Aiken can pour it on
Channel 4 commentator Simon Holt previews the pick of the weekend's action from Newbury and Ripon.
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Newmarket trainer John Gosden has been in unbelievable form since Winsili's surprise Nassau Stakes victory two weeks ago and may well strike again with AIKEN in the Group Three Betfred TV Geoffrey Freer Stakes at Newbury.
This still lightly-raced five-year-old made good progress last season graduating from a handicap to a French Two in his first three starts before finishing fourth in the Hardwicke Stakes and Irish St Leger.
On his final start, Aiken made the high-class Rite Of Passage work hard in the stayers event at Ascot on Champions Day and a repeat of that effort ought to see him home here despite lack of a recent run.
Importantly, there is rain forecast for Newbury and one suspects that the son of Selkirk, who definitely prefers some give in the ground, won't be risked if it fails to materialise.
Chief dangers could be those grand stable stalwarts Red Cadeaux and Lost In The Moment who have done Ed Dunlop and Godolphin proud down the years.
This looks tough enough for Red Cadeaux under a 6lb penalty - he hasn't been in top form recently and connections will have an eye on another international campaign this autumn/winter - but Lost In The Moment is running well boasting a win at Newmarket and second (to Forgotten Voice) at Goodwood this season.
Both horses have performed strongly in past Melbourne Cups and that will doubtless be their objective once again come November.
Godolphin are also represented by the improving Royal Empire, a likeable sort but stepping up in both class and distance here, while the useful Biographer might also benefit from a little rain.
David Lanigan's colt has run well enough in two starts this season but seemed to handle some cut very well last term when second in the Melrose at York and then winning at Ascot.
Later on, the Betfred Hungerford Stakes looks a really tricky affair with the likely favourite Soft Falling Rain making his debut in this country under a penalty.
Unbeaten so far, the Mike de Kock-trained colt won all three of his starts on the Tapeta surface at Meydan, Dubai earlier in the year and it will be fascinating to see how he handles conditions here against some strong opponents including Caspar Netscher (a fine second on his comeback at Goodwood), Queen Anne Stakes third Gregorian, the front-running Libranno and Godolphin's Jersey Stakes third Tawhid.
De Kock's team will be on a high after David Livingston's Haydock win last week but this five-runner contest looks tough to call.
Meanwhile, in a much bigger field, it could be worth taking a chance each-way on PRODIGALITY in the William Hill Great St Wilfrid Handicap at Ripon.
Ron Harris's charge looked unlucky not to win the consolation race on this card last year when pulling clear of his group but being narrowly beaten by El Viento (who raced on the opposite side of the course) and has been running soundly this season.
To be honest, it could be argued that Prodigality is just caught in the grip of the handicapper but Harris has made a very shrewd move here in snapping up the services of young apprentice Oisin Murphy whose 7lb allowance ought to come gift-wrapped.
Murphy continues to impress with his sensible and balanced riding and his claim here could just tip the balance.
Drawn 13, the selection may have the choice of racing far side or stands side in a race that can be heavily draw influenced the effect of which may depend on how much rain falls. On soft ground, it could be that low numbers (horses drawn on the far side) may have an edge and that will almost certainly include Stewards Cup seventh Louis The Pious (drawn four) who looks a strong contender after his third here behind Pepper Lane last year.
Baccarat (drawn 9) is another interesting runner - one of three for Malton trainer Richard Fahey - as he is lightly raced and progressive, and didn't get the best of runs at York last time.
Aiken 2.40 Newbury 2pts win
Prodigality 3.30 Ripon 1pt each-way