One of the highlights of the Summer as the 3yo's take on their elders in Group 1 company over 10 furlongs.
This year we have 16 declared runners at the 5 day stage and these are my thoughts on the field...
ALGOMETER - did pretty well as a 3yo finishing 2nd in the Sandown Classic Trial, winning the Cocked Hat at Goodwood before appearing not to stay when 7th in the Derby. His next start saw him post a career best when getting the better of Dartmouth, despite hanging violently left, in a Group 3 at Newbury after a 3 month break. He was unable to build on that when sent to Germany at the start of November for a Group 1 over 1m4f as he finished a one paced. well down the field, 6th some 11 lengths behind the leader. He began this year with a run over the Eclipse course and distance where he finished a staying on second in a weak looking renewal of the Group 3 Brigadier Gerard run on firmish ground. The trip and track should suit him here but any rain would be welcome. Overall he looks up against it in this company and his long odds (66/1) probably sum up his chances. DEAUVILLE - The Aiden O'Brien trained 4yo has been campaigned at around 10 furlongs since the start of his 3yo campaign and actually won the Belmont Derby at that distance last July so it was a little surprising to see him dropped to a mile for his run at Royal Ascot when supplemented for the Queen Anne Stakes. What was even more surprising was that he was able to finish a very creditable, staying on 3rd only a length and a half behind Ribchester. This was a big step up on his form this Season as Deauville had been 2nd then 1st in a couple of 10f Group 3 races and then third in a weakish Group 1 at the Curragh the time before. Back to 10 furlongs and the ground of no real concern he looks sure to once again run well but he may just find one or two too good.
DECORATED KNIGHT - Consistent Group 3 performer throughout his 3 and 4yo career when with Roger Varian first & then Roger Charlton but he's taken his form to a whole new level this Season when first winning a decent AW Listed race in early February and then winning a Group 1 in Meydan. He ran 6th (just in front of Deauville) in the Turf on Dubai World Cup night but put in a career best run to take the Group 1 Tattersalls Gold Cup and confirm that running with Deauville who could only finish 3rd. At Royal Ascot he upped his game once more to run Highland Reel to just over a length in the Prince of Wales's Stakes after putting down a strong challenge at the furlong pole. To run the versatile, game and gutsy O'Brien horse so close was no disgrace and this improving horse is a big danger to all as a course, distance, going and dual Group 1 winner.
DESERT ENCOUNTER - is a very consistent 5yo who has finished top 3 in all 10 starts since his debut and improved from class 4 handicaps at the start of last season to end the year with a neck second in a Listed contest. This year he's finished first and second in a couple of Listed contests over 12 furlongs which on the face of it would leave David Simcock's runner with it all to do to get competitive here.
JACK HOBBS - Finished 2nd behind stablemate Golden Horn in both the Dante and Derby in 2015 before taking the Irish Derby by 5 lengths. He finished that season with a 3rd place finish in the Ascot Champions Stakes and filled the same place in the same race the following year after an injury had kept him off the course for 5 months. He started 2017 with a smooth success in the Dubai Sheema Classic but finished stone cold last in the Prince of Wales at Royal Ascot when sent off the 2/1 favourite. There didn't look to be any excuses for that run and although he's top on official ratings in this field he's now twice thrown in a stinker and it's difficult to tell which Jack Hobbs is going to turn up on the day. JOHANNES VERMEER - Top 2yo in 2015 but injury has limited his racecourse appearances since to just 5 runs. In his first two runs this Season he finished last of 4 behind Minding and 5th of 8 behind Decorated Knight in the Tattersalls Gold Cup. He was again well behind when a big outsider in the Prince of Wales at Royal Ascot on his next start but returned to winning ways when picking up a fairly decent Group 3 race at the Curragh a couple of days ago. That was a step in the right direction but still leaves him with a bit to find with a number of these runners should he turn out again quickly for this Group 1 contest.
LIGHTNING SPEAR - Progressed from handicaps to make up into a fair group performer in the Summer of 2015 when with Olly Stevens. He left him at the end of that Season to join David Simcock and began in the best way possible with a third in the Queen Anne Stakes at Royal Ascot. That Summer he ran 6th in the Sussex Stakes (Ribchester 3rd) before finishing 3 1/2 lengths adrift of Ribchester in a Group 1 at Deauville. Dropped down to Group 2 company for his next run he took the Celebration Mile and ended the Season a length behind Ribchester when finishing third in the QEII. First time up this Season he once again chased home Ribchester in the Lockinge Stakes, this time at some distance, but was even further behind his old nemesis at Royal Ascot in the Queen Anne when disappointing in 9th. Having employed a pacemaker at Royal Ascot connections are now putting their hopes in a step up in trip to try and find the required improvement in their charge. On his only other run over 10 furlongs he finished a tailed off second last in the Ascot Champions Stakes in 2015 which doesn't really bode well for his chances, does it?
