Paul looks at this month’s major races
Our tipping guru picks his fancies for the month’s big races
An impressive winner of the Gordon Stakes at Glorious Goodwood, CRYSTAL OCEAN can reward Sir Michael Stoute’s patient approach by providing the trainer with a second St Leger, nine years on from Conduit’s success.
The Sea The Stars colt had progressed steadily from winning a Nottingham maiden in April, finishing third behind Permian in both the Dante atYork and the King Edward VII Stakes at Royal Ascot. Things didn’t go to plan that day – caught wide and rushed up to challenge on the long sweeping bend for home – and he reversed form with the runner-up when staying on strongly to score with plenty in hand at Goodwood.
He proved that day that soft ground isn’t a problem and, though his stamina isn’t guaranteed, he looked better the further he went last time. Having skipped the Derby and been brought along steadily by Stoute,Crystal Ocean remains open to further progression.
This year’s St Leger looks a strong renewal, with joint market-leader (at the time of writing) Capri expected to line up in the GreatVoltigeur – where he will take on Cracksman – while this feature goes to press. The York contest is sure to prove a pivotal trial and the Irish Derby winner is another who ought to have little problem with the 1m6f trip. The grey was ridden positively at the Curragh last time – having been caught wide throughout in the Epsom equivalent – and a bold showing at York is likely to see him head the market for this.
One that has stamina assured is the rapidly-improving Defoe who rates a serious danger and looks the each-way angle in the race (sponsors William Hill best priced 9/1 in the immediate aftermath of his Geoffrey Freer success). Roger Varian’s Dalakhani colt began the season by winning handicaps at Newbury (the valuable London Gold Cup) and York, before beating subsequent Rose Of Lancaster winner Frankuus in the Listed Glasgow Stakes at Hamilton. He stepped forward again when scoring over 1m5½f at Newbury – again relishing soft ground – where he travelled like a dream for the majority of the race.
Clearly on a sharp upward curve, he is very much one to take seriously, especially if the ground is genuinely soft.Out of a Pivotal mare, he is unbeaten in three starts on soft ground and looks a most progressive young stayer.
Another who handles testing ground and has already proven himself in Group company against his elders is Goodwood Cup winner Stradivarius who also began the season in handicap company. He relished the step up to this sort of trip when winning the Queen’s Vase at Royal Ascot and stayed on stoutly to beat Big Orange last time, albeit in receipt of 13lb.
John Gosden, who first took this with Shantou back in 1996,also won it on three occasions in the space of five years between 2007 and 2011 with Lucarno, Arctic Cosmos and Masked Marvel who represented the same connections as Stradivarius. He is another to hold solid claims in what could well be a cracking contest,should the main four protagonists make it to the Town Moor.
SPEEDSTERS AT HAYDOCK
The week before the final Classic of the season,Haydock stages the 32 Red Sprint Cup, for which Harry Angel heads the ante-post market. Clive Cox’s three-yearold burst onto the sprinting scene with a polished display in the Group 2 Sandy Lane Stakes over this course-anddistance and, following his narrow defeat behind Caravaggio at Royal Ascot,he ran out an impressive winner of Newmarket’s July Cup.
Given that he won the Mill Reef on good-
to-soft ground at Newbury last September, the ground won’t be too much of a concern for the Dark Angel colt, even if the wet end to August continues into earlySeptember. Harry Angel is another who looks on a sharp upward curve and this looks the obvious race en route to Ascot for the Qipco British Champion Sprint.
Third in the July Cup – beaten 1¾ lengths – Brando has since won the Prix Maurice de Gheest over 6½f at Deauville and he rates the obvious danger. Again, soft ground (should it turn out to be on the easy side) isn’t a problem for Kevin Ryan’s five-year-old and his stable is in much better form now, than it was when he defied his big odds to hit the frame at Newmarket.In fact,the Pivotal colt prefers a bit of juice in the ground and this also looks the obvious race for him.
Another course-and-distance winner – won a soft ground handicap at the Merseyside venue in September 2015 – he is 4lb better off at the weights with Harry Angel and he rates a viable eachway alternative at the odds (11/2 as opposed to the 6/4 about the market leader).
ACTION IN IRELAND
Over in Ireland, Leopardstown stages a cracking card on the same day, with super-filly Winter holding entries in both the Irish Champion Stakes and the Matron Stakes. Currently as big as 13-2 for the former, it would be exciting to think that she could face the boys for the first time, having proven her stamina over the trip when winning the Nassau Stakes at Glorious Goodwood.
At the time of writing – on the eve of the Ebor meeting – it is hard to be too dogmatic about Ballydoyle plans for the Irish Champion, given that both Churchill and Cliffs Of Moher are expected to take their chance in the Juddmonte International. If either go close in that event, the natural progression would be to head to Leopardstown, but if things don’t work out, it could be that Winter is given the goahead.
In all likelihood,the high-class grey will stick to her own sex and drop back to a mile to contest the Matron.If she does,she will prove difficult to beat and should complete the Group 1 five-timer. I would love to see her in the Irish Champion, however, as she could easily be up to the task.
I’ll be turning my attentions to the jumps action for next month’s magazine – my Ten To Follow for the 2017-2018 National Hunt season will be unveiled – but one horse I want to keep onside in the
One that has stamina assured is the rapidly-improving Defoe who rates a serious danger and looks the each-way angle
closing weeks/months of the Flat season is the Karen McLintock-trained Dubawi Fifty, who has won both starts this term.
After making a belated winning reappearance at Ayr in late-July, the lightly-raced four-year-old finished strongly to land a Nottingham handicap recently, despite the slight drop in trip. Given the strong pace of the race and how he finished, a further step up in distance should be right up his street and he went straight to the top of likely types for the Cesarewitch at Newmarket during October.
Given that Paul and Clare Rooney own him – predominantly National Hunt based owners – Dubawi Fifty might well be one that could be sent hurdling in the autumn, especially given that he has enjoyed a relatively light campaign on the level.Should he go and win at Newmarket, connections might be tempted to keep him for the better staying races on the level next season, but he looks to possess plenty of size and he could easily develop into a smart dual-purpose performer in time.
On the same Nottingham card, Sir Michael Stoute introduced a smart looking two-year-old, in the shape of the Hamdan Al Maktoum-owned Eqtidaar who wasn’t missed in the market and ran out a taking 2½-length winner,with a further 3½ back to the third.
A half-brother to Massaat – runner-up in the 2015 Dewhurst Stakes and the 2016 2,000 Guineas,and recently returned from injury to win the Hungerford Stakes – the Invincible Spirit colt looked a potential Group-class juvenile and it will be inter- esting to see how deep his trainer opts to pitch him in next time. Considering that the yard also have the hugely exciting Expert Eye to factor in – he was impressive at Newbury on debut and was just about the most impressive winner at Glorious Goodwood when running out a stunning winner of the Vintage Stakes – it could be that Stoute has an exciting crop of twoyear-old colts on his hands. Incidentally, Expert Eye has been handed entries in the National Stakes (September 10), the Champagne Stakes (September 16) and the Dewhurst Stakes (October 14). He already heads the betting for next year’s 2,000 Guineas and it would be fascinating to see him head to Ireland to take on the pick of the O’Brien juveniles in the National Stakes.