The seven-furlong John of Gaunt Stakes is run at Haydock tomorrow. And fresh from one of their greatest achievements at Epsom it’s Godolphin that appear to hold the aces for this Group Three contest.
It feels like I’m stating the obvious, but this race usually goes to specialists at the trip. Milers dropping back and sprinters stepping-up rarely land the prize. Past winners such as Absolutely So, Home Of The Brave, Penitent, Pastoral Player, Main Aim and Quito were at their best at just shy of the mile.
Saturday’s favourite certainly fits the blueprint. Godolphin’s Dutch Connection, trained by Charlie Hills, never quite gets home at a mile. He ran a cracker in the Lockinge last month, travelling like a dream for six furlongs, but those last couple of hundred yards stretched him beyond his limit. His five career victories have all come at seven-furlongs, and it’s not for want of trying at further. He’s come mighty close on more than one occasion. Chantilly in 2015 and Sandown in 2016 were particularly agonising examples, when within a length of success in a pair of Group Twos.
Good ground or quicker is essential for Dutch Connection. If he gets it, he’ll take some beating. He has three wins from three attempts at this level. He looks the class act, and though now a six-year-old, this race has gone to a seven, eight and two nine-year-olds in the past dozen years.
The Roger Varian-trained Emmaus is next best in the betting following a gutsy win in a listed event at Leicester. In a slow-motion finish on bottomless ground, the four-year-old got the better of an ordinary field and will need to improve if he is to trouble the favourite on a sound surface. He’s clearly had issues, with only four starts since September 2016, and though he arrives unexposed, it takes a leap of faith to think he’ll win this.
Tabarrak is another that needs to find further improvement. His victory in a listed event at Haydock last time was a solid performance and he’d found the ground far too testing the time before. Listed company appeared his level as a four-year-old and I just can’t see him beating the favourite.
D’bai may be interesting following a winter that saw him run well at Meydan. He was just behind The Tin Man over six furlongs at Windsor last time, with the trip that day undoubtedly a little on the sharp side. Charlie Appleby has his team in fine form and this four-year-old by Dubawi may have enough untapped ability to go close.
Larchmont Lad could also go well at a decent price. He’s yet to fulfil the potential he showed as a juvenile, though has looked better since moving to David O’Meara at the end of last season. Set to wear headgear for the first time, this looks his ideal trip, and in a field starved of class, he could run into a place.
I can’t see anything beating Dutch Connection, especially if the rain stays away. His current odds of 3/1 look more than reasonable. D’bai appears to be the main danger, though I’ll probably throw a few quid at Larchmont Lad in the hope he sneaks into a place, as long as the eight runners stand their ground. Best of luck to all having a punt.