Al Shaqab Lockinge Stakes Group1 1Mile Newbury

varian lockinge

Roger Varian sends out Sharja Bridge on Saturday

I hope some readers of the Oddsguru blog were on last week’s EW selection, Le Patriote, who landed The Swinton Hurdle under a great ride from Sam Twiston-Davies, at the tasty odds of 20/1. Our Win selection, Fiesole didn’t run badly either, finishing 4th in the 17 runner handicap also at 20/1. Indeed, but for a blunder at the last, this strong finisher would have been a lot closer. There will be no obstacles to get in the way of the runners in Saturday’s Lockinge, but with a field of 17, and 14 of them rated within 3 lbs of each other, it’s clearly a contest that’s going to take some winning. Aidan O’Brien won last year’s renewal with the filly, Rhododendron, (Oddsguru’s selection) and will be hoping to make it two in a row with the ex-Andre Fabre trained 5yo, Le Brivido.

The son of Siyouni has only been on a racecourse 6 times, 5 of them in France, and has been in the winners enclosure 3 times, but his best performance came in defeat when runner up in the French 2000Gns in 2017. In a race where the first two finished 3L clear of the field, he just lost out by a Short Head to the subsequent French Derby winner, Brametot. He went one better next time, winning the 7f Jersey Stakes at Royal Ascot, but was soundly beaten in his only other run for Fabre, a 6f Newmarket Group3 in April 2018. Following his move to Ballydoyle 2 months ago, and 369 days since that Newmarket race, he made a satisfactory debut for his new yard 4 weeks ago, finishing 3rd in the 7f Group3 Gladness Stakes at Naas. He reared up in the stalls, and was slowly away, but came home strongly to finish 1 1/4L behind the 105 rated Imaging. Plenty more will be required on Saturday but in the hands of the Ballydoyle Genius, it could well be forthcoming.

Kevin Burke’s wonderful filly Laurens, has scored a hugely impressive 5 times at the top level, but only against her own sex, and she did come up short when tackling the colts for the first time in last Autumn’s Queen Elizabeth 11 Stakes. newbury mapShe certainly didn’t give her true running, finishing 8th, 11 1/2L behind Roaring Lion, and her poor performance can be put down to the effects of a long season and the soft Ascot surface. Back on good ground it will be interesting to see how she gets on against the boys. Her trainer reports her to be 95% fit but points out that she improved for her first run of the season last year,(2nd 1000Gns).

Sir Michael Stoute has won The Lockinge 7 times, and will be hoping the 6yo gelding Mustashry, can land him an 8th. The son of Tamayuz has progressed from being a 95 rated Handicapper in his early 3yo career to winning two Group2’s in the space of a fortnight last Autumn, and is now rated 115. He had a nice pipe opener, finishing 3rd in a Newmarket Group3, 30 days ago, and I’m sure that Sir Michael, who does so well with these older horses, will have him primed for a race he clearly loves to win.

The Roger Varian trained 5yo entire, Sharja Bridge confirmed that he was better than a Handicapper when hosing up in the Listed Doncaster Mile first time out in March. 27 days later, he was beaten a 1/2L by Saturday’s opponent, Beat The Bank in a slowly run Sandown Group2, but back racing over a straight mile, and with plenty of pace guaranteed I fancy the Varian horse to come out on top.

Godolphin with 8 wins in the contest, are far and away the leading owners, so their sole representative this year, Mythical Magic, has to be of interest. The 4yo son of Iffraaj, was quietly impressive last time when winning at Group2 level for the first time. Taking it up at the 2f marker he ran on well to easily beat the 116 rated Century Dream at Meydan in February, and a strict interpretation of that form would make him look the one to beat on Saturday. However caution is advised, as the runner up has failed to fire in his 2 subsequent races, albeit at Group1 level. However Mythical Magic is clearly improving at a rate of knots, and a winter basking in the Arabian sun, won’t have done his chances any harm.

The Simon Crisford trained Ostilio, (in the same ownership as Sharja Bridge) ended his 3yo career with 2 excellent front running performances, hacking up in a Doncaster Handicap, and then taking a serious step up in class to win a Longchamp Group2. He may not be good enough to win on Saturday but should guarantee plenty of pace which can only benefit the co-owned, Sharja Bridge.

The only other animal besides Laurens, who has won at the top level, is the 25/1 winner of last year’s Irish 2000Gns, Romanised. A son of Holy Roman Emperor, he failed to score in his subsequent 3 races last year, but made a promising seasonal debut in the same heat at Naas as Le Brivido, where despite being short of racing room, he kept on well to finish couple of heads behind the O’Brien runner to whom he was giving 5lbs. Trained by the excellent Kevin Condon, it wouldn’t surprise to see him involved at the business end, particularly if the ground is on the fast side.

