1.50 Newmarket – Spring Lodge Stakes (Handicap)

There are two strongly-fancied runners in the race, with there being a gap in the betting after the leading pair.

One of the horses vying for favouritism is Sir Michael Stoute’s Ballet Concerto, with his trainer having made a good start to the campaign. Gelded since the end of last season, he looks to have progressed nicely from three-years-old to four as he landed the Spring Mile at Doncaster on his reappearance. He won what had looked a competitive handicap beforehand in fine style, staying on strongly in the closing stages to put the race to bed. Therefore, the extra distance at Newmarket should not be problem and he has also won on good to firm ground before. A rise of 5lb in the weights for the Doncaster victory looks fair and, with Ryan Moore booked to ride again, he looks to hold strong claims on Saturday.

The other horse at the top of the market is Godolphin’s Next Stage, who also made a winning reappearance this season. The four-year-old is lightly raced having only had four starts so far, returning with a career-best at this course last month. Having his first start since June 2016, he readily won the class 2 handicap and looks like will have more to offer. Obviously thought of as a decent prospect, this half-brother to dual Group 1 winner Speedy Boarding should be competitive despite a 6lb rise from his previous win here.

The next in the betting is GrapeVINE for trainer Charlie Hills. He made a very promising start to the season when he finished second at Newbury on his first run since being gelded. The four-year-old was only beaten a nose by William Haggas’ smart prospect Signe (has won all three of her starts) as he got headed with the final stride. He cruised into contention that day under Andrea Atzeni and his hold-up style should be suited to jockey Jamie Spencer on Saturday. That race was over 1 mile and 2 furlongs so he has form over the distance, unlike the two horses at the top of the market. With further improvement to come after making his reappearance, a 3lb rise may not be enough to stop GrapeVINE from being a major player in the Spring Lodge.

Of the rest of the field, Sit Michael Stoute saddles two in the race with Playful Sound also running. The filly had won her first three starts in good style before disappointing stepped up to Listed company in the Pride Stakes at the course last October. She didn’t seem to be happy in the race from an early stage and so has something to prove on her first run back here. Central Square for trainer Roger Varian was mostly progressive last year. However, the five-year-old has only raced over distance of 1 mile and 2 furlongs or further, competing in a novices’ hurdle at Huntingdon when last seen in December. Therefore, he may ideally want further than the 1 mile and 1 furlong trip on Saturday.


GrapeVINE – 1pt e/w @ 10/1 (bet365, SkyBet, stanjames.com)

2.20 Newmarket – Longholes Palace House Stakes (Group 3)

Despite only holding Group 3 status, this race has been won by some top-class sprinters in recent seasons, with the last two winners having gone on to win the King’s Stand at Royal Ascot later in the campaign.

Last year’s winner Profitable bids to follow up last year’s success having enjoyed an exceptional campaign last term, winning three times in Group company in the early part of the year. It is probably a little harsh to say that his form tailed off in the latter part of the year as he was beaten less than three lengths in the Prix de l’Abbaye but his back form suggests that he is probably best at this time of year. Clive Cox has made a fast start to the new campaign and I’m sure he will be keen for this colt to run well on his first start in the Godolphin blue.

The stable is also represented by the filly Priceless who has some good form in handicaps last term and finished the campaign with success in the Listed Scarborough Stakes at Doncaster in September. That race was won by Mecca’s Angel in the not too distant past and the four-year-old showed her wellbeing when winning impressively at Bath a couple of weeks ago. She was much the best on the day, suggesting that a step up in class would not be beyond her and she has the right sort of profile to run well in a race like this.

Her form ties in closely with Dancing Star who got the better Clive Cox’s filly on the July Course last summer. Andrew Balding’s filly subsequently went on to land the Stewards’ Cup at Goodwood and although she failed to fire in the Sprint Cup at Haydock last September, I’m not sure that the soft ground that day was to her liking. She is another who could improve significantly from three to four and having shown plenty of pace last year, I don’t think the drop back to five furlongs will cause her any difficulty.
On official ratings, the best filly in the line-up is Marsha who enjoyed her day in the sun when winning the Abbaye at Chantilly in October. Sir Mark Prescott’s filly likes to be held up in her races which means she can be subject to traffic problems but there is no doubting her ability. She could find life difficult here as she carries a 7lb penalty for her Paris success but it would still be no surprise to see her run well.

