as ever and given his preferred fast ground could prove Mr Cowell’s optimism well founded.

Current market leader is the flying 3yo American filly, Lady Aurelia, who was so impressive when winning last years 5f Queen Mary Stakes at the meeting. She flew from the gate, and coasted home by 7L, in the hands of Frankie Dettori. She went on to take a Deauville 6f Group1 at odds of 2/7, but then suffered her only defeat when breaking a blood vessel at Newmarket. She was impressive when winning a listed race at Keenland on her reappearance proving that she has trained on, so with that scintillating Queen Mary performance in mind, is fully entitled to her position at the top of the market. However 3yo’s haven’t a great record in the Kings Stand and we have to go back 36 years to find the last successful filly of the classic generation, (The Michael Stoute trained Marwell in 1981).

The 2015 winner of the Queen Mary, the ex American filly, Acapulco, is now in the hands of Tipperary maestro, Aidan O ‘Brien, and she made her debut for the stable a winning one when landing a 5f Curragh listed race five weeks ago. She would need to step up considerably on this performance to figure on Tuesday but the key to her seems to be good fast ground, so given her conditions and coming from this yard, expect a big run.

The only animal to retain his title the following year has been the legendary Sole Power, but last year’s winner, (and Oddsguru’s selection), Profitable, is not without a chance of emulating him.

profitable kings stand

Profitable landed the spoils last year for the Oddsguru.

A winner of the 2016 renewals of The Palace House Stakes, The Temple Stakes, and The Kings Stand Stakes, all on easy ground, he made a satisfactory reappearance when finishing second to Signs Of Blessing (gave 11lbs) in a Deauville Group3 seven weeks ago. Trainer Clive Cox blamed the poor draw and very tacky ground for the defeat and is confident of a top performance on Tuesday.

Cox is also represented by the 4yo filly Priceless, and this winner of four of her twelve starts looked an improving type when coasting home by 5L on her seasonal debut, in a Bath listed race. Well fancied for the Palace House Stakes next time out, she ran far too freely, and finished fifth. She made amends twenty four days ago when taking the Temple stakes, and given good or faster ground on Tuesday is worth considering.

The Sir Mark Prescott trained 4yo filly Marsha, was something of a surprise package when winning last year’s Group1 Prix de L’Abbaye, but showed that it was no fluke, when, despite carrying her Group1 penalty, she won The Palace House Stakes 45 days ago. She had eleven of Tuesday’s field behind her that day all of whom will be meeting her on worse terms, again emphasising what an improving animal she is, and she looks the one to beat.

The Willie Haggas trained Muthmir has only raced at Ascot on the one occasion and that was in the 2015 renewal of The Kings Stand where he put up an excellent performance to finish third to Goldream. The son of Invincible Spirit got this season off to a flying start with a convincing win over Mr Lupton and Tuesday’s opponent Willytheconqueror at Bath, but then disappointed behind Marsha in the Palace House Stakes at Newmarket. However, he has never performed well at headquarters, and we saw a different horse last time. He won his third Group2, from another of Tuesday’s opponents, Finsbury Square, by a length, with Willytheconqueror 6 3/4L back in seventh, at Chantilly sixteen days ago. This run strongly suggests that he is back to his best and as he is likely to get the fast run race that suits so well, is another to consider, particularly as he is available at odds of 20/1 at the time of writing.

Selection : Marsha
E.W. : Muthmir

John Gray

Betway John Of Gaunt Stakes Racing Tips

Betway John Of Gaunt Stakes

Betway John Of Gaunt Stakes (Group3) 7f Haydock SaturdayAfter the heady excitement of last week’s Derby, this Saturday’s offerings are of a much more pedestrian nature. Nevertheless Haydock’s Group3 John Of Gaunt Stakes looks a very competitive affair so let’s hope we can point you in the right direction.

