October, the start of the storm season and the start of the National Hunt season proper, arrived with alarming punctuality last weekend as Storm Alex accounted for Saturday’s card at Ascot.
The ground at ParisLongchamp turned decidedly heavy over the two days’ racing and surely accounted for Enable’s failed bid to notch up an historice third win in Europe’s premier middle distance race, the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe.
However, that is to take nothing away from the performance of the Jean-Claude Rouget’s winner, Sottsass who had been aimed at this top prize since finishing third in the race last year as a three year old.
Hopefully, conditions will improve towards the latter end of this week as we look forward to a packed timetable of both flat and National Hunt racing on both sides of the Irish Sea.
Look out for Martyn Meade’s Method in the Cornwallis Stakes at Newmarket on Friday as he attempts to make amends for an unfortunate run in the Juddmonte Middle Park Stakes where a saddle slip ended his chances just two furlongs into the race. Oisin Murphy takes over the reins in these calmer waters and he promises to be well supported.
On the same card, Roger Varian’s Khaloosy will be aiming to get his season back on track after finishing three lengths behind the very smart Top Rank in the Superior Mile Stakes at Haydock with the soft going playing into his hands.
Meanwhile, in the Group 1 bet365 Fillies’ Mile brothers Joseph Patrick and Donnacha O’Brien renew rivalries with their pair of top class juveniles, Pretty Gorgeous and Shale. Shale leads the contest two-one in the three times the pair have clashed but this time around John Gosden may be having a say with Indigo Girl who arrives here on the back of a win in the May Hill Stakes at Doncaster. Clive Cox’s Isabella Giles also makes appeal with her record of four wins from five starts standing up to scrutiny in a hot contest.
Saturday’s card at Newmarket, Cesarewitch day includes five Pattern races while up at York the Bengough Stakes, one of the casualties of the abandoned Ascot meeting last weekend is supplemented to that card.
Aidan O’Brien can take the Zetland Stakes with Van Gogh who finally came good at the fifth time of asking at The Curragh with a prominent ride paying dividends. The son of American Pharoah also holds an entry for the Autumn Stakes over two furlongs less but may well benfit from the step up in trip and is expected to feature in the Zetland.
The highlight of the Pattern races is the Darley Dewhurst Stakes over seven furlongs where Richard Hannon’s unbeaten Chindit will no doubt be marked out on many a punter’s racecards though does face some stiff competition from Irish raiders, Thunder Moon and Cadillac. While Chindit impressed in the Champagne Stakes at Doncaster this ground in an unknown but Cadillac’s second in the Futurity Stakes on soft at The Curragh looks decent form to take into this typically tough Group 1.
On to the Cesarewitch where one of the ante post favourites, Nicky Henderson’s Verdana Blue has been sidelined with a foot abscess. Hughie Morrison’s veteran, Not So Sleepy certainly lived up to his name when starting his autumn campaign with a comfortable win at Pontefract last month and makes appeal at a nice price.
Andrew Balding probably holds the ace in the pack with Coltrane who has notched up a good hat-trick since July including here, but will encounter a slower surface on Saturday which just gets one negative point in the final appraisal. Roger Charlton, who won this with a cleverly placed Withhold in 2017 has his hopes resting on True Destiny this year who arrives here after hitting the bar twice on the all weather and makes each way appeal.
Of the Irish contingent, Willie Mullins’ Great White Shark tops the ante post markets but preference here is given to Jessica Harrington’s Lynwood Gold who knows how to win on this sort of ground and this useful dual code performer can get into the mix. Dermot Weld runs Dalton Highway who needs to bounce back from a couple of underwhelming runs but the stable is in form and the ground holds no horrors.
In what looks a wide open renewal of what is always one of the most anticipated handicaps of the year, Not So Sleepy gets the nod to improve on his fourth place last year with Mark Johnston’s Summer Moon also likely to be involved again after taking third place in 2019.
It’s across the Irish Sea on Sunday to The Curragh where JJ Murphy’s Sweet Gardenia can continue her progress in the Group 3 Anglesey Stakes having impressed in the Churchill Stakes at Tipperary last time out beating an Aidan O’Brien hotpot at odds of 25/1.
In the International Stakes it may pay to side with John Patrick Murtagh’s Sonnyboyliston as he moves up to Pattern company. A winner of three of his four starts this term and with the stable in red hot form he is sure to attract plenty of support. Will McCreery’s Up Helly Aa can give Sonnyboyliston most to think about while Dermot’s Weld’s Kiss For A Jewel needs to rediscover some sparkle.
The Irish Cesarewitch is even more open than it’s British namesake this year but a decent run from Peter Fahey’s admirable Peregrine Run is on the cards as this smart chaser/hurdler gets in off a mark of just 73.
Willie Mullins also has a chance with a decent dual code performer in Eight And Bob who should go well on the forecast soft ground so he enters calculations along with stablemates Royal Illusion and Mt Leinster
Joseph Patrick O’Brien has Cerberus running in the green and gold hoops of JP McManus and although better known for his hurdles form after finishing a creditable sixth in the JCB Triumph Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival may well have more to offer in this sphere at just four years old.
Aidan O’Brien has the winner of the Group 3 Loughbrown Stakes, Dawn Patrol heading the ratings and the Galileo colt could take some beating with a repeat of that run despite carrying the top weight.
In a fascinating renewal, a chance is taken on Willie Mullins Mt Leinster whose move to flat racing has proved productive with two wins and a runners up spot from just three starts. Cerberus and Dawn Patrol look the best of the rest in a wide open race.
This Preview has been brought to you by our regular correspondent, Hector Steiff