The Group Two Hungerford Stakes from Newbury comes under focus in today’s piece.
The seven-furlong contest went to John Gosden’s Richard Pankhurst a year ago. That was the trainer’s second win in four years, and he is the most successful handler in the Hungerford, with six victories in total. He runs a pair of talented fillies in tomorrow’s race, both owned by Abdullah Saeed Al Naboodah.
In a race that’s been pretty evenly split between three and four-year-olds in recent years, Gosden has one of each entered. Daban is a daughter of Acclamation, and was third in the 1000 Guineas, before a sixth-place finish in the Jersey Stakes at Royal Ascot. The latter was a slightly disappointing performance, though it was a strong looking Group Three. An age and sex allowance will help tomorrow, and both the track and trip should prove ideal.
Nathra is Gosden’s four-year-old filly. She was fifth in the Guineas of 2016, and then ran a cracker to finish runner-up in the French equivalent. She’s failed to build on that early promise, and was disappointing on her belated seasonal bow at Ascot. She’s sure to improve for that run, and this is not the strongest Hungerford. If Gosden can get her back to her French Guineas form, she’d go very close.
Only a trio of five-year-olds have won the Hungerford in the past 20 years, and none in the last dozen, so Librisa Breeze has his work cut-out to justify favouritism. He ran a terrific race in the Diamond Jubilee at Royal Ascot, when a strong finishing fourth to The Tin Man. He then had a nightmare passage at Goodwood, when down the field in the Group Two Lennox. He’s likely to be held-up and delivered late. He’ll need luck in running, and if getting the breaks looks sure to go close.
Breton Rock got there late to take the Lennox at Goodwood, though has a 3lb penalty to overcome tomorrow. Soft ground has often proved vital for David Simcock’s gelding, though that was not the case last time. He looked laboured when giving weight all-round in the John Of Gaunt in June, and though he has a chance here, I fancy he’ll find one or two make that weight allowance count.
Jane Chapple-Hyam’s Kaspersky has been running well since arriving in the UK. He’s likely to be prominent from the start, as he was last time when runner-up to Mutakayyef at Ascot. He ran well in the Queen Anne at Royal Ascot, finishing a place ahead of Dutch Connection, and a repeat of that would see him in the mix. He’s been well supported in the market, and is yet another contender in this wide-open renewal.
Though yet to win in Group company, I fancy the markets have it about right with Librisa Breeze. Around 5/2 at present, his price is far from attractive, especially when you consider he’s never won at this level, and will need plenty of luck in running. But in a race where it’s hard to find a winner, he looks the most likely. Daban has the potential to improve plenty, and I think she could be the main danger to the favourite. Gosden has a great record in the race, and I’ll be putting a few quid on her at 7s.
Best of luck to those having a punt. I think we’ll need it.