Codemaster is favourite, courtesy of a much improved performance when bursting through late to win a Listed race at Newmarket on his seasonal debut. However, it was noticeable that he ran about a bit before finally making his move and he might struggle if the race becomes tactical.
That he broke the track record at Newmarket is probably all the more significant given that he certainly didn’t run in a straight line. I would have a slight concern about his chance if the field comes straight up the middle of the track but otherwise he looks well worth his place in this company.
If I felt Utley would be allowed to stride out in front, I would consider him way overpriced based on a very good run behind the useful looking Pausanias in the European Free Handicap. Trying to give 9lbs to the winner and 3lbs to runner-up Rerouted, he failed to quicken initially but stayed on in really good style.
He has disappointed on both outings since but blinkers are being applied for the first time and they could make a big difference provided they don’t light him up.
When Frankie Dettori gets the sniff of an easy lead he usually pounces on it and, as a great race reader, it would be no surprise were he to allow his mount, Splash Point, to stride on. The horse has a lot to find at this level on turf but an easy lead would certainly enhance his chance.
Fury, an unbeaten two-year-old who finished fifth behind Frankel in the Newmarket 2000 Guineas, is deservedly towards the head of the market but I have reservations about him. He displayed a most awkward head carriage in that Classic and he looks like he needs further than seven furlongs.
There is more to come from him but I’m not convinced we’ll see it today.
Strong Suit came from well off the pace to win the Coventry Stakes at this meeting last year but his form tailed off afterwards. He made his comeback in the Greenham Stakes, where he was expected to provide the main danger to Frankel. Out the back from an early stage, he ran a pretty lifeless race when finishing last of the six runners.
Clearly connections felt something was not right and he has since had a breathing operation. As one of last season’s top two-year-olds, he’s entitled to go close back at this level but it’s difficult to place much confidence in him right now. His 5lbs penalty for winning a Group 2 adds further difficulty to his task.
Trainer Jeremy Noseda has won this race twice and often finds a horse to go well here. His Western Aristocrat is unbeaten in two starts and, on the latter occasion, he was ridden with the utmost confidence before gaining a narrow success. He’s clearly quite highly regarded but this represents a big step up in class and, though respected, he has something to find.
There are two classic-placed horses in the race, Oracle and Havane Smoker. The former was third behind Roderic O’Connor in the Irish 2000 Guineas but he counts only a narrow win in a Curragh maiden to his name. The drop to seven furlongs might help but he’s nowhere near prolific enough to be considered a punting prospect.
Havane Smoker, second behind Tin Horse in the French 2000 Guineas, is seriously talented. Asked to pop out of stalls quickly on that occasion, he was immediately lit up and his jockey struggled to get him settled thereafter. What was most fetching about the run was the way he quickened decisively to take the lead a furlong and a half out, at which point he had virtually all of the remainder of the field under pressure. Predictably, he found nothing in the closing stages and was possibly lucky to hold onto second place but, nevertheless, it was a classy effort.
Again, the concern is that he might race too freely but, if he can settle in the early stages, I’ve no doubt he's the one to beat. He has plenty of speed, will absolutely relish the drop back to seven furlongs and at odds around 5-1, he represents plenty of value. After the eclipse of the brilliant Goldikova yesterday, Jean-Claude Rouget’s Havane Smoker can restore some Gallic pride.