Only seven go to post in Saturday’s Betfred Rose Of Lancaster Stakes.
The Group 3 at Haydock was first run in 1986, when known as the Summer Trophy. The 1m2f contest is open to horses aged three and above. Sir Michael Stoute has won the event on three occasions, most recently in 2011 with Class Is Class. On Saturday he runs the six-year-old Arab Spring.
Victories in the past decade have been split pretty evenly among horses aged three, four and five. No horse older than five has ever been successful.
Stoute’s Arab Spring is returning from more than a year off the track. He was last seen getting to within a head of Western Hymn in the Brigadier Gerard Stakes of 2015. He looked a progressive sort before sidelined by niggling injuries, and the son of Monsun had proved versatile as regards trip, having won at both 10 furlongs and at a mile and a half. He’s a classy sort, and should go close if over those physical issues.
Godolphin has a victory and a third place finish from the last four renewals. Scottish is their runner tomorrow, and he looks set to be sent off favourite. Charlie Appleby took over as handler when the horse was purchased by Godolphin at the end of last season. He won a listed contest last time, and prior to that had finished third to Time Test in the Brigadier Gerard at Sandown. He was four lengths adrift of Western Hymn on that occasion, though was likely lacking match fitness.
Mark Johnston sends Fire Fighting for another crack at the race. He was a well-beaten third 12 months ago, and this renewal looks a little stronger. He’s been kept incredibly busy since then, having run a staggering 18 times. Yes, I really did say that Fire Fighting has run 18 times in one year. He’s a winner in listed company, but I’d be surprised if he’s good enough to win this.
It’s somewhat surprising that John Gosden has such a mediocre record in the race. His only win came with Knifebox in 1993. He’s so often prolific in this type of event, being one of the best in the business at training middle-distance performers. On Saturday he puts his trust in a pair of three-year-olds, with one in particular toward the head of the market.
Foundation was an outstanding juvenile, and thought of as an Epsom Derby prospect. He was arguably unfortunate not to win the Dante at York, and was then sent to France for a crack at the Prix Du Jockey Club. However, in heavy ground he failed to spark, and is now on something of a recovery mission. He was gelded after the poor performance at Chantilly, and it is hoped that his attitude will improve as a consequence.
The Dante form has recently been boosted, thanks to Wings of Desire running such a huge race in the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth at Ascot. Foundation has two victories at Haydock to his name, and should enjoy the better ground conditions.
Another worth a mention is the Richard Fahey trained Gabrial. He was a decent fifth in the Sussex Stakes at Goodwood, and prior to that had stayed on well for third in the Group 2 Summer Mile at Ascot. He’s no stranger to this race, having finished third back in 2012. Now a seven-year-old, you’d expect a few progressive types to finish ahead of him, though he is a consistent performer at a high level.
Scottish is plenty short enough in the betting for me, and I’m not convinced he’s as good as some appear to think. Arab Spring may well be the best of these, but will he be cherry ripe after a 14 month lay-off?
I’m siding with John Gosden’s Foundation to deliver on some of that juvenile potential. His Dante form looks strong, and his weight for age allowance could prove decisive.