It is interesting that Ryan Moore will be making the journey back from Kentucky where he rides Mendelssohn in the Kentucky Derby, to ride at Newmarket – from Mendelssohn to ADAMANT in a day! I am sure that he will be suitably rewarded for his efforts, as the Sir Michael Stoute-trained four year old looks to have an outstanding chance in the first race of the day. Ryan Moore has ridden him in all his races and the lightly-raced gelding appears to be improving with age, he was in front just after the line at Newbury and looks like one to follow this year.
Charlie Appleby/Godolphin are well represented in the race with Wolf Country, Alqamar and Celestial Spheres and any one of these are sure to be there or thereabouts, with slight preference for the son of Dubawi – Wolf Country. He looks the most likely danger of the three, he appeared to need the run when last seen in Meydan, just tiring in the closing stages to finish fourth in what was his first run since being gelded, I would expect him to improve on that run.
Rod Millman brings his consistent four-year-old Duke Of Bronte up from Devon and he ran well in some big handicaps last year, most notably when winning a Heritage Handicap at Ascot on soft ground in September. He will be a big player in this race, however the trainer’s record at headquarters is not great 0/13 in the last five years and I will pass him over on this occasion.
Oasis Fantasy looks well-handicapped on some form and by the sire Oasis Dream he looks sure to go well at Newmarket, although his latest run was a shade disappointing.
Finally, if the favourite was to be beaten it could be Reshoun, the Ian Williams-trained runner who benefits. He improved throughout last season after moving from Alain de Royer-Dupré and could be a horse to follow again this year, he won well on his last start at Doncaster, after a couple of eye catching runs. He gets the trip well and handles good or soft ground.
ADAMANT – 2pts win @ 7/2 (bet365, Coral)
2.20 – Charm Spirit Dahlia Stakes (Group 2)
The Charlie Appleby trained filly WUHEIDA looks to have a great chance of following up her win at Del Mar where she took the Breeders Cup Filly & Mares Turf (Grade 1), by winning this Group 2. She was a very good filly at two, tasting Group 1 success at Chantilly, but after a setback she was not seen until July and was clearly making up for lost time when winning at Del Mar. The decision to keep her in training should be rewarded here and I will be surprised if she does not go on to win bigger prizes later in the year too.
The Ger Lyons trained Elegant Pose ran well on her first run this year when possibly finding the ground too soft at Naas. She was beaten by the Dermot Weld trained Making Light who she had beaten in a Listed race over course and distance at the end of last season. Although a Listed win does not really compare to the Group 1 winning form of the selection.
The main danger may come in the shape of the French trained filly Golden Legend, trained by Henri-Francois Devin. She has a Group 3 win to her name after staying on well to win the Prix Bertrand de Tarragon at Maisons-Lafitte, before disappointing on her final start at 3. Whilst her form does not look as good as the selection the other concern would be that the majority of her best runs have been on very soft ground.
WUHEIDA – 2pts win @ 5/6 (William Hill)
2.55 – longholes.com Handicap
A fiercely-competitive sprint handicap to get our teeth into here with the weights headed by Hugo Palmer’s Gifted Master. The five-year-old has won over course and distance in the past and also picked up Listed prizes on the July Course and at Lingfield last year. Considering the latest of those successes, you would have to say that he was disappointing when finishing only sixth on Good Friday and he arrives here with a bit to prove.
Also towards the top of the weights is Magical Memory who returns to handicap company for the first time since winning the Stewards’ Cup in 2015. He has acquitted himself well in handicap company since then but his last couple of efforts have suggested his powers may be starting to wain at the very top level. He is only 6lb higher than he was when winning at Goodwood and he is hard to dismiss.
Many of the field ran in the same race at the Craven meeting which was won by Ed Walker’s Aeolus. The seven-year-old has always promised a lot and having been given a chance by the handicapper, he took full advantage. The 4lb rise seems fair enough but the one to take out of the race could be Ekhtiyaar who finished fifth. Roger Varian’s four-year-old improved for his seasonal reappearance last year and it would be no surprise to see him reverse the placings here.
