Day Two on the Knavesmire, Ladies' Day, and there's a good chance that by the time you read this I'm already headed for York on the rattler out of King's Cross. It's a rare and blissful no laptop day for me, as I have old skool drinking and punting on the agenda in the cheap seats. Lovely stuff! (Say hello if you see me there, and pick me up if you see me in a state of embarrassed dishevelment!)
To the races, and another five-to-two first post time, for a valuable sales race, the...
1.55 DBS PREMIER YEARLING STAKES (CLASS 2)
One hundred and fifty-four lovely thousands to the winner of this one, and nineteen of the twenty are still in as I write. There are some interesting stats, which may or may not be material. Yorkshire or south eastern (i.e. Newmarket) based trainers have won all fifteen runnings. 35 of the 46 placed positions in those fifteen years were claimed by horses that finished first or second last time, from 163 of the 309 runners to take part. That's 76% of the win and placers from 53% of the runners.
All of the winners ran between 11 and 45 days since their last run, and only three of the fifteen winners were running at shy of this six furlong trip last time (20% of the winners from 28% of the runners).
Thirteen of the fifteen winners had between two and four prior starts (87% of the winners from 51% of the runners).
Some of those stats look material, and they'd collectively create a shortlist of Nezar, Foxy Clarets and Xanthos.
Nezar ran out of gas last time at seven furlongs, and eight of the 37 horses dropping back from seven furlongs made the frame with three of them winning. It's quite hard to quantify his form, but winners have emerged from behind in both races, and he will have more to offer on just his third start for a Yorkshireman (Willie Haggas) now training in Newmarket.
Foxy Clarets won a Class 6 maiden last time and had previously been whacked in another sales race at Newbury. That's not good enough to beat these, I'll wager, so Xanthos might be of more appeal. Fourth in a maiden that's working out all right, he then won when stepped up to seven-eighths the last day. That might have been a moderate contest, but he won easily and was well ahead at the furlong pole, implying the drop back in trip shouldn't inconvenience. He's a nice under the radar type.
Using the ratings as a guide, both Sleeper King and Thunder Strike - fourth and third respectively in a pair of Glorious Goodwood Group events - should be considered. The former made his debut at six, but then dropped back to five for his next three runs. He didn't give the impression he'd relish another eighth here, and I'll bet that he won't, despite his lofty perch in the market.
Thunder Strike seems to be a horse that hasn't gone on from some fine early season efforts, notably his Listed Woodcote win at Epsom. That said, he did bounce back to his best at Goodwood, a similarly quirky strip, last time. But he's a need to lead type and that looks hard here. On balance, I'm happy to overlook.
Miracle Of Medinah ran a stormer to win a Listed race at Newbury but then lobbed in a clunker in the Group 2 Richmond at Goodwood. It's possible he was found out from a class perspective there, but his defeat of Treaty Of Paris on a prior start looks good form after that one won the Group 3 Acomb Stakes here yesterday.
Plenty of others to consider but just two I'm going to mention: Green Door and Tobougg Happy. I'm a big Olly Stevens fan and I think he has a great future in the training ranks. This was the horse about which they were most hopeful at Royal Ascot, only for Extortionist to win for them there, and it would be brilliant if Green Door could justify the belief by nailing this fat prize. It might just be, though, that he doesn't get home over this extra furlong.
Tobougg Happy probably will love the trip, and her quirks mean she's a nice price. She won a terrible maiden at Brighton on her penultimate start by seven lengths, and then was probably unsuited by the track at Chester last time when a running on third. This straight six should see her in better light, and she's a bit of value at around 25/1, as she's almost certainly a fair bit better than she's shown so far. The James Tate stable, another I like, is in red hot form too.
Pig-in-a-poke picks: Xanthos 20/1 PP, Nezar 12/1 BetVictor
Alternative pokey pickie: Tobougg Happy 25/1 BetVictor
2.30 LOWTHER STAKES (Group 2) (Fillies)
Another juvenile race, this time it's the Lowther Stakes, a Group 2 over the same three-quarters of a mile as the opener. Nine are due to run, and I'm going to glibly dismiss Alutiq, Azagal and Merletta (though this is an interesting entry for such a well-connected lass). That leaves six upon which to focus, headed up by Lucky Kristale, winner of the Group 2 Cherry Hinton... no, sorry, Duchess Of Cambridge Stakes.
Kaiulani would also have been discarded were it not for the fact that trainer Mick Channon has won this four times since 1998. She won nicely on her debut in a race that has thrown five winners and eight placed horses from 25 runners so far; and she ran with credit again when beaten less than six lengths in the big field Queen Mary last time. Some fillies don't like being crowded and, if that was the case with her, she could come back to form here.
If that's a leap of faith, then let's look at some more obvious form contenders. Lucky Kristale has won three of her four starts, and there was no fluke about her bashing of Rizeena and co in the aforementioned Cherry Hinton. She's another for which the big field on her sole defeat could have been the reason and, if so, she'll be hard to beat again.
