And so to Day Three, Thursday, at Glorious Goodwood 2020. In the preview that follows I'll offer the usual thoughts and tips, with the standard caveats emptor in situ. The feature race of the day is the Group 1 Nassau Stakes for fillies and mares over a distance of a mile and a quarter.
We start shortly after one o'clock, the first race being the...
1.10 Mirabeau En Provence Handicap (5f, Class 3 0-95, 3yo)
Some nippy three-year-olds do battle in the opener, a few of them in form, too. Somewhat unusually, five of the nine declared are fillies.
The pace looks set to be contested between, primarily, Glamorous Anna and Electric Ladyland, two of that filly quintet, and they may be joined by a third, Hand On My Heart.
It is Hand On My Heart that is of most interest of the early speed: she ought to be able to get a nice tow into the race, allowing for the fact that she is drawn on the outside and will have to tack across. The Clive Cox-trained Iffraaj filly makes her handicap debut here for a handler who boasts a 19% strike rate with 'cap debs in the past two years. Jockey Adam Kirby has a fine record at Goodwood and when riding for Cox.
Hand On My Heart does have to show that she's trained on, however: her form has tailed off - albeit in higher grade - since a debut win in a quite valuable fillies' stakes at Windsor last June. Three runs since, all in Class 1, have offered little hope.
Of the boys, 3/1 Bal Mal is on a hot streak having won his last four and five of his last six. The key has been the drop to five furlongs, where his record is unblemished thus far:
This mission is tougher again, of course, but the 'Then What?' figures on the right hand side tell us that his form is working out well enough. He ought to bid boldly for a sixth straight win at the minimum. He, too, should get a prominent early position and, from stall two, looks the most likely winner.
1.45 Unibet Handicap (1m2f, Class 2, 3yo)
A second three-year-olds only handicap, this time at ten furlongs. In what is a very trappy encounter, it looks a case of Mark Johnston versus the unexposed brigade. The winner of this race is normally rated 90+, as 15 of the last 17 were. However, I suspect the average OR in the race this term is slightly lower as a result of there having been less opportunities to advance a mark that far.
On that basis, I'm going to risk opposing the exposed Johnston pair in favour of less exposed, potentially more progressive rivals.
Johnston's Zabeel Champion is hardly exposed, with three wins from five starts, but he has shown more of his hand than many. Al Salt for example has won his last two of three career starts, none of them on turf, and represents a trainer - William Haggas - with a 25% strike rate first time in a handicap, as this lad is.
Roger Varian brings the only twice-raced Magnetised, narrowly beaten last time but recording a big Racing Post Rating. He steps up two furlongs in trip and improvement is likely rather than possible.
John Gosden has Magical Morning, another stepping up from a mile on this fifth career start. He was beaten on good to soft last time having won twice on good to firm previously. That shouldn't have been the decisive factor, but the extra range here might eke out more.
Plenty more improvers up and down the card, including Celtic Art whose father and son training team of Paul and Oliver Cole have won with three of their six handicap debutants so far this season. David Probert rides the top weight, who has already been second and first on these slopes.
And Oisin Murphy, the champion jockey, jumps on Starcat, a horse thought good enough to contest the 2000 Guineas two back and who may have resented the soft ground in Ascot's Britannia Stakes last time. Of course, an alternative theory is that he simply hasn't trained on; but I have sufficient respect for his trainer, Hughie Morrison, to note this one at a price.
It's a very difficult puzzle indeed.
2.15 Richmond Stakes (6f, Group 2, 2yo)
It is hard to know what to make of a seven-runner Group 2 where the top three in the betting were all beaten last time out, and two of them were out of the frame...
Favourite Yazaman has at least improved as he's gone up in class from race to race, with his second to Tactical in the G2 July Stakes reading well in this company. He led there as they got to the hill so this easier track could help him.
Mark Johnston trains Qaader for owner of the season, Sheikh Hamdan al Maktoum: this son of Night Of Thunder got closest to the 150/1 Coventry Stakes boilover, Nando Parrado, but was then three lengths behind Yazaman. There's no obvious reason he should reverse placings.
Further back in the Coventry was Admiral Nelson, who was never travelling there. Obviously the O'Brien/Moore/Coolmore connection has always to be respected but their two-from-eight record in this came 18 years apart. Both were similarly lesser lights in the yard's hierarchy, however.