David O’Meara won this in 2014 with that Grand campaigner, the 8yo Penitent, who passed the post at the rewarding odds of 33/1, and in the doughty 7yo So Beloved, he has a similar type to go to war with this year. The son of Dansili has a great track record with two wins and a place from four course appearances, and as he has won a Goodwood Group3 on soft ground the forecast rain for the weekend shouldn’t be a concern. He does have a little to find with Oh This Is Us on running here last month, but coming from this yard, and with conditions likely to be in his favour, it will come as no surprise to see him come out on top this time.

The aforementioned, Oh This Is Us, has been in great form this Spring, notching up two victories, and indeed looked a little unlucky not to have made it three when getting hemmed in, in last week’s Diomed Stakes at Epsom, with Pat Dobson in the plate. With Ryan Moore taking over the steering duties, he could be a danger to all but I wonder how he will cope with the likely conditions.

The Hugo Palmer trained Home Of The Brave won last year’s renewal, and the 5yo Entire, a son of Starspangledbanner, ran another very solid race when finishing second to Richard Pankhurst in a Newbury Group2 in August. He made a most encouraging reappearance six weeks ago when comfortably taking a Leicester listed contest in the manner of an improved performer and if handling conditions, must have a great chance of bringing off the double, (has won his only race on good/soft, but has never run on anything easier).

Charlie Hills is quite bullish about the chances of his lightly raced 4yo, Ibn Malik. The son of Ravens pass won the Free Handicap first time up as a 3yo, and followed that with a good 4th in Royal Ascot’s Jersey Stakes, less than 3L behind the winner, Ribchester. Well beaten in his only other start, he was put away for the season. Hills reports him in A1 condition following treatment for his feet, and as he won first time out last year has to be considered. However as a son of Ravens Pass he is always going to prefer a good racing surface.

If the forecast rain does materialise, conditions could prove ideal for the David Simcock trained Breton Rock. He loves to get his toe in and has won or been placed on six of the eight times he has raced on soft, and the only time he raced on heavy, a Newmarket listed race last June, he beat the very useful Adaay. He was only beaten a short head in this contest three years ago,(soft) but following a decent 3rd in the Group1 Lockinge three weeks ago, the 7yo son of Bahamian Bounty seems as good as ever. The only negative in his profile is the 5lbs penalty he has to carry for his Doncaster Group2 victory last September.

The Richard Fahey trained 5yo Growl has been campaigned at sprinting distances for most of his career but has been placed on one of his three attempts at 7f. However the way he ran on in last years Ayr Gold Cup to finish second strongly suggests that the 7f trip is within his compass, and in the hands of master trainer Fahey is definitely worth a second look.

The Andrew Balding trained Absolutely So is another who has done a lot of his racing at shorter than 7f, but did put up a very solid performance last time when going down by a neck to Oh This Is Us over the course and distance four weeks ago. He didn’t have the clearest of runs that day, and might handle the forecast conditions better than the winner, but if stamina is at a premium, which seems likely, I wonder if he will get home.

Given the wet forecast David Lanigan’s 5yo Mitchum Swagger (pictured above) is worth considering. Unraced as a 2yo, he made his racecourse debut a winning one when taking a 7f Newbury Maiden in May 2015. Despite some useful performances, including a head defeat by the useful Hathal in a 1m Group3 over the course on soft ground last September, his only other win was, again over the course, in a 1m handicap, off a mark of 87 in September 2015 on soft ground. He made a promising start to this years campaign when finishing 5th in a 1m Sandown Group2 in April but then, perhaps not surprisingly, made little impression in the Group1 Lockinge Stakes. He has got form at 7f, including that debut win at Newbury, and on the All Weather, so with his strong stamina credentials, if the conditions do deteriorate, he is definitely one to consider.
Selection : So Beloved

E.W.          : Mitchum Swagger

John Gray

Investec Derby (Group1) 1m4f Epsom Saturday

With no stand out performance coming from any of the established trials, this years renewal has a very open look to it, and indeed only one contender, Permian, with a Racing Post Rating of 114 comes anywhere near the 117 average rating achieved by all the winners of the Blue Riband in their previous race over the last quarter century. However even in the most open looking years, the market has proved a good guide, and Ruler Of The World’s starting price of 7/1 was the longest recorded this millennium.