Ron Harris’ Just Glamorous got the better of Marsha at Chantilly in September but failed to back that performance up in the Abbaye next time. Clearly something was amiss with him as he dropped away very tamely in the closing stages but if you ignore that run, he looks a big price at around the 16/1 mark. He too has a penalty for his Group exploits but I think he can make a bold bid from the front and it will be a case of whether anything is good enough to get past him.

Trainer Bryan Smart is no stranger to success in this race having saddled two winners in the last decade, with his latest success coming courtesy of Tangerine Trees in 2011. This year, he saddles Alpha Delphini who is a half-brother to that winner and made rapid progression in the second half of last season. He won twice in handicap company at York and Ascot before landing the Listed Beverley Bullet at the end of August. He stepped into Group company for the first time at Newbury a few weeks later and was just touched off by Cotai Glory but there is no reason why he can’t improve on that and run a big race.

In terms of early season form, there aren’t many horses in better nick than Kimberella who seems to have thrived since joining the Richard Fahey yard. The seven-year-old has picked up two big prizes on the all-weather this winter and his form on the turf last season suggests he can be competitive here. He will have a fitness edge on a few of his rivals here and although he probably has a bit to find on official ratings, he is in the form of his life at present.

However, in an open race, the one I like the look of is ORNATE who was gelded over the winter and ran with a lot of promise on his seasonal reappearance in the Abernant at the Craven meeting. The four-year-old was reeled in late on by the classy Brando and I suspect that he probably doesn’t quite stay the six furlongs trip. He should be suited by the drop back to five furlongs and if he reproduces a similar effort to his run a couple of weeks ago on Saturday, he shouldn’t be too far away. This is only his second start for Robert Cowell, who has a very good record in this race and I think he has an each-way chance at around the 12/1 mark.


ORNATE – 1pt e/w @ 12/1(bet365)

2.55 Newmarket – Dunaden Jockey Club Stakes (Group 2)

A field of five go to post for the Jockey Club Stakes, with the market dominated by the first three in the betting and it looks like being an interesting contest between them.
The strong favourite for the race is Aidan O’Brien’s Seventh Heaven, who boasts high-class Group 1 form from last season. She landed the Irish Oaks in commanding style and then followed that up with victory in the Yorkshire edition. That form looks very good with stablemate Found in second place, who subsequently went on to land the Arc. She came nicely clear of Found that day to win by two and three quarter lengths. She followed that up with two creditable runs on Champions Day at Ascot and then at Santa Anita for the Breeders Cup meeting. Seventh Heaven made a promising reappearance run in the Sheema Classic at Meydan in March, making progress from the rear as she finished second to impressive winner Jack Hobbs. She was nearest at the finish and has always been a strong stayer in her races. Therefore, she will need a strong pace on Saturday to be seen to her best effect, although the firm ground will be in her favour.

There is a French raider in the race with One Foot In Heaven making the journey across the Channel for trainer Alain De Royer-Dupre. He was a duel Group 2 winner in 2016, landing the Grand Prix de Chantilly and the Prix du Conseil de Paris both at Chantilly. Before his second success, he finished a creditable sixth in the Arc at the same course as he finished well to do the best of those who had raced in the rear. He finished his four-year-old campaign with a third place finish in the Hong Kong Vase in December, again adopting his hold-up style. Things did not work out for One Foot In Heaven on his first run of 2017, finishing seventh in the Group 2 Prix d’Harcourt at Chantilly although only beaten four and a half lengths by Andre Fabre’s Cloth Of Stars. Like Seventh Heaven, he is a strong stayer but he is unraced on ground with firm in the going description; his two Group 2 victories coming on soft ground.