There was much to like about J Wonder's ready success last time, albeit that it was in a Class 2 nursery off a mark of 79. 95 might be a better assessment of her ability and, if it is, she still has a bit to find with Luck Kristale. In her favour is that she is unbeaten and she has a lot more scope than that one. She's beautifully bred and could just make the step up, though her price is a bit skinny for my tastes.
Wind Fire has been inconsistent. On her day, she's been a match for some of the best, as when only going down by a length and a bit to the MASSIVE subsequent Group 1 Prix Morny winner, No Nay Never, in the Norfolk. On that run, she'd have a great chance. But, on her run behind Princess Noor in the Princess Margaret Stakes, I'd not be so sure. Her price does allow for some latitude and she's a filly I like, despite losing plenty on her when she was beaten in the Princess Margaret.
Queen Catrine has run close to but behind Lucky Cristale, and close to but in front of Wind Fire, so she has a clear place chance.
It may be a case of throwing good money after bad but I think the form of Wind Fire's third in the Norfolk (against the boys and the MAN!) is the pick, and if we forgive that one bad run, she could win. 9/2 is reasonable.
Selection: Wind Fire 9/2 PP
Big priced alternative: Kaiulani 14/1 William Hill
Racebets have a cracking offer - back the winner in the Lowther Stakes (i.e. this race) and they'll give you a free bet to the same stake in the Yorkshire Oaks.
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3.05 CLIPPER LOGISTICS STAKES (Handicap) (CLASS 2)
A big field mile handicap, and one in which three and four year olds have dominated, winning the last ten renewals. The most obvious place to start then is Betfred Mile winner, Wentworth, a horse that was threatening to win a big handicap all season. He won from a poor draw there, and could well be above handicap class. As a 3yo, he gets a weight for age allowance, and that can only help his cause. Clearly, this is a very tough race to win, but he could just be a blot on the handicap and I think he's sure to go close.
Hot Bed is a very interesting Irish raider, David Wachman booking Ryan Moore to do the pushing and shoving. He's back in handicap company for the first time since winning on his first run of the year at Dundalk, and has acquitted himself well enough in borderline Listed company the last twice. He looks the type to get deeply competitive.
Frankie could have a big day if Es Que Love wins this. Drawn right out of it in 22 last time in the Betfred Mile, he ran an absolute stormer to finish a never nearer sixth, and that could be argued as the best run in the race. Drawn in the middle here, this is his grade and trip, and he's a typically tough-as-teak Johnston handi-scrapper.
Pacific Heights has improved hand over fist since joining Brian Ellison this year, and he may not be done with yet. A mile on fast ground is spot on, but even in receipt of oodles of weight, I reckon a place is his top aspiration.
There are stacks of older horses in the race, as there always are. None has been well enough handicapped to win in the last decade, and the percentage play is to side with those progressing and/or in receipt of weight for age.
Obvious top pick: Wentworth 5/1 William Hill
Two decent each way plays against the field: Hot Bed 14/1 William Hill, Es Que Love 16/1 SkyBet
3.40 DARLEY YORKSHIRE OAKS (Group 1)
A top class middle distance ladies' race, illustrated by a complete absence of fluke winners on the roll of honour in recent years. This will be won by one of the main contenders though, that said, I'm reluctant to side with The Fugue. Although she is clearly a high class mare and also returns to battle her own sex here, she's never won at a mile and a half, and she's only won one of her last seven starts. Game and consistent, yes, but a winning machine? Nope. 2/1 is too short for me in that context.
Venus de Milo's only defeat came when a staying on - and unlucky, perhaps - second in the Irish Oaks, and that's form that gives her every chance. She's sure to improve again, with just four starts to her name, and I think she's a pretty fair wager at 11/4 with so much upside potential. True, she didn't progress in her last run, a Group 3 at Cork, but she didn't need to to lag up by three and a half lengths.
What a lovely mare Wild Coco is, and I think she's got more winning in her too. But maybe not back in trip and up in grade here, against younger more progressive (and more lightly weighted) rivals. A stoutly bred German lass (little bit of hair under her arms...), she might also not relish the rattling quick ground on the Knavesmire: she' won five of her eight career starts, but two of her three defeats were on good to firm.
Riposte had the run of the race in the Irish Oaks, but still couldn't fend off Venus de Milo and the rest, and I can't see Lady Cecil's filly reversing form, form which the numbers suggest has plateaued since a win in the Ribblesdale at Royal Ascot. She might have under-achieved that day, and with just four runs on the board is capable of better, but she's a risky enough proposition in this company.
Secret Gesture was expected to win the Oaks but was beaten by her stable mate, Talent. She was then expected to win a Group 1 in Germany, but was beaten at short odds there too. She remains an exciting filly, and that form is high class notwithstanding that it was in defeat. There's just a slight niggle that she doesn't quite see out twelve furlongs and, in this rarefied company, that could be her undoing. I'd love to see her run over a mile and a quarter in due course.
