Gold Cup day is here!
The Queen’s horse Estimate made history when she won the race last year and she’s back in a bid to repeat last year’s win, but the race looks much more competitive this time round. Things have apparently not gone completely smoothly with her preparation, but one thing’s for sure, if Sir Michael Stoute is running her then she’s 100 per cent ready to defend her crown.
She will enjoy the faster ground, but disappointed in the Champions Long Distance Cup at this track in October and this is her first run since. She looks worth opposing.
Leading Light is clear favourite to win for Aidan and Joseph O’Brien and last year’s St Leger winner got his season off to the best possible start when beating another of his rivals, Royal Diamond, in the Vintage Crop Stakes last month. It was a good performance from both runners and Johnny Murtagh’s Royal Diamond could be a fair each way bet as he is a tough stayer who has shown his liking for this track before when winning that Long Distance Cup on Champions Day. Leading Light will be short enough and for that reason I think he can be taken on too.
I think BROWN PANTHER could be the one for trainer Tom Dascombe and owner/breeder Michael Owen. He’s six years old now and is really maturing as a top-class stayer. He has won both his starts this term, firstly at Chester in the Ormonde and then in the Henry II Stakes at Sandown and is better than ever. There doesn’t seem to be any reason he shouldn’t stay the trip and whilst his best form has come with cut in the ground, he has run some very good races on good to firm in the past and is a much-improved performer now.
Dascombe’s horses have been running consistently well and this horse can give him the biggest win of his career.
I’d be keen enough to take on the protagonists in the Ribblesdale Stakes. Wonderstruck impressed me when she won a mile-and-a-half maiden at Newmarket on her second start and whilst this is a big step up for her she seems to have bags of potential. The William Haggas-trained filly claimed the scalp of none other than the most expensive yearling sold at public auction in 2012, Hydrogen, there (in fact he was well beaten); the form of her debut third has worked out very well.
She is a real blue blood being by the great Sea the Stars and is a half-sister to George Washington and Grandera amongst others. The family can be quirky and she did hang at Newmarket when winning, but it hasn’t stopped any of her classy relatives and given the leap in grade she should be a fair price.
French raider Vazira is one of the protagonists on the book and is another daughter of Sea the Stars. She is trained by Alain de Royer-Dupre for the Aga Khan and was only just beaten in a Group 1 at Longchamp last time out. That was over a mile-and-a-quarter and the step up to this mile and a half looks like it should suit well.
The Peter Chapple-Hyam trained Inchila caught the eye by running above her 40/1 starting price by finishing fourth in the Oaks last time out. That was her first try at the trip and she certainly wasn’t stopping at the end after a patient ride. It’s WONDERSTRUCK for me, she looks a classy filly in the making and this could be the start of it for her.
The Coronation Stakes
The Coronation Stakes is Friday’s feature and there is a classy entry for this Group 1 for three-year-old fillies over a mile of the round course. We have been waiting a while to see My Titania this season as John Oxx has had to delay her return to action due to a slight setback before the 1000 Guineas and then the soft ground ruled her out of the Irish equivalent. She ran three times as a juvenile and didn’t do much wrong.
She has a tendency to ease up once she hits the front and did that when winning the Park Stakes at the Curragh last September, but the race has worked out pretty well; the third was none other than Tarfasha who finished second in the Oaks earlier this month. She is another by Sea the Stars and gave him his first group winner. He is really making his mark in the breeding world; it could be a pivotal week for the stallion.
The Olly Stevens-trained Lightning Thunder has finished second in two Guineas already this season and it appears that her regular jockey Harry Bentley has paid the price for the double defeat as Olivier Peslier will take over on Friday. It can be a tough industry, but her chances won’t be harmed by the booking of Peslier and she deserves compensation for those near misses.
Rizeena missed the Irish Guineas after a trickle of blood was found in her nostril after a piece of work. That isn’t a worry, but her performance at Newmarket could be and I wonder if this trip just stretches her a bit. Kiyoshi comes here a fresh horse as this is her first run since finishing third in the Cheveley Park Stakes last September. It is a slight concern that the ground is quickening up as she prefers to get her toe in, but she’s a classy filly despite what have been one or two wayward performances as a juvenile.