GALAPIAT is a new recruit to the Mark Johnston yard having previously raced in France for trainer Andre Fabre. In 2016 he won one of his four races in France but has looked a good prospect on his two runs seen being switched to Britain. The four-year-old has won both of his starts for Johnston in impressive fashion. On his stable debut last month he won a class 3 Leicester handicap by five lengths, powering clear after being ridden prominently. He made all to win in the same grade of handicap at Epsom, quickening clear readily for a four and half lengths success. Those runs show that he has been ahead of the handicapper and his new trainer thinks highly of him. Johnston trained his dam Lady Jane Digby and he has a Group 1 entry in the Coronation Cup. The small-field could suit in the Jockey Club Stakes with his prominent running style and he could be dangerous if allowed to dictate, especially as his two main market rivals could do with a strong pace. GALAPIAT could be worth chancing to make a successful step-up to Group company


GALAPIAT – 1pt win @ 6/1 (Coral)

3.35 Newmarket – Qipco 2000 Guineas Stakes (Group 1)

Despite the unusually select field of only 10 going to post, this year’s first Classic still looks to be a mouth-watering affair.

Al Wukair is the sole contender from mainland Europe representing French powerhouse Andre Fabre. The Al Shaqab-owned colt shoed fair form in just two starts as a juvenile, rounding off his campaign with a comfortable victory in a Deuaville Listed race, but stepped up in a big way to land the Group 3 Prix Djebel last month. He was well backed that day and stayed on strongly from the rear to surge into the lead inside the final half a furlong, shaping as though the step up to a mile here will suit him down to the ground. That form looks solid with Group 1 Prix Jean-Luc Lagardere winner National Defense a length back in second and he should run a big race for the same owners who triumphed last year with Galileo Gold.

However, he has never raced outside of France and I think familiarity with the undulations of the Rowley Mile is a big plus. Having scored in the Craven just over a fortnight ago, Eminent is the only course and distance winner in the field and created a huge impression when staying on strongly to account for Racing Post Trophy winner Rivet by one and half-lengths. He has done nothing wrong so far and, being by 2011 winner Frankel, he looks set for a big run.

In the other major domestic Guineas trial, Barney Roy led home a Godolphin 1-2 when beating the re-opposing Dream Castle by two lengths in the Greenham. He looked as though he had run his race until powering home late on so stepping up to a mile seems sure to suit and Richard Hannon labelled him the best juvenile in the yard last year. However, I’m not convinced that the form of that run is particularly strong and think that he may get found out here.
Dream Castle sports a first-time hood here which should help him settle but there are big question marks over whether he’ll stay the trip given how he folded at Newbury over a furlong shorter. Top Score completes the Godolphin trio but needs a massive step up to figure here.

Joining Godolphin in being triple-handed are Coolmore and they look to have the one they all have to beat in CHURCHILL. It is a slight concern that he hasn’t been out yet this season but the fact remains that he was a standout juvenile last year, rounding off his campaign with a pair of Group 1s, including the Dewhurst here over a furlong shorter to end the season. There will always be question marks of whether strapping types like him will have trained on, and Air Force Blue’s flop last season just seems to have fuelled that fire, but on all known form, he is head and shoulders clear of the field and would have too much in his locker for the rest to cope with if primed to go first time up.

Lancaster Bomber has to be of slight interest given his good second to his stablemate in the Dewhurst, staying on having set the early pace and almost land a top level race of his own when second Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf in November. A good spin when fourth in the UAE Derby at Meydan will have blown away the cobwebs but he shapes as though further than a mile will be his optimum trip at this stage of his career. Spirit of Valor is the third Coolmore representative but he finished a long way behind Lancaster Bomber last time out and has it all to do, for all that the drop back to a mile will play to his strengths.


CHURCHILL – 2pts win @ 11/8 (Paddy Power)

4.10 Newmarket – Hot Streak Handicap.

With no past winners of this race carrying more than 8st 11lbs, it looks as if Richard Hannon’s top-weight, Eqtiraan, has a tough task in store for him here despite having some good form to his name, including a defeat of Rivet on his racecourse debut and a third in the Group 3 Solario Stakes on just his second start. His third to Law And Order in a Listed race at Lingfield was a perfectly respectable effort and you’d expect him to come on for that, but it does almost seem as if his form may have already plateaued and giving so much weight away here (at least 7lb) could be too much to ask.