Clive Cox saddles Supremacy, who stepped forward from first to second start and made all to win well in a minor event at Windsor 24 days ago. The sectionals tell us that he was able to quicken off the reasonable gallop he'd set there and nothing laid a glove on him. This is much harder but he deserves his place.
Gussy Mac did well to win the five furlong Listed National Stakes at Sandown last time and has now won his last two of three. He's trained by Roger Teal, who is a whizz with sprinters as evidenced both by the brilliant win of Oxted in the Group 1 July Cup and his two-year statistics:
This extra furlong looks right for him now and he is one of the few that still look progressive for all that it may be too early to write some of his rivals off. He'd be a super postscript to Oxted's G1 success.
Lauded ran a similarly mediocre race to Admiral Nelson in the Coventry so, while any horse can be forgiven one poor run, he only had one good run previously and I don't really see why he should reverse with Qaader either.
This seems quite a disappointing turnout for a Group 2. Yazaman might appreciate the easier test after Newmarket, and Qaader is the main player bidding to salvage the Coventry form; but perhaps 8/1 Gussy Mac is the value against those who have already tried and failed at Group level. Supremacy is another of more interest at the prices than the black type losers atop the market.
2.45 Gordon Stakes (1m4f, Group 3, 3yo)
Historically a trial for the St Leger and a benefit for Sir Michael Stoute, whose seven wins since 2001 will not be added to in 2020 as he is unrepresented. If the Richmond Stakes has a disappointing looking level of quality, the Goodwood beaks will be buoyed by the presence of four Derby runners in this renewal of the Gordon Stakes, including the second and the fourth.
The 2020 Derby has its place in infamy now as a race where the leaders appeared to steal it; Khalifa Sat had the cat-bird seat throughout and maintained it to the finish behind wide margin victor, Serpentine. The cavalry arrived too late with both English King and Mogul promising more than they delivered.
But were they as unlucky as they looked? Whilst the answer to that is "probably", this re-run between the three - and also the not-really-ever-in-it Highland Chief - will at the very least fuel the fire of those who have a strong view on the matter.
English King performed best of the closers and had previously delivered the best audition in the Lingfield Derby Trial. He is short in the market here but deservedly so in my view.
Khalifa Sat will have his supporters: he's a two-time scorer here including in the Listed Cocked Hat Stakes, and bettered that form when running up in the Derby. He has the chance to show he's been under-rated in some quarters.
Meanwhile, Mogul's juvenile reputation has yet to be vindicated on the track in this campaign. For all that excuses can be made for his two 2020 efforts, they've both been underwhelming and he has to prove he's trained on.
The one who brings unequivocal form to the table is Al Aasy, who followed up a mile and a half novice stakes win with a victory in the 1m5f Group 3 Bahrain Trophy at Newmarket three weeks ago. Both of those wins were with give in the ground, however, leaving the suspicion that this sharper track on a quicker lawn might not play to his obvious stamina strengths.
Mark Johnston runs the tough and consistent Subjectivist who, along with Khalifa Sat, may set the pace. It's never a surprise when a Johnston runner wins at Goodwood but this one would rate a disappointment if he was to lower the colours of the Derby form.
English King is the logical play here, but he's very short at around 6/4. I really like Al Aasy but not for this gig: he'd be interesting ante post for the St Leger if finishing well in defeat. Mogul has plenty to prove for me, so 9/2 Khalifa Sat might be a smidge of value. But it's a race I'll likely be watching without wagering.
3.15 Nassau Stakes (1m2f, Group 1, 3yo+ fillies and mares)
The feature race of the day, and a line up long on quality if a trifle short on quantity. Such is life this season with so many big races squished together after the resumption. Far better this way than any other, in my view.
Last year's shock winner Deirdre bids to double up. Now six, the Japanese raider was well beaten on her prep run last term and reprised that type of rehearsal in the Eclipse 25 days ago. This will have been the plan with an easy ten furlongs looking optimal; but there could be a lot less pace in the race this year than last, where she came with a devastating burst late on. Her form behind Magical looks pretty solid in the context of this field - in the context of most fields, in truth - and she sets a good standard.
But she's not favourite. That honour goes to Donnacha O'Brien's Fancy Blue. Donnacha, following in brother Joseph's footsteps as a son of Aiden to move from riding into training, won the Prix de Diane (French Oaks) last time with this filly having been second in the Irish 1000 Guineas the time before. Regular readers will be bored to tears by now of me decrying the value of French form but, again, the Diane featured three Irish runners in a field of eleven where the remainder were domestic fillies. The Irish finished 1-2-3. It's a desperate state of affairs across La Manche currently.
