It was a pleasure to be on the gallops with John Gosden on Friday morning as the trainer talked to assembled media about his powerful team for QIPCO British Champions Day at Ascot tomorrow week.
Roaring Lion, Cracksman, Stradivarius, Lah Ti Dar and Coronet give the soon-to-be three-time champion trainer prospects of dominating Britain’s richest raceday but, before that, he saddles the exciting Too Darn Hot in what promises to be a fabulous renewal of the Darley Dewhurst Stakes at Newmarket on Saturday.
It is likely to determine who is this year’s champion two-year-old but looks a contest to watch rather than punt on. There are other opportunities, starting with:.
Al Qahwa failed to make an impact in this race last year but his two previous efforts at the track stand close inspection and, on softer ground that 12 months ago, a bold bid looks on the cards.
The five-year-old stuck to his task in good style when runner-up in the Silver Cup at Ayr last time, having previously shaped well in a similarly competitive big-field handicap at the Curragh.
A reproduction of either effort will put him bang in the mix here because this contest has an end-of-season feel with plenty in the line-up going through the motions in recent starts.
Rewatch what our experts said about the Queen's Vase, in which Southern France finished second to Kew Gardens
Willie Mullins runs seven in his quest for a first Cesarewitch triumph and it requires adeep breath to take on his squad.
However, if there is one horse in the line-up who is a potential blot then surely it is the imposing Southern France, who had already looked a young stayer going places before chasing home Kew Gardens and Lah Ti Dar in the St Leger last time.
This is a tough race for three-year-olds, make no mistake, but he could have a significant class edge and although the 10-1 that bet365 offered has disappeared, thye general 7-1 on offer still looks big about a horse who could be Gold Cup material next year.
The last three-year-old to win, Darley Sun, was an emphatic victor when a well-backed favourite in 2009. I can see the money arriving for Southern France and him doing similar under Donnacha O’Brien, who has to be a candidate for jockey of the season.
The 3.5 million guineas that Qatar racing paid for a yearling at Tattersalls Book One sale this week reminded me of six years ago when they paid similarly big bucks for a youngster called Hydrogen.
Peter Chapple-Hyam was sent the colt but he ran only twice (the second time for Olly Stevens), showed little and did not recoup a penny of the money spent on him.
Qatar Racing have put that disappointment firmly behind them but Chapple-Hyam’s fortunes have dipped and this year he has had only 66 runners.
Classical Times has been responsible for three of those spins and she has performed well each time, albeit without winning. This looks a decent opportunity, though, and I’m not worried about her absence because she can go well fresh.
Arrowtown was an unlucky loser when finishing fast and going down by a short head in this race last year and can go one better.
She is 14lb higher in the ratings than 12 months ago but has continued to thrive in the interim and the easy ground will play to her strengths.
It was difficult not to be impressed by the way she powered home at Ayr last time, having previously led late on over a shorter trip at Thirsk. I’d be in no hurry to oppose her given her present wellbeing and 3-1 looks perfectly acceptable.
Beshaayir looked on really good terms with herself when winning a Listed contest in emphatic fashion over a mile at the Cambridgeshire meeting.
This is probably a deeper race and she has an extra furlong to cover, but I like backing in-form fillies at this time of the year and she should again get the decent gallop she requires to show her best with her stablemate, Awesometank, a habitual front-runner, also in the line-up.
How To Bet £20 on Saturday:
3.15 York: Al Qawha £2 win at 7-1 with William Hill
3.40 Newmarket: Southern France £3 win and £2 each-way at a general 7-1
4.50 Newmarket: Classical Times £3 win at 5-1 with bet365
5.00 York: Arrowtown £5 win at 3-1 with bet365
5.25 Newmarket: Beshaayir £3 win at 5-1 with Coral
£1 Win Patent
3.40 Newmarket: Southern France
5.00 York: Arrowtown
5.25 Newmarket: Beshaayir
Above trio in a 50p Win Super Yankee with
3.15 York: Al Qawha
4.50 Newmarket: Classical Times