The three-year-old didn’t seem to shine in the Newmarket 2000 Guineas, even though he was beaten just half a length by Night Of Thunder. Perhaps the run came too soon after his scintillating display in the Greenham, at Newbury, as he turned around the form in no uncertain terms in the St James’s Palace Stakes at Royal Ascot.
That latest run had the clock watchers purring, as he posted some sensational sectionals in the final three furlongs. Jockey James Doyle had the luxury of easing down in the last few strides, having ridden him with utmost confidence. He’s currently rated just one pound ahead of today’s chief market rival and 2013 winner Toronado, but there’s promise of so much more to come, and he thoroughly deserves to be odds on to beat his older rival.
Toronado represents Richard Hannon, who had two odds-on shots turned over at this meeting yesterday. This colt, however, was impressive in the Queen Anne Stakes at Royal Ascot in June and, as that was his first start for almost a year, he ought to be better for it.
Behind Dawn Approach in last year’s English 2000 Guineas and touched off by the same colt in the St James’s Palace Stakes, he reversed that form in this race, getting on top quite decisively in the closing stages. There may be more to come from him, but it’s unlikely to be enough to lower Kingman’s colours.
In the absence of War Command, today’s race could turn into a tactical affair, with the remaining Aidan O’Brien runner, Darwin, now less likely to try to make it a fair test. Kingman will be hard to beat regardless of how the race is run, but he has shown tremendous speed in his races, and appeals as the one best equipped to cope if this turns into a sprint.
We won’t get rich backing him, and most will likely taking a watching brief, which, if recent displays from the Gosden colt are correct, should be quite a spectacle.
The nap goes to Snow Sky, in the Gordon Stakes. On his most recent start, in the King Edward VII Stakes at Royal Ascot, Michael Stoute’s colt raced keenly in the early stages and also chased the fast pace being set by outsider Odeon.
He was still right there on the turn for home but the field closed up rapidly at that point and he looked set to be swamped. To his credit, he stayed on really well and it was only in the closing stages that he lost third place to one of today’s rivals, Scotland.
On the back of that run, the last-named is officially rated one pound higher than the selection, but I would question that, as he picked his way past beaten rivals having failed to mount any challenge. He may struggle to confirm that form.
Somewhat is likely to set the pace, as he did when excelling himself in the Eclipse at Sandown. Based on that run, where he finished third behind subsequent King George third Mukhadram, he’s the one to beat. But, he got the run of the race that day, and held on to his place in the frame as the horses ridden from off the pace struggled to land a blow.
Cloudscape is better than he has been able to show but can be very keen, and that won’t aid his chance of seeing out the trip. The complete outsider of the field is Ayrad, at 25-1. He ran in the French Derby on just his third start, and I’d be slow to rule him out, even though he was beaten a long way. He has a lot to find, though many of his rivals make little appeal, and he could be worth a saver at a huge price.
But, Snow Sky, whose previous form, when beating Hartnell very comfortably over 11 furlongs, received a boost when the runner-up won the Queen’s Vase at Ascot and the Bahran Trophy at Newmarket, is still somewhat unexposed, and can prove too classy for today’s rivals.
It’s almost incredible a daughter of sprinter Captain Rio is favourite to win a competitive two-mile handicap but Maid In Rio is very hard to oppose in the opener. Mark Johnston’s filly has improved markedly for the step up in trip this season, and was better than ever when winning on her first try over this trip last week. She receives all the allowances, and will be very hard to beat.