Above: John Gosden’s exciting Roaring Lion is set to start favourite for Thursday’s Group 3 Bet365 Craven Stakes, a key 2000 Guineas trial
The three-day Newmarket Craven meeting that begins tomorrow is the first opportunity to see a number of potential Classic hopefuls just three weeks ahead of the Guineas meeting on the same Rowley Mile track. Here are our free hosre racing tips and analysis for this key fixture:
Moore To Be On Kew For Fielden Victory
TUESDAY – Listed Bet365 Feilden Stakes (4.45): This correspondent had to look twice at the list of previous winners of this race to confirm that remarkably, Aidan O’Brien, the world’s greatest trainer, has never won the Feilden Stakes. Mark Johnston has won it four times in the last 14 years, John Gosden has won it twice in the last three years, while Godolphin have only ever won it once, in 2014 with True Story.
Johnston saddles the useful Mildenberger, a typically tough colt in the mould of so many of the Middleham-based handler’s runners. He ended last term running a good third behind the smart Roaring Lion in the Group 2 Royal Lodge Stakes at Ascot, having won in the last stride at Salisbury on his previous outing in the listed Stonehenge Stakes. He is certainly respected, but O’Brien’s KEW GARDENS (15/8 with Sun Bets) looks the part being the selected runner of a stack of original entries from the Ballydoyle handler.
Kew Gardens won twice as a juvenile, including the listed Zetland Stakes at Newmarket over 10 furlongs. With Ryan Moore on board sure to make plenty of use of his colt and not let this race turn into a sprint, I believe Kew Gardens will be good enough to score. Dangers include Godolphin’s Group 3 winner Stage Magic, Kevin Ryan’s unexposed New Show, winner of his only start at Ayr last term, and John Gosden’s Camelot colt and Derby entry Msayyan, winner of a Nottingham maiden last October that is already working out well with two winners from five subsequent runners.
Robin Can Plunder Earl of Sefton Prize
WEDNESDAY – European Free Handicap (2.25) – Kevin Ryan’s Hey Jonesy, a fine fourth to US Navy Flag in the Group 1 Middle Park Stakes at HQ, heads the weights for this seven furlong contest and he should go well along with the classy NEBO (9/1 with Paddy Power), beaten in a photo-finish by current leading 2000 Guineas candidate Gustav Klimt in the Group 2 Superlative Stakes last summer before going on to win the Group 3 Horris Hill Stakes at Newbury. Narrow preference is for the latter, as he is proven at this trip.
Clive Cox’s Snazzy Jazzy was unbeaten in three starts last term ending with victory in a valuable sales race in Ireland and there could be more to come. Tim Easterby’s Staxton has always been well regarded but didn’t quite live up to expectations last term, while Richard Fahey’s Great Prospector should be better for a recent run on the AW and is no forlorn hope.
Earl of Sefton Stakes (3.00) – Deauville will be a popular choice for Aidan O’Brien. He is rated clear of his rivals on official figures and usually runs well after a break, but he wouldn’t want the ground to be any worse than good too soft. Harry Dunlop’s talented ROBIN OF NAVAN (5/1 with Bet365) goes well with cut in the ground and is only rated 5lb behind Deauville. He has already had a run this term to blow away the cobwebs and should be cherry ripe, so might well prove the value in this event.
Winter Derby winner Master The World, Mark Johnston’s Group 3 winner Frankuus, and Richard Hannon’s progressive Euginio are others who should make a race of it.
Nell Gwyn Stakes – A wide open renewal of this 1000 Guineas trial and a case can be made for a number of the 12-runner field. On a line through last season’s high-class juvenile filly Clemmie, there is not much to choose between Mark Johnston’s Threading and Dean Ivory’s EIRENE (25/1 each-way with Sky Bet) who may spring a surprise. The former won the Group 2 Lowther Stakes before finishing seventh to Clemmie in the Group 1 Cheveley Park Stakes here last autumn, a neck behind Eirene (see video below).
Eirene was making her move that day when she became unbalanced and sacrificed valuable momentum going down into the dip, but when she hit the rising ground she stayed on nicely again. Assuming she’s learned from that experienced, she looks worth an each-way interest in this event. Altyn Orda scored a remarkable course and distance win in the Group 3 Oh So Sharp Stakes here last October having run loose before the race and could be a big danger, John Gosden’s beautifully bred Nawassi won a C&D novice event in November and could be anything, while Nyaleti, beaten a head in the Group 2 Rockfel Stakes here last autumn and better for a spin on the AW recently cannot be discounted either.
Lion Set To Roar To Craven Success
THURSDAY – Group 2 Abernant Stakes: The high-class Andre Fabre-trained French raider LE BRIVIDO (11/4 with William Hill) is sure to prove very popular with punters, the son of Siyouni’s only defeat in four starts coming when losing out by just a short-head in the French 2000 Guineas last May. He subsequently came to Royal Ascot the following month and justified favouritism in the Group 3 Jersey Stakes over seven furlongs beating Spirit of Valor (see video below), and with give underfoot anticipated for Thursday’s race conditions look right for him to prove hard to stop once again.
There are plenty of good British sprinters up against Le Brivido, the top-rated being last year’s winner Brando, trained by Kevin Ryan, who went on to win the Group 1 Prix Maurice de Gheest at Deauville later in the term. Aidan O’Brien has three horses entered at the five-day stage and will probably rely on one of Spirit of Valor, narrowly beaten by Le Brivido at Royal Ascot last year, Declarationofpeace, and Fleet Review, beaten just a neck by stable companion US Navy Flag in the Group 1 Juddmonte Middle Park Stakes at this track in September. The latter would be our choice at this stage, but whichever Ballydoyle colt lines up needs to be taken seriously.
William Haggas’ potential improver One Master, Magical Memory, winner of this race in 2016 and who would appreciate any rain that comes his way, and the admirable veteran Gordon Lord Byron are other interesting possible contenders.
Group 3 Bet365 Craven Stakes: John Gosden’s ROARING LION (8/13 with Betfair), beaten just a neck by Saxon Warrior in the Group 1 Racing Post Trophy last year (see video below), having beaten Nelson in the Group 2 Royal Lodge Stakes on his previous start, is likely to be all the rage for the Craven Stakes, the most serious Classic trial of the week. The US bred colt would probably have won at Doncaster but arguably hit the front too soon and was just edged out of it by the current 2000 Guineas and Derby favourite.
Report’s suggest the locally-trained star has been pleasing connections in his work of late and he will likely start odds-on to enhance his 2000 Guineas claims under Oisin Murphy. Godolphin’s Masar, trained by Charlie Appleby, was a smart two-year-old, finishing a close third in the Group 1 Prix Jean Luc Lagardere at Longchamp then being hampered before staying on strongly at Del Mar when favourite for the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf won by Mendelssohn in November. But he ran very poorly at Meydan last month after a break and has to prove that he’s trained on this term so looks a risky betting proposition against Roaring Lion.
Appleby may also run the unbeaten colt Glorious Journey, winner of the Group 3 Prix la Rochette at Saint Cloud last year, who could be anything, while James Tate’s Hey Gaman, narrowly beaten in the Group 2 Champagne Stakes at Doncaster last autumn is another interesting option.
Written by Paul Alster
Paul Alster has been part of the British and international racing media for more than three decades working as a race commentator, TV/radio presenter, journalist, betting correspondent, SP returner, and form analyst. He’s always sought out overpriced runners in handicap races, a quest that excites him as much now as it did at the start of his career.