2:05 Fairmont Stakes (Handicap)
Better known as the Extel Handicap when I was a lad, this 3yo handicap over the best part of 1m2f was often won by a future pattern performer and won three years in succession by Luca Cumani in the 1980s and he has since added a fourth victory The Cumani representative this season is the top weight, Roseburg, who is chasing a four-timer following wins at Pontefract on good ground off 83, Doncaster on soft ground at 88 and at Haydock on good-to-soft ground off 94 all at around today’s trip. So how much more improvement does he have as the Handicapper has bumped him up another 8lb? In other words, he has to be around a 110 horse to win off that mark in a race as competitive as this featuring a host of other potential improvers and that looks tough enough to me attempting to give at least 12lb to all his rivals.
Mark Johnston has also provided four winners (since 2000) following the success of Broughton last year and he is three-handed with Joe Fanning aboard the course winner, Lyn Valley, Franny Norton rides Insaany who has already registered three wins this season and Cam Hardie claims 5lb off the bottom weight, Rainbow Rock, to compensate for his 6lb penalty for winning under Fanning ten days ago. Lyn Valley has done very little in truth since his course win last season failing to pay a place dividend in any of his nine subsequent starts so he appeals least of the Johnston trio. Insaany has won off 68, 75 and 80 this season but he struggled off 85 last time out and races off the same mark today so he may now be in the grip of the Handicapper for the most competitive races. Therefore, Rainbow Rock appeals most for the Middleham-based, Glorious Goodwood-loving trainer who was a ready winner by 3½l last time out having demonstrated a smart turn of foot so a 6lb penalty may not be enough to stop him. To help matters, Cam Hardie takes off 5lb of that penalty and he is lightly raced for a Johnston-trained 3yo having had seven starts so there is likely to be more to come especially as that victory came in his first start at today’s trip of 1m2f and also on his first run since he was gelded.
In addition to Roseburg and Rainbow Rock, Astronereus and Arable bring last-time-out winning form to the race. Astronereus is the least experienced horse in the race and won his maiden at the third time of asking at the Newmarket July Festival. There have been much stronger runnings of that maiden but he travelled best and did it well under Hughes but the Champion Jockey has deserted him for Roseburg who he has never ridden before which is offputting (as it is for the Hannon-trained Pupil). Arable needed six starts to get off the mark but did so in style winning by 6l at Haydock on rain-softened ground that can always accentuate superiority on his handicap debut. Up 8lb for that win, he will need to find improvement for this step up to 1m2f to overcome that.
Madeed won his maiden at the course last season but he was outclassed in the Feilden Stakes (Listed) before running a 3l seventh in the Britannia Handicap. He was pulled out of the Newmarket July Meeting due to soft ground and is quite interesting moving up in trip. Braidley also moves up to 1m2f for the first time after a good effort when sixth of 18 to Bronze Angel at York but this is still a big ask on what he has achieved to date whereas Collaboration steps back down in trip after a poor run at Musselburgh last time. Erroneus is open to improvement on his sixth start and a step up to 1m2f but there is still plenty of guesswork involved but Donny Rover looks far too exposed for a race like this having his 22nd start. Ventura Quest has the services of an apprentice for the first time having been stuck on a handicap mark of 85 for his last four starts (and again today) without cutting much ice but Examiner is more interesting moving up to 1m2f for William Haggas having been staying on when placed over shorter on his last two starts.
CONCLUSION - Top Tug would have been my selection but we’ll have to wait another day as he is a very doubtful runner so Rainbow Rock makes most appeal ahead of Madeed and Examiner.
2:35 Qatar Bloodstock Richmond Stakes
This Group 2 race for 2yos has been won by future Ascot Gold Cup, St Leger and Derby winners before the war but it is now for more precocious, speedier types and the list of subsequent Classic winners has dried up. In my 30+ years following racing, Warning would be its best winner though Bachir won the French and Irish 2000 Guineas in 2000.
