The Qatar Stewards’ Sprint Stakes is a consolation race in name only. Although the prize money for today’s handicap feature is a whopping £250,000, this sprint, which opens the card, is a £75,000 handicap in its own right. As such, the curtain raiser to the fifth and final day of Goodwood is ferociously competitive and a devilishly difficult handicap to unpick.
Won by Golden Steps (drawn in stall six) last year, it is impossible not to side with lower drawn horses. Although Take Cover (winner) and Goldream (third) defied higher draws in yesterday’s King George, I remain convinced it pays to be nearer the far rail at Goodwood over distances less than a mile. Typically, many of today’s contenders have faced each other numerous times and it goes without saying that this form ties in nicely with the Stewards’ Cup later on today’s card – keep an eye out.
Rather than over complicating things, let’s concentrate on the simple factors: course and distance form, yard form and, of course, the draw. Paul Midgley is an exceptional trainer of sprinters and today he saddles a live chance in Related. This gelding ran a mighty race when third behind Kimberella at York last week when well fancied and is sure to go well at a big price. Related is up 1lb for that performance and runs off a mark of 90 today. However, he has won off a higher mark (91), has won over course and distance previously, relishes the decent ground and, like so many of his classy stablemates (think Monsieur Joe, Ninjago, Desert Law and Line Of Reason), he can be turned out quickly after a decent performance and relied upon to deliver again. He must be backed.
Similarly, Seeking Magic rates a decent bet for the in-form Clive Cox yard. He beat yesterday’s King George winner Take Cover when winning this very race three years ago and was third behind Johannes in 2012. From stall eight, in ground he’ll also love, he’s worth a small bet. Seeking Magic’s sixth place finish in the ultra-competitive Epsom dash, behind Caspian Prince and subsequent winners Blithe Spirit and Kimberella, rates as solid form and, stepped back up to his preferred distance of six furlongs, he’s rated to go close.
Seeking Magic (E/W)
Sir Michael Stoute’s runners have been quite frustrating in terms of caching them on a good day this season but he banged a couple of winners in yesterday and his runner here, Abingdon has won her last two. Only workmanlike when winning a Listed contest at Newbury over 10f the last day she is difficult to properly judge, she is from a good family however and given her handler excels with similar types she is taken to go in again despite having to prove her stamina. Lady Of Camelot looks the chief danger and her win at Leicester has worked out really well, her recent 5th at Haydock also reads well in the context of this so without hesitation she is handed the main danger tag. Chinoiseries is totally unexposed and could be anything, this is deep enough on her belated comeback however and the rest are hard to fancy.
Dal Harraild is likely to go off favourite in this having run a belter in finishing third at Ascot last time, drawn poorly that day he had to be dropped out but he did some very good work late on and could probably be described as being unlucky. Up 3lbs today and with a better draw to work from he is taken to gain compensation and this ground is perfect for him. Soldier In Action had been in my notebook for a while before making all in a decent race at Ripon the last day, similar tactics will be very difficult to pull off from his draw today but the Johnston yard is firing and he wants respecting despite the penalty. Gold Faith was impressive enough to earn a spot in this field when readily winning at Newmarket over this trip and market confidence would be interesting, pretty much the same can be said about Emperor Napoleon too and his stamina and style of running should stand him in good stead. Move Up, Knights Table and Shabbah are other to consider in what is a wide open contest.
Dal Harraild (E/W if 9/2+)
Parsnip may not be straightforward, as indicated by the wearing of a hood in the parade ring at Chepstow a fortnight ago. She is, however, a typically precocious daughter of Zebedee and the sound beating the filly gave to her rivals on debut, including second place Bazwind (who has subsequently run a solid race when runner up to Whiteley at Lingfield), indicates there is more to come. Lady Bamford’s filly, trained by the in-form Michael Bell, is a solid eachway bet on ground she’ll love.
The William Haggas trained Jumping Around cannot be ignored either, thanks to a solid debut when fourth at Yarmouth behind the useful Urban Fox, who has gone in again, and second placed Rosabelle who has since won a maiden. Sea Of Snow, however, is rated as the biggest danger to Parsnip on account of her form with Richard Hannon’s very decent colt Legendary Lunch. Although beating Legendary Lunch at Windsor back in May, the form was reversed at Epsom on Oaks day, no surprise given just how highly Hannon spoke of his colt. Sea Of Snow’s most recent run – a poor performance at Royal Ascot – can surely be excused as a blip and, like so many of Mark Johnston’s representatives, it would be no surprise at all to see the daughter of Distorted Humour, out of a Sadler’s Wells mare, improve again now in nursery company where so often those towards the top of the weights prevail.
Sea Of Snow (E/W)
The Qatar Nassau Stakes, our famous mid-summer Group One (open to Fillies and Mares aged three years or older), remains one of the finest races in the calendar. The great old race is now in its third century but even a look back to its most recent history evokes great memories; Russian Rhythm, Alexander Goldrun, Ouija Board, The Fugue and Legatissimo have each won the race since the turn of the Millennium. The most celebrated of them all was Midday, Prince Khalid Abdulla’s brilliant mare, exceptionally handled by Sir Henry Cecil and a history-making three time winner of the race.
Even by their own extraordinary standards, Ballydoyle are enjoying a vintage year with their older fillies. Since Minding got the ball rolling in the 1,000 Guineas at Newmarket in early May, the durable Found has won the Mooresbridge Stakes (Group 3), Pretty Perfect the Munster Oaks (Group 3), Even Song the Ribblesdale (Group 2), Alice Springs was backed off the boards when winning the Falmouth (Group 1) and Seventh Heaven became Aidan O’Brien’s fifth winner of the Irish Oaks (Group 1). It is therefore remarkable that, despite this wealth of female talent, there is one filly that still stands head and shoulders above her stablemates and is rapidly becoming the greatest filly trained by the master of Ballydoyle.
