Mark Johnston doesn’t normally waste much time finding the scoresheet at this meeting and the Middleham handler is four-handed in the opener. Given the random nature of the yard, it may be a fruitless exercise to attempt to predict which of the quartet, if any, may emerge victorious but I was taken with the success of STARS OVER THE SEA (Best price 9-1) at Newbury and the one-time hurdler could follow up today. Admittedly, the five-year-old enjoyed an armchair passage at the head of affairs last time, where rider George Baker was allowed to dictate matters from the front. That said, he was an emphatic winner at the line and appears on an upward curve coming into this event. Sadly, the bigger prices have disappeared quicker than a Boris Johnson leadership campaign, but he is still worth playing.
War Decree will probably be a short price to wreak some revenge on BOYNTON (Best price 11-4) in the Qatar Vintage Stakes given his Newmarket conqueror must shoulder a 3lb penalty for his narrow success. However, Boynton was well on top at the line that day and his experience of the track could see him confirm placings. I’m no great fan of the theory that penalties stop horses from winning especially as most weigh the best part of half a tonne! There must surely be plenty of other reasons why a horse is beaten not the fact they must carry an extra 0.002 of their average body weight (450kg) if they are penalised 3lb – it’s a bit like you or I going out running with a pound coin in our pocket, would it make any difference? Anyway, there are brighter minds than mine who believe it is the correct way to level the playing field but given the action this week this week takes place on anything but, I’ll happily bet Boynton at 11-4.
The improving REPTON (Best price 25-1) is too big a price to ignore given his connections and track form so is also worth a small investment to sneak into the frame.
DUTCH CONNECTION (Best price 5-2) can gain a measure of compensation for a narrow defeat in the Qatar Lennox Stakes a year ago. The son of Dutch Art clearly loves the individualistic contours of the Sussex venue having shed his maiden tag at Goodwood two years ago before running a blinder in the Group 2 event 12 months ago. There are signs the selection is beginning to find his best form this term too as he again ran old adversary Toormore close in Sandown’s bet365 Mile in April and only found class act Mutakayyef too strong at Ascot last time. The presence of the classy James McDonald in the saddle is another positive given the way the Kiwi has ridden since teaming up with Godolphin this summer and it will be disappointing if Dutch Connection doesn’t go close.
TAWDEEA (Best price 10-1) found the John Smith’s Cup an insufficient test of stamina last time but it was still a creditable performance on the back of an emphatic victory in the Old Newton Cup. The selection finished off his race powerfully at Haydock, powering clear of Gold Prince to score readily and today’s step up in trip should be within his compass. Both Notarised and Havana Beat were further in arrears that day and it would be no surprise to see either bounce back to form on faster ground given the profiles of their stables this term.
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