1.00 Lingfield – GUEST OF HONOUR (nb)
The opening bumper on the card looks a decent enough contest, with it featuring a one or two with previous experience to have already shown a useful level of form, and there are also the obligatory sprinkling of newcomers boasting eyecatching paper credentials to add further interest.
The selection is a son of Hurricane Run who is a half brother to multiple Belgian 8-10f AW winner Martimix and French 10-12f winner (including on the AW) Katchagua, out of a winner in the US who was a half sister to a handful of winners, notably useful multiple US winner Sky Brio, out of a Chilean 1000 Guineas winner who was a half sister to Kentucky Oaks winner Secret Status, herself later dam of Dunkirk. This gelding sold for €70,000 at auction as a year (though went unsold for €27,000 as a 3yo), and makes a fair amount of appeal on pedigree as a half brother to a couple of winners (both successful on a synthetic surface) and out of a winning half sister to a handful of winners who was the daughter of a Chilean 1000 Guineas winner. He was formerly trained in France by John Hammond but failed to make the track in a couple of years at that particular establishment, subsequently joining Paul Webber and impressing in his work for his new stable, though he failed to make it to the track once again last season due to testing ground conditions. He continues to impress in his work and certainly has the pedigree to make an impact in this sphere on his belated debut, and he comes from a stable that sent out a winning newcomer here a couple of weeks ago; no surprise to see this son of Hurricane Run follow suit and get off the mark at the first time of asking here.
The Nicky Henderson-trained Picture Post has made the frame on all three outings to date, unable to sustain a forward move when fourth behind Letsby Avenue in a modest bumper at Haydock but stepping up on that when filling the same position behind stablemate River Maigue in a good contest at Ayr next time. He made his reappearance outing in a course and distance event thirteen days ago, for which he was sent off a 4/1 chance; raced towards the rear of the field in a slowly-run affair, ridden three furlongs out and progress approaching the home straight, continuing to stay on for pressure throughout the final furlong to take third behind Koolala (beaten 1¼ lengths). He took his time in getting organised last time, having been waited with at the rear of the field in a steadily-run affair, and he is entitled to strip fitter for that; limitations are beginning to become apparent, however, and for all it isn’t difficult seeing him involved once more, he could once again prove vulnerable to an improver/decent newcomer.
The Alan King-trained Soixante Six is a son of Fair Mix who finishing a well-beaten fourth behind Minella Fortfitness in a bumper at Kempton last backend, but he stepped up on that when third at the same venue on the all-weather track over a month ago, holding every chance approaching the final furlong but coming home in third behind Warden Hill (beaten 2¾ lengths). His latest outing came in the later division of the bumper at Lingfield contested by Picture Post, going off a 6/1 chance; tracked the leaders in another modestly-run affair, shaken up to lead narrowly well over a furlong out but headed soon after and proving very one paced, coming home in third behind Sgt Reckless (beaten 3 lengths). The slow pace seemed to count against him, lacking the speed when the race began in earnest approaching the final furlong; will need further than this to be seen at his very best and could find one or two of these too quick for him, but has still shown enough on his last two outings to think he shouldn’t be too far away.
Stablemate Fighter Jet is a Flat-bred son of Oasis Dream who is a half brother to a few winners and out of a Lancashire Oaks runner-up, herself a half sister to Commander In Chief, Deploy, Dushyantor, Warning etc., and this gelding debuted in a bumper at Taunton back in December. He was sent off an uneasy 10/1 chance and didn’t really offer a great deal, shoved along soon after halfway and fading with over two furlongs left to run, eventually coming home a soundly beaten eighth behind Doctor Harper (beaten 34 lengths). It is entirely possible that the rain-softened ground on that occasion played its part in his downfall, and a switch to this faster surface will see this Flat-bred son of Oasis Dream in a more favourable light; stable holds much stronger claims with Soixante Six, however, and likely best watched unless proving strong in the market beforehand.
The Ben De Haan-trained The Stout Italian is a son of Milan who shaped with definite promise on his debut outing in a bumper at Worcester last May (trained by Kim Bailey), sent off the 3/1 market and finding only smart-looking subsequent winner Buffalo Broadway too good for him. He didn’t quite improve on that as might have been expected when reappearing in a similar contest at Wincanton five months later, close up but pushed along and finding just the one pace from over two furlongs out, finishing in fifth behind Foggy’s Wall (beaten 7½ lengths). It was slightly disappointing he was unable to show a little bit more considering his debut effort behind a useful prospect, but the level of form he showed even last time reads well in the context of this race; certainly one of the likelier types as he returns from another short break.
The other newcomer in the field to catch the eye is the Charlie Longsdon-trained Gift Of Dreams, a son of Presenting who is the fourth foal of a Listed-placed bumper/2m 5f hurdle winner who was a half sister to smart stayer chaser (including a Grand National third) Gunner Welburn and bumper/2m 4f-2m 5f hurdle winner Ace Fighter Pilot. This gelding sold for €33,000 at auction and makes some appeal on pedigree, being the fourth foal of a mare who placed at Listed in this sphere before going on to win over hurdles, and she herself was a half sister to a bumper/dual hurdles winner and also smart staying chaser Gunner Welburn. However, her first three foals have achieved absolutely nothing between themselves so far, and it could be argued that he will need a stiffer test to be seen at his absolutely best; represents a strong stable that do particularly well in these types of events though, and folly to rule him out; market useful.
