(Published July 19, 2018) – The Stewards’ Cup, one of the hottest six furlong handicaps anywhere in the world with a rich history of tremendously exciting finishes, massive gambles landed and gone astray, has been a stepping stone to major success in top Group races for may horses over the years.
First run in 1840, it is staged on the straight six furlongs on the final day of Glorious Goodwood and invariably attracts a maximum field of 28 runners who this year will be chasing prize money of £250,000. The winners of the last two renewals – 2016 heroine Dancing Star, who landed a massive punt when scoring as 9/2 favourite, and last year’s 25/1 winner Lancelot Du Lac – may well line up again, along with a host of horses who have run with credit in top Group races this season and in the toughest handicaps.
At the time of writing there are still 120 horses engaged in the race, but here’s my assessment of those who look the best value contenders in the ante-post market at the current time.
The Ones The Bookies Fear
For a race that appears on paper to be a lottery with a mass of talented sprinters spread right across the course needing gaps to appear at the right time and ground conditions to be in their favour, it might come as a surprise to note that in the last seven renewals of this great race there have been two winning clear favourites (6/1 shot Magical Memory, and 9/2 chance Dancing Star), and one joint-favourite, Mick Easterby’s top weight Hoof It, (13/2) in 2011. Gambles can and have been landed in style, and among those the bookies are nervous about this time is the current ante-post market leader Dreamfield (8/1 with Bet365), trained by John Gosden.
Running in the famous Godolphin blue, Dreamfield has made up for lost time this season having won both races as a juvenile in 2016 before missing the whole of last term. He reappeared at Ascot in May with rumours abounding that he was smart and on the right side of the handicapper, and he duly made all to win a good handicap before going off a hot 2/1 favourite for the Wokingham Handicap at Royal Ascot last month. The bookies were in desperation as he led powerfully at halfway and still had them all at it a furlong out, but Bacchus, who may well take him on again in the Stewards’ Cup, emerged from out of the pack to cut Dreamfield down in the last 50 yards to score by a neck, saving the bookies’ millions in the process.
Gosden stepped his charge up to the Group 1 July Cup recently and he again ran well in finishing sixth to US Navy Flag. Dreamfield is 1lb better off at the weights with Bacchus (12/1 with Betway) and both have solid chances if in similar form. Brian Meehan’s charge galloped to Royal Ascot glory on his first start of the season, having also won first time out last campaign, and there is just a suspicion that that was his moment and he may not be quite as effective on this, his second start back.
The Group 1 Commonwealth Cup for three-year-olds over six furlongs at Royal Ascot last month saw Gosden’s Emblazoned run a blinder to finish a fine third behind Eqtidaar and Sands of Mali. Stone Of Destiny was a head back in fourth, while the well fancied Equilateral held every chace before fading in the last 100 yards to finish 12th.
All three of the above may well bid for the Stewards’ Cup, with Equilateral, who had looked a potential star when hacking up by eight lengths previously at Doncaster, being the shortest priced of the trio at 14/1 with William Hill. Emblazoned is 16/1 with Boylesports, and Stone Of Destiny is a top priced 25/1 with Sky Bet. I don’t see any obvious reason why Emblazoned shouldn’t again come out on top of this trio, although there is the argument that Equilateral failed to run his race at Ascot and could well be much better than he showed that day.
A horse with a similar profile to Dreamfield but who is more than double the odds is another Godolphin-owned sprinter, CULTURATI. Trained by Charlie Appleby, the five-year-old has had only five career starts and could well be better than his current mark. He won two of his four starts as a juvenile in 2015, then missed the whole of the following season before managing just one outing last year when winning off a mark of 94 on good ground in a six-furlong Newmarket handicap, comfortably accounting for the decent Scorching Heat by a length-and-a-half.
Culturati hasn’t been seen since and is obviously a fragile horse who isn’t easy to train, but when he is right he appears to be very talented and could be a Group class horse. Off a mark of 100 and despite an absence of 420 days, if he does make it to the starting line-up he may well run a very big race for a yard already enjoying a terrific season. A speculative each-way interest at 20/1 with Totesport at this stage looks a sporting call. If he does run, I could well see him starting at less than half his current odds.
Shrewd Balding Has Four Potential Chances
Andrew Balding’s Dancing Star landed a huge gamble in this race two years ago and is one of four potential runners for the Kingsclere-based handler in this year’s renewal. She could well go to post alongside the aforementioned Stone Of Destiny, as well as Foxtrot Lady and Scorching Heat, although the latter (currently 64 on the entry list of 120) may struggle to get into the race.
Dancing Star, at No. 47 on the list is a borderline qualifier, but if she does get in she is of serious interest. She is 2-2 over course and distance and is set to run off a 7lb lower mark than when defeating Orion’s Bow to win the 2016 Stewards’ Cup in great style (see below). The Aqlaam mare hasn’t won since but has been lightly campaigned, and having fallen to a good mark she signalled she is on the way back when a good fourth in the Group 3 Summer Stakes at York last week (which came after the publication of the weights for the big Goodwood race). At 33/1 with Ladbrokes she looks a tempting each-way investment.
— Racing UK (@Racing_UK) April 2, 2017
Stable companion Foxtrot Lady, like Dancing Star, owned and bred by Jeff Smith, is 16/1 with Betfair despite being No.46 on the list. She has enjoyed a very good three-year-old campaign and has a similar profile coming into to this race as Dancing Star two years ago, winning three of her last four in good style and will carry a 6lb penalty following a brave nose success in a £100,000 handicap at Newmarket last week. She should go well, while Scorching Heat, who may struggle to make the cut but who would be of interest if he does make it, won the consolation Stewards’ Sprint last year at this fixture and looks to have been trained with a crack at the big one in mind this time having had just one run when a promsing fourth in a Chelmsford handicap last month. He is somewhat under the radar this season and is 33/1 with Paddy Power.
A Few More For Your Consideration
There are 111 horses still engaged in the race at the the time of writing who I haven’t mentioned, so here are a few more who are worth considering having shown enough to give themselves every chance of making their presence felt.
Flaming Spear, trained by last year’s winning handler Dean Ivory, caught the eye on his first start for his new trainer when a very good fifth over a mile in the Royal Hunt Cup at Royal Ascot. He travelled very well until tiring late on, and would be worth a second glance dropping back to a very strongly run six furlongs. He’s a 20/1 shot with BetVictor.
Formerly trained by Charles Hill, Gunmetal has done really well since joining Yorkshire-based David Barron, winning both starts. Barron won this race way back in 1996 with the powerful Coastal Bluff, who went on to win the Ayr Gold Cup and the following year’s Group 1 Nunthorpe Stakes, so he knows what’s needed to land the spoils. Gunmetal has gone up 5lb since his latest success at Newmarket over Eastern Impact (see below) but remains potentially the right side of the handicapper. He is another worthy of proper consideration and can be backed at 25/1 with 10Bet.
— Newmarket Racecourse (@NewmarketRace) June 9, 2018
Raucous, third in the race in 2016 and 12th last year off a mark of 104, is 5lb lower this time and won over the course and distance in May, beating the decent George Bowen. He’s run with credit on his three starts since that success and is not without a chance of getting in among them at the current 33/1 offered by SportPesa.
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.