Ben Linfoot goes through the Middle Park, Cheveley Park, Royal Lodge and Cambridgeshire picking out possible tactics and punting angles at Newmarket.
Supremacy to play catch me if you can
G1 Juddmonte Middle Park Stakes, Newmarket, 3.00
Led after one furlong. Made all. Made all. Made all. Pressed leader until ridden to lead. Tracked leaders, closed and joined leaders.
Those were the in-running comments for six of the last eight Juddmonte Middle Park winners; Reckless Abandon, Astaire, Shalaa, The Last Lion, U S Navy Flag and Ten Sovereigns.
Making all, or just about, has been a common denominator for the majority of Middle Park winners since 2012 and this year we have a potentially fascinating game of cat and mouse.
All bets are off when it comes to predicting the one-furlong leader in this year’s renewal. While most of the field like to track the lead or sit off the pace, Clive Cox’s Supremacy just wants to get on with the job.
He wasn’t quite streetwise enough to execute the plan on debut, but they didn’t see which way he went in a Windsor maiden on his second start and he repeated the dose with an impressive four-length victory in the Group 2 Qatar Richmond Stakes at Goodwood.
It has to be said, that race couldn’t have worked out much worse. Nothing in behind has franked the form subsequently, but Supremacy was in a different league, he won the race in a good time and, tactically, he could have the edge on Saturday.
If he’s the mouse, the cats likely to be purring in behind are Minzaal and Method, two other sons of Mehmas, like Supremacy, but they’ve been going about their business in a very different manner.
Minzaal tanked all over the Gimcrack field like the heir apparent to Battaash, while Method easily moved through the gears himself when taking the Listed Rose Bowl Stakes in his stride at Newbury.
On top of this we have the form pick, Lucky Vega, and two Royal Ascot winners in Tactical and The Lir Jet, while Aidan O’Brien’s selected, Lipizzaner, is 16/1.
It looks the best Middle Park since, um, last year’s renewal, where Earthlight v Siskin v Mums Tipple didn’t quite live up to its billing, with Cox’s Golden Horde almost providing an upset.
He got within a neck of Earthlight in second at 16/1, while the only other runner Cox has ever had in the race was 2012 winner, Reckless Abandon, who led after one furlong and made all thereafter.
Supremacy will attempt an identical coup under Adam Kirby on Saturday, with recent history suggesting ‘Made all, shaken up 2f out, ridden and hard pressed 1f, battled on gamely’ is exactly what’s required to land the Middle Park.
Chance for Cheveley jockeys to take initiative
G1 Juddmonte Cheveley Park Stakes, Newmarket, 2.25
While there looks to be an obvious pace angle in the Middle Park, it’s much more difficult to see who will make the running when the fillies do battle in the Juddmonte Cheveley Park half an hour earlier on the card.
Dandalla, Happy Romance and Umm Kulthum all came from well off the pace in their latest victories and horses that ran well in defeat last time out, like Sacred and Alcohol Free, were also eased into contention.
The one that has raced most prominently in her previous starts is the form pick, Miss Amulet, but, while she’s often been in the first two early on, she’s always had a lead to tow her into the race.
Ryan Moore rides Ken Condon’s filly for the first time on Saturday and, given she usually breaks well, it will be interesting to see if her jockey let’s her stride on or looks around for company.
Given she had the pace to win over five furlongs, from a subsequent Listed winner in Frenetic, in a good race of the same class at Naas, she might well have the gears to cope if this gets tactical.
But in that situation, it would be interesting to see if one of the jockeys on a usual hold-up merchant tries something different and the obvious two to have a go are Tom Marquand and Oisin Murphy.
Murphy noted the potential lack of pace in his column on these pages on Friday and in Alcohol Free he’s on an upwardly mobile filly who has only had the two runs including a very promising second in the Dick Poole last time out.
Bred to stay a bit further and entered in the Rockfel over seven furlongs at the six-day stage, she could be ridden more prominently and I wonder if the Sacred team are thinking along the same lines?
