14:25 – Abernant Stakes (Group 3) 3yo+ – 6f
This doesn’t look like a great renewal of the Abernant Stakes on paper, with the old boy Brando installed as a general 11/8 favourite. At that sort of price, I can happily leave him alone and appreciate this lad winning the race for a third time – but there seems like a good opportunity to at least pick up place money at a big price, with many of the remainder looking pretty uninspiring.
The Horse who makes most appeal from an each/way perspective is Brando’s stablemate Emaraaty Ana. This Colt was showed a lot of talent as a two-year-old, winning the Group 2 Grimcrack Stakes at York ahead of some nice Horses such as Shine So Bright (114). Following on from this victory, Emaraaty Ana moved ownership to the familiar silks of Sheik Mohammed Obaid Al Maktoum, and ran another good race in the Group 1 Middle Park Stakes at Newmarket – finishing a not to distant 5th behind Ten Sovereigns (122), winner of the Group 1 July Cup last season. Despite showing good ability over 6f, connections were keen to turn him into a Guineas Horse when returning as a three-year-old last Season. Despite being talented, Emaraaty Ana just doesn’t stay the mile, finishing well beaten in both the English and Irish 2000 Guineas last May.
Thankfully connections were quick to realise this and came up with a new plan for the rest of his three-year-old campaign, returning back to 6f. His first start back at this trip came in the Listed Cathedral Stakes at Salisbury in June. Horses who have been tried over further usually need their first race back at sprint trips to adjust, and the soft ground certainly wouldn’t have played to his strengths, but Emaraaty Ana made a satisfactory return – finishing 3½ lengths 5th behind Snazzy Jazzy (108). Returning to that track in September for a Class 3 Conditions Stakes on good-to-firm ground, Emaraaty Ana built on his promising return to sprinting by recording a comfortable 1¼ length success – despite losing his right fore shoe during the run.
Although this form is hardly catching the world alight, connections have been bullish about how well Emaraaty Ana has done over the winter – with Kevin Ryan reporting that ‘he looks a different horse this year…I think he will be a proper sprinter this year’. The fact that they are starting Emaraaty Ana off against Brando only confirms their regard for this Colt, and I am expecting to see him continue to progress through the sprinting ranks this season. A lot of Horses that line up in the Abernant are out of form, so young-improver Emaraaty Ana looks a big each/way price at 10/1. It’s also worth noting that there doesn’t seem to be a lot of pace on in the race, so Andrea Atzeni might get the opportunity to dictate the fractions out in front on this four-year-old.
15:35 – Coronation Cup Stakes (Group 1) 4yo+ – 1m4f
Ghaiyyath is a funny Horse in my eyes; he’s been impressive when winning races at Longchamp, Meydan and especially Baden-Baden, but he’s failed to deliver on a few occasions when facing Horses we’re more familiar with; finishing 4½ lengths third behind Waldgeist in the Group 1 Prix Ganay (when sent off the 1/2 Fav), before then beaten 33 lengths by the same rival in the l’Arc de Triomphe in October. The fact that he came out and won at Meydan in February should mean he won’t face any fitness issues in this contest, but he’s a Horse I can happily take on at 6/4. The other classy Horse in the race is John Gosden’s Stradivarius, who needs no introduction having won the Stayers Million for the past two successive seasons. The problem I have with him for this race however is because of that exact reason; this Sea The Stars Colt hasn’t ran over 1m4f since May 2017, when beaten in a Handicap from a mark of 90. You clearly can’t take this form literally considering he’s improved beyond recognition since stepping up to two-miles, but I find it hard to believe he can win this on seasonal debut over 1m4f – especially as connections will just want to get a run into him before the Ascot Gold Cup in a couple weeks. With two of the Horses prominent in the betting ruled out, I believe that Defoe can make it back-to-back successes.
The Coronation Cup Stakes is of course usually run at Epsom, but I’m siding with last year’s winner Defoe despite the racing taking place at Newmarket this time around. Defoe started his 2019 campaign off with a decent 4th in the Group 3 John Porter Stakes at Newbury in April, but this was really just a pipe-opener – hitting the front at the 2f pole and just keeping on at the same pace thereafter. He followed that run up with an improved effort to finish 2nd behind Communique (115) in the Group 2 Jockey Club Stakes, a Horse who just has a brilliant record at Newmarket, winning on all four occasions that he has raced at the track. It’s easy to put a defeat down to those sorts of facts, but Communique was given a really enterprising ride to make all that day under Silvestre De Sousa, and Defoe did run with credit to get so close despite hitting a small flat spot in running. All roads led to the Epsom version of this race for Defoe’s next start, and this is where he pulled out his best performance of the season – held up by Andrea Atzeni before coming through a gap on the inside rail, and staying on strongly to lead in the final 110 yards. It was a very good renewal of the Coronation Cup last season, with Aidan O’Brien’s Kew Gardens ½ a length back in second place – a Horse who would of course subsequently go on to beat Stradivarius in the Group 2 Long Distance Cup on Champions Day at Ascot.
