By Tom Peacock
1 BACK: OASIS FANTASY
A costly personal project over the years, the six-year-old is allowed one final chance with so much in his favour before finally being given up as a bad job.
When trained by Ed Dunlop, Oasis Fantasy had to wait some time for a gap in this very race last year and was beaten a neck by Fire Fighting. He has since changed ownership and been transferred to David Simcock’s care for his 2017 campaign.
There have been glimmers of life in five appearances this year while his mark has slipped to an enticing 93 - 5lb lower than in his effort 12 months ago. Oasis Fantasy looks to have a good draw in stall three and, after running without any equipment during his journey with Simcock so far, he has all the kit back on for Tuesday. The ball is now in Jamie Spencer’s court.
_Higher Power won the Northumberland Plate at Newcastle last time _
2: BACK: HIGHER POWER
It would take a hard heart to begrudge Big Orange a third victory in the staying crown, now moved forward to a popular spot on the opening afternoon.
Quite probably the crowd favourite will get the job done, yet there must be concern that his epic Gold Cup battle with Order Of St George will have left a mark on even this sturdiest of horses.
There seems little harm in having a look elsewhere to small stakes and the Northumberland Plate winner Higher Power is certainly well-placed to take advantage. The five-year-old homebred is the typical late-developer to benefit from James Fanshawe’s patient style and faced his easily his biggest test when second to Big Orange in the Henry II Stakes.
He has some form on the track and is clearly still improving. At 14-1 or so, he is worth a look in a race which would be anyone’s for grabs if Big Orange was not here.
3: BACK: ZELZAL
Ribchester will be an almighty horse to beat and is a top-priced 11-10 for a reason, having given the strongest of hints to his Group One potential when staying on for third behind The Gurkha and Galileo Gold last year, and proving his point virtually ever since.
Far more attractively-priced is another colt who has done very little wrong. Zelzal was an impressive winner of the Prix Jean Prat at around this time last year but has been restricted to just two starts since.
Jean-Claude Rouget gave him what was palpably a prep-run at Chantilly in June as he lashed home for second behind stablemate Taareef, who went on to lower the colours of Guineas third Al Wukair.
If he had not been given far too much ground to make up, Zelzal might very well have won on his first outing in nine months and the form he has shown already, allied with his potential improvement and the booking of Frankie Dettori, make him a very interesting contender.
__Winter has had a busy time and steps up in distance, so could be vulnerable
4 LAY: WINTER
Aidan O’Brien’s filly has carried all before her this season in both Guineas and the Coronation Stakes and this is a very different challenge against a different set of rivals.
As much as she was sired by Galileo and has performed in a style that suggest she should cope with the step up to a mile and a quarter, one concern is that her dam Laddies Poker Two was a sprinter.
Winter is also taking on distance specialists here including Breeders’ Cup winner Queen’s Trust, second to the mighty Minding in the Nassau a year ago and a solid fourth in the Prince Of Wales’s Stakes. Wide-margin Pretty Polly scorer Nezwaah and possibly the John Gosden pair Shutter Speed and So Mi Dar, all deserve the greatest of respect too.
While Winter has had a small breather since Royal Ascot, she has still had an exacting season and there are enough good fillies on side to merit taking her on at a short price.
5: BACK: POET’S WORD
Plenty will be waiting for the re-emergence of Sir Michael Stoute’s colt, who had everything against him when last seen in the Huxley Stakes at Chester and very nearly got past Deauville in the end.
With entries in the likes of the Juddmonte and Irish Champion, it looks as if he has been freshened up with the idea that he will progress to the highest level. What adds even more encouragement is that he already has a victory on the board at this idiosyncratic course when flashing past Sixties Groove in a handicap 12 months ago.
The presence of Frontiersman in the field should keep Poet’s Word’s price respectable, and he looks capable of finding the necessary 4lb of improvement on the ratings.