Matt Brocklebank highlights a couple of horses he's keen to back on day one of the Qatar Goodwood Festival, including a 33/1 chance in the Lennox Stakes.
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Stradivarius versus Santiago captures the imagination in the Al Shaqab Goodwood Cup, but Tuesday’s Unibet You’re On Handicap is the principal betting heat on day one of the Glorious meeting. And the valuable, 10-furlong event is made all the more interesting by the fact the two at the top of the market are drawn widest of all.
Ryan Moore has performed some miracles in big-field handicaps here over the years and it will be fascinating to see if he tries to get Derevo out and across early from stall 18 given the horse has generally been on or close to the pace when showing his best form.
I’m not totally convinced Sir Michael Stoute’s colt has the gears to execute such a manoeuvre and he might ultimately be made to sit and suffer a bit further back than ideal.
Cape Cavalli, another tried over longer distances last year and likely to be seen back up in trip before 2020 is out, is more of a hold-up performer anyway and won an eight-runner novice event in silky-smooth style at this course last September.
He’s evidently on an upward curve but will require another decent chunk of improvement back up in class having been raised 8lb for winning a lesser event at York.
There were some early springers in this market when betting opened, namely Roger Fell’s Secellus (16/1 from an opening 25s), who beat Cape Cavalli in the autumn and is slightly better off at the weights, along with John Smith’s Cup eyecatcher Tinandali (8s from 10s), who still has potential for last year’s winning trainer David O’Meara.
But the more I look back on York the more I like the performance of FIFTH POSITION (11/1 bet365, Sky Bet) and he could be too classy for the lot of them.
He was running well in Pattern company this time last year and wasn’t disgraced in the Group Three mile event for three-year-olds at this meeting, which bodes well for a return to the track at least. He signed off his debut season with a running-on eighth behind Lord North on handicap debut in the Cambridgeshire and has built on that effort in three starts this term.
Third to subsequent Royal Ascot winners Sir Busker and Dark Vision over a mile on his Newcastle comeback (Sunday’s York winner Firmament was back in fourth), he made eventual third Derevo look sluggish late on when winning at Doncaster last month.
The John Smith’s Cup third was another very likeable performance, especially considering he wasn’t too far off the pace from the outset whereas the winner and the runner-up – and Tinandali for that matter – were staying on from the rear as most of the pace-setters weakened.
It’s reported the horse has been a bit of a tricky customer at home in the past but those three rock-solid runs this year suggest he’s been ironed out completely and Roger Varian opting to go with first-time blinkers here might just help eke out that tiny bit more improvement.
Carrying big weights hasn’t really been a major stumbling block in this event (seven winners in the past decade carried 9-0 or more) and, from an unchanged mark of 102, Fifth Position looks a really good bet to regain the winning thread.
I was half-hoping Alan King’s twice-raced maiden Painless Potter would be a wild price in the Veuve Clicquot Vintage Stakes, but at a general 12s I’m going to give the race a miss.
Battleground – the first foal out of Found – is probably a fraction too short after winning a Chesham Stakes that rather fell apart but unless running-on Coventry fifth Painless Potter drifts a bit it’s not a race I’ll be betting in.
The other Group Two on the card – the Qatar Lennox Stakes – is far more attractive and on quicker ground I’d have been interested in Richard Hannon’s Beat Le Bon, who broke the track record when winning the Golden Mile from Vale Of Kent this week last year.
The expected ease underfoot won’t help him, but should be absolutely fine for the O’Meara-trained ESCOBAR (33/1 1/5 1,2,3,4 General) who is worth an each-way dart on his first run after a breathing operation.
The trainer has become adept at converting these top handicappers into Group horses, including Lord Glitters and Suedois, the latter of which was placed twice in the Lennox, and Escobar merits his is place here having risen to a mark of 111 by the end of last year.
Things haven’t worked for him yet this time around but he looked like he needed the run first time out (all five career wins have come from mid-June onwards) and he was far too keen for his own good when last seen in the Queen Anne, though he did finish just in front of the reopposing Duke Of Hazzard.
He was third to Beat Le Bon when giving him 4lb in the aforementioned Golden Mile and went on to beat Lord North in the Balmoral Handicap on Champions Day, so when he’s on song there's no denying Escobar is a high-class operator. All his big-field experience will stand him in good stead in this field and it’s worth noting he returned with a fine second at Sandown last July following a similar 51-day laoff.
O’Meara suddenly looks in great form after a really productive fortnight and dropping this horse back to seven furlongs in what should be a fast-run race looks a potentially very shrewd move.
Posted at 1600 BST on 27/07/20
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