With 28 intended runners, Saturday’s Stewards Cup at Goodwood is not for the faint-hearted punter.
The six-furlong handicap has often been kind to fancied contenders, though heavy rain with the resultant testing conditions, may well throw a spanner in the works. Upsets are often the order of the day when the words soft or heavy appear in the ground description.
The classy three-year-old filly Dancing Star delivered for punters 12 months ago, and was chased home by her market rival Orion’s Bow. In 2015, Magical Memory was sent-off favourite and duly obliged in the hands of Frankie Dettori. Another three-year-old, he followed that success with a third-place finish in the Group One Sprint Cup at Haydock.
The race often attracts classy sorts who progress to Group level. Hawkeyethenoo was another talented winner, when landing the prize in 2012. A few months later he came within a length of capturing the Champion Sprint Stakes at Ascot. Borderlescott won in 2006, and back in 1992 the wonderful Lochsong announced herself as a sprinter with a bright future.
Three-year-olds have landed the last two renewals, though four and five-year-olds have a strong record in the race. A pair of six-year-olds have also been successful in the last 10 years. Five of the last six winners have been rated in the 100s, emphasising the elevated standard of those contesting the prestigious event.
Danzeno attempts to defy top-weight tomorrow, having won a valuable handicap over five-furlongs at Ascot last time. He’s up 6lbs for that success, and though track, trip and conditions will be fine, it’s a tough ask for the classy six-year-old. I think he’ll run a big race, but he’s vulnerable to a progressive sort.
Royal Ascot’s Wokingham Stakes is often a pointer to this. Six of the first eight home a month ago renew rivalry here, with Roger Charlton’s Projection currently our market leader. He was third in the Wokingham, though first in the group down the stands’ side of the track. Very much fitting the brief of progressive four-year-old, the gelding has some eye-catching form, including a close fourth behind Dancing Star and Priceless in a handicap at Newmarket last July. He was fifth in the Stewards’ Cup consolation race last year, when sent-off favourite. Unlucky in running that day, he looks a leading contender for tomorrow’s race, and should go close.
Polybius was just a neck behind Projection at Ascot and has a 4lb pull in the weights. A six-year-old, he appears to be in the form of his life, and was a fast finishing second to Danzeno last time at Ascot. He’s unproven on the ground, though his pedigree (out of a Selkirk mare) suggests he’ll be fine. His handicap mark looks a winning one, and at 14/1 he looks a huge player.
Richard Fahey’s runners always deserve a second look in such races. Eastern Impact certainly has the class to win this event, and has seen his handicap mark drop from a career high of 113 to its current 103. Ahead of Projection when runner-up at Newmarket in May, he was then a few places behind that rival at Royal Ascot. Sixth in last year’s Darley July Cup, he has the necessary talent to win, though he too needs to prove he can handle such testing conditions.
Fahey also has the well-fancied Growl towards the head of the handicap. He was last seen chasing home Harry Angel in the July Cup, and has plenty of strong handicap form to his name. The ground is a slight concern to me. It’s not that he won’t cope with testing conditions, but he’s always looked at his best on a sound surface. He’s a contender, but I think he’ll be placed at best.
Robert Cowell is a master trainer of sprinters, and won the race with Intrinsic in 2014. Outback Traveller is an interesting contender, who at his best could certainly go close. He won the Wokingham in 2016, with the ground on the soft side of good, defeating the classy Brando in the process. Out of sorts since, I fancy he could put-in a decent performance, back on a fair mark, with conditions more to his liking.
Sir Dancealot looks to uphold the recent good record of three-year-olds. David Elsworth’s youngster will be ridden by Ryan Moore, and as such is understandably attracting support in the betting. He was runner-up in the Bunbury Cup at Newmarket last time out, finishing ahead of the Wokingham runner-up Steady Pace. It took him a while to get going that day, but he stayed on strongly up the final climb. He’s handicapped to go close, but will need to travel better through the race to be near enough to strike.
I’m siding with Polybius for David Simcock. By the mighty Oasis Dream out of a Selkirk mare, the six-year-old is running better than ever, and is on the right sort of handicap mark to take this. I’ll also have a few quid on Outback Traveller in the hope of a return to form. Best of luck to those having a punt.