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Highland Avenue on course for St James’s Palace

Highland Avenue is set to lead trainer Charlie Appleby’s assault on the St James’s Palace Stakes at Royal Ascot.

The Dubawi colt won his first three starts this year, before losing little in defeat when failing by half a length to give Mosthadaf 3lb in last month’s Heron Stakes at Sandown.

Appleby was pleased with that run, and feels Highland Avenue has the credentials to put up a good show in next week’s Group One over a mile.

“Highland Avenue will go for the St James’s Palace Stakes,” the Newmarket trainer told Sky Sports Racing.

“He finished second at Sandown. He’s come out of the race very well.

“I was delighted with the run. He had the penalty. I believe when you go to Ascot you have to be battle-hardened, and he’s put that onto his CV now.

“Sandown was very much a stepping-stone to the St James’s Palace, as long as he ran well. I’m very much looking forward to seeing him on a quicker surface at Ascot.”

Appleby will also saddle La Barrosa, who got stuck in the testing ground at the Curragh in the Irish 2,000 Guineas.

“We’ll add to La Barrosa to the St James’s Palace picture. We were pleased with his run on his last start,” he said.

“He was second to Master Of The Seas in the Craven, and at the Curragh it was the soft ground. I felt we didn’t see the best of him.

La Barrosa and William Buick (centre) winning the Tattersalls Stakes at Newmarket
La Barrosa and William Buick (centre) winning the Tattersalls Stakes at Newmarket (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

“He travelled well into the race but couldn’t pick up on that ground. He’s come out of the race well, and deserves to be in the line-up.”

Appleby will also be two-handed in the Jersey Stakes, with Naval Crown and Creative Force.

“Naval Crown is going to drop to seven for the Jersey,” he said.

“As we saw in Dubai, he’s got a lot of natural pace. He lost nothing in defeat on his first run back in the Free Handicap, and ran a gallant race in the Guineas.

“The pace angle is very much his forte.

“We might step Creative Force up from six to seven to run him in the Jersey as well.

“On what he has achieved he deserves to be at Ascot. On his pedigree, there is no reason why he shouldn’t step up to seven.”

Lazuli and William Buick leading en route to victory in the Betfair Palace House Stakes at Newmarke
Lazuli and William Buick leading en route to victory in the Betfair Palace House Stakes at Newmarket (David Davies/Jockey Club)

Appleby is excited at giving New Science his chance in the Chesham Stakes, following a smooth victory on his debut at Yarmouth.

“New Science is on target to run in the Chesham after his first start,” added the Godolphin handler.

“Physically he’s done well for his run. He had an easy week but is in full work now. We are looking forward to taking him to Ascot.”

One horse unlikely to go to Ascot is the sprinter Lazuli, who will instead head to Sandown for the Coral Charge and then the King George Qatar Stakes at Goodwood.

“We didn’t enter him for the King’s Stand but we could supplement him if we need to. He’ll probably go back to Sandown for the Coral Charge,” said Appleby.

“We’ll work back from Goodwood – the five there might suit him. If the Battaash we know turns up, he’ll be very hard to beat.

“We didn’t make the entry at Ascot, because we didn’t feel he was up to that level just yet.”

Master Of The Seas is back in work after suffering a setback which ruled him out of Royal Ascot. The Prix du Moulin is seen as a likely target for the 2000 Guineas runner-up, before a possible tilt at the Breeders’ Cup.

“Master Of The Seas resumed back into work last week,” said Appleby.

“He’ll build up day by day, week by week, now. We were pointing him towards Goodwood for the Sussex, but I felt the track would not quite suit him there.

“The Prix du Moulin is a more realistic target. Long-term the Breeders’ Cup at Del Mar will be tailor made for him.”

Appleby revealed Althiqa and Summer Romance, who gave him a one-two in the Grade One Just A Game Stakes at Belmont on Saturday, are to stay in America for the Diana at Saratoga on July 17.

“They are two great fillies to have in the yard,” he said.

“They are going to stay out there in Belmont for another week and then go ship to Saratoga and take in the Diana and step them up to nine furlongs.

“As we know, that is in Summer Romance’s realm. It stretched Althiqa in Meydan, but the pace over there might suit her.”

Appleby firms up Group One weekend plans for smart juveniles

Charlie Appleby will split his two smart juveniles up this weekend, with La Barrosa set to run in the Criterium International in France while One Ruler stays closer to home for the Vertem Futurity Trophy at Doncaster.

La Barrosa has won both his races to date, on debut at Ascot and then as an odds-on favourite in the Group Three Tattersalls Stakes at Newmarket.

Both of those were over seven furlongs and he will step up to a mile at Saint-Cloud.

The Doncaster race is also over a mile, with One Ruler is among the ante-post favourites.

