Newmarket’s iconic Cambridgeshire meeting is beginning to take shape and this year it promises to be an absolute belter.
The enthralling three-day meeting begins on Thursday, but it’s Saturday’s card that is really capturing the imagination with not only the £160,000 heritage handicap on the card but also three top-class juvenile races, all of which promise to offer up intriguing classic clues for next season.
Hills Offering Tattersalls Persuasion
The Group 3 Tattersalls Stakes takes place on the opening day of the meeting, a two-year-old event that could yet throw up a 2,000 Guineas type.
Although disappointing on his second start, Charlie Hills’ Persuasion really caught the eye on debut at Goodwood and he may well be on course to get his fledgling career back on track with James Doyle already booked for the ride.
The Rose Bowl Stakes is a Listed contest for the stayers over two miles and may well feature last year’s Northumberland Plate and 2017 Cesarewitch winner Withhold for the Roger Charlton yard, although Mark Johnston could have something to say about the result as his Austrian School is among seven select entries at the five-day stage.
Gosden Could Be Laughing After Joel Stakes
Friday is known as Shadwell Day and the breeding operation’s owner, Hamdan Al Maktoum, could well take the opener with his promising filly Maqsad. Having travelled better than anything until the two-marker in the Oaks, the daughter of Siyouni is being dropped in trip to a mile for the Rosemary Stakes and that could do her the world of good.
The Group 3 Princess Royal could feature this year’s long time Oaks favourite Pink Dogwood of Aidan O’Brien’s, while the Group 2 Rockfel Stakes is regarded as a top 1,000 Guineas trial which this year features the likes of Royal Ascot winner Daahyeh (Roger Varian) as well as O’Brien’s Leopardstown winner Blissful.
The best race on the card is undoubtedly the Group 2 Joel Stakes over a mile, the intended return race of Godolphin’s globetrotting three-time Group 1 winner Benbatl. He is available at 8/1 ante post which shows the strength in depth of the race, as Sir Michael Stoute’s dual Group 3 scorer Zaaki (9/2) and John Gosden’s King Of Comedy (7/4f) are also entered.
The latter named colt was unlucky not to score in the St James’s Palace Stakes at Royal Ascot before he stepped up admirably on that when fourth in a hot renewal of the Juddmonte International Stakes at York. He is undoubtedly a Group 1 horse and could be aimed at the Breeders’ Cup in November.
Group 1 Juvenile Bonanza on Saturday
By the end of Saturday, the classic picture for 2020 will be a little clearer. The Group 2 Royal Lodge Stakes over a mile can be a stepping stone for both the Guineas and the Derby, on this occasion Andrew Balding’s Kameko having been installed as favourite ahead of Coolmore’s Armory.
The two top six-furlong races for juveniles are run next, these Group 1’s offering clues for both future sprinting success and Guineas participation. The fillies go first in the Cheveley Park Stakes, Mark Johnston’s Raffle Prize topping the entries although she could be up against a fascinating French raider in the shape of Tropbeau.
The colt’s equivalent is the Middle Park Stakes which is shaping up to be huge in the context of the season overall. While the upcoming seven-furlong Dewhurst Stakes could be uncompetitive because of the presence of Pinatubo, this race over the six is proving to be engrossing.
Lope Y Fernandez remains capable, but he is a 12/1 shot going into the weekend because of the presence of three brilliant unbeaten colts. Ger Lyons’ Siskin (7/2) comes into this as the winner of the Group 1 Phoenix Stakes, Mums Tipple (5/2) was a spectacular 11-length winner at York while France’s Earthlight (2/1) is four from four now including the G1 Prix Morny.
The betting highlight is undoubtedly the title race of the meeting, the Cambridgeshire Handicap, in which John Gosden is well represented despite choosing not to run Forest Of Dean. He potentially runs Lord North and Star Of Bengal, both of which are well-handicapped, while fellow Newmarket handler Roger Varian has the ante post favourite in the shape of Fifth Position.
Old favourite Afaak of Charlie Hills’ yard may not be out of this either having been rested since August, his handicap mark of 107 being just 4lbs higher than when winning the Royal Hunt Cup first time out this season when apparently undercooked.