Yes, it would be a thrill to see the filly take on the opposite sex to really cement her legacy, but that argument is for another day. Today is simply about the brilliant Minding – winner of the 1,000 Guineas, Epsom Oaks, Pretty Polly and a head second in the Irish 1,000 Guineas after an unfortunate accident when leaving the stalls. Bigger stakes punters will have been elated to see Minding at 4/9 for the Nassau earlier in the week. If ever there was an opportunity to buy money, this was it. If the filly turns up fit and well, she will take all the beating. It’s often hard to look explosive in small tactical races but by hook or by crook Minding will get the job done.
Forget the small field, the 2016 Nassau is a race to be savoured. Nevertheless, should you be tempted to bet, it often pays to follow John Gosden who, like Cecil, expertly handles his fillies, affording them patience and always earning valuable black type by placing them with the utmost care. In what will be a tactical race, with just five going to post, Frankie Dettori is the man to trust to get the best of his filly and Swiss Range rates the best of the rest if one feels obliged to take on Minding.
It will, however, be a bitter disappointment if the daughter of Galileo fails to add to her Group 1 tally. Racing needs horses like Minding and when the dust has settled on 2016, let’s hope we see her training on as a four-year-old in 2017.
This looks an impossible race to judge and the draw further complicates matters, as such a chance is going to be taken on a couple though small stakes and extreme caution have to be advised. Duke Of Firenze has already paid his way this term and looks to have gone off the boil lately, disappointing on his last two starts it would seem almost impossible to have him with any confidence but he is handily drawn and could well outrun his big odds. G Force is another with plenty to prove and his two runs since joining this yard have hardly inspired, a Group1 winner in his pomp he had a frightening experience last season and has seemingly never recovered since. Connections decision to send him over from Ireland is probably an exercise in clutching at straws but he is no handicapper when things go his way and on that premise he is handed a most speculative vote to run into a place at big odds. Orion’s Bow cashed in on his plummeting mark 5 starts ago and hasn’t looked like being beaten since, proven on any going he has a good draw to work from and is 3lbs well in. Dandy Nicholls is as renowned as anyone with sprinters and so without going on forever, his chance is best described as outstanding. Kimberella is another Nicholls inmate and is another one that is well in today (2lbs) consistent all season he finally got his head in front at York the last day and a big run looks on the cards despite his tricky looking draw. Suzi’s Conoisseur is a regular in these types of races and is another with outstanding claims if in the mood, unlucky in the run when 7th in this last term he is a very big player if getting the gaps and is handed another an extremely tentative vote to get us out of jail if the other one fails. A case can be pretty much made for any of the others but selected shouts are handed out to Toofi, Grown and Withernsea who often attracts market support.
G Force (E/W)
Suzi’s Conoisseur (E/W)
William Haggas isn’t firing on all cylinders at the moment, but it is extremely hard to see past Lockheed in the valuable Qatar EBF Stallions Maiden Stakes, won by the useful Folkswood last year. Finishing one length behind Seven Heavens (yet another winning debutant for the awesome Frankel) at Ascot three weeks ago, the step up in trip to seven furlongs will definitely benefit the son of Exceed and Excel, particular as his dam Clinical is out of Derby winner Motivator. The maiden form isn’t necessarily bombproof, with the third Malcom The Pug unable to make any sort of impression at Newbury earlier this month, but any sort of improvement should see him home here.
Michael Bell is having a tremendous festival, thanks to Goodwood Cup winner Big Orange and Franklin D landing an epic gamble for punters in yesterday’s Betfred Mile. Ray’s The Money, therefore, is the eachway bet of the race despite Geneva Convention, his conqueror on debut, flopping behind Bear Valley in a nursery here earlier in the week. Ryan Moore takes the ride from a handy draw in stall three and it is hoped the colt’s racecourse experience will give him an advantage.
With a purse of over £16,000 this is a warm maiden and the unraced juveniles from the yards of Richard Hannon and Hugo Palmer are to be feared.
Ray’s The Money (E/W)
The last selection from me today and another stinker to work with, Mamllius makes his handicap debut on the back of a taking performance at Salisbury where he powered home late on. Today is clearly much harder but the handicapper has given him a chance and connections are hardly known for throwing theirs into impossibly deep water, with normal improvement looking nailed on he can only be described as a tentative selection but he could be worth following going forwards and appeals at the prices. Hornsby probably bumped into one the last day but still ran with credit and would probably have gone off favourite in this had it not been for his horrible draw. Stablemate Venturous is another with strong form claims and his price reflects this, drawn well enough today it would be no shock if he proved good enough but his last run is off putting. Another who bombed the last day is Estidraak who was much too keen early and who faded tamely away late on. This represents a big class drop for the Stoute runner but he must learn to settle better and his price is pretty short all things considered. Tigerwolf, Reputation and Hawatif are others with claims but a chance will be taken on the lightly raced Mamillilus making the frame at good odds.
This is a great race, and a superb way to close the festival, but few punters would want to go deep on an apprentice handicap over nine furlongs.
If there’s one bet in this, it has to be Mark Johnston’s Bathos. The trainer is famed for his success at Goodwood and has recorded three wins already this week thanks to Fire Fighting, Bear Valley and Yalta, and I back him to finish the week in style with this course and distance winner.
Beaten well by Franklin D (won yesterday) and stablemate Ode To Evening (second to You’re Hired on Thursday) this is much more realistic company for the Poet’s Voice colt and he is in safe hands under the talented Ross Coakley, who Johnston trusts with the ride in this £20,000 contest. There are many dangers in this but at 8/1 this is an eachway bet to nothing in an otherwise unpredictable contest.
Bathos (E/W if 9/2+)