Smokey Lane looked as if he was in a similar boat to Eqtiraan in terms of already showing his best form, but his close fifth at Sandown last time out must have given connections plenty of hope that he would be back to his best back at six furlongs here. He was outpaced throughout behind Jumira Bridge, but stayed on well towards the end of the race to only be beaten a length and a half, indicating that the extra furlong would not only help him to travel better but it would also suit the fact he’s a sprinter that stays well, as shown when he beat Eqtiraan off level weights in soft ground at Salisbury in September. This ground may be as quick as he’d want it though and you could easily see him being outpaced once again by some sharp types lower in the weights.

Richard Hannon’s other runner in the race, Mostahel, relished the drop in trip back to six furlongs at Wolverhampton last time out as he bolted up by four lengths in a maiden. However a mark of 93 looks a bit harsh judging by the form of that race and he might find this a bit too much of a step up despite only needing hands and heels riding to score last time.

Ryan Moore gets the ride on Sir Michael Stoute’s Exmouth and she’s a filly that comes from an excellent family and is reportedly one that the trainer has always liked. She has looked as if further than six furlongs would suit better and her pedigree backs that up, being out of a mare that only ever raced at 7f and further, but she can’t be short of speed to be running here and has to be treated with plenty of respect despite bombing out in the Group 2 Rockfel Stakes at this track on just the second run of her career.
Mazyoun looks the second string for Al Shaqab here and the drop to 6f may not suit, while Sparkalot is well out of the weights at the bottom and faces a huge task to be competitive if a mark of 81 is accurate. The Wagon Wheel is another who has it all to do, returning to the track on a 3lb higher mark than when well-beaten in a 2-y-o handicap at Goodwood last season, but Richard Fahey is going well at the moment and if there’s one here to take note of, it may well be him.

That leaves us with two – firstly Mark Johnston’s Queen In Waiting, who was only just beaten in the Sandown race that Smokey Lane was fifth in after front running. This six furlong trip could suit judging by the way she kept on well at the end, despite setting a brisk pace, and a mark of 89 may not be restrictive considering it’s only 3lb higher than her mark for that last effort.

However, it is VICTORY ANGEL that looks the one to beat here after a superb effort on her handicap debut over C&D just two weeks ago. She bolted up off a mark of 81, only needing nudging out to defeat Rich And Famous (who franked the form nicely after winning well at Doncaster 8 days later) by two and a quarter lengths. This fast ground brings out the best in her and despite a hike 11lbs up in the weights to a mark of 92, she is in rude health and looks to be a sprinter to keep on the right side of. With her stable flying and some very solid recent form to her name, she’s difficult to oppose.


VICTORY ANGEL – 1pt win @ 7/4 (bet365)

4.45 Newmarket – Havana Gold Newmarket Stakes (Listed Race)

A small field for this Listed event, but there are a few very interesting contenders on sharp upward curves nonetheless. KHALIDI heads the five and is the obvious one on the strength of his defeat of Salouen in the Listed Feilden Stakes just over two weeks ago. John Gosden’s son of High Chaparral has kept improving for every step up in trip and this return to a mile and a quarter should be no problem at all, in fact he looked as if he’d appreciate it at the end of the 1m1f trip of the Feilden, even though he was beaten by Bin Battuta on his reappearance this season over a mile and a quarter. He handles the track fine, there’s no issue with the ground and he’s rated 9lbs above anything else in the race despite only having to give 3lb maximum to any rival. He should run his race and with the stable in flying form, he’ll be hard to beat.

Mark Johnston’s Permian is the second highest-rated horse in the field and comes into this race off the back of an excellent showing in the Epsom Derby Trial, just being headed by the well-fancied Cracksman in the final strides. He escapes a penalty and receives 3lb from Khalidi here, but will have to step up again according to the ratings in order to score here – still, he stays well, has race fitness on his side and should be there or thereabouts.

An intriguing entry here is Ian Williams’ Speedo Boy, who makes his first start on British shores this season after winning a French Listed contest on very soft ground at Fontainebleau in March. The fact he’s been kept exclusively to synthetic surfaces and soft ground so far in his career raises a big question mark over the suitability of this likely fast ground, but he’s still worth keeping an eye on.

