Glorious Goodwood 2017: Wednesday Preview and Tips
The second of five days on the Downs is highlighted by arguably the race of the week, the Sussex Stakes, a mile Group 1 that sees the three-year-olds take on their older counterparts.
The action commences with a marathon handicap at ten-to-two...
STOP PRESS: Due to a forecast of torrential rain for most of the day, I've added some horses that might be suited by soft ground to the bottom of the previews.
1.50 Goodwood Stakes (Handicap) (2m4 1/2f, 4yo+, Class 2)
First, a reminder that you can view trends information for the Day 2 card here. A couple of interesting lines from there which could help reduce the eighteen-strong field are that all of the last fifteen winners were aged seven or younger; all bar two winners in that time had three or more seasonal runs; and, all bar three had won over at least 1m6f on the flat.
A good chance we've eliminated the winner from the ten who fail to match those criteria, but if we haven't it's a more manageable octet which remain: Akavit, Aurora Gray, Denmead, Frederic, Hawkerland, October Storm, Percy Veer, and Sunblazer.
Frederic (16/1) looks a likely sort. A 120+ hurdler for Micky Hammond, he's now in the care of Keith Dalgleish, having also seen service for the Cumani (flat) and McCain (jumps) yards. In three spins for his current 'employer', the six-year-old son of Zamindar has won twice at trips just north of two miles and progressed from a flat rating of 72 to 88. He was beaten last time, by the re-opposing Akavit and Aurora Gray, and is now better off at the weights with both, though neither of that pair can be readily discounted. As a hurdle winner over further he should have no problems with the trip, and he may not be done improving on the level just yet.
Mick Channon's October Storm (14/1) sneaks in at the bottom of the weights. He has some solid course form at up to two miles, and has contested decent races since staying on over two miles here three starts back. His regular pilot, Graham Lee, opts for Frederic but, in Nathan Evans, he has a talented deputy.
The favourite, Hawkerland, looks short enough. Although he's won his last two easily, stepping up from eleven furlongs to two miles in the process, he now takes two further hikes - half a mile in trip and three grades in class. That's not to say he cannot overcome them, but rather that he's an unsexy price so to do.
This race is often tricky to fathom - as winners at 33/1, 20/1 and 16/1 since 2011 illustrate - so I'll take those two, Frederic and October Storm, each way against the field.
SOFT: The most interesting pair on soft ground might be Star Rider (10/1) and Cool Sky (25/1)
2.25 Handicap (1m 4f, 3yo, Class 2)
Aargh. A three-year-old handicap. Does anyone have a way of fathoming these? If so, please contact me! They are my blind spot in punting terms, and I would most likely be doing you a disservice by attempting to quantify the form.
What I can say is this: the winner here often goes on to better things, as in the case of the last two victors, Dartmouth and Dal Harraild, who both went on to be capable Cup horses. Pether's Moon won this four years ago, and he was a subsequent Coronation Cup (Group 1) winner, albeit in a sub-standard renewal.
So we're looking for a thorough stayer who could be better than demonstrated to date - most likely a later developer. One interesting observation from a cursory glance is that Dartmouth and Dal Harraild both came here off the back of a placed effort in the same Ascot handicap three weeks prior. One who was placed in what I presume to be the same race this year is Galactic Prince. A bit free there, he should settle better in this bigger field and is only two pounds higher. He gets weight from all his rivals, and is a 16/1 chance.
There are lots of more obvious contenders, one of which will probably win. Caveat emptor, as ever!
SOFT: The selection acts well on soft and remains the (very tentative) selection.
3.00 Molecomb Stakes (5f, 2yo, Group 3)
A ferociously fast five furlongs contested by juveniles just below top class, as befits its Group 3 status.
Havana Grey, twice a winner on Sandown's straight five but well beaten in between at Ascot, heads up the home team. He is the highest rated on official figures - 109 - and has some margin over Sound And Silence and Invincible Army in a shallow looking renewal.
Karl Burke's grey son of Havana Gold is bound to run well, but he'll probably have to improve to catch the flying HAPPY LIKE A FOOL. Wesley Ward's filly was expected to be his banker of the whole Royal Ascot meeting, but had no answer to Heartache's persistent fleet-footedness. On this easier track, where most of the last half mile is downhill, her stamina ought to come under less scrutiny than at Ascot and, if in the same mood, she'll take the beating, though 11/4 tempers enthusiasm somewhat. I expected her to be a point shorter, so perhaps not all has gone to plan in her preparation.
Invincible Army is dropped back to five furlongs for the first time after a two and a half length beating by Cardsharp in the Group 2 July Stakes. It's possible he was just not good enough there rather than that he didn't quite see out the trip, and he may struggle to go the pace across this fast five.
Sound And Silence however probably did fail to see out the sixth furlong on his first try at the longer range last time, in the same race as Invincible Army. Previously he'd looked very good in winning twice over the minimum either side of a poor run at Sandown when found to be 'wrong' afterwards. Charlie Appleby's Exceed And Excel colt was a good winner of the 22 runner Windsor Castle Stakes at Royal Ascot on his previous five furlong start, and 10/1 each way seems pretty fair.
Ryan Moore was due to ride Battle Of Jericho for 'the lads' and that alone would have ensured this chap went off far shorter than his current 16/1 quote. But Mike Smith is not now traveling for the favourite, so Ryan gets the plum spare. Nevertheless, BoJ was a winner over six furlongs last time at Leopardstown, though he was fading towards the finish; he could improve for a first try at the minimum. He's certainly got plenty of early dash and may reward each way support.