Heading the market at the time of writing is the John Gosden trained Cracksman, and the Master of Clarehaven is hopeful that the son of the great Frankel, will deliver him a third success, following Benny The Dip (1997) and Golden Horn (2015). Cracksman won a mile Newmarket maiden on his debut last October, and kept his 100% record when getting up in the last stride to collar Permian in Epsom’s 10f Derby Trial in April. He just got the better of the subsequent Dante Stakes winner, looking as if he needed every inch of the 10f trip, but it’s worth noting that the time was nearly six seconds slower than standard, and on pedigree, Cracksman isn’t guaranteed to stay the extra two furlongs on Saturday. His sire Frankel never raced beyond 10 1/2f, and Cracksman’s half brother, Fantastic Moon, having won the 7f Solario Stakes as a 2yo, was never even placed in his subsequent six races, all run at around a mile. His dam Rhadegunda, by Pivotal, was very consistent, but never won beyond 11f, ( a listed race at Fontainebleau at the end of her 3yo career). With only the two runs under his belt the Gosden colt is very inexperienced, and with those doubts about his stamina, I’m not sure he deserves his position at the head of the market.

The short head runner up to Cracksman at Epsom, Permian, certainly isn’t short of experience. He is already the veteran of ten contests and to say the least has had a most unconventional preperation for a “Derby Horse”. A winner of a Windsor Nursery off a lowly 83 as a 2yo, he was beaten in a Bath handicap off a mark of 100 on his reappearance, but has been on a strong upward curve ever since. He followed his narrow defeat by Cracksman at Epsom by winning a listed 10f Newmarket contest with his head in his chest, and then took another significant step forward when winning that good Derby Trial, the 10 1/2f Dante Stakes, putting in all his best work at the finish. He is by that strong influence for stamina, Teofilo, a son of the great Galileo. Teofilo has already sired the winner of the Group1 Irish Derby, Trading Leather, and Pleascach, the winner of the 12f Group1 Yorkshire Oaks. He is also the sire of Quest For More who won a Chantilly Group1 over 2m4f. Clearly a strong influence for stamina there is also plenty of encouragement on the distaff that stamina won’t be a problem. He is out of the dual listed winning mare, Tessa Reef who has produced Samana Cay and Second Wave, both of whom have been placed at listed level over 10f. His top connections have supplemented this rapidly improving colt at a cost of £85,000 and come 4.45pm on Saturday it could look money well spent.

Aidan O’Brien is seeking a 6th win in the race, and fielding six sons of Galileo, who won in 2001 and has already sired three winners of the great race, New Approach, Ruler Of The World and Australia, has got a very strong hand indeed. Joint favourite at the time of writing, Cliffs Of Moher, looked a really exciting prospect when winning his second race, a Leopardstown Maiden, last October. He was more workmanlike than brilliant when winning the 10 1/2f Dee Stakes on his reappearance, but having coped well with the unique demands of the Roodeye, and the proximity of the huge crowds, it should make Epsom seem less daunting. His sires offspring stay well and there are stamina influences in the dams pedigree as well. He was putting in his best work at the finish at Chester and could find Epsom’s mile and a half right up his street.

The Martyn Mead trained Emminent made his racecourse debut a winning one when landing a Newmarket Maiden last September, and even then his style of running suggested that he would be suited by further. He reappeared in the Craven Stakes and, putting in all his best work again in the last furlong, he won well. He was sent off a 5/1 shot for the 2000gns but in a steadily run race finished 6th, 3 1/2L behind Churchill, which in view of the latter’s subsequent win in the Irish equivalent wasn’t a bad performance at all. On pedigree there are solid grounds to expect plenty of improvement from Emminent with a step up in trip. He is by Frankel whom himself is a son of Galileo and from the limited evidence his offspring do seem to stay well. On the distaff, Emminent’s dam, You’ll Be Mine, is a daughter of Kingmambo, and she looked a staying type when finishing 3rd in the Group1 Fillies Mile as a 2yo. She is a half sister to Diamondandrubies, winner of the Group1 10f Pretty Polly Stakes at the Curragh, and they’re both out of Quarter Moon, who was second in the 2002 Oaks. Considering his pedigree and his style of racing it wouldn’t be the greatest surprise if Emminent became Frankels first classic winner.

