Juvenile Watch: Top tips for Newmarket's Cambridgeshire meeting

By Ross Millar@rosscojmill
Thu 22 Sep 2022

Ross Millar provides his verdict on Sakheer's impressive Mill Reef win, and explains why Roger Varian's youngster would not be at the top of his list for next year's 2000 Guineas. Our Juvenile expert also shares his top tips for the Rockfel Stakes, the Cheveley Park and the Middle Park, three of the feature races at Newmarket's Cambridgeshire meeting which gets underway on Thursday, live on Racing TV.

Sakheer impressive, but Guineas price is an overreaction

Roger Varian enjoyed an unbelievable day on Saturday, sending out seven winners across the country, and I’m sure his only regret was that he didn’t make more entries!

Sakheer justified strong market support when bolting up in the Mill Reef Stakes which resulted in his odds for next year’s QIPCO 2000 Guineas being cut to a best-priced 12-1, but I think that’s a big overreaction.

While visually he was impressive, I don’t think the form of the race amounts to all that much. The runner-up, Rousing Encore, was beaten a similar distance on his last start in a Listed contest, and while it’s feasible to think he improved for this step back up to six furlongs, the overall trend of his form would suggest his official rating of 102 is about right.

Both Charyn (third) and Shouldhavebeenaring (fourth) are decent performers but they both have a rating of 100.

As a son of Zoffany, it is, of course, very likely that Sakheer will improve again for a step up in trip, and for an extra winter behind him. However, as far as the QIPCO 2000 Guineas is concerned, I still prefer the exciting Little Big Bear, and would also rank Champagne Stakes winner Chaldean ahead of Sakheer.

My fancy for the Mill Reef, the maiden Wallop, showed his inexperience by over-racing in the first part of the contest, leaving him vulnerable in the closing stages. I’m sure he’ll be found a winnable contest next time out and, given the speed he showed, it might be that Richard Hannon opts to utilise that attribute and drop him back to five furlongs, a tactic that he has already used to great success with Trillium. Don’t give up on him just yet.

Nostrum just gets the nod in Tattersalls Stakes

It’s a pity that this Group Three contest has only attracted four runners but, despite the small field, it looks a competitive affair, with all bar Abravaggio holding strong credentials.

The current favourite, Victory Dance, is a son of Dubawi who already has two strong pieces of form has next to his name at this track, the pick of which was when he was a narrowly denied by Isaac Shelby in the Superlative Stakes. The Dubawi colt also arrives in good form having comfortably justified favouritism in the Denford Stakes on his last start.

Holloway Boy is hard to judge; he made a winning debut at Royal Ascot in the Chesham Stakes, but the form of that race is yet to be boosted. Initially, it seemed that he backed up that debut win with a good second in the Vintage Stakes at Goodwood on his latest outing but his conqueror there, Marbaan, was well beaten in the National Stakes at the Curragh on his next start.

Nostrum impressed me on his debut where he showed a high cruising speed, and a smart turn of foot, when scoring at Sandown. His jockey, Ryan Moore, believed he was in front too soon on that occasion, too, so you had to be taken with the attitude he displayed.

Both the third-placed, Arrest, and the fifth-placed, Batemans Boy, won on their next starts, so the form has a solid look to it.

Sir Michael Stoute trains his juveniles to progress with racing, so any amount of progress could be forthcoming. While this isn’t a race I’ll be getting involved in from a punting angle, I’d expect to see Nostrum deliver on the promise of his debut performance.

Side with Rich in Rockfel Stakes

A field with far more depth; it features Group Three winner Sydneyarms Chelsea, as well as Olivia Maralda, who was placed at Group Two level when last seen, along with a host of promising fillies with novice or maiden wins already on their CV.

It’s the Cracksman filly Rich, who won a Newbury maiden on debut in May and hasn’t been seen since, who excites me the most, though.

Watch how Rich scored on debut

That victory came over six furlongs which, on pedigree, would appear to be short of her optimal distance, given that her dam was twice a winner over ten furlongs as a two-year old, while her sire ran only once as a two-year-old, winning over a mile.

Her trainer, Richard Hannon, reported on Monday that her time away from the track had simply been to give her time to mature, so I fully expect her to arrive here at peak fitness, and I’m confident this step up in trip can see her take top honours.

Mawj an each-way fancy in the Cheveley Park

It remains to be seen whether Meditate will be allowed to take her chance in this having been put firmly in her place by Tahiyra just two weeks ago when possibly not staying seven furlongs in the Moyglare on soft ground.

The turnaround is quite quick, though trainer Aidan O’Brien mentioned it as a possibility in his post-race interview at the Curragh.

Trillium would also arrive here off just a two-week break having narrowly got the better of The Platinum Queen in the Group Two Flying Childers at Doncaster where she was doing her best work inside the final furlong and looks ready for a return to six furlongs.

Mawj is a favourite of mine and I’m hopeful of a better showing than she managed in the Lowther at York when last seen where she rallied into fourth.

Watch how Mawj fared in the Lowther at York last time out

Some horses just don’t show their best on the Knavesmire, and I’m hoping that was the case with her.

I expect her to reverse the form with Lowther winner Swingalong and, at an each-way price, I’ll give her one more chance.

Blackbeard the one to beat in Middle Park

Amo Racing will be hoping that Persian Force can reward their decision to head to this instead of taking on the Mill Reef last weekend. I think the jury is out with him, though, he’s looked mildly regressive since an explosive spring, and whilst he’s obviously talented, he wouldn’t be for me.

Blackbeard looks a bit mad in the preliminaries ahead of his races, but is certainly professional during them, and he’s already got the measure of Persian Force once this season, so I see no reason why he won’t confirm that form.

Marshman was heavily supported before the Gimcrack at York but had no answer to the exciting, if somewhat wayward, Noble Style. However, the pair did pull a long way clear of the third, Cold Case, who has since gone on to win a valuable sales race. It concerns me that Marshman hung both left and right on the Knavesmire, though. and I question whether this track will suit him.

At a bigger price, Royal Scotsman had been consistent all season until underperforming in the Gimcrack, though it was subsequently reported that he scoped badly after the race. I expect him to get closer to Marshman this time, but I don’t see him being good enough to win this.

It’s a mild concern that Blackbeard has had a busy season, which may well catch up with him at some point, but I believe he should be shorter than the general 3-1 on offer, given he boasts comfortably the best form.

His pre-race antics aren’t an easy watch, but I expect him to be too good for this field.

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