Mercifully for the bookmakers the all conquering Ryan Moore/Coolmore combination is not in action in this and they will be crossing everything in the hope of an upset. A longer established partnership is in action however and the Hughes/Hannon combo are represented by likely favourite Illuminate whom was a strong eye catcher when readily seeing off a stable companion at Salisbury last time. The form of that victory has since been strongly franked and with this extra furlong looking likely to suit, he is taken to get punters off to a flyer. Crack US trainer Wesley Ward is represented by two here and his followers confidence will be high after the yards success in Wednesday’s Queen Mary. Quite how strong the form of Back At The Ranch or Laxfield Storm’s last time out victories are is very difficult to say but both need a healthy level of respect and serious money for either would increase the interest. Fireglow has the look of a typical Johnston tough nut and is an outsider to keep an eye and though Clive Cox’s Our Jot must show significant improvement, its interesting he’s allowing him to run in a race this deep.
Punters will no doubt latch on to the Aiden O’Brien trained Ol’ Man River in this and though he has proved very disappointing in two starts this term, his two year old form is easily the best of these and a return to winning ways would be no surprise at all, his odds offer little value however and so whilst respected he must be taken on. Father Christmas is the other O’Brien runner and despite being an outsider he has a likable enough profile. Impressive enough when strong at the finish in a 10f Roscommon win last time, he will surely improve again but his pedigree raises question marks about his ability to stay this far and he too is taken on. Festive Fare is already a decent performer and has form with recent Derby winner Golden Horn, its highly likely he will have no problem with trip and he’s definitely one to consider. Balios has plenty of stamina in his breeding and could be a massive player on only his third start, like a few though he is hard to weigh up but warrants respect. Sir Michael Stoute has already saddled some very costly losers for punters at this meeting and the yards in and out form is a worry, the decision to run Stravagante here rather than a valuable handicap is very interesting though and he is taken to build on an impressive victory at Epsom last time.
Hootenanny destroyed the field when winning the Windsor Castle at this meeting last term and is likely to attempt to burn them all off again, a winner later in last seasons Breeders Cup meeting over a mile proved he has decent stamina too and he is almost impossible to go against, despite the European challenge looking very strong. Tiggy Wiggy never looked a likely sort over the mile trip and received a most peculiar ride when looking a non stayer in the Guineas trial, infuriatingly she went from the front in the guineas and ran with huge credit in third. Hughes will more than likely attempt to use her potent turn of foot against these and whilst she is heavily respected, you just get the feeling a few of these have more scope. Limato is a long time favourite of mine and has every chance in this, despite losing his unbeaten record last time at the hands of the re-opposing Adaay. Both ought to go well but its hard to fathom why Limato is half the price of Adaay as there seemed to be no fluke about the result of that run. Anthem Alexander is another filly with a good chance, trained by Ed Lynam she is in great hands but her overall form is closely matched with Tiggy Wiggy and it just may turn out not to be good enough.
Once again most eyes will be on the Moore/O’Brien partnership here and Found was most unlucky not to take the Irish 1000 Guineas after meeting interference in the run, she has French raider Erveyda covered on two year old form and really ought to go very close here. Erveyda is interesting as she has probably improved this term too, impressive when collaring Irish Rookie last she should run her race and Soumillon will be looking to play her late. Lucida was sent off favourite for the English 1000 Guineas and only found Legatissimo too strong, that form has since received an almighty boost and she can get back to winning ways today. The rest are difficult to fancy but the aforementioned challenger should ensure a cracking race in what looks a good race.
A strong pace seems assured in this and likely pace setter Watersmeet holds a strong chance having improved at a rate of knots this season. Mark Johnston’s charge has his fair share of quirks and is known to hang, a trait he showed when throwing away all chance when looking a big player in behind the re-opposing Astronerous at Newmarket. A good winner since when seeing off Dashing Star, he looks sure to have some say. Dashing Star himself holds a solid chance as does Astronerous, its arguable neither have the profile of the Johnston charge however though both warrant respect. Continuum ran ninth in this last season and should like the strong gallop, he lacks the scope of a few of these but his riders claim could prove invaluable and currently trading at 40/1, he is simply too big and could cause a major upset if getting the gaps. Libran, Ajman Bridge and Arab Dawn all hold strong chances and are others to keep an eye on but the potential dark horse is the Roger Varian trained Igider. Visually very impressive when winning a much softer race at Doncaster last time, he looked sure to go on to bigger things and he is handed a straight win vote to prove connections were right to pitch him in so deep today.
Aloft is the clear form choice in this having finished second in last seasons Racing Post Trophy, earlier he had gotten the better of the re-opposing Great Glen in a messy race at Newmarket. Despite the mixed messages in his pedigree it could simply be a case of just too good for these, he is priced up accordingly though and it would take a brave sort to weigh in at the odds first time up. Great Glen will appreciate the step up in trip and has some decent form despite having something to find with the jolly, he probably makes as much sense as anything else to run into the places and is taken to do just that. Fabricate has plenty to find on the book but should enjoy the stamina test, a comment that also applies to Antiquarium. Yarrow hails from the Stoute yard and has plenty of scope and though Bantry is the apparent O’Brien second string, he too has plenty of room for improvement.
Great Glen (E/W)