No Pattern or Listed race at the moment is complete without the presence of a son of Frankel and Hugo Palmer’s Majoris fits the bill here. He was a little disappointing on his first three-year-old start, finishing well-beaten in the Listed International Trial Stakes at Lingfield, but he’s most likely come on plenty for that run and is still worth a look given his decent 2-y-o form. Whether this trip is really what he wants is debatable, though, and I’d prefer to see him running over a mile on turf before this kind of step up in trip.

Godolphin is also represented in the race, and it’s the Charlie Appleby-trained Night Circus who carries the blue colours here. With only one start and one win under his belt, he certainly trails the rest in terms of experience; however his victory came in the Wood Ditton, always a very good maiden , and he did it nicely in amongst some nicely bred horses despite giving 5lbs to the second placed horse. It’s a cliché, especially after appearing only once in a maiden full of unraced sorts, but he could be anything and the fact he’s being pitched into this kind of race so early is a huge vote of confidence for the Invincible Spirit colt. His dam was a stayer, so you wouldn’t have thought this extra two furlongs would be an issue and if there’s one to emerge from the pack to trouble Khalidi, it could be this exciting Godolphin colt.


KHALIDI – 1pt win @ 13/8 (Betfred)

5.20 Newmarket – Qipco Racing Welfare Handicap.

The final race on day one of the Guineas meeting is this 1m handicap for the three-year-olds and it looks to have a field with a number of exciting prospects. The likely market leader appears to be the Qatar Racing-owned Son Of The Stars who made it two from two when winning at Chelmsford in April. The colt still showed signs of inexperience but had plenty in hand on his rivals as he won going away by two lengths at the line. The form of that race was given a nice boost earlier this week when the runner-up Prosper won a Conditions Race at Ascot. Connections will no doubt be hoping that this colt can move beyond handicap company in the future but in a race with so many unexposed horses, I think 6/4 is short enough.

Simon Crisford saddles an interesting runner in the shape of Eagle Creek who ran a race with promise on his only start at two but looked to have improved over the winter when making his reappearance at Lingfield last month. The colt made all in a 1m maiden on the all-weather at Lingfield and the way he pulled clear of his rivals in the closing stages suggested that he could be an above-average performer. He stretched clear to win by six lengths in the end and although an opening mark of 95 is high enough, it would be no surprise to see him play a big part here.

There are a couple of runners who are dropping back into handicaps having contested Group races last time, notably Via Serendipity and Sea Fox who both contested the Greenham last time. The former has always been held in high regard by his trainer Hugo Palmer, having finished behind Rivet and Contrapposto on his debut at York. He got off the mark at the third attempt at Newmarket in September and he shaped well for a long way at Newbury on his first run of the season. He seems to enjoy being out in front so I imagine he will try to make all here and if he sees out the extra furlong, he looks a major player.

William Haggas’ Seniority also ran in Group company the last time we saw him, when he finished last of ten in the Solario Stakes behind South Seas. The colt was awkward leaving the stalls that day and having run so well on his first start, you would have to assume that something was amiss with him at Sandown. He returns to action with plenty to prove but it is still early days with him and the Haggas team have been amongst the winners.

Michael Bell has a lightly-raced colt in the shape of Ronald R who should improve from two to three. The son of Nathaniel showed a willing attitude to win at Yarmouth in July and was struck into when disappointing at Salisbury on his final start of the season. He should have no trouble getting a mile and his trainer has high hopes for a fruitful campaign from him.

However, Richard Fahey is always a man to keep a close eye on in handicaps and he saddles ANDOK here at the foot of the weights. The colt won his first two starts for Fahey last year before getting beaten at Doncaster on his final start but reports suggest that his trainer believes he is a good deal better than he showed that day. He should have no problem stepping up to a mile here and the yard went close in this race with Dolphin Vista twelve months ago. It does look a hot race on paper but I think he can take a step forward from his 2yo form and he should be thereabouts.


ANDOK – 0.5pt e/w @ 8/1 (SkyBet)