Although the Newmarket 2000 Guineas and Epsom Derby winner has never actually raced over this distance, it’s widely anticipated that this could prove his optimum trip and, if the bookmakers’ prices are to be taken literally, anything less that a victory will be a real shock.
The colt has done nothing wrong this season and whether this turns into a dawdle or an all-out gallop, Sea The Stars should have the armoury to deal with the situation. He is a worthy favourite but punters should not underestimate the extent of the task he faces in tackling older horses for the first time.
Last year’s Doncaster St Leger winner Conduit is a hardened campaigner who has plied his trade successfully across continents but, in contrast to the favourite, he absolutely requires a searching gallop throughout to be fully effective over a trip as short as this.
Just over twelve months ago the son of Dalakhani was beaten off a mark of 79 in a handicap at this track but his trainer Michael Stoute has allowed the colt to develop slowly into a top class thoroughbred. His handler has left nothing to chance in including stable-companion Lang Shining as pacemaker and, with Ballydoyle’s Set Sail and, possibly, Malibu Bay also potential pacesetters, a real gallop is virtually assured.
After his St Leger victory last September, Conduit dropped back a couple of furlongs to a mile and a half when blazing away with the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Turf at Santa Anita. On his seasonal debut back in May, he dropped another quarter of a mile to today’s distance for the Brigadier Gerard Stakes at this track and it was quite surprising that he was caught on the line when leading inside the last hundred yards.
Another of today’s runners, Cima De Triomphe, played the thief that day but that result clearly indicated that confirmed stayer Conduit was desperately in need of the race. Although there are grounds to believe that the winner, who won last year’s Italian Derby and was beaten just six lengths behind Zarkava in the Prix de l’Arc at Longchamp, can improve further under the tuition of Luca Cumani, he was in receipt of seven pounds from the runner-up that day and will not enjoy the same luxury this afternoon.
Rip Van Winkle has yet to produce on the track what connections believe he is capable of and he’s certainly becoming very frustrating to follow. As with Sea The Stars, it’s been suggested that this could be his distance but the O’Brien colt is becoming expensive to make excuses for.
Since last year’s Group 3 Tyros Stakes at The Curragh he’s never really been competitive in a race. He stayed on late to finish a close-up seventh in the Dewhurst over seven furlongs, he kept on purposefully to finish fourth in the Newmarket 2000 Guineas over one mile and, again, he finished well to take fourth place in the twelve-furlong Epsom Derby.
There’s certainly a recurring theme there and all the evidence points to another good show but no victory.
Twice Over looks the only other genuine aspirant to success and Henry Cecil’s colt maintains a high-level of form despite being without a victory since this time last year. He may not have been suited by the pace of the race when fourth in the Prince Of Wales’s Stakes at Ascot last time out but he’s consistently come up short at this level and may need others to under-perform to return successful here.
Far more so than in the Irish Derby, everything looks set for Sea The Stars to emulate Nashwan who won the 2000 Guineas, Derby and Eclipse back in 1989 but the price is quite prohibitive for casual punters. Although the three-year-old is most likely to continue his brilliant run of form, it’s not entirely straight-forward and, from a punting perspective, Conduit appeals as a very strong each-way bet.
Given the short-odds, bookmakers are likely to offer betting ‘without the favourite’ and it’s in this market that Conduit really appeals. Unlike most of his other rivals, he’s a proven Group and Grade 1 winner and should have the race run to suit. The weight-for-age concession of 11lbs makes life tough but it’s possible that he could cause an upset and, at the very lest, he can push the favourite all the way.