One of the more interesting runners in the field is Medicine Jack, who is a rare runner at Newmarket for Irish trainer Ger Lyons. A high-class two-year-old, he was seen only once last season but having been gelded following that run, he made a winning reappearance at Naas at the end of March. He was keen early on but having been off the track for so long it could be that he was just a little fresh. I think a 4lb rise is on the lenient side and if he can handle these quicker conditions, then he looks likely to be thereabouts.
A sprinter who we could hear a lot about this season is Scorching Heat who won the Stewards’ Cup consolation race the last time we saw him. Andrew Balding’s four-year-old won a shade cosily that day and having been gelded since, I think his connections have hopes of him winning more big prizes this term. I understand that 8st 5lb is too light for Oisin Murphy and therefore Rob Hornby is taking the ride but he might just improve for his return to action.
With that in mind, I think it is best to focus on the Richard Fahey-trained pair of Mr Lupton and EASTERN IMPACT who filled the first two places twelve months ago. Race fitness can be an important factor at this time of year and both of these horses have a run under their belt. The former caught the eye when finishing third behind Aeolus at the Craven meeting and his trainer said beforehand that he might just need the run. If that is the case, then he should be able to put up an improved performance off the same mark and having won this race himself three years ago, I think he is well-placed to regain his crown.
This really does look a wide-open renewal of the first fillies’ classic of the year, with more than half the field already rated over 102.
Aidan O’Brien is, as expected, many-handed – just the four in the race for him this year. Both Sarrochi look to have plenty to do to challenge judging by their recent reappearances and the market reflects that, but O’Brien’s other two fill two of the first three spots in the betting.
Favourite at the time of writing is HAPPILY, who undoubtedly has some of the best form in the race from an impressive two-year-old season that contained two Group 1 victories, one over this trip in a soft ground Qatar Prix Jean-Luc Lagardere at Chantilly. Her Breeders’ Cup flop can be forgiven and even though she hasn’t been out for a prep run this year, this sister to Gleneagles and Marvellous looks a worthy favourite. Of course, she’ll have to prove that she’s trained on and still retains the quality, but her brother did and the fact that Ryan Moore is jetting straight back from Kentucky to ride the filly suggests they have plenty of confidence in her. This nice ground should be ideal as well – Gleneagles thrived on a quicker surface – and I expect to see a very bold effort indeed from the daughter of Galileo. 11/4 could look a very big price come the end of this contest and I have a feeling she’ll go off much shorter.
Stablemate I Can Fly is an interesting rival, being such a lightly-raced filly who made a satisfactory reappearance in mid-April, finishing third in a heavy ground 1000 Guineas trial at Leopardstown. Clearly she’ll have to come on plenty for that, but it does seem as if she’s a potential improver who’s unexposed at a mile.
I Can Fly was a length behind Roger Varian’s Altyn Orda in the Oh So Sharp Stakes though, and that filly’s reappearance run in the Nell Gwyn promised much for this step up to 1m and with some match practice under her belt. I think Altyn Orda could well confirm the form with O’Brien’s apparent second string and even come close to reversing the form with her conqueror that day, Soliloquy, who seems to be the subject of plenty of support.
Charlie Appleby’s charge had the run of the race in that Newmarket Group 3 over seven furlongs and I don’t think she’ll find it quite as comfortable here. Although Soliloquy has shown plenty in her three starts so far, her two wins have come when she was allowed to dominate and in small-ish fields – the 1000 Guineas is a totally different type of race and even though her supplementary entry suggests that connections are confident of a return, she might just find one or two too streetwise or too good.
Interestingly, Richard Hannon’s Vitamin beat Soliloquy on the Godolphin filly’s racecourse debut and even though Vitamin had race fitness on her side on that occasions, it’s a formline worth looking at given Hannon’s filly is 50/1. She hasn’t been seen since though, so she’ll clearly have to have come on a lot and be on top of her game, but with Jim Crowley booked, she might outrun those odds.
