The ground at Newmarket was described as good – good to soft in places – at noon on Thursday with the prospect of further showers on Friday morning ahead of today’s seven-race card.
In the Gp 3 Princess Margaret Stakes Sea Of Faith makes a quick return having won a listed contest at Saint-Cloud just six days ago for William Haggas. Alpinista was only beaten 5L by the brilliant Love in the Gp 1 Yorkshire Oaks at York last month and she is the one to beat dropping back in grade, but I was taken with the listed success of Katara (2.25) on the July course last time and hope she can take the step up in class in her stride.
Ryan Moore takes over in the plate on Sir Michael Stoute’s three-year-old – 5/2 with Boylesports – who is rated 9lbs inferior to Alpinista on official figures but remains open to considerable improvement having had just four career starts. The filly – who is unproven on soft ground – is 4/1 with William Hill.
Aidan O’Brien suggested in the immediate aftermath of Monday’s (3.00) 7f listed win at Leopardstown earlier in the month that his filly would step up to a mile next time and nominated the Gp 1 Marcel Boussac at Longchamp or Fillies’ Mile back here next month as her immediate target. With that in mind it is something of a surprise that connections have kept her to 7f in this afternoon’s Gp 2 Rockfel Stakes although she is likely to make it a true test under Ryan Moore. The selection is 6/4 with bet365.
Isabella Giles coped with the soft ground much better than any of her rivals in the Prestige Stakes at Goodwood last time, but she does not look ground dependent although it goes without saying that any deterioration in conditions would be a big plus for Clive Cox’s filly. If there was significant rain, she would be difficult to beat.
The Group 2 Joel Stakes sees the penalised Guineas winner Kameko return to his optimum trip of a mile, but he must give 1lb to Benbatl who was last seen winning £1.5m for finishing third in the richest horserace in the world the $20m Saudi Cup at the end of February. This really is a race to savour with the progressive Top Rank and Tilsit also taking their chance. This is one to watch for me especially with doubts about the ground.
There is a terrific Novice Chase at Uttoxeter, and Gumball will ensure the race is a true test which I hope will help Nicky Henderson’s Grade 1 winning hurdler Fusil Raffles (1.00) who also makes his eagerly awaited chase debut. The selection has the physique to jump a fence, has a good record fresh and will appreciate the forecast good ground. He is an exciting and potentially high-class recruit to the novice chase ranks although he has been backed into a shade of odds on – 5/6 with Unibet – on Thursday evening.
My two against the field in the 3m handicap chase are Henrietta Bell and veteran Follow The Swallow (2.35) with the latter getting the each way vote. The selection travelled best of all before the lack of a recent run took its toll at Fontwell last month and he has been dropped 3lbs for that effort. Lily Pinchin is good value for her 7lbs claim and gets on well with the 12-year-old. He gets the each way vote at 18/1 with William Hill.
I believe there are races to be won with Black Tulip (3.45) this season and I hope to see Richard Johnson make plenty of use of his charge in the mares’ handicap chase. Henry Daly has not exactly been firing in the winners since the resumption of racing, but he had a couple of inmates run well at Warwick earlier in the week and the selection begins this campaign 5lbs lower than was the case 12 months ago. The mare was well supported in the early exchanges and the 11/2 with William Hill and Unibet looked a shade too big.