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

William Hill Ayr Gold Cup Handicap Bets 6f Ayr Saturday

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Trainer Kevin Ryan is aiming for 5 Ayr Gold Cups on Saturday

First run in its present format in 1906 this very valuable handicap with a maximum field of 25 runners, is always a highly competitive heat. Raced for over Ayr’s straight 6f, usually on easy ground, it is always run at a pillar to post gallop, putting a premium on stamina, and an ability to stay beyond 6f has proven a decided asset in the past. It has proved a tough race for the Classic generation with only two 3yo’s getting their head in front in the past 22 years, and market leaders have done even worse, with only 2 delivering the goods since 1980. The late lamented Dandy Nicholls scored a fantastic six timer in the contest, a terrific strike rate by any standards, and very difficult to beat, but his fellow Yorkshire based trainer, Irishman, Kevin Ryan, with four wins is creeping up on the rails, and his 4yo, Tommy Taylor might just be the horse to get him to within one of Dandy’s record.

A son of the American stallion, Mizzen Mast, with only 2 wins from 17 starts, his strike rate isn’t exactly impressive, but his run in The Sky Bet Dash Handicap (6f Soft) at York at the end of July hinted at better to come. He finished 5/14, only a nose behind one of the market leaders for Saturday’s contest, Growl, and meets him on the same terms on Saturday, which makes his current odds of 25/1 look generous. He put in another decent effort last time, finishing 3rd in an Ascot Class2 Handicap (6f Gd-Fm) two weeks ago. Well suited by soft ground and stays 7f, (only beaten a head by the useful Londinium over 7f on heavy ground on his 2yo racing debut in 2016) he could find plenty in his favour on Saturday.

ayrracesFollowing an excellent run in the 5f Group1 Flying Five at The Curragh last Sunday, the Fozzy Stack trained 4yo, Son of Rest, has the doubtful honour of leading Saturday’s market. He was only beaten 1/2L by Havana Grey, and had Sioux Nation, a previous top level scorer, a neck back in 3rd, at the Co Kildare venue, and he gets into Saturday’s contest on a mark 10lbs lower than his new rating of 111. As would be expected of a son of Pivotal, he relishes testing ground, (Has won on heavy and soft and was 2 3/4L behind Caravaggio on Soft/Heavy in a Curragh Group2 last year). He probably deserves his position at the top of the market, but it’s a concern that, while he clearly stays 6f and beyond, he has never won at the trip, and there has to be a worry about his ability to recover from last Sunday’s exertions in only six days. If he does prevail on Saturday, he will find his own little niche in history as the first winner from the Emerald Isle.

Despite their poor record in the contest, Roger Varian’s 3yo, Laugh a Minute looks interesting. A son of Mayson, (his progeny thrive in testing conditions) he has won 2 of his 9 starts, and put up an excellent performance in the Group3 Prix De Meautry Barriere at Deauville 24 days ago. He finished 2nd, 3 1/2L behind the subsequent winner, Tantheem (won a Longchamp Group3 easily from City Light next time) and had the useful D’Bai (close 2nd in a Doncaster Group2 next time back in 4th), strong form indeed! His mark on Saturday of 109, giving him a racing weight of 9-8 makes life look difficult, but it is a tight handicap, and with his liking for soft ground and proven ability to stay further, it wouldn’t be the biggest surprise to see him improve the 3yo’s record in the race.

The Tim Easterby trained 5yo, Flying Pursuit has won 7 of his 37 starts and handles testing conditions, He has been in good form of late, winning the Sky Bet Dash at York from stable companion, and opponent on Saturday, Golden Appolo, at the end of July, and then finishing 6/20 in The Great St Wilfrid at Ripon on Good ground three weeks later. Back on soft ground, this previous course and distance winner is worth a second look.

