Catching Pigeons: Time is now
It's a big day for Roger Charlton at local track, Newbury, who heads to the course with his team arguably in better form now than at any stage so far this season.
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Not only does one of his very favourite horses, Al Kazeem, make a comeback from an aborted career as a stallion, but he also saddles the exciting Time Test in the Luck Greayer Bloodstock Shipping Conditions Stakes.
Charlton has been typically patient with his premier league juveniles to this point this year, but has started to crank things up in the last couple of weeks and this son of Dubawi is most definitely one of the more exciting prospects.
His preparatory work has been of a high order and it is interesting his trainer is aiming at this higher-grade race rather than the maiden at the same track 24 hours earlier. The trainer thinks these type of races can be better for newcomers as they can avoid being buffeted about in the big fields, and this £12,000-added prize has certainly cut up from the five-day stage.
The return of the mighty Al Kazeem in the Listed Doom Bar Stakes will be the main focus of attention for Charlton on the card, and it will be interesting to say the least how this high-class performer copes with the return to action after a short, but relatively infertile career as a stallion.
His work has gone well enough, and, if all goes well, he could well be a welcome addition to the top middle-distance events in what remains of the season. As is always the case in such circumstances though, the proof in the pudding will come on the racecourse - it's not as if Charlton has pushed the button too hard at home.
The trainer will be cheered if the forecast rain materialises for Al Kazeem, and it should also give his neighbour Brian Meehan cause for optimism regarding the chance of his progressive sprinter Intibaah in the Group Three Al Basti Equiworld Hackwood Stakes.
The four year old has yet to win at this level, but the manner of his comeback win at Haydock suggests he can cope with the step up in class. Although he has not raced since that win ten weeks ago, he has been in very good form and has just been waiting for some ease in the ground. If the rain somehow eludes the West Berkshire course, Music Master will be the one they all have to beat, but his fourth in the Diamond Jubilee rather showed his hand from a betting point of view and he is unlikely to offer much value.
The Richard Hannon team is powerfully represented in a race they often dominate, the Weatherbys Super Sprint, and Tiggy Wiggy boasts good form and carries confidence. She will be hard to beat.
However, those looking for a bigger price may want to consider Lambourn rival Magical Memory, who has been trained very much with this race as his target. Charlie Hills was somewhat bemused that he could not win with the son of Dubawi given his highly-impressive homework in the first half of the season, but his string were not quite firing then, and were in better form when he finally came good at Leicester last month.
His previous effort - a respectable second to the high class Ivawood was, with hingsight, a fair effort as well, but enthusiastic connections believe he is capable of improved form and his trainer fancies his chances here.
Seamus Durack cannot boast the numbers of the Hills' empire, but he does very well with what he has got at his small yard in Upper Lambourn and he should strike in the finale with Bohemian Rhapsody. The former jump jockey loves to play over both codes with the five year old, who is reported in good form following a short and successful spell over timber.
Another to note in that race is Ed Dunlop's Romeo Montague, who hasn't really been firing so far this season, but who shaped well in a spin on Racecourse Side last week, and looked in magnificent shape. He'll be a decent price and might be worth a cheeky shilling each-way.
Luca Cumani's team were spotted looking particularly well when working out on the Limekilns in midweek and the Bedford House man has got his runners back in decent form after a slightly quiet start to the season. Luca's son and assistant, Matt, is - as his pedigree would suggest - a smart judge of such matters and he was adamant that Jordan's Princess was going to win good races at the start of the campaign.
Things haven't gone right for the filly since, but as a consequence she remains on a fair-looking handicap mark if she can recapture peak form in the Al Basti Equiworld EBF Breeding Winners Fillies' Handicap.
Criteria can tighten John Gosden's stranglehold on the top middle-distance fillies' events with victory in the Listed Newsells Park Stakes at Newmarket. She suggested she was well up to winning at this level when third in the Ribblesdale Stakes at Royal Ascot, and a recent workout, where she led Oaks winner Taghrooda, will have sharpened her up for this interesting heat.
Agent Murphy, a stablemate of Intibaah, can maintain his unbeaten record in the newmarketracecourses.co.uk Handicap. Meehan has placed the son of Dansili adeptly to follow a debut win in a lowly maiden at Bath (and any horse Meehan wins with first time out tends to prove quite decent!) with a game success in a decent handicap at Sandown.
The form of that race has been working out pretty well, and Agent Murphy has been given a bit of time to recover from what was quite a hard race for only his second appearance. Connections are hoping he has continued to improve for his five-week break and the step up in trip should suit.
Charlie Hills has his runners spread far and wide during the day but word suggests there is plenty of confidence behind Rise Up Lotus, despite a two-and-a-half-month absence in the opening Celebrate 10 Years With RUK Nursery at Haydock. It can often pay to support a two year old off a lengthy break at this time of year, and connections are more than hopeful she will run a big race on her return after some very encouraging recent work.
Looking further ahead, Sir Michael Stoute has a powerful-looking team of two year olds and he got an important sighter when running a couple of his juveniles at Newbury on Friday, both of whom were decidedly backward and guaranteed to come on for the outing. Expect the situation to go up a gear from next week onwards. One worth mentioning is Eben Dubai, who has come on for his first start at Kempton and should do better in the future.
Incidentally, one incognito figure spotted monitoring the Stoute two-year-old team last Saturday was ace American trainer Wesley Ward, in town for the July Cup.
Amazing Maria is set to have her sights lowered for her a Listed race at Ascot next weekend after failing to sparkle in the Oaks on her latest start. She went well in a spin under Ryan Moore on Racecourse Side in midweek and again moved well on Racecourse Side on Friday.
Moore was also called into action to partner the exciting Home Of The Brave for Hugo Palmer on the Al Bahathri all-weather gallop on Wednesday. This juvenile was most encouraging second at Windsor on his debut and is understandably held in some regard by his talented young trainer.
Moore certainly can't be accused of failing to share his talents around on work mornings in the town and the rider could do punters a favour on Monday when he partners Mission Approved for the Cumani team. Few took the eye in midweek as much as this strapping sort, who should be at peak fitness this time after a couple of previous outings this season.
Also spotted in action this week was Kingman, who stretched out on the Short Gallop on the Limekilns for the first time since Royal Ascot. He's had an easy time for a fortnight and, if truth be told, looked a little rusty here, but a short holiday at this stage of the season is no bad thing and it gives Gosden something to work on between now and Goodwood.