A close third to New Mandate, who has subsequently franked the form in Group Two company, on his penultimate outing, the son of Dubawi was last seen winning the Autumn Stakes in good style.

Appleby said of One Ruler: “As we saw, stepping up to the mile for the first saw further improvement.

“He has come out of the race well. We had it in the back of our minds to look at the Vertem Futurity Trophy with him and he has done very well the last 10 days. We are pleased to let him take part on Saturday.”

La Barrosa (all blue) stayed on well to remain unbeaten at Newmarket
La Barrosa (all blue) stayed on well to remain unbeaten at Newmarket (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

He went on: “La Barrosa won the Tattersalls Stakes, which turned into a little tactical affair but he got the job done. He has come out of it well.

“We know that as he is by Lope De Vega he will like the soft ground. He is likely to head to France at this stage for the Criterium International, which looks a small field but a competitive field.”

Clock Watcher: Young Guns

Is that the time? Doesn't it fly when you're having fun? It's been a good while since the previous Clock Watcher episode so high time for another instalment. This time the focus is mainly on two-year-old races which might pan out well - or at least better than markets expect.

When pulling the relevant races from the database - those since 10th August 2020 - and ordering by the sum of Topspeed and our sectional upgrade figure, I was pleasantly surprised and at the same time irked that the top four to have run since recording their good number have all won their sole subsequent start.

Grist to the method mill maybe, but slim pickings unless of course you're one of that desperate band of netherworlders, the after-time police.

For the record, we'll cover the subsequent winners, and then have a squint at the quartet yet to go again; we might call those the 'destined to get beaten' group!

The First Four...

Top of the late summer pops was Dubai Honour, whose effort in narrow defeat at Chester behind an all-the-way winner was substantiated by both a good speed figure and a tidy sectional upgrade. [Click the image below to open a more pixel-perfect version]

We can see from the running lines (race position and distance behind the leader/in front) in the blue boxes to the left that State Of Bliss led all the way, and that at the middle (third) call point, which is the two furlong pole ('4-2' of that section, see data to the right of the blue boxes), Dubai Honour was just about four lengths back in fifth position.

He made up three-quarters of a length and two positions in the penultimate furlong (2-1) and all but a nose of the three lengths deficit from the trailblazing winner in the final (1-0) furlong.

The red filled boxes (in the lilac box to the right - confused?!) tell the tale of the finish: Dubai Honour's final furlong finishing speed percentage was 108.3 compared with the winner's 104.1.

Dubai Honour posted some impressive sectional timing figures when narrowly failing to catch Stat of Bliss at Chester

Next time out, and sent off 5/2 favourite for a similar race at Haydock on 26th September, Dubai Honour made no mistake. Alas, at time of writing there are still no sectional insights for that - or indeed any Racing TV - track. However, I'm given to understand this may begin to happen in the near future; Course Track, a company commissioned by Racecourse Media Group (and their TV channel, Racing TV), have been collecting the data for some time and the challenges they've faced in ensuring the integrity of that data may finally be in harness.

It is a difficult challenge, in fairness, and I sincerely hope that I - and many others - can stop whining and start consuming very soon!

Stepping away from my dangerously worn out soapbox, while Dubai Honour's light is no longer under a bushel he does look the type to improve for a step up in trip; and, out of a Montjeu mare, his pedigree offers hope also.

Without going into fine detail, the other three subsequent winners were Indigo Girl, now unbeaten in two for John Gosden after landing the Group 2 May Hill Stakes at Doncaster; La Barrosa, also unbeaten in two and also a winner in Pattern company since, the Group 3 Tattersalls Stakes for Godolphin and Charlie Appleby; and Rising Star, who led all the way to land a Kempton novice event. The last named may be the best chance of a price next time.

The Next Four...

To those yet to run since, and a likely kiss of death for them...

The '85' in the spreadsheet image above is Derab. Trained by John Gosden for Prince Khalid Abdullah, he recorded his number on debut when running up to the aforementioned La Barrosa. Waited with early, his final furlong time of 12.14 seconds on the Ascot incline was clear quickest.

We already know the early merit of that form - the third has also won since, and the fourth, and the 11th (at 125/1!) - and this lad has yet more expectation bestowed upon him as a result of his breeding: by Sea The Stars, he is out of the same mare, Concentric, as Enable!

[Again, click the image to view a clearer version - images containing numbers and text generally blur slightly when forced to a certain resolution]

 

Less obvious - let's face it, almost any two-year-old in training is less obvious than Derab - is Rival, a respectful third behind State Of Bliss and Dubai Honour at Chester. Drawn widest of all, Rival was five lengths off the speed at the half mile marker in that 7½ furlong contest, and closed up to finish best of the rest.

As well as Dubai Honour's impressive subsequent score, the fifth and eighth placed finishers have won their sole spins since giving the form a solid look.

