On the back of a profitable Derby Festival at Epsom, our expert looks ahead to the St James's Palace Stakes at Royal Ascot and reckons there's a potential superstar set to be unearthed.
2pts win Cicero’s Gift in St James’s Palace Stakes at 8/1 (bet365) - minimum 6/1
After perfectly commendable but fairly unspectacular 2000 Guineas wins for Chaldean and Paddington at Newmarket and the Curragh respectively, the three-year-old miling division remains there for the taking.
Perhaps there simply isn’t a genuine superstar among the current crop who will be capable of mixing it against the best of the older horses in races like the Sussex Stakes come the height of summer, but if there is then I’m convinced that colt will be CICERO'S GIFT and he looks the one to be siding with ahead of his chance to shine in the St James's Palace Stakes.
His trainer Charlie Hills enjoyed one of the finest years of his career to date when overseeing this horse’s sire Muhaarar’s three-year-old campaign, which included Royal Ascot glory in the Commonwealth Cup before he added three more Group 1 wins to the tally before retirement, and Cicero's Gift has been brought along steadily, the team making a late call to skip the Guineas and run at Goodwood the day before the Newmarket Classic.
Brilliant sprinter Muhaarar has sired loads of winners over a variety of distances already, but this horse has been kept solely at a mile to this point and has looked every inch a top-class prospect despite only featuring in relatively minor company en route to a perfect 3-3 record.
His winning debut in bad ground at Newbury last autumn was seriously striking, he then gave 9lb and a firm beating to subsequent dual winner Docklands (now rated 94) on his Wolverhampton comeback, and fairly bolted up from the Feilden Stakes runner-up Kolsai in the aforementioned conditions race at Goodwood on May 5 (replay below).
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Cicero’s Gift has that rarely-seen push-button acceleration which should lend itself extremely well to racing around a bend at the Royal meeting, and although yet to be tested on anything like the quick ground he’s expected to face later this month, his classiest sibling Crossing The Line was twice a winner on good to firm going which bodes well.
In addition, his action isn’t one of a soft-ground specialist by any means and he could even improve quite significantly for racing on decent ground for the first time.
If that’s the case - and he’s already rated 113p with Timeform - he doesn’t have a massive amount to find with the Classic winners at all and he looks great value at 8/1 with bet365, 7s in a couple of places and 13/2 with Sky Bet. I’d still be a player at 6/1 but no lower at this point.
The other interesting one to emerge recently with this race in mind is five-length York novice winner Mostabshir, who, like a few from the Gosden yard this spring, quickly consigned a low-key reappearance run to the past when absolutely sprouting wings on the Knavesmire.
There wasn’t too much substance to that race, though Wood Ditton second Kathab was a well-held third as the 6/4 favourite so it’s probably not form to be underestimating too quickly.
He wouldn’t look out of place in this line-up on the back of that latest effort (104p with Timeform), but connections have sounded cool about the step up to Group 1 level so soon and, although the Britannia Stakes plan probably went up in smoke after being whacked with a 14lb rise from the BHA assessor, a drop to seven furlongs and the cooler waters of the Jersey Stakes will presumably be given close consideration.
Published at 1520 BST on 04/06/23
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