It's day two of the July Festival at Newmarket and Matt Brocklebank bagged a 22/1 winner in the opener. Get his final selection for Friday.
1pt win Killybegs Warrior in 1.50 Newmarket at 22/1 (General)
1pt win Mighty River in 1.50 Newmarket at 12/1 (General)
1pt win Ravens Ark in 3.00 Newmarket at 12/1 (General)
Falmouth Stakes day at Newmarket kicks off with the 6 Horse Challenge At bet365 Handicap over 10 furlongs, a cracking betting race on the face of it featuring some progressive colts, not least William Haggas’s Seendid.
Charlie Appleby’s pair, Local Dynasty and Tagabawa, are both respected and the Alan King-trained Westerton would hardly be a shock winner under Ryan Moore, but this is an event Mark Johnston won seven times, including four years on the trot between 2013 and 2016, and his son Charlie could be able to pick up the baton at the first time of asking as the sole licence-holder at Kingsley Park.
Johnston runs Knockbrex, who was Frankie Dettori’s final Royal Ascot ride when finishing down the field in the Golden Gates Stakes, and KILLYBEGS WARRIOR, with the outsider of the pair making more appeal at the odds, despite the former’s potentially very good draw in stall one.
Killybegs Warrior, handy enough in stall six, is the most experienced – and therefore exposed – member of the line-up here with 11 runs under his belt already, but that’s not going to put me away as the yard’s first winner in the race, Hearthstead Maison, was a top-weight having his eighth start, while they’ve since struck gold with the likes of Torchlighter, Ode To Evening and Resonant who were making their 12th, 10th and ninth racecourse appearances when landing the spoils here.
Communique was another having his eighth start too so it’s purely a reflection of how the Johnston horses are campaigned and I think we’re getting an inflated price about Killybegs Warrior, who won his maiden at this course last June and dotted up from the front on his return to the track in a seven-furlong nursery in August.
It’s a reasonable assumption, therefore, that Johnston will have been plotting a third July Course appearance for Killybegs Warrior from some time ago, and it’s not like the horse hasn’t performed well as a three-year-old. His peak performance came when third to Canberra Legend in the Feilden Stakes in April and he was only beaten just over five lengths in the Dante which reads well in this company.
Two outings since haven’t gone to plan but he wasn’t unduly punished in the closing stages of the Hampton Court last month when a switch to more patient tactics backfired.
He’s been eased another pound for that and looks dangerously well treated off 99 on just his second run in a handicap, having found the drop to a mile against him on his first outing in this sphere in Haydock’s Silver Bowl towards the end of May.
He’ll surely be bounced out by Kevin Stott and back in a prominent early slot, and while there’s competition for the lead on paper – not least from his stable companion – I expect him to put up a bold fight.
The other one I’m drawn to at a decent price in the same race is a similarly experienced type who is also likely to be towards the head of affairs from the start - namely James Tate’s MIGHTY RIVER.
He’s had the 10 runs already and has had at least one outing every month – barring March – since his Doncaster debut last October. Those races have come over distances ranging from seven furlongs to a mile and a half, but this 10-furlong trip looks very much his sweet spot based on what we’ve seen to this point.
The arc of progression keeps on going up too, Mighty River never better than on his last two runs, eventually winning with plenty to spare over this course and distance last month.
The sizeable son of Siyouni is bred to improve with age as, among other late-maturers in the family, his half-brother peaked when winning a Listed race at four, and I’m not convinced another 4lb rise will be enough to anchor him, especially with the runner-up and the fourth subsequently franking his latest piece of form with respective wins at Leicester and Haydock.
I’ll take two in the opener although it looks a quiet enough punting day elsewhere on the ITV schedule, with Northern Express and Swingalong two blindingly obvious ones for York’s televised races.
Back at Newmarket, it was a tad frustrating to see Berkshire Rocco's initial price had collapsed on Thursday morning (you know who you are...) as I was willing to give him another spin after a not-too-shabby effort in the Northumberland Plate at Newcastle.
Nevertheless, that has resulted in one or two others being eased out a touch in the betting and, at double-figure odds, there’s more than enough to recommend at bet on RAVENS ARK under Hollie Doyle doing close to her minimum weight.
This horse doesn’t hold too many secrets but I think his rock-solid efforts in good company at Ascot and Goodwood so far this year are being slightly overlooked as he’d ended last year with a complete stinker at Wolverhampton, so we know he’s right back on song.
The other element to factor in is that his trainer Hughie Morrison hasn’t had much of a year to remember to this point – he’s saddled just the seven winners in Britain from 85 runners since the start of May – but a strike-rate of 0-10 in the past fortnight does overlook the fact he's had three seconds at decent prices, so perhaps the tide is about to turn again.
Ravens Ark performing with such credit during May and June probably deserves extra merit if the yard wasn't quite firing on all cylinders and, in spite of a 1lb rise, he’s not handicapped out of this off 2lb lower than when runner-up to Aggagio (scored twice over hurdles since) at Goodwood last summer.
A mile and three-quarters is his optimum trip and it won’t bother him at all if there’s a bit of rain around as he’ll go on anything ground-wise. Another win-only bet at 12/1 looks the way to go.
Published at 1500 BST on 13/07/23
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