With the weather set fair heading into the weekend and the ground at Newbury already described as ‘Good to Firm’, Saturday’s renewal of the Group 1 Al Shaqab Lockinge Stakes (3.40) looks set to be dominated by horses with proven form on a quick surface.
The one mile contest is invariably won by a high-class horse, a glance back over the last decade sees big name winners such as Canford Cliffs, Farhh, Night of Thunder and Ribchester, but none bigger than the legendary Frankel, who landed this event back in 2011, beating the ever-present Excelebration with plenty to spare.
It’s fair to say there’ll be nothing close to Frankel’s calibre in Saturday’s renewal but there are some very good horses, although many have question marks over the trip and ground.
Bomber Can Blitz Lockinge Stakes Rivals
The fast surface should suit Henry Candy’s Limato, winner of the 2016 Group 1 July Cup at Newmarket on quick ground – but that was over six furlongs. Although he’s run well over a mile, the six-year-old has never won at this trip, including when fourth to Belardo in the 2016 renewal of the Lockinge Stakes when sent off 3/1 favourite (see video below). He has a better chance of lasting the distance on the anticipated ground, but again looks vulnerable to a genuine miler.
Watch: Belardo and Andrea Atzeni reel in Euro Charline and Ryan Moore to win the Al Shaqab Lockinge Stakes. https://t.co/e9bKo3ZpMW
— Newbury Racecourse (@NewburyRacing) May 14, 2016
The most improved horse at this distance this term is William Haggas’ Addeybb, who turned the Lincoln Handicap into a procession in soft ground at Doncaster in late-March, the built on that effort by again impressing when beating Stormy Antarctic by nearly three lengths in the Group 2 bet365 Mile at Sandown three weeks ago (see video below).
Lincoln winner Addeybb took the jump in class in style today at Sandown.
— Racing UK (@Racing_UK) April 27, 2018
The son of Pivotal takes another big step up and remains an exciting prospect, but he has never raced on ground faster than good in his career, and as his sire more often than not produces horses who are better with give underfoot there has to be a question mark about his ability to handle the much faster surface. Addeybb should again run well and is a fine prospect, but he looks opposable this time.
World champion trainer Aidan O’Brien has four very good horses entered for this race, all of whom have very good form on a fast surface.
Rhododendron, the choice of stable jockey Ryan Moore, was 4/1 joint-favourite with Limato in the ante-post market with many firms, and last year’s 1000 Guineas runner-up, who as a juvenile won the Group 1 Dubai Fillies‘ Mile on firm ground and came second in the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf under similar conditions (see video below), should revel in conditions over this stiff mile.
Better for her seasonal reappearance when a respectable fourth to the high-class Cracksman in the Group 1 Prix Ganay in France last month, the daughter of Galileo has strong claims. So too do Rhododendron’s stable companions Lancaster Bomber and Deauville.
Lancaster Bomber has a poor strike-rate, winning just once as a juvenile in his 16-race career. The War Front colt is a specialist miler though and ran some fine races in defeat on fast ground over his specialist trip last season. He was only beaten a length-and-a-half by Churchill in the Qipco 2000 Guineas, was runner-up to Barney Roy in the Group 1 St James’s Palace Stakes at Royal Ascot (see video below), was second to World Approval in the Grade 1 Woodbine Mile in Toronto, and was second to the same horse in the hugely valuable Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Mile at Del Mar in November on fast ground.
It might seem riskly, indeed it is risky, going against the apparent stable first choice Rhododendron, but time and again over the years a Ballydoyle second or third string has won a major race – remember Wings of Eagles landed last year’s Investec Derby for O’Brien at 40/1 under Paddy Beggy – and if ever a horse deserved a reward at the top level for consistency then it is LANCASTER BOMBER (12/1 each-way with Ladbrokes). Saturday might very well be his day.
Deauville, beaten half a length by Forest Ranger on his seasonal reappearance at Newmarket last month in the Group 3 Earl of Sefton Stakes, is another Ballydoyle colt capable of producing high-class form at a mile although he is probably better at up to 10 furlongs. He won last season’s Group 2 Huxley Stakes at Chester over the extended 10 furlongs before finishing an excellent close third to Ribchester at Royal Ascot last term in the Group 1 Queen Anne Stakes. The five-year-old has shown he can mix it with the best at Saturday’s trip, but O’Brien fourth contender War Decree seems better over 10 furlongs and may well be in the race to guarantee a strong pace.
Andrew Balding’s Beat The Bank was very progressive last term and his romp in the Group 2 Joel Stakes at Newmarket in September was a real eyecatcher. That came on good to soft ground however, an, like Addeybb there is a concern he might not be quite so effective on a fast surface at this top level. It’s a similar story for Roger Varian’s Zabeel Prince who has been raced only on a decent surface so far. He looked good when winning the listed Doncaster Mile on soft ground in march but this is a very different kettle of fish.
ADVICE: Lancaster Bomber (12/1 each-way with Ladbrokes)
Sprint Trip Will Suit Murillo
Aidan O’Brien’s MURILLO, an apparent non-staying ninth behind the mighty Saxon Warrior in the Qipco 2000 Guineas earlier this month, should be much more at home under Ryan Moore over the six furlong trip of the listed Shalaa Carnarvon Stakes (1.50).
A close third in last summer’s Group 2 Coventry Stakes at Royal Ascot (see video below) before occupying the same position in another Group 2 over six furlongs in Ireland a few weeks later, the Scat Daddy colt was absent for 10 months before showing a lot of speed at Newmarket recently.
Lack of race fitness and the longer distance combined to find him out, but Murillo won’t have those issues now, goes well on fast ground, and at 4/1 with Betway looks good value. Sir Michael Stoute’s Eqtidaar, runner-up to Invincible Army in the Group 3 Pavillion Stakes at Ascot looks the main danger, but we are very hopeful our selection will have his measure.
ADVICE: Murillo (4/1 with Betway)
Chief Up for The London Gold Cup
Newbury’s Al Zubarah London Gold Cup (3.00) is the big handicap of the day with £70,000 up for grabs and is a fiendishly difficult race to predict despite the race cutting up to just 11 runners, far fewer than originally anticipated.
Run over a mile-and-a-quarter, this event is restricted to three-year-olds only and there are a host of horses who could improve significantly on their juvenile form. William Jarvis’ CHIEF IRONSIDE, the mount of the talented Keiren Shoemark, looks a likely sort having already built on his one unplaced run last term. He first caught the eye when finishing a promising fourth in a decent mile maiden at this track last month, then won with any amount in hand in a maiden at Chester last week run over this trip. He looks feasibly handicapped and with Jarvis having a good spell of late the 8/1 each-way with Bet365 looks very tempting.
Roger Varian’s Doncaster mile handicap winner Masaarr is a danger and should be suited by the longer distance, while Andrew Balding’s Epsom novice stakes winner Master of Wine, and Sir Michael Stoute’s unexposed Leicester handicap winner Mekong are others who should make their presence felt in a hot race.
ADVICE: Chief Ironside (8/1 each-way with Bet365)
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.