Scintillula and Emirates Queen represent the respected barns of Jim Bolger and Luca Cumani, but both seem Group 2 fillies at best.
Selection: Venus De Milo 11/4 BetVictor, general
4.20 GALTRES STAKES (Listed Race)
A Listed race for the girls over the same distance as the Yorkshire Oaks, and it's a reasonable enough contest in its own right. It has, however, been a bit of a favourites' graveyard, and caution is advised if you like the one-win-from-eight runs Say.
Say is the form pick: she's seven pounds clear top-rated; she has a second to Dank, impressive winner of the Grade 1 Beverly D Stakes at the weekend, in her recent form; she acts on fast ground; and she has won over the trip. So why the negative vibe, scribe?
Well, it's not so much what she's done as what she hasn't done. She dropped to Listed class last time - granted that was over a trip shy of her best - but could only manage third. She has lost seven of her eight starts, including taking three starts to get off the mark. When she did get off the mark, she won by nine lengths, and I just get the feeling that she'll either find one or two better again... or she'll win easily. She has form to kick dust in these lassies' faces, but she's only translated that into victory once. They've already reached for the hood and it could be time for the blinkers...!
At the other end of the exposure spectrum, Songbird has had just three starts, and won two of them: a maiden and a Class 4 handicap (by eleven lengths!). She was only seen off by a neck when upped to Listed class last time out, and she's every right to improve into a capable performer at this level and perhaps higher in time. Trip and ground seem fine, and she looks a robust place play.
Our Obsession is another taking that big stride into pattern class, she having won a Class 3 handicap last time on this piste over a quarter mile shorter. She was staying on really well there, and her breeding gives plenty of cause for optimism that she'll stay the extra two pegs (out of a Daylami mare). She could win, but has a bit to find with the equally unexposed Songbird, and a lot to find with the exposed Say.
The rest are all much of a muchness really, and one of this trio should win. In the circumstances, I'm inclined to throw a dart in Songbird's direction. 5/1 is quite a solid each way option in a race where quantity outpoints quality in my view. Say is respected, but hard to play after so many failures.
Selection: Songbird 5/1 BetVictor, general
4.55 FILLIES´ STAKES (Handicap) (CLASS 2)
Anyone seen Groundhog Day? This has the feel of an old girl's reunion, with both of the inaugural winners showing up. Dutch Rose won last year, and Shesastar won in 2011, the first year the race was run. Last time out, Dutch Rose ran second to... Shesastar.
Dutch Rose won this last year off 86 and is now rated a competitive 91; Shesastar won in 2011 off 79 and is now rated... you guessed it, 79! Like I said, Groundhog Day.
There are, in fact, fifteen other runners, so I should mention them. Before I do though, I should add that both winners were in great form at the time of claiming their spoils. The in-form nag-esses are Nurpur, Ghasabar, Elle Woods and Malekat Jamal.
Nurpur heads the market and is Dutch Rose's stable mate at David O'Meara's gaff. She's won three and finished second in the other two of her last five starts, the last pair of wins being over a furlong beyond this trip of seven furlongs. That mild reservation is mitigated by her having previously won at six, implying she's effective across the range. Ryan Moore takes over from stable jockey, Daniel Tudhope and, while Tuddy must be peeved, connections obviously mean business. It's hard to see this one not running well.
Ghasabar has just four runs on the clock and is pleasingly upwardly mobile. She's bound to be better than her current mark in time, and the Hanagan/Haggas axis could be the answer here. Her winning charge was checked the last day when she bumped into re-opposing Malekat Jamal, but that one has far less improvement after ten runs, and was a 20/1 poke the day she beat Ghasabar (who was 5/2 fav). She's since been beaten in a Class 3 handicap and I'd be confident of Ghasabah swapping places this day.
Elle Woods is quite a tempting price here at around 12/1. She's done little wrong in running up a double at Carlisle and then finishing a close third to Shesastar last time at Donny. She's got a four pound truncation in the weight disparity for that length and a quarter beating last time, and there should be little to choose between them, with Shesastar just 75% of the price.
Patrona Ciana is classic 'could be anything' material, having been bought at the French Arqana sales and now having her first run for... triple-handed David O'Meara. Watch for market moves with this one, as the trainer obviously has a handle on this race's form.
It's a trappy race, and Ghasabar could just be the one.
Tentative selection: Ghasabar 13/2 BetVictor
Others to consider: Elle Woods 12/1 BetFred, Shesastar 8/1 Coral, etc!
How did you get on on day one? What do you fancy on day two? Leave a comment and let us know. I'm sans laptop for a rare day out, as mentioned, but will be checking in from my phone. Because I'm out of office all day, I won't have time to write a Friday preview so, instead, why don't we have a live blog?! I'll start around 1pm and we can find winners (and losers, no doubt) together. Lovely stuff - hope some of you can join me, or I'll be very lonely... 😉