Can Expert Eye Halt Ballydoyle Juggernaut?

Newmarket’s Dubai Future Champions Festival has created a fair amount of the news over the past few days.

On October 13 and 14, the juveniles take centre-stage with the Fillies’ Mile and Dewhurst Stakes, whilst the Cesarewitch is one of the season’s handicap highlights. Aidan O’Brien proved dominant 12 months ago, with Rhododendron taking the fillies event and Churchill landing the Group One for the juvenile colts.

Over the last three years Ballydoyle have captured five of the six contested Fillies’ and Dewhurst’s. Together Forever and Minding joined Rhododendron on the Fillies roll of honour, whilst Air Force Blue took the 2015 Dewhurst. O’Brien’s War Command also captured the juvenile colts feature in 2013.

Gustav Klimt and the impressive Champagne Stakes winner Seahenge, have Expert Eye to contend with if they are to maintain O’Brien’s outstanding record. Though the season’s most exciting juvenile, and main opposition, is still far from certain to line up. Ruled out of the National Stakes due to a dirty scope, the Dewhurst was then named as the likely target for next year’s Guineas favourite.

Earlier this week, Teddy Grimthorpe, racing manager to owner Khalid Abdullah, said: “Expert Eye is in good shape now, he's coming back. He did a little bit of work on Saturday, nothing too strenuous, and Michael (Stoute) seemed happy with him. He's got to progress and please us in the next few weeks if he is going to make the Darley Dewhurst.”

He was simply sensational when winning the Vintage Stakes at Goodwood when last we saw him, and had Seahenge some seven lengths adrift on that occasion.

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Happily, Magical, September and Clemmie dominate the betting for the Fillies’ Mile, with any of the quintet potentially capable of extending Ballydoyle’s dominance.

One that could prove to be the fly in the ointment, is the Karl Burke trained Laurens. She’s by the leading French stallion Siyouni, who’s responsible for several high-class milers including Ervedya, Le Brivido and Volta. She got up late to win the May Hill Stakes at Doncaster last week, and is a lovely big scopey filly. Size is not always an advantage at Newmarket of course, as how she copes with the infamous ‘dip’ before the final climb to the finish will prove vital.

Earlier in the week Burke spoke of his exciting juvenile: “We are pretty keen to run Laurens in the bet365 Fillies’ Mile but it will all depend on how she’s performing at the time, she has to be in top form – it is probably 70-30 in favour of her running at the moment. I am 100 per cent happy with how she has come out of the May Hill but she is just having a quiet week, then we will start building her up again.”

The Yorkshire trainer added: “It was a great performance by her in the May Hill as she won it despite the way the race was run. We wanted a good gallop for her, but instead there was a slow pace and she did very well to get her head in front. She is more of a long-term project than her Group-winning stablemates, she is a huge filly – in fact she was huge as a yearling – and she was always going to be a three-year-old type. That’s why we have taken our time with her and only given her three runs. I’m pretty sure that she can take one more but we don’t want to force her. She will be a mile and a quarter or even a mile and a half filly next season.”

Currently a 7/1 shot for the Newmarket event, the betting suggests that she is the only one capable of stopping the Ballydoyle juggernaut.

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