Godolphin’s other filly, Wild Illusion, possibly won’t be suited by the drying ground but still can’t be discounted given her top-class form in the book. She won the Group 1 Marcel Boussac in October at Chantilly on soft ground in good style and clearly gets a mile a very well, in fact that effort gives her the highest rating in the field. She did win on her racecourse debut at Yarmouth on Good to Firm ground, but the race looked an average one and her recent gallop in front of the cameras did reveal a rounded action that surely wouldn’t want to be tested too much on very quick ground. However, if the ground is good and there is plenty of pace in the race, she could be very much overpriced at 9/1 and it could be an overreaction to the fact William Buick rides her stablemate – James Doyle isn’t exactly a bad replacement!
Fillies’ Mile winner, Laurens, always looked as if she’s make up into an even better three-year-old and this is the perfect place to prove that with conditions, track and everything looking inher favour. Connections think she’s done well over her break and that Group 1 winning form certainly entitles her to plenty of respect. However, Karl Burke’s filly has a line of form through Polydream, who beat her at Deauville in August, that suggests Wild Illusion may have the beating of her given that Polydream could only get to a length and a half of the Godolphin filly in the Boussac.
Others to mention include Mick Channon’s Dan’s Dream who was a nice winner of the Group 3 Fred Darling at Newbury, but she might just be one who needs plenty of cut in the ground to be seen at her best, while Liquid Amber is a fascinating Irish runner, this time from the stable of Willie McCreery. She was last seen hack1ng up in a Group 3 at The Curragh, defeating some useful O’Brien fillies, and falls into the ‘could be anything’ category. If the Kitten’s Joy filly has improved again for the jump to three years old, she could be a very big price at 16/1. Still, they’ll all have to go some to catch O’Brien’s number one here.
HAPPILY – 1pt win @ 11/4 (bet365, Sky Bet)
4.10 – Havana Gold Maiden Stakes.
There isn’t a lot to go on here with just two of the seven runners having experience under their belt.
Barend Boy ran at Leicester last Saturday and was well-backed but he was let down by his inexperience in the race. He was hampered leaving the stalls and forfeited quite a lot of ground and although it took a while for the penny to drop, he picked up well under hands and heels in the final furlong to be beaten just over a length at the line. He might well have finished a little closer but for stumbling inside the final furlong and as long as this race doesn’t come too soon, you would expect him to put his experience to good use here.
The other runner with experience is Smile A Mile who was also well-backed on his debut at Newcastle a couple of weeks ago but only managed to beat one home. He had reportedly been working well ahead of his debut and being a half-brother to smart two-year-old Buratino, it would be no surprise to see him step forward on what he showed there. His stable have already had a number of 2yo winners this term, so I would expect him to put up a much better showing on Sunday.
However, there are some excellent pedigrees amongst the newcomers including Fanaar who is by leading stallion Dark Angel. William Haggas’ colt cost his connections £240,000 when he went through the sales ring as a yearling and although the yard have only had three 2yo runners so far, one won first time out, so he should be pretty straight for his racecourse debut.
Another yard who have been amongst the winners with their juveniles is that of Clive Cox and he is represented here by Konchek. The colt is by Lethal Force and the early signs last year were that he was putting plenty of speed into his stock. This colt is a half-brother to the smart Levitate and he looks one of the more likely newcomers to take a hand.
The Hannon stable has long been associated with 2yo success and although they aren’t as prolific in that area as they once were, any juvenile from the yard is worthy of respect. They have had three winners already this term but they tend to be improving for their first run, so I will pass over Coco Cheval on this occasion.
Another stable whose juveniles often improve for their first day at school are Andrew Balding’s and Oloroso is just their second 2yo runner of the season. He is reportedly well thought of at home but I would not be surprised to see him come on for the run.
