Let’s make no bones about it, this is a sub-standard King George (4.30) with the absence of Postponed and none of the big three from Aidan O’Brien’s stable – Minding, Order Of St George and US Army Ranger. That said, it’s still a good race to have a bet in, it’s got a nice shape to it and I think this big prize could be going to France in the shape of Erupt whose form figures have an inconsistent look to them but when you delve a little bit deeper a pattern emerges.
First of all, this is a horse who hates soft ground, as is evident from his no show at Chantilly on heavy and his disappointing run in an Arc trial last year. The fact that he was able to bounce back from that and finish a very respectable fifth in the Arc and an even better sixth in the Japan Cup in a huge field, suggests to me that, if he’s in that sort of form, he should at least be placed here.
A promising run at Saint-Cloud last time had all the hallmarks of a ‘prep’ run for a big target and, as a Group One winner who loves fast ground, I think he has all the attributes to run a big race here. His trainer is very capable and he wouldn’t be coming over if he didn’t feel he had sound prospects of taking home a significant chunk of prize money.
We are taking on trust that the Hardwicke Stakes form is excellent and, whilst I have a lot of respect for Dartmouth, as well as Highland Reel, I’m not sure the race was quite as strong as some people have been suggesting. I would be slightly more wary of Wings of Desire who has a lot more to offer and I thought he ran okay in the Derby for one so inexperienced.
Elsewhere on the card I am very keen on the chance of the chances of Von Blucher in the Woodford Reserve Handicap at 3.20. This is the horse that John Gosden confessed to having backed at Newmarket last time and although this is a stronger race, he posted a really taking performance on the July Course and appears to relish fast ground. He’s meeting a couple of well handicapped rivals this time and a fast-improving filly at the foot of the weights, but connections have always thought a lot of this horse and they’ve gone straight to Ryan Moore for this £45k contest, so he looks a good bet to follow up.
I suspect that Frankel might get his first Pattern-race winner in the shape of Fair Eva in the Princess Margaret Stakes (2.45). Roger Charlton has been very patient with her and she impressed me more than any other Frankel offspring so far when winning at Haydock on debut. I loved the way she pointed her toe that day and I think the faster the ground the better she will be. She will probably want further in due course but she’s clearly not short of speed and I think she’s been found a really nice slot here.
At York, all eyes will be on Time Test for Roger Charlton in the Sky Bet York Stakes (3.35) but I think he might have a meaningful rival in Mahsoob. John Gosden’s charge posted one his most eye-catching performances of last year at this track, even if it wasn’t a career best on the figures, and I would happily drawn a line through his Lockinge effort given the drop back to a mile was clearly not what the doctor ordered. Ten-and-a-half furlongs on fast ground, at a track he has run well before and he suddenly becomes interesting again and, with Time Test likely to be very short indeed, I’m tempted to give Mahsoob another chance. He was a horse with entries in every Group One going last season so is clearly held in the highest regard - he just needs things to drop right.
I’m perfectly prepared to see Time Test win but he’s got much more on against these rivals than the market suggests – Mondialiste was a Breeders’ Cup Mile runner-up last year and Air Pilot was an impressive winner in France last time, so this might not be as straightforward as many believe.