Canford Cliffs took the latter race in scintillating style and that’s sure to have boosted the confidence of Free Judgement’s connections going into today’s opener after their horse finished a creditable, if comprehensively outpointed, runner-up to Richard Hannon’s horse in the Irish 2000 Guineas.
Jim Bolger’s colt was held up out the back at The Curragh but he made strong late progress to briefly threaten the winner. The furious gallop and a brilliant ride from Kevin Manning maximised the potential of the horse on that occasion and he’s a major player back over the shorter trip against this sort of company.
This represents a massive step back in grade for him and the same comment applies to Red Jazz who ran a big race when beaten just four lengths behind Makfi in the English 2000 Guineas. Trained by Barry Hills, who won this race last year with Ouqba, the colt raced prominently throughout but was basically outclassed in the closing stages at Newmarket.
His stamina for that mile was not assured and it’s arguable that the slow early pace of that race allowed him race more prominently and for longer than would have been the case in a true run race. I could contend that today’s race is also plenty far enough for him but there’s unlikely to be a very strong pace and he should have some say.
His trainer was quoted stating ‘He’ll never be a sprinter, but he might win the Jersey – and then the Challenge Stakes in October too.”
Those are bold words and Hills, who was successful with Equiano in yesterday’s King’s Stand Stakes, deserves the utmost respect but the horse’s latest performance was certainly disappointing and he may have to settle for a minor role.
William Haggas is another trainer who’s had this race on his mind for some time and Quarrel is the horse he’s been lining up. This one’s most eye-catching piece of form came in last year’s Mill Reef Stakes where he was beaten a shade over two lengths behind the extremely talented Awzaan. His trainer stated that his seasonal return at Haydock was just a stepping stone towards this race but, even allowing for the unsuitably soft conditions of that race, he was disappointing. It’s a run that leaves him with an awful lot of do to reverse form with Rainfall, who finished a close second behind Bewitched that day.
That was just Rainfall’s second ever outing and she showed a gritty attitude typical of Mark Johnston horses when battling against the conditions and a strong early pace run the winner to three-parts of a length. All of that resilience and some improvement will be required if she’s to come out on top today and it’s a former inmate of the Middleham Moor trainer that sparks most interest this afternoon.
Shakespearean is the horse in question and his case is compromised only by the fact that this race comes less than a fortnight after his seasonal debut. In a busy two-year-old campaign for Johnston, his form included victory in a Group 3 over seven furlongs at Sandown and an ultra-game short-head victory in the Goffs Million Mile at The Curragh.
Determination got him home that day and further evidence from the Racing Post Trophy where he faded back into a not-disgraced sixth place behind St Nicholas Abbey indicates quite clearly that today’s trip is his optimum.
As a juvenile he appealed as the type to develop significantly from two to three and there was plenty of evidence that he’d progressed as expected when making a successful debut for Saeed Bin Suroor and Godolphin in the Listed Scurry Stakes at Epsom on Derby weekend.
Frankie Dettori dictated that race from the front and he readily held the challenges of a number of today’s rivals. On the face of it, Mon Cadeaux, Kaptain Kirkup and Lucky General would appear to have it all to do to reverse the form on even worse terms but it’s his potential for further improvement that makes Shakespearean so appealing.
He’s certain to be ridden prominently from the off and, having learnt his trade from Mark Johnston, he’s going to prove very hard to beat. He makes considerable appeal to continue his development in what is traditionally a very competitive race.