The Hannon yard won all four renewals between 2008-2011 (and five in total) and their Ivawood is a 20/1 shot for next season’s 2000 Guineas after he won the Group 2 July Stakes in a canter. No two-year-old has impressed me more this season and Hughes remarked after that victory that he knew he would win after a furlong so he is going to take all the beating here. It was the way that he travelled and then extended when he won at Sandown that impressed and he looked even more powerful throughout the Group 2 contest at Newmarket which looked a cracking renewal beforehand but he turned it into a one-horse race. The ground will be much faster this time but connections were concerned about cut in the ground for him ahead of his win at HQ so we could see an even better Ivawood this time. It has to be said that the third, ninth and twelfth have not done much for the form since but sometimes you just have to go with your eyes. The niggle is that his last two impressive wins were on courses with uphill finishes whereas Goodwood is very different. The Mark Johnston-trained runner-up to Ivawood at Newmarket, Jungle Cat, has another crack at him but the Coventry Stakes third has 2¾l to find. In his favour is that he is also proven at Goodwood having won over course and distance and his trainer has won the race twice before.
In addition to Ivawood, three other two-year-olds put their unbeaten record on the line headed by Fox Trotter who made a winning debut at Doncaster three weeks ago. Given the whole world and his wife know that Brian Meehan’s debutants are left short for their initial racecourse experience, it is widely reported when one of their newcomers wins that they must therefore be pretty smart but I would have said that about this son of Bushranger regardless of who he was trained by after he made an impressive winning at Doncaster. A little slowly away but he smoothly made up that lost ground before quickening up well to put the race to bed in a matter of strides beating the form horse, the odds-on Burnt Sugar, who had looked decidedly useful on debut at Newmarket, into second with 5l back to the remainder. The Mick Channon-trained Moonraker also takes his chance off the back winning his sole start and Ryan Moore has been booked. A little worryingly, however, that victory at Ascot was 82 days ago so he is likely to have been held up at home but the runner-up went on to finish third in the Windsor Castle Stakes before being well beaten by Ivawood and Jungle Cat at Newmarket. Louie De Palma is unbeaten in two starts for Clive Cox so his hand has rather been forced to head for a very good race. The latter win was in a nursery win at Ascot and the runner-up then franked that form by winning a nursery himself at the same course on Friday.
Doc Charm and Sixty have a similar profile having finished second on their debut before winning a maiden at the second time of asking. Doc Charm had the misfortune to run into the Coventry Stakes winner, The Wow Signal, on his debut when he was a 9l second but he did then win at Ayr by 6l on his next outing but he has been absent for 52 days. Sixty has 2l to find with Jungle Cat from when they met here in May but the winner had the experience of a previous run and Hannon juveniles usually improve on their second start. And improve he probably did when winning at Salisbury but it is fair to say that Jungle Cat has improved the more of the pair with two subsequent placed efforts in Group 2 races. Johnston also runs Surewecan but Osaila mowed him down easily last time after he won at Hamilton. No disgrace in that as Osaila then won the Group 3 Princess Margaret Stakes but Surewecan needs to improve plenty. Ahlan Emarati finished fourth in the Vintage Stakes yesterday so it would be surprising if he ran again 24 hours later.
CONCLUSION - no two-year-old has impressed me more than Ivawood this season but odds of around 4/9 look too right on a course without an uphill finish and I do also have a very healthy respect for Fox Trotter so he looks a good each-way alternative at around 12/1.
3:10 Artemis Goodwood Cup
Ten runners line up for the Group 2 Goodwood Cup so a smaller field than is often the case headed by the Ascot Gold Cup runner-up, Estimate, who ran a ripsnorter on her seasonal debut after being slow to come to hand. When she won the 2013 Ascot Gold Cup she had enjoyed the benefit of a run beforehand so connections were keen to talk her chances down in the lead up to Royal Ascot this year stating that she would improve for her first run of the season. As it transpired Estimate put up a career-best performance to go down to Leading Light by a neck in a better renewal than 12 months earlier and, although she will lose that runner-up position soon due to an illegal substance found in her substance due to a feed contamination, that should not detract from her performance and if she can back it up, then she is just about the most likely winner. The worry however is whether such a hard race on her seasonal debut will set her back and also whether she is quite as good over this 2m than the real stamina test of 2m4f at Royal Ascot, a course that suits her particularly well having also won the Queen’s Vase and Sagaro Stakes there. My guess is that she will be equally as effective at 2m as she travelled so well in the Gold Cup but that trip certainly stretched Brown Panther who faded to finish fourth (beaten just over 4½l by Estimate) and this 2m should bring them closer together. Brown Panther took this race in style last year by 3¾l from Ahzeemah and he has run again since Royal Ascot when second as the 5/4 favourite in a Group 2 at Longchamp over 1m6f on testing ground which it has to be said was slightly disappointing as he handles cut in the ground so he doesn’t enter this year’s renewal as fresh as last year in his bid to be the sixth dual winner since 1979 (though two of those won in the space of three years) as that is two hard races in a short space of time whereas he arrived here last year off the back of a small win at Pontefract.
