The Betfred Hungerford Stakes on Saturday, is the highlight of the two-day Newbury meeting.
Several late omissions have left us with just seven starters for this Group 2 event. It’s a race that has favoured three-year-olds in recent times, with five wins from the last eight renewals. However, that trend is a non-starter this time around, with a field of four, five and six-year-olds taking to the start on Saturday.
Clive Cox has trained two of the last seven winners, but he won’t be winning this one. The likes of Zonderland and Kodi Bear would not have been out of place in the line-up, with the former having impressed in winning a Group 3 at Salisbury last night.
John Gosden is the most successful trainer in the event’s history, with five wins. He does have an entrant, though Richard Pankhurst is the outsider of the field. Owned by Godolphin, the four-year-old has yet to sparkle this season, though his run in the Summer Mile at Royal Ascot, when finishing ahead of Convey, would certainly give hope for optimism. By Raven’s Pass, he needs quick ground to be seen at his best, and this seven-furlong trip could prove ideal.
Godolphin also own the favourite for the Hungerford, in the Hugo Palmer trained Home Of The Brave. No match for Dutch Connection in the Lennox Stakes at Goodwood last month, he had previously defeated Convey in a close run Group 3 at Haydock. There was little between them that day, and you’d expect that to be the case tomorrow. Jim Crowley takes the ride in the absence of the suspended James Doyle.
Convey is trained by Sir Michael Stoute, and carries the famous Khalid Abdullah silks. He was well beaten at Royal Ascot in his previous attempt at Group 2 level, but comes here fresh from a confidence boosting win in a listed race at Pontefract. This isn’t the strongest renewal, and he has to be a major player, though his ‘skinny’ odds reflect that.
Marco Botti took the race with the outstanding Excelebration in 2011, and teams up with Frankie Dettori tomorrow. His hopes lie with handicapper Golden Steps, who took the Bunbury Cup in July. This is quite a step up in class, though as previously mentioned, the field lacks depth. Botti believes the trip will be ideal, but I can’t believe he’ll be good enough.
Jallota has a similar profile, though does have a second place finish in a Group 3 at Deauville to his name. He was behind Jimmy Two Times on that occasion, and that form was franked when Fabre’s fella ran a cracker in the Prix Maurice de Gheest. I’m not sure Jallota is quite good enough to win this, but Charlie Hills’ five-year-old could go close.
Owen Burrows will be hoping that Markaz can perform well, after the desperate run from Massaat at Salisbury. He’s a consistent type though highly tried at this level, and he’ll probably find one or two a little too good for him. He’s twice finished behind Home Of The Brave already this term.
Palmer’s colt looks the most likely winner, though I can’t have him at 6/4. I’ll be taking a punt on Godolphin’s second string, and hoping that Richard Pankhurst will find the track, trip and ground to his liking, thereby adding to John Gosden’s terrific record in the race. I also expect Jallota to go close.