The action begins in the Group 3 Horris Hill Stakes over a seven-furlong trip for these two-year-olds.
Zonderland sets the standard on the back of his good run in the Group 3 Somerville Stakes at Newmarket. Despite finishing fourth he wasn’t beaten all that far having faced problems in running and was eased close home. The winner Sanus Per Aquam is a nice type and has since finished third in the Dewhurst. After those two starts he is still open to improvement and looks the one they all have to beat here.
The interesting runner is John Gosden’s Crazy Horse, who won on debut at Newmarket. He needed all of the seven-furlongs that day to get his head in front after running green with a slightly awkward head carriage. To the eye it looked a sound enough ran maiden plus those to run since have franked the form with the fifth finishing second and the sixth winning on their next starts. John Gosden’s initial plan was to put him away until next year; so putting him into this race suggests there could be something in that, in terms of his work at home and there should be more to come. He is a half-brother to Richard Pankhurst, who won the Chesham as a juvenile, which may boost confidence behind him.
Godolphin’s Start Time has had four starts and never been outside the front four. His first two starts saw him finish second at Brighton but showed signs of keenness, which could be highlighted by the fact headgear was reached for from an early stage. He hung in that race and should really have won after hitting the front. He has won his last two at Thirsk and Windsor respectively but they don’t look the strongest races. He won over the extended mile last time, so that could see William Buick take him along in front to try and use his stamina to make all.
Of the rest then Royal Reserve deserves a mention after beating Mootaharer at Salisbury. As you may have seen and heard, Mootaharer is a half-brother to Muhaarar and this Charles Hills two-year-old franked this piece of form by bolting up at Newmarket on Tuesday. This William Muir is a big strapping type and holds a Derby entry. The Racing Post Trophy was on the agenda but he’s here instead in a race where he could hit the frame.
Crazy Horse (E/W if 9/2+)
The first race we look at here at Doncaster is a Listed race for two-year-olds where Marco Botti’s Dhahmaan is an odds-in shot.
His form is a class above his opponents; after beating Ajaya on debut, who has now won a Group 2 plus his most recent effort saw him place behind Donjuan Triumphant and Richard Fahey’s juvenile has since bolted up in a Group 2 in France franking that form. He has handled cut in the ground on his two turf efforts, so if running anywhere close to that form then he is hard to oppose.
Dream Destination is the obvious threat after finishing second in a Group 3 at Kempton last month. He arguably ran better then his finishing position at Ayr suggested, he dwelt at the start and was running on strongly in the closing stages, so the step back up to six furlongs should ideally suit this Sylvester Kirk juvenile.
Dean Ivory’s Fighting Temeraire is one that could be slightly overpriced. He got off the mark at the third attempt winning well at Windsor 12-days ago. The Newbury maiden where he finished third looked a good one to the eye and the winner Christchurch could potentially be half-decent. He’ll have to improve to get close to this favourite but he can hold his own in this company. The trainer has stated he is a good ground horse and wouldn’t want it too soft.
Above N Beyond is having his first run on turf and will have to prove himself to conditions. He made all at Kempton to get off the mark but will need to find more to get involved here however could get the run of the race from the front.
Fighting Temeraire (E/W)
It’s time to re-familiarise ourselves with the jumpers as the jumping recommences. A two-mile handicap chase is the first race of three previewed at Prestbury Park.
Next Sensation ran away with the Grand Annual at the festival in March beating Eastlake, who re-opposes here. Michael Scudamore’s charge is likely to try and make the running and returning fresh could give him the opportunity to not see a rival. This mark may give him a bit of an uphill task after being pulled up when last seen in April. Eastlake is another with course form and if able to replicate any of that has a chance. He had an excuse after Aintree after breaking a blood vessel. He has won fresh, but off lower marks.
