WEDNESDAY - INTERNATIONAL STAKES (3.35pm)
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 in the Turf on Dubai World Cup night but bounced back to take the Group 1 Tattersalls Gold Cup on his next start. 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 but he was well beaten in the Coral Eclipse by Ulysses and Barney Roy although he was checked in the first half of the race which seemed to knock him off his stride. The ease in the ground should help but the slight niggle is that the Group 1 he won in Ireland now doesn't appear to be quite as good a performance as it did at the time.
MY DREAM BOAT - Shock winner of the Prince of Wales last year on soft ground he couldn't replicate that form in three subsequent Group 1 runs despite similar conditions. Began this year with a 4 length 3rd behind Ulysses in the Gordon Richards prompting his trainer to suggest he may need a step up in trip this Season. So on his next start he was upped to 1m4f for the Aston Park stakes where he stayed on nicely to chase home Hawkbill at a distance of 2 lengths. He reversed form with that rival in a weak Group 1 over 12f in France next time out when they finished 4th and 6th but was over 2 lengths behind the winner at the finish having weakened in the last half furlong. Last time out he was beaten a very long way in the King George and it's quite apparent he's not a 12 furlong Group 1 horse. His trainer looks to have revised his earlier statement and is looking for the drop back in trip to bring about the necessary improvement. Looks up against it here.
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 at Royal Ascot in a disappointing week for the Newmarket trainer and if given a bit more of a patient ride he may well have won. Connections didn't have to wait long for compensation as he won the Eclipse on his next start with Jim Crowley leaving his challenge a little later on the strong travelling eventual winner. Mind you, he only just scrambled home from the fast finishing Barney Roy who went down by the narrowest of margins and Crowley was probably thinking he should have delayed his run even longer. He has since run second to crack 3yo filly Enable in the King George over 12f with some decent Group 1 performers strung out behind him. The return to 10 furlongs should suit him better and with the 3yo allowance cut by 3lb he certainly has every chance of confirming Eclipse form with Barney Roy.
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. He was stepped up in trip for the 10 furlong Eclipse on his next start and failed by a nose to reel in the year older Ulysses in receipt of 10lb. He can consider himself a little unlucky not to have won 3 Group 1 races on the trot and even with the 3yo allowance now only 7lb looks certain to play a major part in the finish.
CHURCHILL - Champion 2yo after 5 wins including victory on his final start of the year in the Dewhurst at Newmarket. He missed all the trials and instead headed to the Newmarket 2000 Guineas without a prep run but that didn't stop him scoring as the 6/4 favourite from an unlucky looking Barney Roy (stumbled in the dip). He did the Guineas double at the Curragh before having a rematch with the Newmarket second in the St James Palace Stakes at Royal Ascot. Something was obviously amiss there as he showed none of his previous sparkle in finishing a well beaten fourth. He was pushed along a couple of furlongs out and never got to a challenging position. He's since missed an engagement in the Sussex Stakes due to the ground and is trying 10 furlongs for the first time. Undoubtedly a class act but he has more to prove than some of his rivals at present.
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. Dropped in trip for his next start he was sent off favourite for the Eclipse but after being badly hampered by his pacemaker in that race he had to come from much further back than he would have liked and could only manage a staying on 4th, some 4 1/2 lengths behind the eventual winner. He's held in high regard by connections and would undoubtedly have finished closer but for being snatched up early in the Eclipse and can't be written off just yet.
SHUTTER SPEED - After a win in her sole start as a 2yo and a win in a conditions race at Newbury on her first start at three (stablemate and current Arc favourite Enable only third) she was sent off favourite for the Musidora at York which she duly collected by nearly 2 lengths. On her 4th start she made the trip over the Channel to contest the French Oaks over 10 1/2 furlongs, rather than the 12 furlongs of the Epsom Oaks, where again she was sent off favourite. This time however she could only manage 4th having weakened in the last furlong and never looking like reeling in the leaders. She's not run since but as the only filly in the race she does receive 10lb from her elders and 3lb's from her fellow 3yo's. That may not be enough though to overcome her absence from the track or to bridge the gap in the ratings and her ability based on what we've seen so far.