Ahzeemah won the Lonsdale Cup after finishing second in last year’s race but he has not come close to that form in four subsequent starts including when tenth in the Ascot Gold Cup. Officially top rated is Ahzeemah’s stablemate, Cavalryman, who defied the age stats to win the Princess Of Wales’s Stakes over 1m4f at the age of eight when holding off Hillstar by a neck but, with Arab Spring disappointing on the softening ground, I thought it was a very average Group 2 race where he also got the run of the race. He is clearly in great heart though, we know he stays 2m very well and he probably would have won the Dubai Gold Cup in Meydan over this trip in March with a clearer run so I would rather bank on him than Estimate or Brown Panther if I had to nail my colours to the mast in terms of which of the big three betting will run their race. Persian Punch won the Goodwood Cup for the first time and at the age of eight and then again aged ten so I wouldn’t let age stats put you off as you know what you are going to get from this consistent performer who was once third in an Arc de Triomphe. The third Saeed Bin Suroor-trained contender is Excellent Result who Fallon rode when he was fifth behind Cavalryman at Newmarket but he has got off him this time to ride the winner taking over from the unlucky Sylvestre Da Sousa.
Angel Gabrial is trying to bridge the gap between top-class handicapper and top-class stayer after winning the Northumberland Plate where he reversed Chester Cup placings with Suegioo by a convincing 3½l. This looks an up-to-scratch Goodwood Cup however so he is going to have to find at least another 7lb worth of improvement from somewhere to have a chance of winning. Brass Ring was third in a first-time hood when upped to almost 2m6f in the Queen Alexandra Stakes and he has even more to find but official ratings give Forgotten Voice and Whiplash Willie a sniff. Forgotten Voice couldn’t register a third Royal Ascot win when he was fourth in the Hardwicke Stakes beaten 10l behind Telescope (and 3l by Hillstar so he has a job on beating Cavalryman on a line through him) and now tackles staying trips for the first time on the Flat. He did win the Grade 2 Dovecote Novices’ Hurdle over a year ago over timber though. Whiplash Willie was third behind Brown Panther in the Henry II Stakes on his last start which was on soft ground that he enjoys but he missed the Ascot Gold Cup and maybe this ground could be too lively for him too following his injury that kept him off the track for 998 days? He did win the 1m4f 3yo handicap at this meeting on good ground three years ago however. Moment In Time completes the field but this five-year-old mare has been beaten in 11 pattern races since winning a Group 3 at Haydock in June last year.
CONCLUSION - I would have been keen on Brown Panther reversing Royal Ascot placings with Estimate over this shorter trip had he not been beaten in France 18 days ago so he isn’t as super-fresh as he was entering this race 12 months ago and I do have a niggle whether Estimate is much better at Ascot than anywhere else and whether she can recover from a hard race on her seasonal debut so Cavalryman looks a pretty solid each-way alternative to the pair at around 5/1.
3:45 Sterling Insurance Lillie Langtry Stakes
This race for fillies and mares over 1m6f was introduced into the Glorious Goodwood programme in 2003 and was upgraded to a Group 3 contest a year later from which point the older fillies/mares lead 8-2 though they have held a numerical advantage beforehand and they do so again this year being responsible for six of the ten runners. Top rated to the tune of 4lb on her brave Ascot Gold Cup third in a thrilling finish is the seven-year-old, Missunited, who if successful would become the race’s oldest winner by two years and both winning five-year-olds had won the previous season’s renewal. Even if you ignore his half-length third to Leading Light at 40/1, she enters this race with a good form chance having previously won a Listed race over today’s trip of 1m6f at Leopardstown so although last year’s Galway Hurdle winner improved 7lb for the step up to 2m4f at Royal Ascot, she clearly has the pace dropping back in distance. Her best run prior to her third in the Gold Cup was also in a Group 1 contest when third behind Tac De Boistron in the French St Leger over 2m on very soft ground last autumn so dropping back to a Group 3 contest should be to her liking.
