Maureen to strike in Sceptre
Channel 4 commentator Simon Holt previews the action from Doncaster on the second day of the St Leger meeting.
- Related Content
Unless the official handicapper is very much mistaken, THE LARK should take plenty of beating in Thursday's Group Two DFS Park Hill Stakes at Doncaster.
Michael Bell's filly is rated 6lb higher than any of her rivals and would be a confident selection were it not for a slightly disappointing run in a Group Two at Saint-Cloud towards the end of June.
Off since, she was probably below her best that day given her earlier staying-on third behind Talent in the Oaks at Epsom and, before that, a third behind recent Nassau Stakes winner Winsili at Newbury.
Closely related to the high-class Sariska, The Lark has shaped as though stamina is her strong suit and she should relish this step up in distance to an extended mile and three-quarters allied to inferior opposition.
The Oaks form has taken plenty of knocks but runner-up Secret Gesture hasn't been too disgraced in two subsequent outings (including when third to The Fugue in the Yorkshire Oaks) and a reproduction of that form by the selection ought to be good enough.
The rival who looks open to most improvement could be Seal Of Approval who has won three of her four starts and successfully made the jump to Listed level at Newbury last month when prevailing by a neck from Songbird in a bunch finish. However, the latter did little for the form when only seventh behind Our Obsession at York next time, finishing behind the reopposing Jathabah (third) and Coquet (sixth).
Jathabah is likeable enough and had earlier run St Leger contender Feel Like Dancing close at Newmarket before finishing behind third-placed Alta Lilea in the Lillie Langtry Stakes at Glorious Goodwood (won easily by Wild Coco).
Alta Lilea runs here after a poor effort behind Sun Central and Bite Of The Cherry in a handicap at Chester.
Earlier, MAUREEN can take advantage of a big drop in class by landing the Group Three Japan Racing Association Sceptre Stakes having performed creditably at the highest level in her last four starts.
Richard Hannon's filly came up just short in the 1000 Guineas (sixth to Sky Lantern), Irish Guineas (sixth to Just The Judge), the Coronation Stakes (fourth to Sky Lantern) and in the Prix Rothschild (seventh, beaten four lengths, behind Elusive Kate) at Deauville but has less to do here.
Although staying on in most of those races over a mile, I believe the drop in distance to seven furlongs will help her and any softening of the ground could also be helpful.
Occasionally, she looks to have been given plenty of ground to make up this season and, at this trip, Richard Hughes may sit quite handy to the pace.
The dangers appear to be Annecdote and Winning Express who fought out the finish to Goodwood's Oak Tree Stakes in which The Gold Cheongsam was beaten two lengths by the winner into fourth and Nargys again disappointed in ninth.
Annecdote, the pride of Jonathan Portman's stable, should confirm those placings but may just lack Maureen's class.
One other interesting runner is the selection's stable-mate Zurigha, the mount of Ryan Moore, who hasn't been seen since running poorly behind Annecdote in the Sandringham Handicap at Royal Ascot following a fine fourth from a bad draw in the French Guineas.