Top tip­ster with his big race fan­cies for Au­gust

Paul Fer­gu­son thinks Wil­lie Mullins can carry off the Ebor

Racing Ahead - - CONTENTS -

Off the track since fin­ish­ing third in the OLBG Mares’ Hur­dle at the 2017 Chel­tenham Fes­ti­val, the Wil­lie Mullins-trained LIMINI is very much one to have on­side, if re­turn­ing to ac­tion dur­ing Au­gust.

The high-class hur­dler – won the Dawn Run at the pre­vi­ous year’s Chel­tenham Fes­ti­val be­fore fin­ish­ing third to Bu­veur d’Air at Ain­tree – holds an en­try in the Ebor at York on Satur­day, Au­gust 25 (cur­rently a 16-1 shot).

Yet to race on the Flat in Ire­land, she was a smart per­former on the level when trained in France, win­ning twice over this sort of trip (1m4f and 1m5f) in the sum­mer of 2014. The daugh­ter of Pein­tre Cele­bre was handed an en­try in a stay­ing hand­i­cap on the Flat back in June and the Ir­ish hand­i­cap­per has given her a po­ten­tially le­nient look­ing mark of 89. She didn’t take up that en­gage­ment and I half ex­pected to see her turn up in the Ascot Stakes, in which Mullins sad­dled no fewer than five run­ners. She wasn’t needed, as he sad­dled the first, third, fourth and fifth and it is pleas­ing to see that she has been handed an en­try for the valu­able con­test on the Knavesmire.

Firstly, it shows she must be back in work and ready to go and also as she would look at­trac­tively weighted if trav­el­ling over, even al­low­ing for the fact that the Bri­tish hand­i­cap­per might give her a mark in the 90s. In fact, she might need to win be­fore the weights are al­lot­ted to have a chance of get­ting into the race and there are sure to be op­por­tu­ni­ties for her do­mes­ti­cally, in the in­terim. The Galway Fes­ti­val springs to mind and she has to be taken se­ri­ously in any hand­i­cap – de­spite the lay-off – from a mark of 89, as we know from her form over hur­dles, she could make a mock­ery of that.

Be­fore we reach Au­gust and Glo­ri­ous Good­wood, Ascot stages the pres­ti­gious King Ge­orge VI And Queen El­iz­a­beth Stakes (Satur­day July 28). Reg­u­lar read­ers of my col­umn will know that I have been a fan of Crys­tal Ocean for some time now and this seems the per­fect op­por­tu­nity for him to land his first Group 1.

A course-and-dis­tance win­ner in the Hard­wicke Stakes at the Royal meet­ing, Sir Michael Stoute’s four-year-old has looked good all sea­son and it should be re­mem­bered that he fin­ished in front of Gold Cup win­ner Stradi­var­ius, when run­ner-up in last year’s St Leger at Don­caster. In­ci­den­tally, the win­ner of last year’s fi­nal Clas­sic Capri holds an en­try in the Group 3 Bal­ly­roan Stakes at Leop­ard­stown (Au­gust 9) and it will be good to see Ai­dan O’Brien’s grey back on a race­course, given how that form has worked out this sea­son.

Back to Crys­tal Ocean, who is ver­sa­tile in terms of ground con­di­tions and should be dif­fi­cult to beat in this mid­sum­mer show­piece.

Glo­ri­ous Good­wood gets un­der­way three days later and Stoute has a good chance on day one with Ex­pert Eye who bounced right back to form at Royal Ascot in the Jersey Stakes. The log­i­cal next step is to go up to the Group 2 Lennox Stakes over the same trip and given the im­pres­sion he cre­ated when win­ning the Vin­tage Stakes at this meet­ing 12 months ago, he clearly han­dles the course.

The high­light on the open­ing day is the Good­wood Cup, in which the afore­men­tioned Stradi­var­ius will be dif­fi­cult to beat. He won the race as a three­year-old last year and has gone from strength-to-strength this year. The shorter trip won’t pose any prob­lems to the Ascot Gold Cup win­ner, as he shows so much speed, and I thor­oughly ex­pect John Gos­den’s Sea The Stars colt to fol­low up. He is priced up at 5-4 at the time of writ­ing, but is sure to be sent off odds-on, if turn­ing up.

One to note at big­ger odds will be With­hold, who did us a good turn last month when run­ning away with the Northum­ber­land Plate. It was an im­pe­ri­ous per­for­mance – al­beit af­ter be­ing al­lowed his own way out in front – and though he holds an en­try in the Ebor, I think con­nec­tions might chuck him in here. If he is al­lowed to take his chance, he shouldn’t be un­der­es­ti­mated and would cer­tainly war­rant re­spect for place pur­poses.