Defoe wasn’t done winning there however, following up his maiden Group 1 success with victory in the Group 2 Hardwicke Stakes at Royal Ascot, keeping on well to beat Nagano Gold (116) by ½ a length. This Roger Varian Gelding was last seen on the track in 2019 when returning to Ascot for the Group 1 King George VI Stakes, but unfortunately for his chances the ground was too soft for his liking – so you can put a line through this performance. Defoe seems to need a run more often than not when returning from a break these days, and thankfully for his chances on Friday he already has had a run this season – finishing a short-head second behind Loxley (111) in a Group 2 at Meydan. Defoe ran on really strongly towards the finish that day and just failed to get up, but his trainer has already stated that he’s come on hugely since that run in the UAE, and that he’s looking in good form at home. Defoe should have no problems with the race being at Newmarket considering he won the Group 2 Jockey Club Stakes over course and distance in May 2018, and his race fitness could be a vital edge over some of these rivals.
16:10 – Heed Your Hunch Handicap (Class 3) 4yo+ 0-90 – 1m4f
I was extremely pleased to see Edinburgh Castle sneak into this Class 3 Handicap on Friday, as his current mark of 82 looks extremely workable. This Andrew Balding charge only ran once as a two-year-old, running in a 1m2f Novice Stakes at Bath in October 2018. He ran extremely green in the early stages that day, but ran on well in the end to finish second – with the winner West End Charmer now rated 100, and the third placed Durston also now rated 100 – having placed in Group 3 company when last seen. Edinburgh Castle wasn’t seen for another 347 days until making his three-year-old debut at Epsom in September last year, running in another 1m2f Novice Stakes. Making a complete mess of the start, Edinburgh Castle had loads of ground to make up on his rivals – but he steadily gained this ground back. Travelling powerfully, this inexperienced Horse showed good speed to cut straight through the field when asked for his effort, and he went on to bolt up by four-and-a-half lengths. Starting your season off in September is hardly ideal, and connections probably just wanted to get another run into him – so they went to Chelmsford in October. Slow out of the stalls once more, Edinburgh Castle had to be ridden from a long way out and just couldn’t get to visibly much bigger Horses – finishing fast, but only taking third place. Despite not winning however, this is a Horse who will have greatly appreciated the experience of running again.
Since last seen on the track, Edinburgh Castle has been Gelded, and I’m hoping that the winter break will have done him the world of good both physically and mentally. Assuming he’s learnt to be quicker out of the stalls, then a mark of 82 looks to be very kind considering his potential ability – and stepping up to 1m4f for the first time on Handicap debut should help. Trainer Andrew Balding has been in great form since the resumption of racing at Newcastle on Monday, so Edinburgh Castle looks to have a great chance. The four places on offer look worthwhile taking advantage of.
15:00 – Paradise Stakes (Listed) 3yo+ – 1m (NR)
One of my favourite Horses of the 2019 Flat season was Sangarius, which is testament to the ability he showed considering he only ran twice. This Kingman Colt has top quality form right the way through his five career starts to date, starting off by beating Bangkok (Now rated 114) in a two-year-old Novice Stakes at Newmarket in July 2018. His next start came at Doncaster when winning the Listed Flying Scotsman Stakes over 7f, winning by an impressive 2¼ lengths. Sangarius signed off his Juvenile campaign with a good 4thin the Group 1 Dewhurst Stakes – a race that has produced three subsequent Group 1 winners; the winner Too Darn Hot (121) won the Prix Jean Prat and Sussex Stakes at three, the second Advertise (119) won the Prix Maurice de Gheest and Commonwealth Cup, and the third Anthony Van Dyck (118) won The Derby at Epsom.
Sangarius made his first start as a three-year-old in the Listed Heron Stakes at Sandown in May last year, another race which has a rich vein of form. The winner that day King Of Comedy (118) went on to finish a neck 2nd behind Circus Maximus in the Group 1 St James’s Palace Stakes at Royal Ascot, and the 3rd Roseman (114) bolted up in the Listed Ben Marshall Stakes at the back end of last season. Before that impressive victory however, Roseman met Sangarius once again in the Group 3 Hampton Court Stakes at Royal Ascot. Sangarius took a keen hold that day in the hands of Frankie Dettori, and the pair faced a bit of trouble in running when trying to switch left with 2f left to go. Once the gap opened however Sangarius showed extremely good speed to quicken away from the field, going on to record an impressive 2¼ length victory over subsequent Listed winner Fox Chairman (110).
Although that taking Hampton Court success came over 1m2f, Sangarius clearly still possess the speed to win over a mile, and this renewal of the Paradise Stakes looks a brilliant opportunity for him to continue his progression. Already rated 113 for his efforts to date, this Khalid Abdullah four-year-old is miles clear of this field in my eyes. Sir Michael Stoute has had his string in fantastic form during the week, with the likes of Alignak, Mubakker and First Receiver all recording impressive victories, and I’m expecting more of the same with one of his first ‘big guns’ of the season to hit the track. Sangarius really does look like a Group 1 Horse in the making, so this seems like a perfect steppingstone.
UPDATE: Sangarius has instead been re-routed to the Group 3 Brigadier Gerard Stakes at Haydock (14:40) on Sunday, so will be an early selection based upon the same reasoning as above. The 1m2f trip at Haydock will hopefully mean he gets to run under optimum conditions.