ANALYSIS: In his current form My Dream Boat is easily discounted while even with her allowances Shutter Speed wouldn't be for me. The form of Decorated Knight's Irish Group 1 win isn't looking as good now and I'm struggling to make a case for him after his run in the Eclipse. I favour Cliffs of Moher over Churchill in the O'Brien pair as the latter has a bit to prove after his last run combined with this step up in trip but both may struggle to get to grips with the Eclipse 1-2 Barney Roy and Ulysses. They look the best two 10 furlong horses at present and while my heart says Ulysses my head says BARNEY ROY will gain revenge over his older rival.
I'm not sure what happened to Seamour last time out in the Northumberland Plate but he's better than that and can show his true colours here under a decent 5lb claimer. Last years winner Oceane is another to note although he is rising up the handicap without winning and is now racing off a 7lb higher mark. Star Rider looked a stayer to follow last Season but has run poorly in three runs this term. Down a couple of pounds this is his time of year and I think we'll see him run a lot better today. Theydon Grey has rattled off a hat trick of wins at the course under Georgia Cox winning by a neck each time. Despite holding his head quite high when coming under pressure he has been finding plenty from the front but My Reward has also run some good races this term after his connections adopted front running tactics and the two of them might just run themselves out of it if vying for the lead. This could set the race up nicely for a finisher and what better jockey to have on your side for that kind of ride than Jamie Spencer.
SUEGIOO hasn't won for a very long time but he's plummeting down the ratings and is beginning to look dangerously handicapped. This time last year he was contesting the Group 2 Lonsdale Cup at the meeting so should find this a bit easier. Back on a firmish surface he'll be hard to keep out of the frame if Spencer can pounce late and he is a pretty decent price all things considered (22/1 Ladbrokes).
All 3 of John Kirkup's wins have been over 5f on soft ground so will probably struggle under these totally different conditions while Ghayadh has faded on both his last two starts over 6f and looks in need of a drop down in trip. Both Red Roman and Areen Faisal were on my 2yo eyecatchers list and both won last time out. Red Roman did it well on the soft at Glorious Goodwood but on all three runs on firmish ground he's been well beaten and wouldn't be for me here on good to firm, from a 5lb higher mark. Areen Faisal took his time to find the winners enclosure after such a promising debut run but it probably didn't help that he was quite highly tried before being dropped into handicap company last time out. He'll find this a lot tougher than that Pontefract nursery and is another having to find further improvement if he is to follow up off a 4lb higher mark.
BUT Richard Fahey has won this race 3 times in the last 5 years and I rather like the look of his other runner ZAP. He won over course and distance on his racecourse debut and has since run in two quite hot races. In fact the 4 runner class 2 conditions race he ran in last time out was one of the hottest such races likely to be run this Season. The winner has since run 4th and 2nd in two Group races, the runner up won a Group 1 on his last start and the third won a recent Listed race in Deauville. That Zap was giving all her rivals weight marks him down as a class act and he looks good value here. Fahey has used a claiming jockey successfully on two of his winners and the 3lb Adam McNamara will claim clinches the deal for me. Grab the 16/1 each way 5 places (or 14/1 6 places with Skybet).
THURSDAY - YORKSHIRE OAKS (3.35pm)
ABINGDON - Decent Listed race performer who picked up two such races last Season but was found out when only 5th in a Doncaster Group 2 race in September. Back to Listed company she stormed home by 10 lengths on her Seasonal debut at Pontefract but has once again been found wanting in two subsequent Group 2 races. The first was the Lancashire Oaks where she was runner up behind The Black Princess but the third from that race has since come out to win a Group 1 race in France. On Abingdon's next start she too went to France but was a little one paced when only 3rd in a Group 2 at the start of the month. Her overall form would suggest she has quite a bit to find in this company and may struggle to make an impression.
