Turpin an each-way robbery in Lockinge

CANFORD CLIFFS, long the apple of trainer Richard Hannon’s eye, makes his anticipated seasonal return in this afternoon’s Lockinge Stakes at Newbury and, though now in his third year on the track, the Everleigh enthusiasm for the colt is, if anything, on the increase.

But that shouldn’t be of concern to punters, who must take only fact and form into consideration when seeking the winner of today’s race, which is the only Group 1 race on the calendar confined to older horses.

Canford Cliffs was a brilliant winner of the Coventry Stakes as a two-year-old but disappointed when beaten on his final start of that season. Touched off in last year’s Greenham and 2000 Guineas, where he was behind stable companion and fellow Lockinge hopeful Dick Turpin both times, he rediscovered the winning thread with a smooth success in the Irish 2000 Guineas.

That signalled an upturn in fortune for the horse and he finally gained revenge over Dick Turpin in the St James’ Palace Stakes at Ascot, before following up with a narrow victory over the cleverly ridden Rip Van Winkle in the Sussex Stakes at Goodwood last July.

He’s been off the track since then but he returns with the usual fanfare and the customary expectation of fireworks.

Whatever he’s showing at home, it’s clearly a world apart from what Dick Turpin is doing and hence each time they’ve met, he’s been expected to come out on top. That’s all fine and it’s fair to say that Hannon’s geese are seldom swans but, in this case, it might be Dick Turpin is underestimated.

For all the superiority Canford Cliffs has been expected to exert over his stable-mate, the official figures put just three pounds between the pair.

Take into account that Dick Turpin has had a run already this season and that gap narrows so as to make the difference almost negligible. Also, on that occasion at Ascot when Canford Cliffs did manage to finish in front of him, the winner was made to work very hard to get up late for a narrow victory.

So, is it a two-horse race? Not quite. As a three-time Group 1 winner, the Henry Cecil-trained Twice Over deserves respect. Twice a winner of the Newmarket Champion Stakes, he hasn’t run over today’s trip since finishing a close second behind Virtual in this race two years ago and, it should be noted, that was run on soft ground.

He’s never looked spectacularly speed-laden and, on today’s faster ground and in a race in which there is no natural pacemaker, he may struggle to land a blow.

Of the others, Cityscape looks held on his form with Dick Turpin in last month’s Bet365 Mile, while Balthazaar’s King and Red Jazz would prefer a shorter trip. Premio Loco might be capable of a decent showing without threatening to win, but Shakespearean, who’s lost all semblance of form, and Beacon Lodge will struggle to land a blow.

It’ll be interesting to see how Italian raider Worthadd goes given that he’s been beaten just twice in a nine-race career. One of those defeats came in a Group 1 in his homeland, where Godolphin’s Rio De La Plata was the winner. The last-named would struggle to score at that level in Britain and it leaves Worthadd, who could be asked to set the pace, with something to find.

Canford Cliffs is a worthy favourite but his price suggests a greater level of superiority than he actually enjoys. With no copper-fastened speed setter, this is an ideal race for Dick Turpin. The colt is uncomplicated, has the versatility to sit on or just behind the pace and he could enjoy the run of the race.

An each-way bet is for the smart thieves who seek insurance; the win part is a realistic aspiration for an overshadowed and oft underestimated colt.

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