The Arc meeting at Chantilly is understandably receiving the lion’s share of attention this week. Nevertheless, there’ll be plenty of interest in Newmarket over the coming days, as the Cambridgeshire meeting takes centre-stage.
On Friday the Group Two Rockfel Stakes is the headliner, and an event that has been won by numerous high-class juvenile fillies in its time. A handful have captured this and gone on to win the 1000 Guineas the following spring. Finsceal Beo was the last to do so, when completing the double in 2006 and 2007. Speciosa had achieved the same a year earlier. Other classy sorts to capture the valuable prize in recent years include Music Show, Just The Judge and Lucida.
The Roger Charlton-trained Gavota may prove the star attraction in this year’s renewal. An impressive winner at Lingfield last time, the daughter of Bated Breath is out of a Galileo mare, and clearly appreciated the step-up to seven-furlongs when romping home by six lengths. She carries those famous silks of Khalid Abdullah.
Mark Johnston’s Nyaleti sets the standard, having won a Group Three and finished prominent in a pair of Group Two’s. She does however, look a little exposed having run six times already this season. Nevertheless, it will take a classy filly to beat her.
Aidan O’Brien may run two, with Butterscotch looking to be his main hope. She was runner-up to Clemmie last time at the Curragh. Lightening Quick is another Irish challenger, though she is trained by Ger Lyons. This daughter of Frankel won a competitive maiden at Leopardstown on debut, though this is undoubtedly a much tougher proposition.
The Cambridgeshire Handicap takes place on Saturday, but again it’s the juveniles that will attract attention, with three prestigious renewals.
The Cheveley Park Stakes always attracts talented fillies, and though it tends to uncover classy speedsters, it has occasionally been won by a future Guineas heroine. Special Duty was one such lady. She was yet another to sport those famous Khalid Abdullah silks, when winning impressively in 2009.
Clemmie looks likely to head the betting, and has looked high-class in winning her last two races, including the Group Two Duchess Of Cambridge at Newmarket back in July. She’s defeated Nyaleti and Butterscotch in those recent starts, both of whom are fancied to go well in the Rockfel on Friday.
This Cheveley looks a tasty renewal, with the Royal Ascot winner Different League among the contenders. Third in the Prix Morny last time, connections expect her to go well on a track that ought to suit. Her trainer Matthieu Palussiere said: “She will be my first runner at Newmarket. She ran very well in the Prix Morny and could easily have finished second. She’s a fine big, strong filly with a great nature and she looks a picture at the moment.”
Of the track, he added: “The Morny is run over an easy six furlongs, and I think that the stiffer course at Newmarket will be better for her. She handles most ground and if it came up soft it wouldn’t worry me.”
Heartache is arguably the quickest juvenile filly, and her trainer Clive Cox is hopeful that the six-furlong trip will not prove troublesome. He said: “She is in tremendous form. I think and hope that the step up to six furlongs in the Cheveley will be within her boundaries, especially if conditions on the Rowley Mile remain as they are now. She’s a very well-balanced filly, and I hope that she will handle the course well.”
Though the Cheveley Park looks a cracker, it’s the Group One Middle Park Stakes that could prove the race of the meeting. Sands Of Mali, Unfortunately and Sioux Nation are all vying for favouritism. The former was an impressive winner of the Gimcrack last time, comfortably accounting for last week’s Mill Reef runner-up Invincible Army.
The Karl Burke-trained Unfortunately won the Prix Morny at Deauville and prior to that took a Group Two at Maisons-Laffitte. Aidan O’Brien’s Sioux Nation held off Gordon Elliott’s Beckford to win the Group One Phoenix Stakes at the Curragh last month. He’s by Scat Daddy out of an Oasis Dream mare, and will need the rain to stay away if he is to be seen at his best.
Elliott sends Beckford over the Irish Sea, and is hoping for a big performance from his talented sprinter. He said: “Beckford has come out of the National Stakes well. He didn’t get home over seven furlongs on a testing surface that day and this drop back to six on better ground should be in his favour. Newmarket is a proper racecourse and I don’t think he will have any problem handling its undulations.”
The trainer added: “It would be very nice to win a Group One on the flat but don’t worry, there is no chance that I will be switching my attention away from jump racing.”
The Group Two Royal Lodge Stakes forms part of Saturday’s supporting cast, and appears to be another potential cracker. Frankel famously took this as a juvenile, and Khalid Abdullah has a leading contender on Saturday. The wonderfully named Herculean is a son of Frankel and trained by Roger Charlton. He was a relatively comfortable winner at Ascot on debut, and many will be hoping he can emulate his famous father.
Charlton’s charge faces a Royal Lodge field stacked with talented juveniles. Godolphin’s Masar was an impressive winner of the Solario Stakes at Sandown earlier in the month. He’s bred to appreciate every yard of the one-mile trip. Ballydoyle’s Nelson is progressing at a rare old rate, and looked good at Leopardstown last time. He’s another from the Frankel conveyor belt.
Roaring Lion and Elarqam also look exciting prospects going into the race. The former is trained by John Gosden, whilst the latter is yet another son of Frankel out of the dual 1000 Guineas winning mare Attraction.
It looks sure to prove a thrilling and highly informative meeting, and act as the perfect appetiser, with the Arc to follow on Sunday.