Stone Of Destiny is worth backing to give Andrew Balding his second Unibet Stewards' Cup success on Saturday, according to Matt Brocklebank.
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STONE OF DESTINY (25/1 General) was unlucky not to go really close in last year’s Unibet Stewards’ Cup and has everything in his favour – including a more favourable draw – as he bids to set the record straight on Saturday.
Trainer Andrew Balding joined his father, Ian, and uncle, Toby, in becoming a Stewards’ Cup winner when saddling three-year-old filly Dancing Star to victory four years ago so it’s a race he’s often aimed at from a long way out, and that certainly looks the case with Stone Of Destiny.
Housed in stall 27 in last year’s 27-runner field, he was a massive eyecatcher in eighth and proved he was the one to take from the race when winning narrowly at the Shergar Cup meeting on his very next start.
He was pretty patchy after that but has looked right back on his game in 2020, finishing fourth at Newmarket before another noteworthy effort in the Wokingham at Royal Ascot, where he filled the same place as last summer in sixth.
There was a brief moment a furlong and a half out when it looked like he might really pose the winner a threat but the stiff finish, and ease underfoot (officially good ground), found him out close home.
He’s more comfortable on fast ground and either over five furlongs or a sharp six like Goodwood, so he will be in his element given this weekend’s conditions.
From a handicapping perspective, the 2018 Commonwealth Cup fourth has come sliding down the weights, easing another 1lb for Ascot last time when he reared as the stalls opened and completely fluffed the start.
He’s never run in a handicap from a mark as low as 95, which is 5lb lower than last year at Goodwood and 2lb lower than for his August victory at Ascot.
The cherry on top is the draw in 10, as I’m convinced middle-to-low is where you’ll want to be again, especially with the pacey youngster Meraas in four, Atlanta’s Boy five and the likes of Hey Jonesy (15), Watan (16) and Aljady (18) towing them along down the centre.
It’s going to have the feel of a five furlong race for many of these and Stone Of Destiny is perfectly capable of handling such a scenario, which might not be the case with favourite Nahaarr, who admittedly looked well ahead of his mark when beating the returning Watan at Newbury.
Newbury is a very different place to Goodwood, though, and it's worth recalling they tried to make use of his stamina (dual seven furlong winner in 2019) when just run down late in the Silver Wokingham.
He could well be a Group horse for the future and still ahead of his mark raised 7lb to 101 for Newbury, but I’m not convinced he has the requisite pace to mix with some of these converted five furlong speedballs.
It wouldn’t be at all surprising were Watan able to reverse the placings given he was having his first start after a layoff and has been left on the same mark. He’s attracted support on Friday but he's also a strong stayer at this sort of trip and easier ground would possibly have been more suitable.
Aljady looks to be getting quicker with age and evidently has his mojo back since joining Robert Cowell, but a 5lb hike for making all at Windsor might be enough to anchor him for now and the other one I’m backing is WEDDING DATE (40/1 Ladbrokes, Coral), seemingly the third-string for Richard Hannon behind Watan (Ryan Moore) and three-year-old Lexington Dash (Thore Hammer Hansen).
Wedding Date ran in the same Ascot sprint contested by Stone Of Destiny – a race sadly marred by National Anthem breaking down – and she, too, had a legitimate excuse having been drawn in two.
It turned out the daughter of Dandy Man had no real chance racing down the centre of the track, with the first five home drawn 18, 19, 20, 17 and 11 near the stands, so it was another run that backed up the impression she’s probably better than ever this season.
She needed her comeback run and is now 10lb better off (13lb if you factor in Theodore Ladd’s claim here) with Chairmanoftheboard for a length and three-quarter defeat at Windsor, while she was in front half a stride after the line when beaten a short head by Dark Regard at Newmarket before heading to Ascot.
It’s hard to argue she wasn’t the best horse in the race at HQ, especially given she was conceding an extra 2lb to all the three-year-olds who finished around her, and a fast-run six furlongs on quick ground will definitely play to her strengths.
It’s obviously a very hot race in which to try and break her duck for the year but she looks a more complete animal at four and is well up to winning soon off a mark of 88, just 2lb higher than for her last success.
The betting for the consolation race – the Unibet Stewards’ Sprint Handicap – is dominated by the Charlie Hills-trained Rewaayat after he bolted up at Salisbury to complete a double for the season.
It was freakishly good on the eye but performances like that in sprint handicaps are more often than not too good to be true and he was seemingly favoured by his position throughout, tracking the leader on the far rail before picking it up and settling the race quickly.
The race did fall apart a bit and I’d rather judge him on a neck victory at Lingfield in June, for which he’s now a full 15lb higher in the ratings.
He’s another favourite I’m perfectly happy to oppose and I like the claims of SALUTI (12/1 General) for Paul Midgley and Danny Tudhope.
Midgley is a dab hand with the older sprint handicappers and they can really take off when he finds the key to them so the fact he’s only had this horse last season and this gives the feelings she could still be open to a bit of improvement in his care.
The six-year-old has got some course form here having run well on her only appearance for Amanda Perrett in a seven furlong handicap a couple of years back and I liked the way he landed good market support at Pontefract last Thursday.
Midgley was keen to stress post-race that he’s only been running over five furlongs due to the lack of opportunities over six on quick going so it’s safe to expect a bit more back up in distance.
He’s won off this 4lb higher mark (83) in the past, evidently arrives in good heart and should be backed at double-figure prices.
HOMESPIN (25/1 General) looks quite an obvious one to be with at a wild price in the Qatar Handicap, having won the six furlong nursery at this meeting last season.
Mark Johnston’s horse was outpaced and totally left behind at York on his final juvenile start and didn’t fare much better on his belated return to action after a gelding operation at Newmarket on June 6.
He can definitely be forgiven that latest run, though, as the conditions had turned sour through the afternoon and the going was changed from good to firm to good straight after the race. The horse became really unbalanced heading into the dip and was sensibly looked after by James Doyle.
The yard has won three of the last five editions of this handicap so he’ll no doubt have been freshened up for this fixture, he's been eased a couple of pounds in the weights and has his ground again now, all on top of the ideal slot in stall one.
The favourite Society Lion would seemingly prefer more cut underfoot and is worth taking on.
The only other race I want a piece of is the Unibet Summer Handicap, in which Johnston looks to have a decent grip on the shape of the race.
Hochfeld, Themaxwecan and last year’s winner King’s Advice all have something to recommend them but a convincing case can be made for none of them and instead I’m siding with the Perrett-trained PLATITUDE (9/1 Hills).
He evidently likes this track, with two of his three career wins coming over this course and distance, loves to hear his hooves rattle and is starting to look extremely well treated having dropped to an all-time low of 89 this term.
There were positives to take from his latest Sandown second and he’s a pretty eyecatching 10lb better off with Themaxwecan compared to when they filled the first two positions here last summer. The Johnston horse was receiving an added 11lb weight-for-age too which obviously isn’t the case this time around.
Posted at 1600 BST on 31/07/20
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