Simon Holt has three Saturday selections on a high-class day of action, including a Martyn Meade-trained runner in the big Newbury handicap.
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Saturday's Group One Al Shaqab Lockinge Stakes looks hugely competitive with Aidan O’Brien fielding no less than four runners and likely to attempt to expose any stamina limitations amongst one or two rivals to the advantage of Ryan Moore’s mount Rhododendron.
However, it’s possible that this high class filly would prefer a bit further if not a mile and a half at which trip she was outstayed by Enable in last year’s Oaks.
Rhododendron is certainly a class act having beaten her Group-One winning stable-mate Hydrangea (successful subsequently on Champions Day) in the Prix De l’Opera at Chantilly (1m2f) last October before failing by a length to peg back Wuheida over a turning nine furlongs at Del Mar’s Breeders Cup meeting.
And she should strip much fitter for her recent outing behind Cracksman back in France.
In contrast, stamina is the question surrounding two of the selection’s main rivals LIMATO and Librisa Breeze.
The latter has won at a mile but was transformed when dropping back in distance while Limato finished fourth to Belardo in this race two years ago.
Brilliant on his day at six and seven furlongs, Henry Candy’s tremendous stable servant didn’t have everything go his way that day and the ground was probably on the easy side whereas he should enjoy his favoured fast surface this time.
Moreover, unlike last year when he began his season in the wake of arduous and disappointing trips to the States and Dubai, Limato should have benefited from a more straightforward preparation this time. Of course, he needs to prove he stays a mile but the way he saw out seven furlongs when bolting up at Newmarket last October bodes well and, in all other respects, everything is in his favour for a big run.
Two other fascinating contenders are Beat The Bank and Addeybb but both have shown their smart form with a bit more ease in the ground than they are likely to confront here.
If handling the surface, these four-year-olds won’t need to improve much to be very competitive, and they both stay a mile very well.
Earlier, LOYAL PROMISE looks an interesting contender in the Al Zubarah London Gold Cup.
I saw Martyn Meade’s colt make his debut in a three-runner affair at Newcastle earlier in the year and, while no match for the smart Gronkowski, he showed promise.
Successful next time at Wolverhampton from Aquarium (winner subsequently), Loyal Promise then took a close third, with eight lengths back to the fourth, in what looked a hot contest at Windsor.
Rock Eagle, the winner of that race, would probably have followed up but for hanging across the course at Salisbury on Thursday while the runner-up Fajjaj had finished an excellent fourth behind Elarqam and 2000 Guineas runner-up Tip Two Win in a Group Three at Newmarket last September.
Meanwhile, over at Newmarket more imminently, I will give another chance to last week’s Chester selection SHOWMETHEDOUGH in the Betway Handicap over six furlongs.
Richard Fahey’s chestnut was clearly pushed out of his comfort zone round the Roodee over the minimum trip of five furlongs and can confirm the promise of last season’s Ripon victory and reappearance fourth at Thirsk last month behind the fast-improving Savalas.