A testing surface presents itself once again for this meeting, but ground has been saved up the inside of the round course for many meetings and it shouldn’t be farcically demanding, class should still out in the showpiece races.
1.35 – Sprint 6f
I would marginally prefer a high draw here and I will oppose the front of the market with two battle-hardened veterans in The Tin Man and Mabs Cross. The Tin Man will relish the bad ground and shot back to form when chasing home Hello Youmzain in the Sprint Cup last time. He will appreciate a stronger run race here and can add to his win in this contest in 2016. He might be 7 but has been lightly raced and the 1lb swing at the weights could well be enough to reverse form with a strong pace in his favour. Mabs Cross has looked badly out of form in her last few starts but finished better than anything in the Abbaye last time, confirming her effectiveness on horrible ground and hinting once again that she might now be ready for the step up to 6 furlongs; worth a dart at a massive price.
Selection: The Tin Man – Saver: Mabs Cross
2.10 – Long Distance Cup 2m
John Gosden doesn’t seem sure about letting his staying star Stradivarius loose on bad ground, but in truth very few of these relish testing conditions and the staying champion should be able to take this prize without coming out of 3rd gear, it looks like money for old rope and I expect him to run and win. Disputing 2nd favouritism, Royal Line handles bad ground but has stamina questions to answer and Kew Gardens would prefer a livelier surface. Mekong has less proven ability but looks a stout stayer, has won both his starts on heavy ground with ease and can chase home Stradivarius.
Selection: Stradivarius to beat Mekong
2.45 – Filly & Mares 1m 4f
John Gosden sends out both his Oaks winners here as he did in the Prix Vermeille and Star Catcher can confirm superiority over Annapurna. They look short enough prices with the improving pair Antonia De Vega and Tarnawa in opposition for the first time though, both arriving off the back of impressive wins and with proven soft ground form. I will take Tarnawa to cause an upset here though; she showed stamina to be a strong suit on her penultimate start and arrives on the crest of a wave. Dermot Weld has never been inclined to overface his horses and she can provide him with an overdue big race win – he took this with Sapphire in 2012.
3.20 – Queen Elizabeth II Stakes 1m
Once again, the mile division lacks strength and Benbatl aside there is little proven top-class form on offer. He has enormous questions to answer on the ground having been trounced by inferior horses on his only attempt on a bad racing surface. Despite this I’m not inclined to take him on, but equally he is impossible to support financially. The Revenant hosed up at the Arc meeting and the money for him is understandable, but he may have beaten very little there.
4.00 – Champion Stakes 1m 2f
The key races don’t look quite as exciting as the support card, but the main event provides much my strongest bet of the day in the shape of deserving market leader Magical. Coolmore deserve a lot of credit for the way they campaign their fillies and Magical has been thrown to the wolves this season; Twice a group 1 winner and giving Enable a real race in the Eclipse at Sandown. She can cap her fine season with her biggest ever win here, she has the measure of her rivals on form and I think a testing 10 furlongs is her perfect trip, she might have had a hard race at Longchamp but appears bomb proof. 2nd favourite Addeybb doesn’t look out of the same bracket class wise, he is well underpriced to my eyes.
Selection: Magical (Nap)
4.40 – Balmoral Handicap 1 mile
Lord North headed this market ante-post on the back of his scintillating win in the Cambridgeshire. He looks every inch a pattern class performer already, but a 12lb rise means he will need to be Group class to defy a mark of 110 and its hard to see such a fluid mover relishing poached and loose ground. The money in recent days has all been for Amadeo Modigliani and it looks well founded to my eyes. Brought back from a 2 year absence this season by Coolmore, they obviously had high hopes for him and though he hasn’t delivered he has gone well on all 3 starts at listed level, especially so last time on his return from yet another injury layoff. He relishes soft ground, stays well and looks exceptionally well handicapped on his strong form. Mitchum Swagger was unlucky not to finish much closer off a 2lb lower mark in the Hunt Cup over c&d and might finally find things fall his way here.
Selection: Amadeo Modigliani – Saver: Mitchum Swagger