One horse that I’m personally looking forward to seeing this year is Boondooma for Dr Richard Newland, who is one of the best for placing his horses. He has relatively low mileage compared to many of these and caught the eye at Bangor in a Novices’ Chase when finishing a close second to Melodic Rendezvous before winning comfortably at Haydock in December. The absence is a slight worry but he won over hurdles after a break, which negates most of that worry.
Workbench has fitness on his side and was a winner at Fontwell 22-days ago beating Purple’N’Gold, who re-opposes here. Dan Skelton’s runner has gone up 9lb for that win meaning David Pipe’s runner is now gets weight instead of giving it away and that could even the pair out. Workbench is still a seven-year-old, so there is scope to continuing to improve despite this career high mark. One more to mention is Turn Over Sivola for Alan King, who is having a bit of a purple patch. This eight-year-old is mightily consistent and has previously won off higher marks but again he may require the run.
We step into Group 3 company for the St Simon Stakes over a mile-and-a-half. This doesn’t look the best renewal of the race compared to previous year but it still looks a tricky one to decipher.
Romsdal is the one that sets the standard after running in better races than this over the course of the season. He was third in the King George and third in the Group 3 John Porter Stakes. William Buick is likely to take him out in the lead, which could set it up for his rivals like his previous runs have done. If matching the form of those two races he should be hard to beat however I’m not totally convinced by him over this trip. He doesn’t totally see out his races and that may be because of the leading tactics and the fact that he gives weight away could make him vulnerable to one of the lesser exposed three-year-old fillies.
James Fanshawe’s Moderah is the one that is more than likely to improve after getting off the mark on her third start at Leicester. She improved for each of her starts and dotted up to score. She has a nice pedigree on the dam side with plenty of group performers. For this she will have to improve but if she continues on the same upward curve as she was on in maidens then she has claims. Koora bumped into Marlet in a Listed race at York two starts ago but she was staying on in the closing stages. Then at Doncaster she found the stamina test too much in the Park Hill when last seen. She’s still lightly raced and has had a break of 44-days to freshen her up. Luca Cumani has dropped her back to this trip and knows a lot about her having trained her mother Kithanga. This three-year-old is beautifully bred and should be up to this sort of task.
Melodious is the dark horse here for me. She was behind Koora at York but was able to reverse the form in the Park Hill when she finished second. Since York she has had three runs, some of which the form doesn’t look too bad now. She raced twice over one-mile-six-furlongs finishing second on both occasions. One of those was second to Flying Officer, who we saw win the Stayers race on Champions Day. Then in the Park Hill where she looked the likely winner until Gretchen picked up nicely and showed her battling qualities. At Newmarket 29-days ago she was fourth but well-beaten by Journey, who was second to St Leger winner Simple Verse in the Fillies and Mares Stakes again on Champion Day. Her from is stacking up now and at the prices she gets the nod to get her head back in front here considering she’ll be able to stalk the pace set by Romsdal.
A northern sprint handicap is next on our agenda and there always is value to be found in this sort of race.
Demora won at Leicester 11-days ago beating the in-form and progressive Maljaa. He led early on before being headed and soon battling back staying on to win well. This is his trip and everything seems to be in his favour, especially with Michael Appleby having a good record with his sprinters. He was third in this last year off a mark of 102 meaning he is 3lb better off than then.
Andrew Balding’s Dungannon has won this race in the last two years. In those years he has won off 95 and 96 respectively but races off 89 if you include Tom Marquand’s 3lb claim. He hasn’t won since December 2013 but he does look well handicapped if running up to his old form and conditions do seem to be in his favour at a course he has enjoyed success.
Steps won here last month running on strongly to beat Harry Hurricane and he soon followed that up a week later at Newbury in a Group 3. He didn’t run too badly at Longchamp in the Prix De L’Abbaye, but was never given a chance. Cameron Noble claims 7lb however he’s not an apprentice that has yet had many opportunities.