She has travelled strongly after being held-up in each of her four starts, but she’s been beaten into second on her last three appearances and hasn’t been finding as much off the bridle as looked likely.
With William Haggas enlisting first-time cheekpieces connections are already trying one tweak and perhaps Marquand will ride her a bit more positively, as well, especially if little else looks like going forward.
Are the 3yos being underestimated in the Cambridgeshire?
bet365 Cambridgeshire Handicap, Newmarket, 3.35
Three-year-olds have ruled the roost in the bet365 Cambridgeshire in recent years with six of that vintage winning in the last 14 renewals from 87 representatives.
That’s by far the best record of any age group in the same timeframe, with four-year-olds (three from 169), five-year-olds (four from 98), six-year-olds (one from 48) and older horses (zero from 49) trailing behind the Classic generation.
Yet, looking at the market, it seems the three-year-olds have failed to catch the punters’ imaginations this year with six of the first seven in the betting aged four.
It was six of the first six until Ilaraab penetrated the top of the market on Friday morning and William Haggas’ son of Wootton Bassett could be this week’s Nahaarr-like plunge.
Haggas and Sheikh Ahmed teamed up with the successful Ayr Gold Cup gamble last weekend and Ilaraab was a winner last Saturday, too, thrusting himself into the Cambridgeshire picture with a cute win at Newbury.
The blood and thunder of this race over nine furlongs could really suit him given he stays further and he’s just the sort of improving three-year-old that has escaped the handicapper’s attention given he never wins by far.
He could go off favourite and he’s not the only three-year-old with a chance.
Lucander and King Carney are both improving types, too, although both would’ve preferred genuine soft ground, while Al Rufaa seems to have bizarrely escaped the spotlight at north of 20/1, given he’s a John Gosden-trained son of Kingman, ridden by Frankie Dettori, with three wins from his last four starts to his name.
Celtic Art and Dubai Mirage, second and third in last year’s Convivial Maiden at York, are other three-year-olds you can’t dismiss at big prices.
With their 5lb weight-for-age allowance and good record in the race in recent years, don’t discount the youngsters in this year’s renewal, even if the market is top-heavy with in-form four-year-olds.
Don’t dismiss O’Brien improver in Royal Lodge
G2 Juddmonte Royal Lodge Stakes, Newmarket, 1.50
Ontario wouldn’t be towards the top of Aidan O’Brien’s juvenile pecking order, you suspect, but looking at the early market vibes for the Juddmonte Royal Lodge Stakes I just detect a scenario where he’s going to be too big a price.
At the time of writing he’s second best in at 7/2, but with each of his four rivals sporting a ‘1’ next to their name on the racecard and with three of those more lightly-raced, he could wander in the betting given his own strike-rate of one from four.
However, O’Brien has an excellent record at the Newmarket September meetings, winning 19 from 89 at 21.35% despite the competitiveness of the racing, and many of those winners were improving and experienced juveniles.
Clemmie, Mohawk and Fairyland all won on their fifth starts of the season, Brave Anna, Just Wonderful and Royal Dornoch all won on their sixth starts of the season and Cougar Mountain and U S Navy Flag were winning on their seventh and ninth starts of the season, respectively.
Ontario is improving with each run, he should improve again back up at a mile and his last start, when third in the Group 2 Futurity Stakes at the Curragh, is arguably the best piece of form on offer – the runner-up, Cadillac, beat the sixth home, Van Gogh, in the Group 2 KPMG Champions Juvenile Stakes at Leopardstown on Irish Champions Weekend.
O’Brien had many to pick from for this race, including High Definition. He stays at home, though, for the Group 2 Beresford Stakes at the Curragh on Saturday, a race his full-brother, Innisfree, won last year (O’Brien doesn’t have a bad record in the race – he’s going for his 10th successive win in the contest and 20th overall).
But it looks significant that the Ballydoyle handler has selected Ontario for the Royal Lodge task.
The experience he has accumulated at home in four runs will stand him in good stead and he might just be too strong for this small field on Saturday.
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