Richard Fahey (a trainer seeking his third win in the race) will be hoping that his 6yo Growl can go one better than when finishing 2nd to Brando in the 2016 renewal. He has been running well in all the top sprint handicaps this term, and indeed, may have been a tad unlucky not to have landed Goodwood’s Stewards Cup in August. Racing off a mark of 99 he had to be switched at the furlong marker and finished really strongly to nab 3rd place on the line. Racing off the same mark on Saturday he looks well treated, but probably wouldn’t be suited by really testing ground.

The Dean Ivory trained 3yo filly, Eirene has been mostly campaigned at six and seven furlongs, and she put in an excellent round last time when going down by a hard fought 3/4L to Dancing Star in Doncaster’s Group3 7f Sceptre Stakes 8 days ago. She was pulled up on her only other venture into handicap company when losing her action in Goodwood’s Stewards Cup, Racing off a mark of 101. She has won at 5, 6, and 7 furlongs, handles soft ground and following that excellent effort at Doncaster last week looks well handicapped on her Goodwood mark. One to be interested in!

Selection : Laugh A Minute
E.W.          : Tommy Taylor

John Gray

Qatar Stewards Cup Tips

Qatar Stewards Cup Handicap 6f Goodwood Saturday – First run in its present format in 1840 the race has seen plenty of lightweights in the winners’ circle in the past, but recent renewals have seen a “classier” animal to the fore. Indeed all of the last ten winners were rated at least 95, and three of the last five had ratings over one hundred. An eight year old, three six year olds, and two three year olds have managed to get their heads in front in the last twenty years but the overwhelmingly successful age groups have been the four and five year olds.

David Nicholls with four previous winners on the board must fancy his chances of making it five with his vastly improved 5yo entire, Orion’s Bow. A winner of his last five races, he started the sequence on Newcastle’s All Weather track in May off a lowly 69, and completed the five timer a fortnight ago at Hamilton in the Scottish Stewards Cup off a mark of 97. He took it up inside the furlong marker and won by 3 1/4L from the very good yardstick Hoof It, (won the 2011 Stewards Cup carrying 10st). He races on Saturday off a 6lbs higher mark which seems fair, but a bigger concern would be very fast ground. By Pivotal he does like to get his toe in but has got plenty of form on Gd/Fm and Gd.

The Nicholls yard is also represented by the 6yo Kimberella and judging by his last time out win at York, is no back number. He was quite impressive winning this Class2 event on fast ground off a mark of 99 so Saturday’s 103 looks doable. He has no Goodwood form but was a most unlucky loser of Epsom’s “Dash” so the downhill track shouldn’t present any problems. Worth considering!

Roger Varian’s 5yo Double Up ran a fine race over 5f at Haydock in May where despite being hampered was only beaten 1 1/2L and 3/4L by Take Cover and Cotai Glory in a conditions event. He looked a very progressive animal last year winning three handicaps, the last of them off a mark of 98. His mark at the weekend of 105 does look quite tough but with form on the track, and a progressive profile, stepping up to 6f he is worth considering.

A course and distance winner at the beginning of June off a mark of 80, Andrew Balding’s 3yo filly Dancing Star has attracted market support. She was impressive three weeks ago at Headquarters winning off a mark of 96, so her new mark of 102 doesn’t look too bad, and she just might become the first 3yo filly since Sir Michael Stoute’s Autumn Sunset (8st2lbs)  won in 1983.

Poyle Vinnie ran a great race to finish second in last years Ayr Gold Cup off a mark of love 103 and races on Saturday off a pound lower. Michael Appleby’s 6yo finished a respectable 3rd to Right Touch and Kimberella three weeks ago at Chester when apprentice ridden. Reunited with his usual pilot, Andrew Mullen, he is worth considering at a big price.

Sprint specialist, Robert Cowell’s 5yo has come in for plenty of support. He hasn’t won since his two year old days but showed the talent was still there when finishing second in this last year, and coming 4th in the Ayr Gold Cup off a mark of 102. His two runs this term have failed to catch the judges eye, but again racing off 102 and coming from this yard it would come as no surprise to see him involved at the business end.