Taking all of that into account, the one I like the look of is FLY THE NEST who represents last year’s winning stable of Charlie Appleby. The colt is a half-brother to multiple 2yo winner Rusumaat and is by leading 2yo stallion Kodiac. The stable have only had two 2yo runners so far but one was good enough to win a maiden at the Craven meeting and the other was well-backed, so I wouldn’t be surprised to see this colt attract market support. The yard made a very good start with their 2yos last year and with the rest of the yard in very good form at present, I suspect he will be expected to run well. He will probably have to be above-average to get the better of those with experience on debut but he has a pedigree that suggests he could be a high-class 2yo and he gets the tentative vote in what is likely to be a very informative affair.
A small field for this Listed contest and it does look as if the beautifully bred LAH TI DAR is definitely the one to beat after her runaway debut win at Newbury two weeks ago. She absolutely cruised through that contest before lengthening away powerfully and she looks every bit as good as her similarly-named mother and relatives. John Gosden is a dab hand with top fillies and he certainly looks to have another one on his hands here, so the rest will have a fair bit to do to keep her from making it two from two.
The only knock is that she has very little experience and she comes up against some fillies that have plenty. The Charlie Appleby-trained Expressiy has nine runs under her belt already, including three creditable runs on dirt in Meydan, so she’s race fit, in form and ready to go. She may be more exposed than the others but has plenty of strong form to her name and is a solid yardstick.
Stablemate Espadrille isn’t quite so experienced but her three runs have seen steady improvement, culminating in an impressive reappearance run at Chelmsford a month ago. She bolted up in what looks a half decent novice race there and has certainly come on plenty over the winter. The switch back to turf is a question mark, but I think she’s a nice filly in the making and should go well.
The only other realistic challenger to Gosden’s filly is the daughter of Frankel, Qazyna. Roger Varian’s filly was a very impressive winner over a mile at this track on her reappearance and looks to have made giant strides over the break – she looked a powerful sort in the parade ring beforehand and backed up that impression as she travelled into the race with ease, going clear on the bridle and being pushed out to a three and a half length win. She beat some nicely bred sorts there comfortably without going for everything and will surely have plenty more to come. The worry for this filly would be the trip – I’m not sure she needs further than a mile just yet and might find herself being outstayed by LAH TI DAR in the final furlong, but that’s not to say she might not have her looking in some trouble at the 2 pole – this is a nice filly for sure and she’s in excellent hands.
LAH TI DAR – 2pts win
5.20 – Qipco Supporting British Racing Handicap
The final race of the weekend looks a tricky little handicap. A number of the represented trainers are in good form and that looks the best place to start. The Hugo Palmer trained Dukhan looks likely go off favourite and the trainer is 5/23 at the time of writing with his runners in the last 14 days. He was just touched off on the line at the Craven Meeting and I would expect another bold show from him back over course and distance. He has performed well after a break, so might not improve much for the run and may need to in order to win this. Bow Street ran in that race and may struggle to turn the tables when looking as though the mile and a quarter was stretching his stamina.
Mick Channon horses are flying at present and Trumps Up could add to his tally. Off bottom weight and reunited with John Egan, he looks as though he will appreciate the step up in trip and should go well on the ground, after winning twice over seven furlongs at two. His only disappointing run was when making his handicap debut at Ripon, without the assistance of today’s jockey.
He’s Amazing makes his handicap debut and ran a promising first race of the season over a mile at Newbury in April and should appreciate the step up in trip, keeping on well over a mile.
The James Tate trained Grecian Spirit performed well at Wolverhampton behind the William Haggas trained odds on favourite Martineo and could break his maiden tag now stepped up in trip, but might find easier opportunities.
However, despite there being a number of promising well handicapped horses in the race I like the chance of KITAABAAT trained by Owen Burrows, he won a nice little Novice Stakes at Sandown in September from the John Gosden trained Sevenna Star (won the bet365 Classic Trial (Group 3) at Sandown last weekend), travelling well throughout, quickened up nicely and the runner up was probably flattered as he idled in front. He looked one to follow as a three-year-old and looks as though he might be well treated off his mark of 88.
Just the fact that some geniuses were laughed at does not imply that all who are laughed at are geniuses. They laughed at Columbus, they laughed at Fulton, they laughed at the Wright brothers. But they also laughed at Bozo the Clown.