2.30 Meydan – MARINER’S CROSS (nap)
The opening handicap on the card looks another typically competitive event for the track/meeting, featuring several at least very useful sorts who easily be given a chance of some sort if bringing their best to the party, with Godolphin in particular very well represented here.
The selection is a son of Dubawi from the yard of Mahmood Al Zarooni who made a winning start to his career in the Wood Ditton last April at Newmarket’s Craven meeting, leading/prominent and travelling well throughout, ridden to lead approaching the final furlong and staying on well to see off Mukhadaram by 1¾ lengths (later disqualified due to the presence of a banned substance). His only other outing to date saw him finish second behind Noble Mission in a 10f Listed contest back at headquarters on 2000 Guineas day, tracking the leader and going strongly for a long way, joining issue still within himself well over a furlong out but unable to fend off the winner, going down by a neck at the line. The winner has since gone on to win twice at Group 3 level, whilst the third went on to win at Listed level and finish third in the St Leger and the fourth is now rated 98 after finishing second in a pair of strong handicaps, so this colt’s opening mark of 105 doesn’t look overly excessive. All the same, this is an ultra-competitive event in which he returns and it certainly won’t be a formality, but he has already confirmed himself a smart performer after just two outings and has scope for further improvement; step back to 1m ought not to inconvenience, and it would be a little disappointing if he couldn’t make a winning return to action here.
Stablemate Modern History was lightly-raced for Andre Fabre in France at three, following his second-time-out maiden win with a victory at Listed level (1m) at Toulouse in April 2011, but he found the French 2000 Guineas much too much of a step in class and again disappointed when eased in grade for a Group 3 at Chantilly a month later. His most recent outing little more than a year ago when finishing fourth of seven in a 10f handicap here for his new connections, waited with towards the rear and unable to quicken once the race began to take shape passing the two furlong marker (beaten 7½ lengths). That proved to be his only outing of 2012 and he returns with a little bit to prove after his last three performances, but he does remain unexposed after just six starts and will find the step back to 1m helpful; however, he does remain off the same mark he was readily defeated off 12 months ago, and other boast stronger credentials.
The Saeed Bin Suroor-trained Con Artist is another who hasn’t seen too much action (particularly for a six-year-old), winning his maiden at two and returning at three with a win in a 10f handicap at Windsor, after which he ran highly creditable races in defeat in better company at the same trip behind Emerging Artist and Jet Away. He ran only twice at four, blowing out completely on his reappearance but putting them behind him to land a 10f handicap at Epsom four months later; seen only three times last term but put in two of his best performances to date, making the frame in a pair of good handicaps won by smart duo Danadana and Trade Commissioner. He is on the same mark as he was when fourth behind the last-named of the pair at Sandown, and showed on that occasion that he will prove competitive off his current rating; not drawn ideally for one that likes to race up with the pace, but a good showing almost assured if he can negate that for a stable with an excellent record at this meeting.
The George Baker-trained Belgian Bill finished fourth in the Britannia at three and went close on his first start here when chasing home Songcraft in a 10f handicap, though failed to replicate in a couple of subsequent outings and struggled to find his form back in the UK in the summer, well-fancied when midfield in a trio of strong handicaps. However, he turned a corner in the autumn and, following a fourth-place finish in a Group 2 in Turkey, put together back-to-back wins at Kempton (both 7f); failed to land the hat trick on his reappearance in a 7f handicap here last week, but he had excuses on that occasion and isn’t out of this by any means if returning to his very best back up to 1m.
The Mick Halford-trained Banna Boirche is an all-weather specialist, and he further enhanced his record at Dundalk when landing a pair of handicaps there last April (7f/1m) off marks of 97 and 100, running with credit once or twice in defeat thereafter but essentially having his limitations exposed at Group 3 level. He signed off the year with a good third in a 10f Listed contest at the track, but for all he has to be respected on the pick of his Irish form, his last two visits to the Carnival have been less than successful while his running style also leaves him needing a little bit of fortune; others can boast stronger claims this time.
The Ali Al Raihe-trained Akeed Wafi looked a good prospect at one point when trained in Ireland by John Oxx, winning his maiden impressively at two and finishing a fair second behind subsequent French 2000 Guineas third Furner’s Green in a Guineas trial at Leopardstown. However, he has only raced twice since and failed to beat a single rival home, including on his UAE debut for his new handler in a 7f handicap here last week; still unexposed and a little too early to write him off completely, but does need to bounce back in what looks a fiercely competitive heat.
The John Ryan-trained Iver Bridge Lad is a very useful sort on his day, but he doesn’t win as often as he should (5-50 so far in his career) and was below par for much of 2012 following a trio of creditable efforts in defeat at this meeting in sprint handicaps, though finally showed something approaching his best form when second to Whaileyy in a 6f handicap at Kempton in November. He was never involved when staying on late into sixth behind Lily’s Angel in a 7f handicap last week, but shaped well and would have claims with that behind him; however, for all he was never closer than at the finish, this is his first attempt at 1m and has the worst possible draw in stall 16.