But I think the favourite will probably win if she's trained okay.
SOFT: Only Denaar (16/1) has won on a soft surface to date, most of the others not having tried it yet.
3.35 Sussex Stakes (1m, Group 1)
Nine go to post, but this looks like the latest incarnation of the 'Duel On The Downs', this time between dual Guineas winner, Churchill, and the highest rated horse in Britain (at least until Enable's King George figure of 126 was published), Ribchester.
Typically in this race, it is the three-year-old - getting seven pounds weight for age - who usurps the older horse(s), but there are reasons to believe that will not be the case this time.
RIBCHESTER (11/10) is obviously very, very good, as he proved when completing the Lockinge/Queen Anne Group 1 double. Nicely rested since, he comes here a fresh horse and one which may still be marginally on the upgrade. He was only third in this last year but has improved eight pounds according to official figures since then. And, whisper it, he probably should have won that day anyway, given plenty to do and failing by a half length to do it.
Conversely, Churchill comes here off the back of an inexplicably poor effort in the St James's Palace Stakes. Having won seven in a row up to that point, including four straight Group 1's, he could only manage fourth behind Barney Roy at Royal Ascot. He had appeared to still be improving prior to the poor effort at Ascot, but has questions to answer now. It may have been the extreme heat that day; indeed connections will be hoping it was because nothing else came to light to excuse him. Though I respect his level of form, especially with the weight allowance, there is not much in his quote to reflect that last day doubt.
Of the rest, French raider Zelzal is next in the betting, the only other runner at single figure odds. He's pretty good, as he showed when winning the G1 Prix Jean Prat last summer; but he has done all of his racing to date at Deauville (two runs) and Chantilly (five). This maiden voyage outside of France, to a notably quirky track, could see him out of his comfort zone. At least it is easy enough to overlook his prep race last time, when he might have won in any case but for a Benoist clanger.
Lancaster Bomber might be a more interesting each way play if not doing too much in the pace-pressing stakes early on. He showed courage and no little class when hanging tough to take silver behind Barney Roy at Ascot, and may again prove difficult to budge from his prominent placement in the closing yards. 28/1 in a place understates his merit.
It is difficult to make a case for the remainder, all older horses, none convincing as Group 1 class.
SOFT: Ribchester is two from two on soft. At huge prices, Lightning Spear (22/1) and Here Comes When (80/1) both have form with the mud flying.
4.10 Fillies' Maiden (6f, 2yo, Class 2)
I've nothing to add here, with the possible exception of noting that Ryan Moore rides Lamya (9/2) for Richard Hannon. She did best of the trio engaged here that raced behind Spring Cosmos in a similar heat at Newmarket's July meeting, and she ought to be sharper for that run.
SOFT: Mushahadaat (11/4 fav), Pullitzer (16/1) and Naqaawa (25/1) are by sires whose progeny typically fair all right on soft ground at two.
4.45 Fillies' Handicap (1m2f, Class 2)
A very competitive race and one which is too difficult for me. But the top weight, Skiffle, could be interesting. She's been beaten far enough recently, albeit in Pattern class, but was good enough to win the Listed Height Of Fashion Stakes over course and distance last May. So, no fears about race conditions - weight to be carried aside - but she does have to step back to something like her best. No odds are available at time of writing, and the price would justify the play: 12/1 or better would make her of mild interest.
In truth, this is a bugger of a placepot final leg, and my wagering involvement will be limited to that assuming I've been good/lucky enough to get this far.
SOFT: Indulged (7/1) won on heavy last time and has form on soft as well.
5.50 Handicap (7f, Class 3)
65 minutes after the fillies' handicap is a seven furlong handicap for all-comers. Why so long? Because, of course, the sponsors want an Arab race in the proceedings. Sigh. Anyhoo... high draws have struggled in the really big fields over seven furlongs, and my two against the field are Medburn Dream and Sun Lover.
Medburn Dream (11/1) has been a fine servant for Paul Henderson, winning five of his 21 career starts all on the soft side of good prior to a blitzing of his field on good to firm two starts back. He won by a heavily eased nine lengths there before running better than his finishing position implied at Windsor in a better race than this most recently. Trap nine is not ideal to make the pace, but with only Ifwecan (13) and Easy Tiger (15) expected to challenge for that honour, he should be able to race in his favoured prominent position and will be close enough if good enough, as they say.
Roger Varian saddles 5/1 chance, SUN LOVER, and gets the inside draw to boot. Andrea Atzeni will be able to choose his position atop his versatile conveyance, and will most likely sit handy ready to pounce. The danger of such an approach in a big field is getting boxed in so the wily Italian will need to keep an eye on the wing mirrors as they turn into the straight and quicken down the hill. Sun Lover has proved a touch tricky to win with, finishing second in three of his last four starts, but he's a strong traveller who should hopefully get the run of the race.
Of the rest, Cenotaph is an interesting Aidan O'Brien handicap runner, in the less familiar colours of Mrs Doreen Tabor. How happy she must be to have a 90-rated 'capper while hubby drowns in Group 1 stock! Anyway, be that as it may, Cenotaph has won no more than an apprentice maiden from nine starts to date, and has a tough post in stall 18 to overcome, too. 10/1 fails to raise the pulse, all things considered. (Cue easy victory...)
SOFT: Medburn Dream acts well on soft as mentioned, and Sinfonietta is a fancied runner who likes some cut.
And that's Day Two. Should be some excellent racing, though winners may be hard to come by.