The Fugue can silence doubters
Alex Hammond looks ahead to the weekend's racing and fancies The Fugue to deliver the goods in Saturday's Coral-Eclipse at Sandown.
Summer has finally arrived, as we bask in the sunshine spare a thought for racecourse clerks who are fretting about ground conditions ahead of this weekend’s fixtures.
There looks to be some sparkling action to look forward to on the track, but with rain around we are a bit up in the air with regard to likely goings.
Sandown host a star studded Coral-Eclipse and John Gosden will be praying the rain doesn’t arrive on Friday night/Saturday morning for his runner The Fugue, who needs fast ground. In fact the outcome of this ‘clash of the generations and sexes’ race is very ground dependant, with both The Fugue and True Story wanting fast ground and Derby runner up Kingston Hill needing some ease in conditions to take his chance.
Given the manner of The Fugue’s performance in the Prince of Wales’s Stakes at Royal Ascot and if the ground remains on the fast side I think she will be incredibly hard to beat. She's a top-class mare and is unlucky not to have more top flight wins to her name.
"He looks the type that will appreciate the step up to a mile and a quarter and a change of tactics could also help him after another decent effort to finish second in the St James’s Palace Stakes behind Kingman."
The Classic generation look good this year, despite their reputation not being enhanced in the Irish Derby which ended up nothing more than a piece of work for Australia.
2000 Guineas winner Night Of Thunder was given to me as a horse to follow by his trainer at the beginning of the season so his performance at Newmarket wouldn’t have been a total surprise to connections.
He looks the type that will appreciate the step up to a mile and a quarter and a change of tactics could also help him after another decent effort to finish second in the St James’s Palace Stakes behind Kingman.
He is by Dubawi out of a Galileo mare so the trip may even bring about more improvement and getting a lead will also benefit him.
US import Verrazano is interesting for Aidan O’Brien after a couple of runs for the Ballydoyle master since his switch from the States. Ryan Moore rides the colt as Joseph O’Brien has started a nine-day ban incurred at Royal Ascot.
His first run for the yard saw him finish third in the Lockinge and he was then second to Toronado in the Queen Anne. O'Brien is sure to have got the measure of this colt now and a European Group 1 win will be the aim with him this term. It looked there like the step up to this mile and a quarter is what he needs so he should run well.
Kingston Hill really needs soft ground to show his very best and against the likes of The Fugue on fast ground he will have his work cut out.
However, if it does rain he looks a cracking spare ride for Frankie Dettori who has come in for the ride as regular partner Andrea Atzeni has been called up to ride at Haydock for his retainer.
War Command also travels over for O’Brien and is the mount of Seamie Heffernan. He’s another who could benefit from the step up to this trip, but he’s yet to win this term after a successful juvenile season.
The William Haggas trained Mukhadram is an admirable horse who ran well to be third in this race last year, but he may have his work cut out to win this year’s renewal.
True Story on fast ground could start to show what his Godolphin connections thought he was capable of at the beginning of the season. You can make excuses for his last couple of runs with the soft ground against him in the Dante at York and he apparently didn’t enjoy the cambers of Epsom in the Derby.
However, he has never really excited me and the fitting of a visor will have to help him step up to the plate. He is apparently a laid back horse and they could make the difference.
Trading Leather may be one for each-way punters. Jim Bolger’s four-year-old was much too keen over a mile and a half on his reappearance at Newmarket and was a disappointing third there.
That run may have got the twinkle out of his toes and the stable are going great guns at the moment. I don’t think he’s good enough to win, but he could run into a place.
It’s THE FUGUE for me if the ground remains on the fast side and if there is rain I like the look of Verrazano.
The five-furlong Coral Charge has attracted a competitive field of 13 with Roger Varian’s Steps one of the leading contenders.
He has the lowest draw here which will be an advantage for jockey Kieren Fallon, but he would be more effective if the rain comes at Sandown. He was sixth in the King’s Stand last time out.
Stepper Point has a habit of running well in big races at huge prices as his second in the King’s Stand testifies; he was 50/1. He seems versatile ground wise and is better than ever at the age of five.
Charlie Appleby saddles Ahtoug who is the highest rated in this field. His Royal Ascot run was his first since Meydan in March and he’s a consistent sprinter who usually runs his race.
