Tom Thurgood takes a closer look at each of the runners after eight were declared on Wednesday for the Group One bet365 Fillies' Mile at Newmarket on Friday. See our verdict and don't miss what happens live on Racing TV!
The opening Group One contest of the Dubai Future Champions Festival takes centre stage on the Rowley Mile on Friday and, like last year, John and Thady Gosden have an unbeaten filly at odds-on at the top of the market.
For an end-of-season two-year-old race which can be run with cut in the ground, the market has been pretty accurate in the Fillies’ Mile in recent years with 12 winners from 26 favourites or joint-favourites since 1997 (46.2 per cent strike-rate, £2.55 level stakes profit, performance 15 per cent better than market expectation). Since the race has been transferred to Newmarket from Ascot, it’s a 53.9 per cent strike and performance 44 per cent better than market expectation.
Here, we take a closer look at the eight declared runners, some key questions and give our early verdict ahead of Wednesday's declarations.
We can expect a Bet365 Fillies' Mile on a decent-enough surface this year.
The ground was described as Good on Wednesday morning by Turftrax with a mostly dry forecast over the coming days; 1-2mm of rain could fall in a fast-moving front on a gusty day on Wednesday but dry conditions are expected until potential patchy rain later on Friday afternoon.
The inclusion of Library (the sole Ballydoyle contender from four before the final declaration stage) is important as she is the one likeliest to go forward at a decent pace. Ferrari Queen is also likely to force things, while Sparkling Beauty, Novokai and Alseyoob are prominent racers. I wouldn't anticpiate a crawl and would expect a race run at a decent pace, if not potentially a little quicker.
A somewhat boring answer, but given her form claims - and importantly the likely set-up of the race - you'd have to say "yes".
Putting the compelling record of favourites in this race to one side (and that of the yard, with two winners and two runners-up from eight runners this century), Commissioning might have the best form on offer in addition to the prospect of the most potential improvement to come.
The favourite beat seven last-time out winners in the Rockfel (including a Group Three scorer) and another Group Three winner, Listed winner and Group Two runner-up. She was fastest in the final two furlongs and while this keen sort (wears hood) might have been helped by the big field at Newmarket, she looks to have inherited the pace and speed of sire Kingman (notably good sectionals on debut, too) while also hitting the line strongly on both starts.
Her granddam is the Aga Khan-bred Dialafara, who has produced strong Ballydoyle stayers Capri, Passion and Cypress Creek, and this step-up to a mile should suit Commissioning on pedigree as well as on the visual impression so far.
The one niggle would have been if she got a lot of daylight or a slower pace, but she somewhat answered those questions on debut and she's down right down the middle here with the forward-going Ferrari Queen drawn next to her.
She should be fine and the best-priced 8-11 with Bet365 is not unreasonable - I certainly wouldn't want to lay at that price.
Aidan O’Brien has been double-handed in this race in 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018 and 2020 but only calls upon Library (10-1) this time after the withdrawals of Cork maiden winner Be Happy, Prix Marcel Boussac third Never Ending Story and regally-bred maiden Delightful.
Library's maiden form reads quite well and she is a likeable, tough and genuine filly with plenty of experience in the bank already who breaks very quickly and may prove harder to pass than not from the front of this field. Her second behind Zarinsk last time on Irish Champions Weekend was a good effort from an admittedly plum draw, but she wants more of a test than that steadily-run seven furlongs and she is likely to help force things over a mile here if lining up. The Rowley Mile shouldn’t prove a problem for her.
The question is whether she compromises her finishing effort on the front end with similar pace-setter Ferrari Queen, but that filly hasn't finished to best effect on all starts over seven furlongs despite looking a stayer on pedigree and the Ballydoyle filly is expected to show up well for a long way.
This is always something of a relative question, but whether Bright Diamond and Sparkling Beauty want this mile at this stage is open to some sort of debate - esoecially given there are forward-goers in this race that should ensure a fair-enough test at the trip.
