MONDIALISTE (Best price 7-2) won this race two seasons ago and looks primed to post another bold display following his fine effort in the Sky Bet York Stakes last time. He was only beaten a short-head by the game front-runner Success Days that day and his yard have been in fine form this week on the Knavesmire so the drop to nine furlongs should suit for a horse that enjoys the track. Given the form of his stable Mustashry looks the chief danger given he did well to win from an uncompromising position at Chelmsford and was narrowly beaten in a very competitive handicap here last summer.
This looks a terrific renewal with any number of possible winners. There is a chance NORTHWEST FRONTIER (Best price 14-1) is still a little inexperienced for a race of this nature but, in the hope he learned plenty from his narrow defeat at Thirsk, he is offered up as a lively chance in a race which is arguably best watched than one for serious investment. Richard Fahey’s stable have yet to hit top stride this week, but their representative still looks very well handicapped despite being raised 4lb for finishing a narrow runner-up behind the progressive Uber Cool. He appears to be crying out for a step up in trip and I’m hoping he enjoys a better trip than last time when he was trapped wide before rallying bravely in the straight.
Headway may as well have sent his picture at Goodwood when he ploughed a lone furrow on the stands’ side rail in the Richmond Stakes won by Barraquero. The Coventry Stakes runner-up was well beaten by a combination of track position and soft ground and is clearly better than his finishing position. CARDSHARP (Best price 6-1) was three lenghts in front when left in the wake of Barraquero, but again the ground was softer than ideal that day and he could be a different proposition on a faster surface. The selection had previously won the July Stakes impressively and his stable has enjoyed some success from their juvenile department this week. Invincible Army was fourth at Newmarket behind Cardsharp and coped well with the drop back to five furlongs when runner-up to Havana Grey at Goodwood. He is entitled to be on the scene back on a flat track.
A smooth victory on day one of the meeting saw MAGIC CIRCLE (Best price 9-1) defend his unbeaten track record in the hands of Harry Bentley who is remarkably yet to taste defeat in four starts aboard the five-year-old. The rain that fell on Wednesday morning played to the strengths of the selection and, while there is a slight concern that drying ground may not see him operate with quite so much ruthless efficiency, conditions won’t be quick and he is worth keeping faith in. Ralph Beckett’s gelding bolted up in a staying handicap on good ground at today’s venue last summer and was only beaten a couple of lengths in the Chester Cup on a similar surface when drawn in the car park. He finally gained one or two breaks on Wednesday and, although trapped a little wide, displayed a fine turn of foot for a stayer to pick off the front-running My Reward for a cosy win. That race was run a dawdle so it probably told us nothing other than Magic Circle is in rude health, boasts a change of gear which is rare in a stayer and goes particularly well for his rider who continues to impress with his composure in the saddle.
Track specialist BILLESDON BROOK (Best price 9-2) had no right to score at this venue last time, but an incredible burst took her to the front on the line after she met plenty of trouble in running and she could take another marked step up in class in her stride here. Rider Sean Levey extricated himself from a terrible position to land that nursery and she has since been raised to 96 with the assessor not fooled by her abilities. Today’s test represents another marked step up the ladder, but it is anybody’s guess how far she would have won with a clear passage last time and she should make a serious impact on today’s event.
One of the toughest handicaps of the day and it is hard to be confident about any selection gaining a run never mind obliging. In the hope TRUTH OR DARE (Best price 12-1) can back up his impressive course and distance victory from the ’Glorious’ meeting, he is offered as a tentative answer to a competitive heat. The selection coped well with some cut in the ground when routing some decent rivals in the gloom here last time where the drop to seven furlongs suited his strengths and he looks nicely drawn to deliver another big performance.
LIGHTNING SPEAR (Best price 11-10) isn’t the ideal medium for a bet at short odds given his strike rate, but he looked as though he was going to land the Sussex Stakes for a few strides until getting very tired on desperate ground and he could gain a small measure of compensation today. The selection edged out Zonderland in this event 12 months ago and, if there is any cut in the ground, he may enjoy it more than his old adversary who returns following a lengthy absence.