Selection: Cliffs Of Moher

E.W. Emminent

John Gray

Betting Preview Armstrong Aggregates Temple Stakes (Group2) 5f Haydock Saturday

What an impressive winner last week’s selection, Ribchester, was! Despite his intended pacemaker, Toscanini, fluffing his lines, pilot Buick was very positive, and gave the son of Iffraaj a great ride from the front. Nothing could live with him in the closing stages and he came home 3 3/4L clear of the runner up, Lightening Spear. Richard Fahey’s charge looked as if a mile and a quarter would be well within his compass but his immediate target is the eight furlong Queen Anne Stakes at the Royal Meeting. As all surfaces seem to come alike to this exceptionally talented colt the 15/8 available for the Queen Anne doesn’t look bad value.
Saturday’s market for the Temple Stakes is headed by the flying filly Quiet Reflection, and having bagged two Group1s last year, The Commonwealth Cup at Royal Ascot, and The Sprint Cup here at Haydock, she fully deserves her position. However both those top level wins were over 6f and it remains to be seen how she will cope with the drop back to five, a distance she hasn’t raced over since her win in the Cornwallis Stakes at Ascot back in 2015, and that was on soft ground. Her excellent trainer, Karl Burke, is fully confident that she has the speed to cope over five furlongs, but he is worried about fast ground, which if the current forecast proves correct seems likely, so a watching brief is advised.
There are no such fears regarding the Tom Dascombe trained Son of Kyllachy, Kachy, who finished second to Quiet Reflection, beaten a length, in the Commonwealth Cup and now meets her on 5lbs better terms. He disappointed in his next three races but put up an eye catching performance on his reappearance in the 5f Palace House Stakes three weeks ago where very slow out of the stalls, he flew home to finish 4th. Three times a winner over the minimum trip he is well worth considering.
Aidan O ‘Briens Washington D.C was third, 1L and 1/2L behind Quiet Reflection and Kachy in The Commonwealth Cup, but was ahead of Tom Dascombe’s contender when finishing second in the Palace House Stakes three weeks ago and coming from this powerful yard has to be considered. However, the son of Zoffany does seem to just miss out at this level, so perhaps O’Brien has a better chance with the ex American filly, Acapulco. Previously trained by American handler, Wesley Ward, she made quite an impression when beating Easton Angel 1 1/2L on only her second racecourse appearance at Royal Ascot in 2015, and went on to put up another noteworthy performance for a two year old when finishing second to Mecca’s Angel in the 5f Group1 Nunthorpe Stakes. Having her first run for O’Brien thirteen days ago, the filly, who is in foal to Galileo, and now owned by the Coolmore operation, won a 5f listed race at the Curragh by 1/2L from Ardhoomey. A real 5f specialist she will love the forecast ground and unpenalised has to be on the shortlist.
Another who will relish the likely conditions is the Charlie Hills trained 5yo Cotai Glory. He lost his race at the start when slipping over in the Palace House Stakes, and Jamie Spencer did really well to stay in the plate but the horse’s chance was gone. However he did keep on and finished well and trainer Hills is quite bullish about his chances. He was only beaten a neck by Profitable in last years Kings Stand Stakes, (at odds of 33/1) on a least preferred soft surface, so this son of Exceed and Excell definitely has what it takes to win at this level, and given fast ground at the weekend could easily find himself in the winners enclosure.
Selection : Cotai Glory

