Saturday’s Sun Chariot Stakes is the feature race at Newmarket.
First run in 1966, it was originally open to three-year-old fillies and run over 10 furlongs. Older fillies and mares were invited in 1974, and the race was cut to its current distance of a mile in 2000. The race achieved Group 1 status in 2004.
The race regularly attracts the best milers from the UK, Ireland and France. The French have taken five of the last 10 renewals, thanks in the main to a stunning run of success from Sahpresa, who racked up a treble from 2009 to 2011.
Three-year-olds have a decent record, having won five of the last dozen, though only two of the last eight. Alice Springs took last year’s race, making it two from the last nine for trainer Aidan O’Brien.
Roly Poly is possibly only third or fourth best of the Classic generation milers at Ballydoyle, but with others having run at the Arc meeting, she is his main contender for this. She has improved throughout the summer, chasing home the dual-Guineas heroine, Winter, on a couple of occasions, then landing the Falmouth and the Rothschild in July. She was below par in the Matron Stakes at Leopardstown, when probably asked to do a little too much up front. Ryan Moore will be back onboard tomorrow, and she looks sure to go close.
The French challenge is a powerful one, with a trio of fillies representing arguably the best three trainers in the country. Jean-Claude Rouget’s Qemah is without doubt a high-class miler. Twice a Group One winner, she was fourth to Roly Poly in the Rothschild, though incurred traffic problems and got going far too late. Slightly disappointing at Leopardstown last time, when keen early and again doing her best work too late, she does needs things to fall just right if she is to land a blow. Nevertheless, she has the talent and the gears to go close.
Andre Fabre took the race with Esoterique in 2015 and has a leading contender in the Godolphin owned Usherette. She’s proved slightly disappointing this term, if a little unfortunate when third to Qemah in the Duke Of Cambridge at Ascot. Ridden from the front in the Rothschild, the change of tactics failed to spark improvement as she faded to sixth late-on. She did win a listed event last time, but will need to step forward again if she is to win this. Rain would probably help her cause, though I fancy she’ll find a few in better form on the day.
The final French challenger is trained by Freddy Head. Siyoushake was fourth in last year’s race and has run consistently well this season without success. A close third to Roly Poly in the Rothschild (without looking likely to win), she then finished runner-up in a Group One over 10 furlongs. She’s a solid performer at this level, and is likely to be doing her best work late on.
Her trainer spoke earlier in the week: “Siyoushake is still in great condition and I have been very happy with her work. We tried her over a mile and a quarter last time but I think that a mile is her best trip. I think that she has improved since her fourth in this race last year. It’s been a very good season for her and she’s been placed in a couple of Group 1s.”
Persuasive leads the UK challenge, and Gosden’s filly currently heads the market. She was runner-up in last year’s Matron Stakes, and though only third this time round, possibly ran slightly better, when finishing with a real rattle in just failing to catch Ballydoyle’s Hydrangea and Winter. Her belated return to action this summer came in the Rothschild, when a strong finishing fifth behind Roly Poly, and there’s every chance she’ll be able to reverse that form. Favourites have a good recent record, and I fancy she’ll be flying at the finish.
Aljazzi is the other significant UK contender and trained locally by Marco Botti. Runner-up to Qemah in the Duke Of Cambridge at Royal Ascot when a 40/1 shot, she was very impressive last time when winning a Group Three at Sandown. Like Persuasive, she arrives here a relatively fresh filly and looks to be improving at a fair old rate. This is a hugely competitive renewal, but several of the leading players appear exposed, and the race may be open to an improving sort.
This is a tough race to call, and though I’m not convinced Roly Poly is as good as last year’s winner Alice Springs, she arrives here off the back of a very similar looking campaign. O’Brien clearly believes that she is hardy enough to take this on her eighth start of the season (identical number as Alice in 2016) and who am I to argue.
As O’Brien hunts down Bobby Frankel’s Group One winning record, I’ll take Roly Poly to land the Sun Chariot. Persuasive looks sure to go close, but still needs to prove she can win a Group One. She lacks gears for me, and though I see her finishing strongly she may find herself with a little too much ground to make up. Best of luck to those having a punt.