However, she is taken on by two unpenalised Group 1 winners from last season in Talent and Nymphea though both have something to prove on form this year. Last year’s surprise Oaks winner, Talent, has not won since and subsequent events have shown that it was a poor renewal of that Classic. However, she was second in the St Leger to Leading Light only beaten ¾l further than when the same winner beat Missunited in the Ascot Gold Cup, though I am sure that Leading Light has improved between three and four. Talent’s two runs this season could have been better but she can be expected to have struggled against colts and geldings notably Cirrus Des Aigles on her seasonal debut in the Coronation Cup when she finished a 10l fifth of seven before running a 4¾l third in the Lancashire Oaks to a couple of John Gosden-trained, lightly-raced, fast improvers. She was staying on however in that 1m4f contest, she won the Oaks by outstaying her rivals in a very fast-run race when being held up in rear was in her favour and arguably her best ever run was over around this trip in the St Leger so the key to her chance today is likely to be showing improvement for the step back up to 1m6f. The German-trained five-year-old, Nymphea, is second-top rated on 110 just 1lb ahead of Talent. Her Group 1 win was achieved when taking the Grosser Preis Von Berlin last summer by three lengths, though that would probably be the equivalent of a Group 3 in Britain. She did get found out on her only start in Britain when sixth of eight in the Group 1 Qipco British Champions Fillies And Mares Stakes at Ascot last autumn before finishing last in a Group 1 in Hong Kong. In her two starts this season she set the pace as usual before fading in the closing stages finishing third in the Group 2 Prix Corrida and was only fifth in a weaker Group 2 in Hamburg so she has to re-find her best form from last summer and she also has to prove she stays 1m6f as she was fourth of five on her only previous start beyond 1m4f.
The Form Book says that the will winner will emerge from the aforementioned trio as they are at least 9lb clear of the rest headed by Waila who finished one place behind Nymphea when they met at Ascot last autumn when both were well beaten. Defeats in three Listed races (one of them a Listed handicap) in her three starts this season suggest that an up-to-scratch Group 3 race should be beyond her but there may be more improvement to come over this trip as she was a little free when second at York last time attempting to give the winner weight when trying 1m6f for the first time. It is interesting to see a French raider however in Baroness Daniela who has won three of her last five starts, the latest in a Listed race in Germany where she made all so she might have a battle up front with Nymphea for early supremacy. On bare figures though she has it to do being rated 18lb behind Missunited and 14lb and 13lb shy of Nymphea and Talent and all three are not going to run below par and she has had 15 starts so she doesn’t appeal as an obvious improver. Beacon Lady looks the weakest of the six older contenders having been out of her depth in the Coronation Cup (tried her luck in that Group 1 race as she had a good Epsom profile) and then only beat three home in a Royal Ascot handicap.
With regards to the three-year-olds, in addition to Talent, Ralph Beckett also runs the Lingfield Oaks Trial winner, Honor Bound, but it was a poor renewal and she has been well beaten twice. By far the most interesting three-year-old is John Gosden’s Sea The Stars filly, Stella Bellissima, as he has plenty of quality fillies this season to judge her against and pitches her into this Group 3 race on just her second start having made a winning debut at Newbury earlier in the month where she raced wide and stayed on well to win over 1m4f. She is hard to weigh up but two of Gosden’s lightly-raced fillies beat Talent into third in the Lancashire Oaks so for that reason alone her declaration is fascinating. Arabian Comet is 3-4 this season for William Haggas who has placed her well (two wins were at lowly Wolverhampton and Carlisle) and her only defeat was against the very progressive Connecticut. She does have plenty on at this level however as does Groovejet who has been thrashed in two Listed races this season and well held in another.
CONCLUSION - a cracking renewal with the close-up Gold Cup third taken in by two Group 1 winners from last season, an in-form French-trained filly and a once-raced maiden winner who could be anything. Stepping up to 1m6f could be the key now for Talent and she looks solid each-way material at around 9/2 rather than taking under 2/1 about Missunited.