Rival was due to run at Windsor this afternoon before that track got waterlogged. Expect to see him back on track soon.

The first of the brace of 81's belongs to King Zain, who was winning for the second time either side of a pair of Group 2 mild disappointments. The son of Kingman is out of a Dalakhani mare and may prove best at the far side of a mile; here he quickened well over seven and left his closest rivals eating sods in the last quarter mile.

This time the chart (below, click for pixel clarity) shows 'sectional time' by furlong so, of course, the lower the line the faster the time.

The black line is par, which relates that Lingfield seven furlong turf contests are often more quickly run early before slowing up late. This race, as can be seen, was not run like that: rather, it was steady until around the two furlong from home pole and then a sprint to the line.

I've included the second (Incorrigible, green line) and third (Gypsy Boy, mauve) so you can see how King Zain (maroon) matched the runner up before leaving that one behind in the last eighth of a mile. The third plodded on at the one pace and looks flattered as a result of his early position in a slowly run heat.

 

The last of the four yet to go again since their spreadsheet effort is Fools Rush In, by first-season sire sensation, Mehmas (see below, image copied from TheOwnerBreeder.com - click on the image to visit their site).

 

Trained by Tom Dascombe, he had a busy three and a half months where he racked up eight starts between the resumption and mid-September. During that time he was only outside the first four twice: in the Windsor Castle at Royal Ascot and a valuable sales contest at York. Winning, however, has proved elusive with a solitary score to show for his exertions.

In the Chester race flagged in the image above (you know the drill by now, click it for clarity), he suffered mild interference at the start and, though he closed the gap, was unable to recover against a pair of runners that were first and second almost throughout.

The winner has gone in again since and it will be interesting to see where next for Fools Rush In. Ostensibly exposed on a mark of 82, he could be freshened up by a short break and might be interesting in a straight track six furlong handicap.

Takeaways

The bird may have flown in large part with regard to the horses highlighted herein, sadly.

That said, Dubai Honour looks a colt of some promise and is ready for the step up to Pattern company, though a rating of 90 is probably tempting in the handicap context. Derab will also be fascinating to follow for all that he's unlikely to be a punters' pal.

Of the remainder, Rival is less exposed than King Zain and Fools Rush In; having been rained off today, he's entered in a valuable mile nursery at York on Saturday and that more stamina-testing track, off a mark of just 77, may play to the strengths of a horse doing his best work late around Chester's bullring (the winner of that Chester race is now rated 90, and the fifth-placed horse 82).

He'll need a few to come out to make the cut there but, wherever he next appears, he could be worth following.

But the big takeaway is that we might soon have the significant gaps in what may be termed 'official' sectional coverage plugged by the long-awaited publication of Racing TV sectional data. Fingers crossed, that will form part of the next edition of Clock Watcher.

Matt

La Barrosa takes Tattersalls triumph

La Barrosa survived a scare to maintain his unbeaten record in the Tattersalls Stakes at Newmarket.

Sent off the 4-7 favourite after impressing on his debut at Ascot, the 750,000 guineas yearling found himself very short of room a furlong out.

Charlie Appleby’s youngster was travelling beautifully in the hands of William Buick coming down the hill behind the pace-setter, Dark Lion.

But as push came to shove, Qaader was on his outside under Jim Crowley, leaving Buick to look for racing room.

To La Barrosa’s credit, he knuckled down and when the gap was big enough, he was good enough to go through it.

La Barrosa eventually went away to win by a length from Dark Lion, with Betfair cutting his 2000 Guineas odds from 25-1 to 16s.

Appleby said: “It was a nice, educational run on his first start at Ascot. He travelled through the race very well and picked up well. Even then he came through horses that day and James (Doyle) gave him a nice educational ride.

“The plan was always to get cover today and watching it I was quite comfortable and I was quite happy where he was, but William wasn’t quite as comfortable as he felt he needed a bit of an out.

“His class has prevailed there, once he got that bit of a gap. He showed a bit of courage and a bit of class, as picking up late on here can be quite hard.

“He hasn’t got an entry in the Dewhurst. Coming into today, we felt we would see what kind of performance he put up (before deciding) whether we contemplate supplementing for a Dewhurst and from what we have seen today, it is up for discussion.

“I feel he has learnt again today and he is entitled to come forward a bit more. He travels very well and I wouldn’t want him to be doing it the wrong way round yet.

“I think seven is his trip for the moment, though I’m not saying he won’t get a mile in time. While he is learning, I think this is his right trip for the moment.

“This horse is a work horse, whereas Master Of The Seas (Superlative Stakes winner) is not a work horse. Master The Seas just goes about his work and he would go past you in the string and you wouldn’t take much notice, whereas this horse has got a bit of presence about him and spring in his step.”