While the jumps season is still going strong with superb action up at Ayr featuring among other things the Scottish Champion Hurdle and the Scottish Grand National, we turn our attentions squarely to the flat now as classic hopefuls make their return at Newbury.
Some top betting propositions are on offer at the Berkshire track, beginning with the opening John Porter Stakes at 1.40 where some notable types making their seasonal reappearances:
1.40 Newbury (John Porter Stakes – Group 3) – DEFOE
We should be on the lookout for any significant money coming for likely second favourite Young Rascal, William Haggas’ charge being thought of as a Derby type last year having won at Chester’s May meeting and then going on to progress well and he’s won here of course on soft ground too.
The selection though, Defoe, was also thought of as a Group 1 type in the past and although he’s just missed out on top level success thus far, Roger Varian’s horse does want this ground and the 3lb pull he gets with his main rival could be crucial.
This race could be quite a test first time up over the mile-and-a-half on this going and that is something that may suit Laraaib, a progressive 5yo but one at these weights who has it to do for win purposes.
2.10 Newbury (Fred Darling Stakes – Group 3) – DANCING VEGA
Ralph Beckett’s daughter of Lope De Vega puts her 1000 Guineas and Oaks credentials on the line today having made a stunning debut at Doncaster last backend as a juvenile, and while the seven furlong trip may look a little sharp, the softish ground may help to counter that giving her a great opportunity to register a first group success.
She won her debut race ever so impressively, taking the lead on the bit before putting daylight between herself and the rest with the runner-up coming out next time and taking a Listed contest giving the form a rock solid look.
It seems then that we have a bona-fide Group 1 candidate here with Harry Bentley’s mount most likely having Star Terms and So Perfect to beat, though we never rule out significant improvement from a John Gosden trained filly which may bring Muchly into the equation as well.
2.40 Newbury (Greenham Stakes – Group 3) – MOHAATHER
Too Darn Hot’s defection due to an injury setback has opened up not just the 2000 Guineas in May, but more immediately this race and as such it is now a betting proposition where before it was simply a watching brief.
It remains competitive with several having chances on the book; Tom Dascombe’s Great Scot having top form last season with Line Of Duty and Al Hilalee as well as finishing fifth in the Group 1 Vertem Futurity but it seems he needs more of a test than this and so is passed over this time.
Hello Youmzain is another with great form but he may prove to be more of a sprinting prospect as the season goes on with the Commonwealth Cup a potential target at Royal Ascot, while Boitron has done little wrong up to this point and may go off favourite.
The one with clear improvement to come though is live 2000 Guineas outsider Moohather, a surprise 33/1 Group 3 winner last season over this course and distance when being hampered more than once. He will stay well enough but clearly has a turn of foot, a combination not every horse in this race can boast.
3.15 Newbury (Spring Cup Handicap) – IBRAZ
This is a frightfully competitive race and one in which we have to deal with the spectres of a large field, the draw and soft ground as well as the typical bunch of improving handicappers beginning their year.
The fit and ready Ripp Orf should go well after his fifth in the Lincoln, though his best form is arguably over seven furlongs, while Exec Chief is a lively contender having finished second in the Spring Mile at Doncaster and has shown he can handle softer ground.
They may both have to go some however to catch former Derby hopeful Ibraz, running first time out this season for Roger Varian. He progressed well last term on fast ground but there is enough in his breeding to suggest he’ll be fine on this surface and he has a ton of improvement to come.
Ibraz was a lively contender for the Lincoln two weeks ago before defecting, possibly because of the presence of Auxerre, but today could be the day for Roger Varian’s son of Farhh.
4.00 Naas (Gladness Stakes – Group 3) – LE BRIVIDO
There’s lots of close form around this Group 3 and Listed level featured here in the likes of Romanised and Imaging, but it’s incredibly interesting to see the 2017 French 2000 Guineas runner-up and Jersey Stakes winner Le Brivido transferred from Andre Fabre’s yard to Aidan O’Brien’s and he can get him back to his best this term.
Conditions are ideal in this contest and it’s easy to envisage him getting a nice toe into the race before using his turn of foot to see them off. At the time of writing no odds are published and it’s hoped he’s not too short a price, but a betting forecast of 9/4 looks very tempting.
Although his future stud value will of course be at the forefront of the Coolmore team’s collective mind and the five-year-old is coming back from a year off, he has the ability to make this a procession and he will surely have Group 1 targets later in the campaign.