Two more of these look well handicapped. Robot Boy is now 5lb lower than when he won at Newbury in April. He has previously won on soft ground and ran well on it at Haydock behind Maljaa. If he can find any sort of form he has a chance at a course where he got his first win. The other one that stands a chance is Lucky Beggar. His mark has fallen from 107 to 93 here however having backed him on his last few starts he is one that races in a good position but fails to see out his races and that is why is now looks well treated in this sort of race.
Arctic Feeling narrowly saw off Adam’s Ale at Catterick a week ago and for me could uphold that form. Richard Fahey’s seven-year-old ran on well to lead in the final strides to win by a nose. Sammy Jo Bell should be able to give this gelding a similar ride, as they could go off too hard in front and that could play into this gelding’s hands. Despite the rise in the weights he can run another nice race at an each-way price.
Robot Boy (E/W)
Arctic Feeling (E/W)
We go back over obstacles for a two-mile hurdle race, which sees the return of Hargam. Nicky Henderson’s runner was third in the Triumph Hurdle and looks the one to beat if able to replicate any sort of race like that. The previous two winners of this race have defied top weight, so it looks plausible that so can Hargam. He was a progressive horse last year and the Cheltenham track with the uphill finish is one that could suit him well.
French recruit Fou Et Sage is interesting for Dan Skelton but most of his form comes with cut in the ground, which he is unlikely and is best watched. Devilment was a place behind Hargam in the Triumph Hurdle and was able to reverse that form at Aintree however for me a flatter more galloping track suits him better than the undulations that he’ll face here at Cheltenham.
Karezak rates as the danger after getting a run under his belt at Chepstow two weeks ago. That day he was second to the in-form Tea In Transval, who is now four in four for Evan Williams since June, and is the one very much in form. Alan King’s string tend to perform well early in the season, so he can’t be too easily discounted.
This looks a trappy handicap and on paper looks like ten renewals could give you about nine different winners. It is over one-mile-and-two-furlongs and that is reflected by the betting opening at 6/1 the field.
Kastini looks the solid one having won three times over course and distance, two of which have come since August. He’s gone up in the handicap by 11lb for those two wins, which sandwiched a third at Epsom in between too. He looked to win with plenty in hand running on strongly under Oisin Murphy 36-days ago, so the 5lb rise may not be enough to stop him here, especially with conditions in his favour.
What About Carlo is back to the point where you worry about his mark. Wins at Epsom and then over course and distance have seen his mark rise back into the low hundreds. He was beaten off this mark at Salisbury but conditions are in his favour however there may not be not too much left in him off this mark. Cricklewood Green comes into this race in form but still out of the handicap. He’s generally raced over a mile or seven furlongs, so this is a big step-up in trip, which would leave concerns for him here and the same could be said about Examiner, who has seemed to empty out quickly in the closing stages of his races over this trip previously.
Two hit-and-miss performers are in this line-up too. Richard Fahey’s Mica Mika hasn’t won since completing a hat-trick in May but this is also the first time since then that Paul Hanagan gets the leg up. On form this should be a going day but he looks too high in the handicap. The other one is Stetchworth. Mark Johnston’s charge is versatile on ground and stepping back up to this trip should suit after disappointing at Haydock over a mile last time. He previously ran second behind the improving Rembrandt Van Rijn where he stayed on nicely, so stepping back up in trip gets the tentative vote in an open handicap.
We return to Town Moor for a handicap over a mile-and-a-half in which looks a wide-open race.
Three-year-olds seem to hold sway in this race having won seven of the last ten renewals. There is only Ralph Beckett’s Argus, who can keep that run going and this son of Rip Van Winkle is still unexposed but has a bit to prove after disappointing at Newmarket. That day he didn’t seem to see out the trip but was up against experienced rivals. The return to a more galloping and flatter track would look to be in his favour. The yard is in good form with Ralph Beckett having a 27% strike rate over the last two weeks.
