Big Race Preview from Newbury
This week, for me, is really when the flat season is in full swing. Most horses have had their first runs of the year, the Dante has been and gone with the Derby picture starting to take shape, and on Saturday Newbury hosts one of the finest cards of the year with the centre piece being the Group 1 Al Shaqab Lockinge Stakes.
Ran over the straight mile at the Berkshire track, this race in recent years has seen some of the finest horses in the business. Frankel, Farhh, Olympic Glory, Night of Thunder, and last year saw Belardo get the better of some first class horses including the non-staying Limato.
This year, the race has a very interesting shape to it. Heading the market we have the proven Group 1 horse RIBCHESTER, currently priced at 2/1. Richard Fahey’s flag-bearer finished 3rd in the 2016 2000 Guineas, before winning the Jersey at Royal Ascot which is absolutely top class form. He came up short in the Sussex Stakes behind The Gurkha, but he finally got that Group 1 win in France beating the Andre Fabre trained Vadamos. With a very smart re-appearence under his belt from Dubai, he is completely the correct favourite. He will be nicely towed into the race by Toscanini, who was bought by Godolphin for that exact purpose.
Also towing them in will more than likely be GALILEO GOLD. The brilliant 2000 Guineas winner who beat Ribchester in 2016, he is rated only 1lb inferior to the favourite and close in the market at 10/3. There is plenty in the son of Paco Boy’s favour, and he is particularly interesting for the fact he seems to go well when fresh.
Perhaps with the abundance of pace in the race it could be set up for a closer. That would more than likely be the 120-rated LIGHTNING SPEAR, priced at 5/1. Another classy miler who has form lines with the above, he would be able to pounce on any potential early over-pacing, but the ground would have to be a worry if it does go soft. 5/1 looks about the right price.
What if the ground is Soft?
The soft ground is an interesting variable, and if it did come up testing then two in the line up would become interesting. BRETON ROCK, priced 40/1, is no slouch. Rated 112, he is at his best on a very soft surface but he is yet to win at a mile and that would be a big negative in a race as tough as this. MITCHUM SWAGGER, also priced 40/1, does seem to act best on a softer surface. His excellent 3rd in top class handicap company in the Royal Hunt Cup would be of interest, but he would need to step up on his reappearance run when a labouring 5th at Sandown beaten by Sovereign Debt. 40/1 may seem like a large price on paper but I would have these bigger myself unless there was a huge downpour.
Any Other Contenders?
What about the others? Well, DUTCH CONNECTION, 20/1, is a horse that has bundles of ability, but he has two negatives against his name which would be the ground (needs top of the ground) and the trip. He does not stay a mile, and surely this is a stepping stone to other targets. ACCLAIM was a hugely improving horse last year, winning three on the bounce in just five weeks, from handicap company to on his last start winning a Group 2 at Newmarket. He was given a super ride from Frankie Dettori that day and he would need to significantly step up again on that achievement to trouble an on song Ribchester or Galileo Gold.
Any Aidan O’Brien horse deserves respect and SOMEHOW is an interesting contender at 11/2. She has already had 3 runs this season, successful in two, most recently at Newmarket on 1000 Guineas day. She cruised through the race and put it to bed pretty quickly in the latter stages. However, that form needs questioning with the 2nd horse being rated 100. She does get 3lb from the field here which could well help, but is 11/2 enough of a price to tempt you in?
What is evident from the above is that although the front two in the market are ahead of the rest on ability and form, they are priced accordingly. Conditions could well play their part, too, so a close eye on the weather forecast over the next 24 hours would be vital before advising a bet. However, it is clear that RIBCHESTER would take some beating if continuing his form-line since his runs last year and with the pace most likely to be a strong one it should bring out the best in him.
Whichever way you decide to punt, good luck.
ICYMI – In case you missed it
The Importance of Flat Breeding with The Snout can be found here. An analytical and statistical look at Flat Breeding and what betting opportunities we can derive from it.