Andy Stephens, whose nap, Lady Bowthorpe (6-1) scored on Sunday, reckons we might have seen several Royal Ascot winners in action over the weekend plus has a strong fancy for the Irish 2000 Guineas
There were more than 50 races on Racing TV this weekend and there was something for everyone on the Flat and over jumps.
Below are five who caught the eye on the level and I’ve tried to identify which races to support them for in the coming weeks.
More immediately, if you want a bet for Bank Holiday Monday, look no further than Kylie Rules in the Racing TV Handicap at Beverley (4.06).
She’s already a four-time winner at the track and has tumbled to a mark 13lb lower than when last successful. Like many from her yard, she had a quiet time last year but there was plenty of encouragement in her close comeback fourth at Beverley this month when not given a hard time.
The third has won since, while fifth and sixth have also franked the form with solid spins in defeat. William Hill offer a tempting 5-2.
The progressive grey was a most unlucky loser in the Betfair Palace House Stakes and is definitely a sprinter to keep the right side of.
He tanked through the five-furlong feature but, critically, the gap that Hollie Doyle invited him to squeeze through in the closing stages momentarily closed and halted his momentum.
To his credit, he picked up again under a hand-and-heels ride to be beaten a neck by Lazuli without ever really being off the bridle. I’m surprised there was not at least a stewards enquiry as the winner did drift into his path and it could be argued William Buick, on the winner, had his whip in the wrong hand.
Came From The Dark needs delivering late, so will always be something of a hostage to fortune, but the operations he has had since the end of last season (gelded and wind tinkered with) have clearly helped him get to the next level.
This was not the strongest renewal of the Palace House and Lazuli was conceding 3lb, but we don’t know where Came From The Dark’s ceiling is and he will still be well worth his place in the King’s Stand Stakes at Royal Ascot, for which he is a general 16-1. The stiffer 5f will play to his strengths and defending champion Battaash will arrive with something to prove after his mishap over the winter.
It paid to be drawn low in the in the QIPCO 2000 Guineas with the most open renewal of the race this century – the favourite had never previously gone off bigger than 4-1 – developing on the far side.
Chindit’s effort in fifth probably deserves marking up, as he raced away from the principals but, in truth, not many of those down the field will interest me going forwards. The Aidan O’Brien trio all disappointed, while Thunder Moon ran lamentably and I imagine his connections will be hoping some kind of problem reveals itself in the next 48 hours. Keep in mind that his stablemate, Pretty Gorgeous, was a late absentee from the 1000 Guineas because of an unsatisfactory scope.
Anyway, I digress. Poetic Flare and Master Of The Seas had a terrific ding-dong in the final throws of the race, both having won trials in the build-up.
By contrast, the keeping-on Lucky Vega, just a neck further back in third, was having his first run of the season and, going forwards, he may emerge as the best horse in the field, especially as connections suggested that, like the Middle Park last season, he was not totally in love with the track.
The Lope De Vega colt was a stunning winner of the Phoenix Stakes at the Curragh last summer, and was also unlucky there in the National Stakes when badly hampered. With that in mind, I’ll be surprised if he does not take his chance in the Tattersalls Irish 2000 Guineas at that venue on May 22 before returning to England for the St James’s Palace Stakes at Royal Ascot on June 15.
He promises to take all the beating back on home soil in three weeks’ time, even if again meeting either of the first two home.
The fluent Spring Cup winner was a well-backed favourite for the Thirsk Hunt Cup on Saturday and the bookmakers were fortunate that the money stayed in their satchels.
It was a competitive renewal but the eye was drawn to the Highclere-owned bay ridden by Sean Levey.
The problem is that Nugget just got caught a little out of his ground and, despite showing his customary turn of foot from out wide, he was unable to collar the well-ridden Storting, who himself had caught the eye at Newbury on his previous start and was receiving 13lb. The third home, Astro King, perhaps one for the John Smith’s Cup at York down the line given the way he stayed on, adds substance to the form.
This looked like one that got away for the Nugget team but he should not go up too much – perhaps 3lb to a mark of 100? – and surely has a big handicap in him this summer. The obvious target, to my mind, is next month’s Royal Hunt Cup because, while not short of speed, he also stays a mile strongly and is in fact proven over further.
Five of the past six renewals of the Hunt Cup have been won by four-year-olds, like him, and during that time no horse rated lower than 96 has got in the race. A mark of 99 has been required to make the cut on occasions, so there may be a silver lining to Nugget’s near-miss. Not only will he have strong form claims at the Royal Meeting, but it’s likely most of his rivals will have to concede him weight.
Editor's note, May 4: Nugget has been raised 4lb, to 101
STONE OF DESTINY
He’s not won the races his ability suggests he might have done – two from 27 since being switched to Andrew Balding, who does not miss many tricks - and I imagine a few more folk will have scrubbed him off their Christmas card list after his failure to win the 5f handicap against four rivals at Goodwood on Saturday.
The six-year-old, who had caught the eye on his return at Newmarket, looked like delivering deep inside the final furlong when Oisin Murphy produced him with a well-timed challenge but Desert Safari fended him off by a head.
What Stone Of Destiny wants is burying in a big-field, well-run handicap, such as in the Portland last year when he swept through to win in convincing style. A bit of headgear, which looks well overdue, might well help, too.
He’s got plenty of toe but 5f at Goodwood is probably on the sharp side and I’m going to keep him in mind for the Wokingham at Royal Ascot next month.
Stone Of Destiny was a close sixth in that cavalry charge last year, when he would have been served better by faster ground, and he met trouble when finishing midfield in the 2019 renewal. He had been a close fourth in the Group One Commonwealth Cup in 2018, when staying on, and it’s probably just a matter of everything clicking on the big day.
The one positive from Saturday’s near-miss is that the handicapper cannot raise him much, if at all, from his present mark of 99. You usually need a rating in the high 90s to make the cut for the Wokingham, so generally there are not many young, unexposed improvers to worry about. Last year, for instance, the first seven home were all five or older.
Editor's note, May 4: Stone Of Destiny has been raised 3lb, to 102
I doubt this year’s QIPCO 1000 Guineas will be remembered as a vintage renewal with only one previous Group One winner in the line-up and several notable absentees.
Nevertheless, there should be plenty more to come from the fourth-placed Santa Barbara, who was inexperienced and bred to want further, and Vandream, who was sixth.
The latter, in particular, looks one to keep in mind when dropped back in distance. She was beaten under four lengths but I fancy she’s a sprinter and the 25-1 chalked up about her for the Commonwealth Cup is well worth a second look.
Her Australian sire, Brazen Beau, was a crack sprinter who finished second in the 2015 Diamond Jubilee Stakes and Vadreem has undoubtedly inherited plenty of his pace.
She was a massive eye-catcher when a staying-on third from off the pace in the Fred Darling Stakes and, given her possible stamina limitations, it was no surprise that Jamie Spencer anchored her in rear on Sunday afternoon.
Vadreem again impressed with. the way she moved the field and, a furlong out, she was close enough if good enough near the Aidan O’Brien runners. But her effort flattened out with a lack of staying power evident.
Dropped back to six furlongs, she could be a force.We've teamed up with the Flat experts at Timeform to bring you a FREE copy of their latest book - 50 Flat Horses to Follow throughout the 2021 season. Click here to claim yours for FREE!
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