ULYSSES - Thrown into the deep end when running in the Derby straight after an 8 length demolition job in a Newbury Maiden he cold only manage 12th there but recovered to take the Group 3 Gordon Stakes at Glorious Goodwood. He somehow managed to get himself beaten in a Group 3 on his next start at Windsor before a creditable fourth in the Breeders Cup Turf. He returned to the racetrack this Season with a win from Deauville in the Gordon Stakes at Sandown over this trip and a very creditable third in the Prince of Wales. In that race he had taken it up going strongly as they entered the final furlong but was unable to keep the run going and was headed by both Highland Reel and Decorated Knight in the last 50 yards or so. He was the one Stoute horse to run really well in a disappointing week for the Newmarket trainer and with little between him and the runner up that day looks sure to go close back to the scene of his best run to date.
BLOND ME - Andrew Balding's Mare was campaigned over a mile for the vast majority of her career but at the end of last Season he tried her over 10 furlongs in an Italian Group 1 race. That didn't go so well as she finished 2nd last but he persevered on her first start this year and got his reward when she took the four runner Group 2 Middleton Stakes at York as the outsider of 4. That was a big step up in form but with the two penalised, highly rated Stoute horses both disappointing it probably isn't as good as it looks. On her two starts in Group 1 company she's finished 6th of 9 and 10th of 11 and wouldn't be for me.
Which leaves the 3yo's....
BARNEY ROY - An easy maiden winner on his sole start at 2 he began his 3yo career with victory in the Group 3 Greenham Stakes at Newbury. On his next start he looked unlucky not to win the 2000 Guineas as he stumbled badly going into the dip before rallying to run Churchill to a length. Connections were adamant they would reverse form with the winner that day and after swerving the Irish Guineas they took him on again in the St James Palace stakes at Royal Ascot. Their confidence proved to be well founded as they reversed form with Churchill when taking the race by a length from that one's stablemate Lancaster Bomber. The way he finished his race off that day gives every indication that he won't be inconvenienced by the step up in trip and with the 10lb the Classic generation receive from their elders he should play a big part in the finish.
CLIFFS OF MOHER - Got off the mark on his second run as a 2yo when scoring an easy win from Orderofthegarter. He shot to the head of the O'Brien Derby contenders when winning the Dee Stakes at Chester and everything looked to be going to plan at Epsom as he swept through to take it up and go for home a furlong out. He got the better of market rival Cracksman but not the fast finishing Wings Of Eagles who caused a big shock when scoring at 40/1 from his more fancied stablemate. A real star has yet to emerge amongst the middle distance 3yo's but he's held in high regard by connections and he could be the one to change all that.
EMINENT - The apple of trainer Martyn Meade's eye and after winning the Craven he was sent off a shortish price for the 2000 Guineas. He wasn't the first Craven winner to find things happening a bit too quick in that race and looked like a horse already needing further than a mile. He got that in the Derby and as expected he ran a terrific race to finish 4th. He was laying down a strong challenge in the final furlong and looking likely to play a big part in the finish before his run petered out and he got squeezed for room in the closing stages. The drop back to 10 furlongs looks ideal and is another 3yo looking likely to be right there at the finish.
ORDEROFTHEGARTER - Thumped by stablemate Cliffs of Moher at the end of last Season he won his maiden on his first start at 3 before beating another stablemate Taj Mahal in the Leopardstown 2000 Guineas trial by over 3 lengths. After finishing behind Bramelot twice when 5th in the French Guineas and 6th in the French Derby he was sent off favourite for the Group 3 Tercentenary Stakes at Royal Ascot over 10 furlongs but found the Epsom Derby 5th Benbatl too good. Even with the closeness in form among the 3yo's this Season he doesn't look anywhere near the best of the crop and has a bit to find to get competitive here. PERMIAN - Although beaten first time up this Season in a Bath handicap he has since finished a short head second to Cracksman at Epsom, beaten Khalidi by 6 lengths and won the number 1 Derby Trial, The Dante. He wasn't stopping at York over 1m2f so connections paid the lumpy £85,000 supplementary fee for him to run in the Derby. That didn't work out so well as he could only manage 10th but he bounced back in the best possible way when winning the Group 2 King Edward VII at Royal Ascot over 12 furlongs. This tough Mark Johnston 3yo shouldn't be inconvenienced by the drop back to 10 furlongs but there is a slight niggle that he's not quite a Group 1 horse....yet.
SALOUEN - Ran 9 times as a juvenile over a variety of distances and a varying class of race. But he did end the year with a second and a third in Group 1 company. He began this Season in the usually informative Fielden Stakes over 1m1f where he went down by a neck to the John Gosden trained Khalidi. In light of the winners recent exploits that doesn't look such a bad run but after looking a little unlucky when finishing down the field in the Derby he was well behind Permian at Royal Ascot although he once again didn't have the clearest of runs at the business end of the race. His overall profile suggests he'll struggle to get competitive in this classy renewal.
TAJ MAHAL - He has just a Dundalk all weather handicap win to his name but has been highly tried since and on occasions has run well above his odds. This includes a 4th place finish in the French Derby three starts back and a 4th place in the Tercentenary Stakes at Royal Ascot on his next start. His 6th place finish in the Irish Derby last Saturday on his first try at 12 furlongs wasn't so good and although he will appreciate the trip here he has an awful lot to find with his stablemates to play a part in this race.
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