What can I tell you about Kingsgate Native that you don’t already know? The nine-year-old is an absolute gem who has finished second in this race before.
Henry Candy’s Dinkum Diamond ran really well at Musselburgh last time out in a valuable sprint and could be one to watch although he has a pretty high draw.
Olly Stevens saddles Extortionist who is well drawn and has the added bonus of Ryan Moore in the plate. The colt has only had one run here before and that can be overlooked as he was bumped and lost his chance. He has still had just the 10 starts and if the ground stays quick he can go well.
WIND FIRE has shown her liking for this track in the past when overcoming a bad draw to win the Listed Scurry Stakes over this trip in June. Unfortunately David Brown’s filly hasn’t been helped by the draw again, but will enjoy the ground if it remains fast and may be one at a slightly bigger price if she can beat her barrier once again.
The Coral Challenge is a competitive handicap run over a mile. Sir Michael Stoute teams up with Ryan Moore with Russian Realm who ran in the seven furlong Buckingham Palace last time out. He looks a progressive type who is equally effective at this mile trip and will be popular in this.
Gabrial’s Kaka will be ridden by Frankie Dettori for Richard Fahey and comes here having been well beaten in the Royal Hunt Cup, but he reportedly hung there and can be given another chance.
ST MORITZ is ridden by talented apprentice Oisin Murphy who takes 3lb off his back for trainer David O’Meara. He ran really well over course and distance last time out and is in top form at the moment. He didn’t run at Ascot so is maybe a slightly fresher horse than some. Unfortunately, he’s not brilliantly drawn again, but he suits this track and can make his presence felt.
"The former looks the pick of the pair and it was encouraging to see her win over this course and distance last time. She has been slow to come to hand as she had suffered from sore shins in the past so Gosden took his time with her."
The ground conditions will also be influential at Haydock where their feature race is the Bet365 Lancashire Oaks. In fact Seal Of Approval will only run if the track gets some rain.
James Fanshawe, who trains the mare, says the track needs to get plenty of rain or she will not run. His wish looks like being granted as heavy rain is forecast there on Friday and also fell before Thursday's card turning it good to soft. In fact they could get 10mm on Friday according to a forecast I’ve seen and that should swing it for them.
She ran well on her reappearance in the Yorkshire Cup where she ran a bit too keenly over the mile and three quarter trip. The drop back to this trip which is just a few yards short of a mile and a half will suit. She carried a penalty last time at Doncaster for her Group 1 success on Champions Day last year, but is unpenalised here. If she lines up she is sure to be very popular.
Oaks winner Talent made a tough seasonal debut in the Coronation Cup and she ran a bit too keenly and may do better with the freshness out of her and back against her own sex.
Trainer John Gosden could have a great day with The Fugue at Sandown and he is double handed here. SULTANINA (Rab Havlin) comes here unbeaten in two and seasonal debutante, Pomology, (Graham Lee) unbeaten in three.
The former looks the pick of the pair and it was encouraging to see her win over this course and distance last time out in the Pinnacle Stakes. She has been slow to come to hand as she had suffered from sore shins in the past (I can relate to that they are really painful!) so Gosden took his time with her. She’s tough has a Group 1 entry later in the season and I think she’ll run a big race.
The Bet365 Old Newton Cup is wide open with 19 horses declared for the mile and a half handicap.
Luca Cumani’s runners in Haydock handicaps are always worth a second look (and particularly in this race) and Havana Cooler has only been raised a pound for his third place in the Duke of Edinburgh at Royal Ascot on his first run of the season which is being geared towards the Ebor in August.
He is a lightly raced sort who should go on progressing this year and he has a favourite’s chance. He will be short enough though and it may be worth picking something at a bigger price.
One such horse could be Pallasator for Sir Mark Prescott (16/1 with Sky Bet) who has his first run since finishing fifth in the Cesarewitch. He was third in the Old Borough Cup here last year over a mile and three quarters and my concern is he may not have the pace to win this, although he could run well.
Another horse that will be prominent in the betting and who also stays well is De Rigeur for Marco Botti. MAGIC HURRICANE looks better value for James Fanshawe and he was a course and distance winner last time out. He has only had the six starts and looks capable of improvement as the season progresses. He doesn’t want extremes of going, but is a winner on soft turf so the rain that has fallen will suit.