That's a verbose way of saying I'm against Fancy Blue - certainly at the prices. Both Alpine Star and Peaceful - mile Group 1 winners this season - may not have got home, and the rest were French. Fancy Blue can win, duh, but she's short enough.
Between Donnacha's and Deirdre in the betting lists is the wildly progressive John Gosden inmate, Nazeef. Only third on debut, she's rattled off six straight wins since, most recently in a Group 2 at Royal Ascot and then the Group 1 Falmouth Stakes at Newmarket. She fits here on ability, then, but all of her winning has been achieved at up to a mile to this point: the step up to ten furlongs is not out of the question on either pedigree - out of a Dubawi mare - or performance (she tends to lead late in her races hinting that she might go further), but it is an unknown. The perceived absence of a strong early tempo would be in her favour.
Magic Wand is a legitimate Group 2 filly and, in this strange year, there are plenty of Group 1's to be snaffled with such a type. But not this one, I don't think. She finished just in front of Deirdre at Sandown and also in the Irish Champion Stakes last September, but I have the feeling that this is Deirdre's seasonal target whereas Magic Wand is expected to attempt to produce many more rabbits from hats yet.
I'd be struggling to make a cohesive case for any of Queen Power, One Voice and Lavender's Blue, although this trip is likely to suit all three better than the shorter ranges over which they were beaten last time.
A cracking race in prospect, but perhaps a tactical one. That slightly puts me off Deirdre, though I respect her chance greatly; and I instead favour the 11/4 about Nazeef who, if she does have suspect stamina on the step up in trip, may find that mitigated by the combination of the easier track and the projected steady pace. She's bidding for a seven-timer and might just develop into a champion we've yet to recognise.
3.45 Nursery Handicap (7f, Class 2, 2yo)
Impossible stuff here as eleven of the dozen runners make their handicap bows. Messrs Johnston and Hannon have won plenty of these down the years, normally with a fancied runner. Johnston's pair are at double figure odds as I write, while one of Hannon's brace is 6/1 Running Back.
He was a (well beaten) second to Qaader, who runs in the Richmond Stakes earlier on the card, on debut; then only just seen off in a Kempton novice. Both of those races were six furlongs and this extra eighth looks right for a son of Muhaarar. I'm totally guessing, of course, but if I had to draw one of these in a sweepstake I'd be happy enough with this fellow. Oh, and he's in Qatari ownership, which may suggest this has been the target all along given their overall sponsorship of the meeting.
Good luck if you're playing. I doubt I will be.
4.20 Fillies' Maiden (7f, Class 2, 2yo)
4.55 Tatler Nursery Handicap (5f, Class 2, 2yo)
Another guess up, this time though we have horses that have mostly raced over this minimum distance. It's a new race and an interesting one, which is not to say that I have any iota regarding who might win. In this clueless spirit, I will offer two.
Nigel Tinkler's squad were pretty slow out of the traps after resumption but have warmed up a little in recent weeks. He saddles 13/2 Acklam Express, who improved from first to second start to win readily at Hamilton 18 days ago. His trainer doesn't saddle many at Goodwood: in fact, this will be only the third Tinkler runner at the track in the last five years. The other two finished second and first, the winner coming in a nursery handicap.
The other is 15/2 Different Face, whose Yarmouth second to Yazaman may look very good - or pretty moderate - after the Richmond Stakes. He made all on his only subsequent start in an average Lingfield novice, and his trainer is in white hot form just now, as you can see below. Crisford also has an excellent record with handicap debutants, though I'd read less into that in a race where they're virtually all squeezing into that overcrowded train carriage.
The favourite, and odds on at time of writing, is Winter Power. Trained by Tim Easterby he put two bronze medal finishes behind him when lashing home by five lengths in a Redcar nursery on Monday. He carries just the six pounds penalty here prior to reassessment and was clearly put in too low by the handicapper ahead of that assignment. Unless you like risking more than your potential reward in fields full of unexposed types, the better question to answer here might be which others have been underestimated by the assessor?
Good luck with your Day 3 Goodwood wagers. It's not easy - it's not supposed to be, I guess - but it does look terrific sport, and the Nassau Stakes is a very interesting, and high class, race indeed.