NEZWAAH - Unraced at two she started off her 3yo career at the beginning of January last year and has been steadily improving ever since. After winning a maiden, a handicap and a Listed contest within her first four races she ran the classy So Mi Dar to half a length and rounded off her season with a 2 length 7th in the Grade 1 EP Taylor Stakes in Canada. She's two from two this season having easily scored in an Ayr Listed race first time up and then following up in the Group 1 Pretty Polly at the Curragh at the beginning of July. That didn't look the greatest of Group 1 races (the 119 rated short priced favourite ran well below form) but she's still improving and will make sure the favourite doesn't have it all her own way.
QUEENS TRUST - Her 4th in last year's Ribblesdale at Royal Ascot was a springboard to a cracking run in the second half of last Season with a 2nd in the Nassau Stakes, 3rd in the Yorkshire Oaks, 3rd in the Fillies and Mares on Ascot Champions Day and a win in the Fillies and Mares at the Breeders Cup. That marks her down as a very good Group 1 filly so it was very disappointing to see her trail home last of 4 in the Group 2 Middleton Stakes at York back in May. She ran a decent 4th against the colts in the Prince of Wales at Royal Ascot where she was less than a length off the Eclipse winner Ulysses but then got stuck in the mud when finishing last in the Nassau Stakes at Glorious Goodwood. Back to a firmer surface she should do better here but that form line with Ulysses leaves her with quite a bit to find with the favourite Enable.
ALLURINGLY - A token entry from the all conquering O'Brien stable this 3yo filly was behind Enable at Chester, 11 lengths adrift of her in the Epsom Oaks and then over 12 lengths behind her in the Irish Oaks. She was also over 6 lengths behind Coronet at Royal Ascot in between those Oaks runs which, on the face of all the evidence available, seems to suggest that, despite her Listed race win last week, she's going to have to find a lot of improvement to be competitive here.
CORONET - Two from two as a 2yo including a Listed race win at Newmarket over 1m2f against the colts where the future Dante winner Permian and future Derby winner Wings Of Eagles were behind her in 3rd and 4th. Her first run as a 3yo saw her sent off 5/2 favourite for the French Oaks where she finished a near 5 length 3rd before a lacklustre run in the Epsom Oaks saw her finish a distant 5th. She didn't really seem to handle the track at Epsom and is better rated on her Group 2 win in the Ribblesdale at Royal Ascot. She got closer to Enable on the more conventional track of the Curragh in the Irish Oaks next time out but was still some 9 lengths adrift and will be hard pressed to reverse form with her stablemate.
ENABLE - Won a lowly Newcastle AW Maiden towards the end of last year and first time up was no match for stablemate Shutter Speed but the progress she has made since has been nothing short of remarkable. A win from Alluringly in the Cheshire Oaks was followed by victory in the Epsom Oaks by 5 lengths, victory in the Irish Oaks by 5 1/2 lengths and then, in her best run to date, she slammed the older brigade and the colts in the Ascot King George by 4 1/2 lengths and upwards. This earned her a revised rating of 126 meaning she sits atop the middle distance 3yo ratings this year. She's beaten both the 3yos in the field already and in receipt of 9lb from the older fillies should have no problem getting the better of them either. Looks a rock solid favourite who will be very hard to beat.
ANALYSIS: I can't see anything other than victory for the short priced favourite ENABLE and I will be very surprised if she is beaten here.
BUT before steaming in at long odds just remember what happened to a similar Gosden runner in 2014. Taghrooda had also won the Epsom Oaks and the King George in devastating fashion before arriving here as the red hot 1/5 favourite. After taking it up at the two furlong pole and looking the likely winner as she streaked clear she was eventually run down by the Irish Oaks runner up Tapestry........ She would reverse placings convincingly in the Arc but that was no consolation for those who had done their money at York, the graveyard of Champions!
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