The fol­low­ing day the Sus­sex Stakes is the fea­ture race, for which Gos­den is re­spon­si­ble for an­other mar­ket leader, in the shape of With­out Pa­role. The son of Frankel main­tained his un­beaten record in the St James’s Palace Stakes and while that might not have been the strong­est re­newal, there doesn’t ap­pear too much depth to the mile divi­sion this sea­son, per­haps with the ex­cep­tion of Al­pha Cen­tauri who next heads to France. My ini­tial thought af­ter Ascot would be to take him on here, but look­ing at the en­tries it is hard to see what with and he might well be ca­pa­ble of stretch­ing his un­beaten run to five.

The ac­tion moves to York later in the month for the Ebor meet­ing – the big race hav­ing been touched on above – with the high­light on day one (Au­gust 22) the Jud­dmonte In­ter­na­tional. Last year’s lead­ing three-year-old En­able holds an en­try in both this con­test and the York­shire Oaks, a race she won 12

months ago. At the time of writ­ing, it has yet to be con­firmed when or where she will make her be­lated reap­pear­ance, but when the time comes – and if the vibes are pos­i­tive – I would be more in­clined to look at back­ing her to re­peat last year’s suc­cess in the Arc. Cur­rently a best price 11-2 and gen­er­ally a 5-1 shot, on her best form she stands out and should she make a suc­cess­ful re­turn, she would bound to shorten con­sid­er­ably for big race in Paris.

If she skips the In­ter­na­tional – which would seem likely, as I would think the York­shire Oaks would more likely be the start­ing point if lin­ing up at the meet­ing – the race could be a re-run of the re­cent Eclipse Stakes, in which Roar­ing Lion got the bet­ter of 2,000 Guineas win­ner Saxon War­rior. Derby win­ner Masar was, of course, a non-run­ner in that event and with him threat­en­ing to be even bet­ter over this 10-fur­long trip, he could be the one to side with, should the trio of three-year-olds line up as we had hoped at Sandown. He fin­ished in front of Roar­ing Lion three times ear­lier in the cam­paign, although we know Roar­ing Lion acts over this par­tic­u­lar course-and-dis­tance, hav­ing run away with the Dante here back in May.

Prince Of Wales’s Stakes win­ner Poet’s Word is the other likely con­tender, but I didn’t think that looked the strong­est of Group 1s and it was ob­vi­ous that Cracks­man per­formed below par. There­fore, I would favour the three­year-old gen­er­a­tion and we will have to wait and see which of them turns up.

The Great Voltigeur also takes place on the open­ing day of the meet­ing and that is re­port­edly the next tar­get for re­cent Bahrain Tro­phy win­ner Wells Farhh Go, who stayed on strongly on the July course over 1m5f. He will ob­vi­ously be pop­u­lar among the York­shire race-go­ers (hail­ing from the yard of Tim Easterby), but he fin­ished only sixth in the Dante here in May and has a fair bit to find with run­ner-up Milden­berger and Mark John­ston’s colt would be a very in­ter­est­ing run­ner.

We’ve not seen him since then – did hold en­tries at Royal Ascot – but he is ex­pected to re­turn be­fore too long and has al­ways given the im­pres­sion that he will come into his own over mid­dle-dis­tances. He is cer­tainly bred to stay well and he is less ex­posed than many of the en­tries here, hav­ing had just the two starts this term.

Ai­dan O’Brien has en­tered no fewer than 21 colts here, so it is im­pos­si­ble to at­tempt to guess which will line up. One that I am look­ing for­ward to see­ing, how­ever, is Amedeo Modigliani, who cre­ated a re­ally good im­pres­sion when win­ning a maiden at Galway last Au­gust. He picked up a set­back ear­lier in the cam­paign, but is ex­pected to re­turn in the sec­ond half of the sea­son. This would be a huge ask on re­turn, but he also holds an en­try in the Group 3 Des­mond Stakes over a mile six days ear­lier and wher­ever he turns up, he is a colt to mon­i­tor closely, with the clos­ing months of the sea­son in mind.

Of the other en­tries Sleep­ing Lion would have lit­tle chance in this grade at this stage, but he is a horse that im­pressed me when win­ning rather cosily at New­bury re­cently, hav­ing ear­lier scored with a bit in hand at Kemp­ton. A keen-go­ing sort, he looks to have a valu­able hand­i­cap in him at some stage and it could be that he is aimed at the Mel­rose Stakes on the fi­nal day of the meet­ing – put him in the notebook.

Fi­nally, for this month, I thought Bat­taash ran a blinder in the King’s Stand Stakes and would be the one to beat in the Nun­thorpe. He also holds an en­try in the King Ge­orge Qatar Stakes at Good­wood – a race he won last year – but would be forced to carry a Group 1 penalty there, so might well wait for York.

Char­lie Hills’ Dark An­gel geld­ing showed blis­ter­ing pace at Royal Ascot and had ev­ery­thing in trou­ble, be­fore go­ing down to the strong fin­ish­ing Blue Point. He prob­a­bly did a bit too much in the early part of the race, but rid­den with a bit more re­straint, it will take a good one to lower his colours wher­ever he goes next over the min­i­mum trip.


Crys­tal Ocean

Ex­pert Eye

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