Selection : Sharja Bridge
EW.           : Mythical Magic

John Gray

Queen Anne Stakes (Group1) 1mile Str Royal Ascot Tuesday

royal ascotOur selection last week, God Given, stayed on well, and found plenty to give Luca Cumani his second Pinnacle Stakes at Haydock, and another success for the Oddsguru team, so here’s hoping we can keep the ball rolling in the opening heat of next week’s Royal Ascot Jamboree, The Queen Anne Stakes. First run as The Trial Stakes in 1840, it was renamed in 1930 in honour of Queen Anne who founded the Berkshire Track way back in 1711, and her race was belatedly given Group1 status in 2003. Prior to receiving it’s top level status, Sheik Mohammed’s Godolphin operation won the contest four times, and since becoming a Group1 race, they have registered a similar number of victories, all of which has to make their contender next Tuesday, Benbatl, of particular interest.

Unraced as a 2yo, Benbatl won two of his seven starts as a 3yo, including the 10f Group3 Hampton Court Stakes at last year’s Royal Meeting, but it is only since turning four and being campaigned in Dubai, that he has really begun making hay. He has won three of his four race in the Emirate, beginning with a smooth victory in January in the Group3 Singspiel Stakes, followed by another facile victory in the Group2 Al Rashidiya Stakes at the beginning of February. He followed this with a good second to Blair House in The Group1 Jebel Hatta Stakes, five weeks later, but it was his performance last time, when winning the hugely valuable Group1 Dubai Turf (worth well over £2.5 million pounds to the winner) that stamped him out as a very serious animal indeed. He won the 9f heat very easily by 3 1/4L from the Japanese horse Vivlos and had his previous conqueror, Blair House 12L back in 10th. Beautifully bred, by the great Dubawi, out of the top class mare, Nahrain, ( won twice at the top level, The Prix De Lopera 2011 and Belmont Park’s Invitational in 2012), Benbatl has had a nice 11 week break since his Dubai exertions, and if handling the one furlong drop in trip will make them all go.

Aidan O’Brien has won the race three times and his best chance of landing a fourth would seem to lie with his 4yo daughter of Galileo, Rhododendron. She needed every yard of Newbury’s straight mile to win the Group1 Lockinge Stakes four weeks ago, (Oddsguru’s Selection), mounting a strong challenge entering the final furlong she got up to beat the gallant Lightning Spear in the shadow of the post. This was the filly’s third Group1 success, two of them achieved over a straight mile, (won The Dubai Fillies Mile over Newmarket’s Rowley Mile as a 2yo) so despite a second in The Oaks, and a win in the 10f Group1 Prix de L’Opera Longines, her optimum trip does seem to be a strongly run mile. Her dam, Halfway To Heaven who won the Irish 1000gns in 2008 and the Group1 Sunchariot Stakes over a mile at Newmarket was certainly best at the trip and her full sister, Magical was best at seven furlongs.

Following a good 3rd to stable companion, Rhododendron (beaten 2 3/4L) in The Lockinge, the much travelled, Lancaster Bomber, got off the mark at the top level for the first time when winning the 10f Tattersalls Gold Cup from stablemate Cliffs Of Moher twenty three days ago. Having made all he found plenty for pressure and ‘won by 2L, and had the hot favourite, Defoe, a further 1 1/2L back in 3rd. A cautionary note is added as he did have his own way out front and the time was slow for the conditions but as a son of Warfront he thrives on fast ground, and it’s worth remembering that he was only collared inside the final furlong by Barney Roy in last year’s St James’s Palace Stakes when attempting to make all.

The French trained filly, Recoletos has won six of her ten starts, including last time, when she was quite impressive winning the 9f Group1 Prix d’Ispahan at Longchamp, where she beat the 113 rated Almodoran easily by 1 3/4L. This talented filly was only beaten a length in last year’s 10f Group1 Prix Du Jockey Club where she was only headed 50yds from the post, and in her first race this term she put up an excellent performance winning the Group2 Prix Du Muguet very readily from the proven Group2 performer Jimmy Two Times. The C Laffon-Parias trained 4yo does seem to have progressed over the winter and it wouldn’t take much more to put her in the mix. A slight concern would be that she has never raced on anything faster than good.

The American trained Yoshida would be an interesting contender if turning up. Lightly raced with only eight runs under his belt the 4yo son of the very successful Japanese stallion, Hearts Cry didn’t exactly set the world alight in his first six races, and it was only at the seventh time of asking that he was successful at Graded level. He won the Grade3 Hill Park Stakes at Belmont Park last October and then seemed to have significantly improved over the winter when winning the 9f Grade1 Old Forester Turf Classic at Churchill Downs on his reappearance in May. He beat the three times Grade1 winner Beach Patrol” by 3/4L in the style of an improved performer and could be interesting for his hugely successful trainer, William Mott.

Selection: Benbatl.  If abs Rhododendron
E.W.         : Yoshida

John Gray