What should prove an informative bet365 Craven Stakes at Newmarket on Thursday has attracted a field of 10, with Charlie Appleby and Aidan O’Brien both holding strong hands in the Group Three contest.
Heading the market is the Appleby-trained Master Of The Seas, who was fourth in a strong renewal of the National Stakes at the Curragh in September and reappeared at Meydan in February.
He was beaten at odds-on there, but confidence appears high in the Appleby camp that he has progressed in the manner required. Interestingly, in 2018 the same yard’s Masar was beaten in Dubai before going on to win the Craven, finish third in the 2000 Guineas and land the Derby.
Appleby said: “He is a horse we went to Dubai with, knowing that our aim was to be here for the Craven. As we know it is a long season, whatever he was going to do out there, we were hopeful that we would see plenty of improvement – which we have seen.
“He has come out of the race well and has done well. He shipped back into England a week ago, and we are looking forward to the Craven.
“He has got some great form. He won his maiden here, then he won the Superlative on the July Course and he wasn’t disgraced in the National Stakes, where I feel he didn’t show his true running as he was very keen early on.
“He was keen in Meydan, and we are going to apply the hood in the race as he has gone to post with one on to the start in his last race. Hopefully that will help him switch off and do it the right way round. This was always going to be our plan. The mile suits him, and he was doing his best work towards the end at Meydan and he kept on nicely towards the line.”
Stablemate La Barrosa picked up Group Three honours last year in the Tattersalls Stakes over seven furlongs of the Rowley Mile, before trying Group One company in the Criterium International, finishing fifth of six to O’Brien’s Van Gogh.
Appleby said: “One box he does tick is that he is already a course winner, and the mile will suit him. I think you can put a line through that last run of his in France as it was in very soft ground at the backend of the year. His preparation has gone faultlessly. He looks great.
“They are two horses that both bring Group-race form into it – and on two-year-old form they are the two picks. It got a bit tight on the rail in the Group Three here, but he got the gap and showed a bit of class and acceleration to get his head on front.”
Khartoum (Ryan Moore) and Sandhurst (Frankie Dettori) represent Ballydoyle hopes. Both had two starts as juveniles, each winning the second of them.
Away from the Appleby and O’Brien runners, the Simon and Ed Crisford-trained Royal Air Force is interesting – stepping up markedly in class after winning a novice event at Yarmouth in June, having not been seen since.
He was impressive there, however, and Ed Crisford said: “I walked the track on Tuesday, and the ground was lovely, while the mile will suit him. I think it is a very ambitious task as it looks a hard race, but he has been doing well and he deserves to be there.
“He was impressive at Yarmouth – and although it was only a small-field novice, he did it nicely, and Ryan (Moore) liked him that day.
“He has been off for a long time as he had a little setback – we were going to run at the end of the year but we decided not to.
“He appears to have strengthened up as a three-year-old and hopefully he will improve again. I’m sure he will run a decent race and make a good account of himself.”
The field is completed by Devilwala (Ralph Beckett), Mystery Smiles (Andrew Balding), The Rosstafarian (Hugo Palmer), Akmaam (Brian Meehan) and Imperial Sands (Archie Watson).