4:20 EBF British Stallion Studs New Ham Maiden Fillies’ Stakes
A £20K maiden for 2yo fillies over 7f featuring 12 runners so the winner will need to be pretty smart. Six of the last ten winners were once-raced beforehand and none were debutantes. That stat would not initially fill you with confidence as far as the five newcomers are concerned, even if all five hail from quality stables, but maybe that may change this year as those with racecourse experience with the exception of Shagah look moderate.
Skipping through the unraced quintet, Charlie Appleby runs World Fair but although he can get winning debutantes, their horses usually improve plenty on their second start. Similar comments apply to Mark Johnston who unleashes Cassandane. Ralph Beckett took this maiden with a 33/1 outsider in 2007 and also had another 2yo maiden winner at this meeting since so his Sweet Dream is more interesting especially as she is the only unraced contender with a Group 2 Rockfel Stakes entry. Charlie Hills runs Kodiva who doesn’t have a Rockfel entry over 7f but she is in the Group 1 Cheveley Park Stud Stakes over 6f so it is therefore a little surprising to see her make her debut over 7f. However, the fact she has any Group 1 entry though has to be interesting of course. Marcus Tregoning likes this meeting as did his mentor Dick Hern so his runners are always worth a second look and he gives a debut to Perfect Orange who is by his Derby winner, Sir Percy.
If we are to have another once-raced winner proving successful then that is likely to be Thunder In Myheart for Michael Bell and Jamie Spencer after she was second on debut in a 17-runner Newmarket maiden 12 days ago to a filly with a run behind her having travelled very well for a long way. The Bell stable are going well now after a slow first half to the season. Montalcino and Nelsons Trick are also once-raced but did not show enough promise to suggest that they could win a £20K maiden next time out.
Shagah improved from her first start to her second like most Hannon juveniles when runner-up in a maiden to a Godolphin newcomer at the Newmarket July Meeting which are usually above-average affairs and although there were seven non-runners due to softening ground, that form still sets the standard. She has an entry in the Group 2 Debutante Stakes at The Curragh next month. Runner Runner has a similar profile having been unplaced on debut before finishing second on her only subsequent run but it was a lowly maiden auction race at Lingfield. Sir Michael Stoute’s Hoorahforhollywood has also had two starts improving on her Newmarket fifth to a Doncaster third where she carried her head a little high. She won’t be one of the stable’s leading juveniles and needs to pick it up again to be in the mix. Fast Romance completes the field and drops in class after finishing last of five to Limato in a Newbury Listed race last time when a 100/1 shot. The runner-up won the Molecomb yesterday but Fast Romance was soundly thrashed by 12 lengths.
CONCLUSION - I prefer Thunder In my Heart to Shagah of those with experience but the newcomers look quite interesting this year especially Sweet Dream and Kodiva.
4:50 Tatler Stakes (Handicap)
Thirteen declarations for this Class 2 handicap for 3yos over 7f rated 0-105 and Andrew Balding is bidding for a third win in eight years with the fascinating Secret Hint having just her third career start after winning a Doncaster maiden over 6f on her seasonal debut three weeks ago in the colours of George Strawbridge. If that is not interesting enough, his trainer is doing a very unBalding-like thing by running her from 4lb out of the handicap. Maybe the owner is over from America and wants to see him run? I don’t know but if that is the reason rather than Balding fancying her enough to run from 4lb wrong I wouldn’t be so keen so I will trying to keep an eye out on my television to see if Mr Strawbridge, who loves a bit of Goodwood, is present. At the other end of the handicap Charlie Hills supplies the two top weights though Passing Star and Jallota have been all-weather performers of late, the latter having not raced since Meydan in March. Passing Star is my preference as he was out of his depth in the Jersey Stakes last time out but had shown a good attitude when winning at Kempton before winning second in the valuable All-Weather Championships Conditions race.