E.W. : Acapulco 

John Gray

Racing Tips Al Shaqab Lockinge Stakes

Al Shaqab Lockinge Stakes ( Group1 ) 1m Str Newbury Saturday – Having won twenty one of the last thirty renewals, 4yo’s are clearly the dominant age group, and so it proved again last year, when the Roger Varian trained Belardo came home in front. The Oddsguru’s selection, he was returned at the tasty odds of 8/1, so here’s hoping we can point you in the right direction again. Group1 form, particularly at a mile, has been most important with sixteen of the last twenty one winners boasting success over 8f at the top level. Any runner sporting the Blue of Godolphin is worth a second glance as they have won seven of the last nineteen renewals. Mind you, the Red and White of the Cheveley Park operation haven’t done too badly either with four wins since the dawn of the new millennium. Both 2000gns winners who contested this in the last decade have won, so last years Newmarket Hero, Galileo Gold, has to be of considerable interest.
A winner of a Goodwood Group2 as a juvenile, he started his 3yo career in the best possible style, winning the Newmarket Classic on his seasonal debut. He couldn’t quite match Awtaad in the Irish equivalent, but put up a sparkling display next time, winning the 1m Group1 St James’s Palace Stakes at Royal Ascot (Sft) where he had his Irish conqueror 1 3/4L back in third. A close second in Goodwood’s Sussex Stakes followed, but he was disappointing in his last two races, finishing behind Saturday’s opponent, Ribchester on both occasions. However the first half of his season was impressive and racing in the colours of Saturday’s Sponsor, Al Shaqab, on ground which is likely to be soft, he has to be on the shortlist.
Having won the 6f Group2 Mill Reef Stakes over the course as a 2yo, the Richard Fahey trained 4yo Ribchester went from strength to strength in his 3yo career. He finished second at Maison-Laffitte on his reappearance before belying his odds of 33/1 to finish third in the 2000gns, 3 1/2L behind Galileo Gold. He went on to win the 7f Group3 Jersey Stakes on soft ground at the Royal Meeting, and confirmed his progress when, finishing best of all, he was only beaten a neck and short head by The Gurkha and Galileo Gold in the 1m Group1 Sussex Stakes. He made no mistake next time, winning the Group1 Prix Jacques Le Marois at Deauville, where Galileo Gold was 3 1/4L back in eighth, and put up another very solid performance when going down by 1/2L to the brilliant filly Minding, in the Group1 QE.11 Stakes at Ascot in October. He made a highly satisfactory reappearance at Meydan in March over 9f, finishing third, (and pocketing over 3/4 of a million pounds for his trouble). Back over 8f, on the likely soft ground which he handles so well, and with stablemate Toscanini to guarantee a truly run race, this very progressive colt must have serious prospects of providing “the boys in blue” with their eighth win in the race.
Aidan O’Brien won this with Hawkwing fourteen years ago, but has drawn a blank with his ten runners since. He tries again this year with the beautifully bred 4yo daughter of Fastnet Rock, Somehow. She is out of that fabulous mare Alexandrova who won the English, Irish and Yorkshire Oaks in 2006. Somehow, only had the one run as a 2yo and won three of her six races at three, but this year seems to be improving at a rate of knots. She made her seasonal reappearance, in a Naas Group3 on holding ground where she went down down by 1/2L, but made no mistake 5weeks, later bolting up in a Gowran Park Listed event over 9 1/2f on soft ground. Last time, thirteen days ago, she won the 9f Group2 Dahlia Stakes at Newmarket on good/firm ground with her head in her chest, and looked a filly going places. Somehow, has never won over shorter than 9f but her marvellous dam, despite her strong stamina credentials, had plenty of speed, and it will come as no surprise to see her involved at the business end on Saturday, particularly If conditions are testing.
Martin Meade’s Aclaim is another who won’t mind if the ground is soft at the weekend. The 4yo son of Acclamation has raced twice on easy ground and won both times, and he looks a very progressive type. He won a 1m Ascot Handicap off a mark of 97 at the beginning of last September, and two weeks later hosed up in a 7f listed contest at Newbury on soft ground. In his final race of the season he took the step up to Group2 level in his stride, winning the 7f contest comfortably from Lumiere with Saturday’s opponent Cougar Mountain 3 1/4L back in fifth. Clearly progressive we probably haven’t seen the best of him yet.

Selection : Ribchester 

E.W. : Somehow 

John Gray