Oddsguru’s E.W. Selection in last week’s International at Ascot Right Touch, was taken out to wait for this, so has to be of interest. Trained by Richard Fahey, he demonstrated his wellbeing three weeks ago when taking a Chester handicap from a poor draw off a mark of 95 and previously had run well over the Goodwood track last April off the same mark. In a 7f contest and apprentice ridden, he was beaten less than a length when finishing 4th but had been given an awful lot to do. Out the back with a furlong to run he finished best of all, so with Ryan Moore taking over steering duties it could be a different story at the weekend.

Selection:    Toofi

E.W.       :   Poyle Vinnie.

Rose of Lancaster Stakes Gp3 1m 2 1/2 f Haydock Saturday

Roger Varian

Roger Varian’s progressive looking Dynaformer colt Intilaaq could well Saturday’s big race at Haydock.

I hope you were on last week’s selection, Magical Memory, the very tidy winner of The Stewards Cup. Returned at 6/1, he was available at the time of writing at a very tasty 14/1, so let’s hope we can keep the ball rolling this week in Saturday’s Rose of Lancaster Stakes.

Three year olds have won fifteen of the twenty eight renewals of this 1m 2 1/2 f contest since its inception in 1986, and Roger Varian’s progressive looking Dynaformer colt Intilaaq could well improve on their record. Having won his maiden at Newbury in April, he disappointed in the 2000gns, finishing fifteenth behind Gleneagles, but came good last time on his first attempt at the distance when winning a listed race at Newbury in very taking fashion. Now stepped up to pattern company for the first time this very well bred colt, (his dam won the French 1000gns) is of definite interest at the weekend. The only caveat would be the weather as his trainer feels that he would be unsuited by anything worse than good, so a waiting brief is advised.

The John Gosden trained Mahsoob is in the same ownership as Intilaaq, and based on his win in the 1m2f Wolferton Handicap at Royal Ascot off a mark of 106 is of interest. He disappointed last time in the 1m4f Gp2 Prince of Wales stakes at Newmarket when sent off favourite. He clearly didn’t get the trip and finished 6th, 6L behind the subsequent Goodwood Cup winner Big Orange. Returned to his optimum trip, (has won three times over 1m2f) at the weekend he is well worth considering.

Mostly campaigned at shorter, the Rod Millman trained 4yo Master Craftsman, conclusively proved his stamina credentials, when winning the hugely valuable, and highly competitive, John Smith handicap at York. Run over 1m 2 1/2 f he held on bravely to win by a neck, off a mark of 104. The ground at York was good, but he does like to get his toe in, (he won a Gp3 on gd/sft at Chantilly last year) so may well have his ideal conditions on Saturday. Having had a nice break since his York win, he does seem to have a lot in his favour at the weekend and is shortlisted.

In typical Mark Johnston fashion, the tough Fire Fighting’s nose has been kept close to the grindstone for the last two months, but he showed no signs of staleness when running another fine race at Goodwood last week. He was beaten less than 1 1/2L when running on resolutely behind the talented Mount Logan, to whom he was conceding 8lbs (1m2f gd/sft), and although seemingly held on some collateral lines of form, it would be no surprise to see him involved at the business end on Saturday.

Saeed Bin Suroor’s 6yo Clon Brulee ran well in a group3 over an inadequate 1m1f on soft ground at Newmarket last October, where he finished a running on 4th of 13 beaten 3L. He does like an easy surface, and back over a more suitable trip he could get involved.

Sir Michael Stoute, who has won the race three times, is represented by the relatively lightly raced 4yo Munaaser. He had been mostly campaigned at around a mile, but in his last race at Goodwood, one week ago, he looked as if he would be well suited by further. Held up towards the rear in a Cl2 handicap over a mile, he ran on strongly to get within 4 1/2 L of the winner. By the Derby winner New Approach, out of a mare who stayed a mile there is plenty of encouragement in his pedigree to suggest that Saturday’s trip should suit, so coming from this stable is worth keeping an eye on.

Selection : Intilaaq. (if absent : Master Craftsman)

E.W. : Clon Brulee.