Mark Johnston is also double-handed courtesy of Almargo (Fanning) and Ifwecan (Norton) and both have to bounce back from a disappointing last run, though many winners from this particular yard do of course. Almargo only beat two home in a soft-ground handicap at the Newmarket July Festival but he has never won on soft ground so he could bounce back having won at Newcastle on his previous start and Ifwecan only beat one home when favourite in a nine-runner Ayr handicap last week after previously finishing second to the current ante-post favourite for Friday’s Betfred Mile, Velox, at Ascot. Richard Hannon has gone a step further running three horses headed by Championship who is ridden by Richard Hughes. He was well fancied for last season’s Coventry Stakes but ran down the field and then lost his way but he is gradually finding his form again and he was a good second to Moohaarib at Doncaster last time out. The winner then was a shade disappointing in a warm race at Ascot at the weekend but I’m sure he is a good horse so it was a decent run to finish second to him. Magnus Maximus (Dobbs) who finished in mid-division in the Britannia Handicap under Hughes who now rejects him and Day Of Conquest (Levey) who has his seasonal debut look second and third strings.
Safety Check is the Godolphin representative for Charlie Appleby but he showed little on his first start since returning from Dubai so I am not too keen on him but Almuheet is quite interesting now that he is fitted in a hood for the first time by Brian Ellison on just his fifth start and he beat the Derby fifth on his racecourse debut. More interesting still is Royal Seal for Sir Michael Stoute and Ryan Moore if you are prepared to forgive him a midfield effort at the Newmarket July Festival when well fancied for a competitive handicap. There are three potential reasons why he didn’t fire that day; (1) soft ground, (2) he raced far side away from the main action and (3) that run was just six days after his last run which is most unStoute-like. On his previous run he had impressed winning at Sandown and the third that day came out and won a handicap on Day 1 of Glorious Goodwood. Nakuti arrives here off the back of a seven-runner fillies’ handicap win at the Newmarket July Festival aided by five non-runners, most of which were to the fore in the betting so I don’t think it was that great a race. Shot In The Sun completes the field for Richard Fahey but he is 0-8 in handicaps since winning his maiden and he was a very disappointing 2/1 favourite when sixth of eight at York last time out.
CONCLUSION - I am prepared to give Royal Seal another chance on better ground and following a better break in between his races to confirm the excellent impression he made when winning at Sandown on his previous start which received a form boost on Tuesday and I would fear Championship and Secret Hint most.
5:25 Qipco Apprentice Stakes (Handicap)
An uninspiring Class 3 handicap over 1m1f rated 0-90 for apprentice riders closes the card so I’ll keep this brief. Balmoral Castle is bidding for a fourth win in five starts under a 6lb penalty and he only just got home at Windsor last time after pulling himself up in front under today’s rider, Ned Curtis, so he may not be easiest but it also meant that he won with something in hand. He does have course-and-distance winning form, twice in fact from three starts here, so his chance is an obvious one. The other winner last time out is Corton Lad who also has a 6lb penalty as his win came at Carlisle four days ago by four lengths so he is certainly ahead of the Handicapper. That win was over a stiff 1m3f though so whether this 1m1f on fast ground is ideal is a question mark. His last three wins have been over a longer trip. Saucy Minx and Weapon Of Choice are the other course winners, the former being 2-4 here and she has also run quote well in both defeats but I prefer the chances of the latter who ran a close-up fifth at Ascot last time out showing a welcome return to form and he is now down to just 3lb above his last winning mark.
The top three in the weights are Mabait, George Cinq and Tigers Tale. Mabait has struggled in tough handicaps on his last two starts but he is now down to a handicap mark 1lb lower than when he won at Newmarket last season. George Cinq’s attitude has been questioned but he has won and finished in his last two starts, albeit losing out to another horse whose attitude has also been questioned last time out in a race where Tigers Tale was a length back in third so I am not sure that is the strongest handicap form. Andrew Balding’s Angelic Upstart is another to consider having run consistently well on all four starts this season but he might need the Handicapper to relent a little more. Rocket Ronnie also returned to form two days ago when narrowly beaten at Beverley and Dandy Nicholls, who won the closing handicap on Day 1 for the third time, has also won this handicap twice in the last decade so he is interesting off bottom weight. As for the final quartet, Jacobs Cat was a disappointing favourite last time but his connections are respected at Goodwood, Ocean Applause has already run once under this current penalty when fourth at Newmarket six days ago having won 24 hours earlier, Jodies Jem is on a ten-race losing streak and still 7lb higher than for his last win and Las Verglas Star has struggled twice since being reassessed for winning at Chester in May.
CONCLUSION - Rocket Ronnie, Balmoral Castle and Weapon Of Choice would be my three against the field in a race not to get too heavily involved in.