Racing UK

Five things to look out for during the Craven meeting at Newmarket

Monday 17 April 2017

The Flat season may have already started but nothing injects impetus in to the campaign like the Craven meeting at Newmarket. From the seasonal debut to the Racing Post Trophy winner to whether Kevin Ryan has a potential star sprinter on his hands, Geoffrey Riddle takes a look at the key points during the three-day meeting at Headquarters, which starts on Tuesday.

By Geoffrey Riddle

Bet365 Craven Stakes – will Rivet nail down the Frankel trio?

William Haggas unleashes the Racing Post Trophy winner Rivet in the Bet365 Craven Stakes on Thursday.

Rivet has not raced since he beat Aidan O’Brien’s Youcatan in the Doncaster Group One in October. The son of Australian sire Fastnet Rock is as big as 20-1 for the Qipco 2,000 Guineas, having not handled the Dip when trounced by Aidan O’Brien’s Churchill last season. 

With that performance still in the memory, Rivet could well be vulnerable and faces another crack runner from Ballydoyle in War Decree. The Vintage Stakes winner beat Godolphin duo Thunder Snow and Boynton at Goodwood in July. Thunder Snow has subsequently become a star in Dubai this winter by winning the UAE Derby, while Boynton beat War Decree in the Superlative Stakes on the July Course last summer.

Rivet’s sternest challenge may come from the three Frankel runners, however.

The highest-rated horse to grace the turf has three representatives in the three-day meeting’s feature race when Godolphin’s Dream Castle, Martyn Meade’s well-regarded Eminent and the grey Frankuus take their chance in the Group Three showpiece.

Earl Of Sefton - one to savour:

The Earl Of Sefton Stakes, staged on Wednesday, has a rich history of producing top-class winners down the years. International Stakes and Eclipse Stakes winners Notnowcato (2006) and Ezzoud (1993) both took the Newmarket Group Three event en route to bigger and greater things, while Ela-Mana-Mou (1980) and Manduro (2007) used the 1m1f contest as a springboard to subsequent Royal Ascot success in the Prince Of Wales’s Stakes.

There might not be a horse with that sort of class running on Wednesday, but the £60,000 still looks a cracker, with the Lincoln and Cambridgeshire winners set to clash. Bravery received an inspired ride from Danny Tudhope to win the Doncaster spring showpiece earlier this month, while the consistent Spark Plug won on his first start on the Rowley Mile when defeating 30 others in September. Viren’s Army and Autocratic both won last time out and with Folkswood edged out of the Group One Jebel Hatta at Meydan last time it looks a solid renewal. 

Nell Gwyn - Cheveley Park rerun unlikely:

A re-match in the Lanwades Stud Nell Gwyn on Wednesday between Brave Anna and Roly Poly after they combined to beat Lady Aurelia in the Cheveley Park Stakes over the Rowley Mile in September would be worth a significant portion of the entry fee alone. The Aidan O’Brien-trained fillies are unlikely to have the race to themselves again, however.

French maestro Andre Fabre has saddled six winners from just 15 runners on the Rowley Mile in the past five seasons and brings over Pamplemousse. There might be a sour taste in the mouth for some punters who missed William Hill’s initial 7-1 about the French raider on Friday, and the once-raced daughter of Group One winner Siyouni now vies for favouritism with Roly Poly at 7-2. Sea Of Grace, who has transferred from John Oxx to William Haggas, is as short as 12-1 for the Qipco 1,000 Guineas, while Andrew Balding’s Poet’s Vanity is between 16-1 and 20-1 for the fillies’ Classic. 

Does Brando command top billing?

In terms of wider public recognition, Brando would be the star turn on the Thursday in the Connaught Access Flooring Abernant Stakes despite the Craven taking centre stage.

The five-year-old sprinter won a handicap at this meeting 12 months ago on his seasonal debut and went on to go close to bridging the gap to Group One level. The Kevin Ryan representative missed out on Royal Ascot glory when pipped in the Wokingham Stakes in June. He then took the Group Three Coral Charge before finding Mecca’s Angel too good in two starts. A facile victory in the Ayr Gold Cup showed he merited a place at the top table and he subsequently ran a fine race in third behind The Tin Man and Growl in the Group One British Champions Sprint at Ascot in October. The five-year-old may well not be box office material just yet, but at 11-8 to see off ten rivals it may not be long until he is. 

James Doyle is back:

Most of the top jockeys will be on show for the three-day meeting but one who has been missed most perhaps is James Doyle, who returned on Monday from his stint in Australia.

Doyle last rode in Britain in November but was shipped off down under to replace James MacDonald, who was stood down for betting irregularities.

He has 12 rides across the meeting (subject to Thursday's declarartions), starting with Mark Of Approval in the Bet365 Wood Ditton Maiden Stakes at 1.50 on Tuesday.

Doyle rode at a 20% strike-rate in Britain in 2015, but last season fell out of favour with Saeed bin Suroor. He rode at 19% in Australia for 21 winners but is not booked on any horse for Bin Suroor on his return to Headquarters.

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