Bright Diamond (9-1) smashed some very well-bred fillies on debut with striking late sectionals and posted similarly strong splits in defeat in Group Three company at Goodwood, breaking slowly and ultimately being unable to land a blow in a race where the protagonists were up with the speed throughout. She is high-class and has hit the line well on both starts, but speed looks her forte and the progeny of sire El Kabeir have notably better stats over shorter trips (12.6 per cent over six furlongs, 10 per cent over seven furlongs, 1.4 per cent over a mile) and the stallion (a son of speed source Scat Daddy) has just three winners from 69 runners over an extended mile in the UK and Ireland so far. Bright Diamond is a fascinating runner for a yard with a very strong juvenile hand this year and I think she has loads of ability, but I just have a doubt about this test.
Sparkling Beauty (10-1) has a granddam that has produced a lot of high-class sprinters and, while you can’t say she doesn’t stay, she hasn’t hit the line particularly strongly in each of her three starts over seven furlongs. She posted a good effort at Group Two level in France last time, but her head carriage looked a bit awkward and while she tried hard after coming off the bridle a few furlongs from home that additional effort looked to tell when she somewhat faded in the final 50 yards.
Polly Pott (9-1) could have got a kinder draw than widest in stall 8, but she is an experienced filly who is held-up in her races anyway and I make her second-best in this line-up.
While she has started from humble origins for an unfashionable yard, she has undeniably got better with each run and her effort in the May Hill last time was excellent. Ridden with restraint early before bursting through the field from the rear while posting good sectionals and going away towards the line, it was pretty textbook and if you watched it without knowing her profile, huge SP and connections I think the wider reaction would have been more positive. She invariably finds well at the end of her races and this contest should be run at a good enough pace for to show her best qualities, while she has no issue on undulating tracks.
Novakai (14-1) bounced back from an underwhelming effort in the Sweet Solera last time and predictably improved for a mile in the May Hill, but I don’t see an obvious reason why she should reverse the form with Polly Pott given a decent pace (she is a forward racer and may have positional advantage off a slower gallop).
Alseyoob (25-1) beat some good fillies on debut at Newmarket and blotted her copybook in the Sweet Solera subsequently too, but she could not replicate front-running tactics there in a race which featured a slow finish and may have counted against forward-goers. Although it was only in novice company, she settled nicely behind the leaders at Ascot last time and won going away at the line in pleasing style. This is a huge step up but she does look Stakes class and I think her current odds are a little bigger than they should be.
Ferrari Queen (40-1) is the outsider despite being only 11-2 for the May Hill last time, a race in which she went from the front again but faded a little tamely and may not have shown her best. Her best performance was arguably on debut, when sprinting away with some good closing sectionals over a steadily-run six furlongs at Doncaster, and despite being a stayer oin pedigree she hasn't finished to the best effect up in class ocer seven furlongs since.
This is a market in its infancy after Wednesday morning's declarations, but Commissioning looks too big at the current 8-11. She looks more of a 4-7 or 1-2 shot to me. She probably has the best form coming into this and might just be the one to take the biggest step forward given the way her yard campaign their juveniles and the fact that she is stoutly-bred on the dam’s side and tackles a mile for the first time. She has posted impressive sectionals so far and this a prominent racer that will suit the Rowley Mile – indeed, she is already a course winner here thanks to Rockfel success last time. The pace set-up could have been a complicating factor but she looks to have those conditions to suit.
Polly Pott should have some pace to aim at and I make her second-best. I'd have her above the similarly-priced Sparkling Beauty and Bright Diamond and I'll explore straight forecasts with Commissioning as well without the favourite markets on the day.
Library is an interesting contender, who admittedly would have been a little more compelling without Ferrari Queen in the field. However, she is tough and has still finished well despite not having an uncontested lead previously (the Tipperary maiden win springs to mind, as well as her strong closing effort whernh hampered in the final furlong on debut) and front-running tactics lend well to this track. She is an each-way price at 10-1 and is another to note in without-the-favourite markets.
PREDICTED FINISHING ORDER: 1 Commissioning 2 Polly Pott 3 Library
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