Having said that, she won the Albany on fast enough ground last year. Sandiva disappointed in the Guineas, but beat subsequent Guineas fifth Euro Charline in the Nell Gwyn and it’s hard to say if this mile trip is her optimum, but she deserves another try at it despite her Guineas flop.
Lucky Kristale was another who ran below expectations in the Guineas, but George Margarson is having another bash at the mile trip and I hope she runs a decent race for her hard working connections. In-form Richard Hughes rides her for the first time. If she doesn’t run well here then it could be that she drops in trip in future. It’s a tricky race and there a few fillies I haven’t mentioned who could bounce back after disappointing efforts, but I’m going to side with MY TITANIA.
Also on Friday I like the look of JUST THE JUDGE in the Wolferton Handicap. I fancied her for the Group 3 Princess Elizabeth Stakes at Epsom last time out on her second start of the season and she ran a good race to finish third. She was given a patient ride and stayed on well never troubling the winner Thistle Bird. Compensation could await here for Charlie Hills and Jamie Spencer.
Saturday is the final day and it’s not an easy one for punters. The feature is the Diamond Jubilee and Tuesday’s King’s Stand winner Sole Power will not run in this six-furlong contest after that impressive win as he is tired after his efforts. His stablemate, Slade Power, is in the reckoning, although I’m concerned there won’t be enough give in the ground for him as fast times have been the order of the day so far and there is no significant rain forecast.
Aljamaaheer represents Roger Varian and he must have strong claims over a trip he is unexposed over. Last term he was running in some of the top mile contest with credit. He was third in the Lockinge, second in the Queen Anne and he won the Group 2 Summer Mile at this track. He dropped in trip and ran over six furlongs on his first run this term and looked unlucky not to win the Abernant at Newmarket for which he was well fancied. He is the sort of horse that needs holding up and luck in running, but looks hard to leave out of equations.
Gordon Lord Byron is a consistent performer over a variety of trips too and has been acquitted himself well from six furlongs to a mile. Drying ground could be an issue for him too though sadly. Due Diligence has won three of his five starts for Aidan O’Brien and is only a three-year-old. He likes fast turf and started his life in America and is one to keep on the right side of. He was impressive at Naas last time out and looks to have a huge amount of potential. Like Due Diligence, Astaire is also a three-year-old. Kevin Ryan who trains the colt will know how smart he is as he is also responsible for Hot Streak, who ran well in the King’s Stand on Tuesday. Astaire won the Gimcrack and Middle Park last year and started his season in the Greenham, but his trainer has decided to stick to sprinting with him. He ran well to be second to Maarek over six furlongs at York last time out and there should be more to come.
Maarek reopposes, but the ground doesn’t look like being in his favour. Pearl Secret also ran on Tuesday, but is another that seems ground dependent and unless there is an unexpected shower it won’t go his way. With so many of the possible runners looking in need of significant rain (or watering!) I’m going with a sprinter who looks to have lots of potential in ALJAMAAHEER with Due Diligence also on my shortlist.
Then, just the small matter of the Wokingham Handicap, with a maximum field of 30 for this six-furlong contest. It’s difficult to give a strong view before declarations have been made, but ROCKY GROUND staked his claim for this race at Windsor earlier this month. You may remember he slipped up after the post unshipping Andrea Atzeni on that day. He’s a lightly raced horse who looks capable of progressing into group company at some point.
Intrinsic would have strong claims if he gets a run, but that’s not certain. If he does he could be well handicapped. It looks like it could be a good day for Newmarket trainer Roger Varian as he trains both my selections on Saturday!
Wonderstruck in the Ribblesdale @ 9/1 with Sky Bet
Brown Panther in the Gold Cup @ 6/1 with Sky Bet
My Titania in the Coronation Stakes @ 7/2 with Sky Bet
Just the Judge in the Wolferton Handicap
Aljamaaheer in the Diamond Jubilee @ 6/1 with Sky Bet
Rocky Ground in the Wokingham Handicap @ 11/1 with Sky Bet