Stock Hill Fair made all when winning at Newmarket two starts ago in a lower grade of handicap and is likely to go from the front here again under Cathy Gannon but doesn’t necessarily have to be ridden prominently. This is more difficult than what he’s faced, so may need to find more. Andrew Balding’s Storm Force Ten hasn’t been seen for 169-days but wasn’t beaten by far when fourth to Trip To Paris at Lingfield two starts ago and won when last seen at Chester in testing condition in good fashion. The absence is a slight worry but could still find improvement.
One runner I can’t gauge is Oasis Fantasy. He tends to get well backed prior to running then disappointing. He’s one runner that I still wouldn’t back with stolen money. The value could be Declan Carroll’s Buonarroti. His best race of late came over this trip at Haydock with cut in the ground, so the step-up in trip would be a positive. He was disappointing over one-mile-two-furlongs at Ayr and Nottingham but the trip may not have been one that has suited. He’s back to that mark at Haydock when he ran well and despite not building on that recently he would get the each-way selection. If he has recovered from that race ten days ago then he is one that could hit the frame. Wakea has won over further but has to give plenty of weight to his rivals.
A handicap chase over three-miles-and-one-furlong is our final race over the obstacles and it looks an open affair.
Roalco De Farges won this race last year having had a run in April and Philip Hobbs has tried a similar tactic this time around too. However he was pulled up in the Grade 3 Gold Cup Chase at Sandown back in April, but a return here to Cheltenham could bring him back to some form. He represents an in-form yard and these colours had won this race in the shape of Balthazar King previously too, so there is a good record in this race to defend.
Audacious Plan looks the one to beat here after having a run at Chepstow two weeks ago, which looked to blow away the cobwebs. That day he travelled nicely and jumped well up until a point where he just seemed to hit a brick wall. That should have freshened him up for this and Rebecca Curtis had a 23% strike rate in this type of races last year.
I’m willing to give Silver Man a chance at a bigger price. He moved yards in May from Steve Flook to Jo Hughes and since then his form has improved. He won his first two starts for the yard before finishing second in a Listed race at Uttoxeter in June. He wasn’t seen until the start of this month when a close second in a three-runner race. This eight-year-old has gone from strength to strength since switching yards and the visor replaces the blinkers which could bring a bit more from him. He could have more to offer in this sphere and with fitness and stamina he is worth chancing.
Martin Keighley has rejuvenated Champion Court, which has been good to see over summer and the ten-year-old has won his last three where he has raced prominently or made all. Unfortunately it looks like the winning will stop here as this looks harder to those contests and his mark could be a sticking point.
Silver Man (E/W)
In the past years horses like Camelot, St Nicholas Abbey and Authorized have won the Racing Post Trophy.
Foundation is the buzz horse for this year’s renewal after easing home to win the Group 2 Royal Lodge Stakes at Newmarket. That runs sets the standard where he beat Deauville as he liked and could have won by further if fully pushed out.
The only slight concern would be the ground, yes he has won on good to soft but with some more rain forecast in the area prior to racing the ground could turn soft and possibly against him. John Gosden has expressed his concerns about the forecast and ground therefore after yesterday’s racing it could be tacky and limit Foundation’s turn of foot.
Despite the race lacking each-way appeal, with only the current seven runners going to post, the value is Mengli Khan. He showed promise despite running green on debut at Newmarket and built on that at Nottingham when winning in stylish fashion. This son of Lope De Vega should handle the conditions and could be the one that’s overpriced. Hugo Palmer has said he is in good shape and working well, so all positive on that front. Also Palmer has had a very good season and his success has continued of late.
There does look to be a lack of early speed in the race and on paper you’d say Aidan O’Brien has entered Port Douglas to set the fractions for Deauville to aim for. We’ve seen some good pace making rides and some poor ones but if that is the plan then Emmet McNamara will have to get it right or else it could play into Foundation’s hands.
Mengli Khan (E/W)