(Published 7 August, 2018) – A high-quality Group 2 seven furlong contest that often attracts horses who have won or run well in Group 1 company in the past. Due to the limited number of pattern races over a trip that falls in between the sprinting and mile categories, this contest run over the straight seven furlongs at Newbury in mid-August brings together horses who possibly haven’t been quite quick enough for the top six furlong events, and those who may not truly see out a mile at the top level. This makes for a fascinating mix and sets punters quite a poser.
John Gosden and jockey Robert Havlin have a good recent record in the Hungerford Stakes winning it twice in the last five years. Trainer Clive Cox has won it twice in the last nine renewals, and jockey Adam Kirby has won it twice in the last seven renewals; once for Clive Cox, and once for Marco Botti.
Forty horses are currently declared for this £150,000 contest that usually attracts a final field of around 10 starters.
Punters Have Their Eye On Expert
Sir Michael Stoute has enjoyed a fine season and his Expert Eye, a very good runner-up to the older Lightning Spear in the Group 1 Sussex Stakes at Goodwood last week, sets a very solid benchmark for this event. A high-class juvenile who made a winning debut at Newbury last summer, he again ran well at the Berkshire track on his first start this campaign when second to James Garfield in the Group 3 Greenham Stakes, but then disappointed when only 10th in the 2000 Guineas.
Prince Khalid Abdullah’s charge well and truly bounced back to top form when slamming his rivals by over four lengths in the Group 3 Jersey Stakes over seven furlongs at Royal Ascot, prior to his bg run over a mile in the Sussex Stakes where he kept on well but couldn’t match the change of gear shown by the winner. He had some good horse behind him that day though, including the likes of Gustav Klimt, and there’s little doubt that when he is in the mood, Expert Eye is very smart. He is currently a top priced 5/2 favourite with 888sport for the Hungerford Stakes, and while that price appears to offer little in the way of value, he looks sure to go very close if bringing his ‘A’ game with him.
Gustav Klimt (5/1 with LeoVegas), trained by Aidan O’Brien, has been beaten in each of his last five starts, all at Group 1 level and all over a mile. He hasn’t run a bad race all year – although he disappointed me when only sixth to Saxon Warrior in the 2000 Guineas – his best effort coming when failing by just half a length to catch Without Parole in the St James’s Palace Stakes at Royal Ascot. He most recently finished half a length behind Expert Eye when fourth in the Sussex Stakes.
The fascinating statistic for this Galileo colt is that while he has yet to hit the target over a mile, he has won all three career starts at seven furlongs; a maiden at the Curragh last July; the Group 2 Superlative Stakes at Newmarket soon after; and his first start of this term in the listed 2000 Guineas Trial at Leopardstown in April. There’s no doubt that Gustav Klimt faced lesser opposition at this trip than in Group 1 company over a mile, but the fact remains he has an unblemished record at the distance so it would be dangerous to underestimate his chance if he does drop back and tackle this race.
Will Dancealot Show Them A Clean Pair Of Heels?
Seven furlongs also appears to be the optimum trip for David Elsworth’s very likeable Sir Dancealot (5/1 with Boylesports), who beat the solid So Beloved in the Group 3 Criterion Stakes at Newmarket in June, stayed on well to be a closing fourth over six furlongs in the Group 1 July Cup, then scored recently at Glorious Goodwood back at this distance when proving too good for Suedois and co. in the Group 2 Qatar Lennox Stakes. At his best on decent to quick ground, the son of Sir Prancealot has a really good attitude and received rave reviews from jockey Gerald Mosse after his last gasp Goodwood triumph.
Sir Dancealot was fifth in soft ground in last year’s renewal of the Hungerford Stakes won by Massaat, a race in which Dean Ivory’s Librisa Breeze (7/1 with Sky Bet), a Group 1 winner at six furlongs later in the campaign in the British Champions Sprint at Ascot (also on soft ground), came a close second. The grey had won two very valuable handicaps at Ascot over seven furlongs the previous term so stays the trip well, and after a good run this weekend in France when fourth to local star Polydream in the Group 1 Prix Maurice de Gheest, the Mount Nelson gelding looks to be running into form. If there is any ease in the ground he would come very much into the reckoning for top honours.
Breton Rock (10/1 with Coral) was fourth in last year’s Hungerford Stakes having previously won the Group 2 Lennox Stakes at Glorious Goodwood. Now an eight-year-old, David Simcock’s gelding isn’t the most consistent of performers but is smart on his day, and he ran really well in defence of his Goodwood crown last week when beaten just a neck into third by Sir Dancealot and Suedois on ground that was quicker than ideal. He is another who would be aided by any rain, although judging by the current weather forecast he may be out of luck on that score.
Possibly the most intriguing horse among the 40 currently declared for the race is Charlie Appleby’s Jungle Cat (14/1 with Bet365), who hasn’t been seen since completing a winter hat-trick when landing the Group 1 Al Quoz Sprint over six furlongs at Meydan on Dubai World Cup day in late-March. His best run over seven furlongs in Britain was probably when second to Home Of The Brave in last season’s Group 3 Criterion Stakes and on collateral form lines with a number of horses entered in this even he looks to have something to find.
The six-year-old may well have improved last winter, but would need to be razor sharp to score after a five-month absence, and that will be tough.
Limato Worth A Long Lingering Look
One horse who may well have gone under the radar in this race is Henry Candy’s grand campaigner Limato (12/1 with William Hill). Yes, it’s true, he hasn’t run well in his three starts this term, but the 2016 July Cup hero has almost certainly been running over distances that don’t suit him these days having competed once over six furlongs and twice over a mile, all in Group 1 company, where he has finished well beaten.
Limato is back! Harry Bentley gets the 6-4 favourite home in front in the Godolphin Stud And Stable Staff Awards Challenge Stakes pic.twitter.com/pRoeWXh7fq
— Newmarket Racecourse (@NewmarketRace) October 13, 2017
The Tagula gelding has a fantastic record though over seven furlongs with his form figures reading 12141 at the trip, including the, 2015 Group 2 Park Stakes, 2016 Group 1 Prix de la Foret, and the 2017 Group 2 Challenge Stakes at Newmarket. On that evidence he looks a serious contender at Newbury for the Hungerford Stakes at a track where he won the listed Rose Bowl Stakes as a juvenile. At current odds he represents good each-way value.
There are a host of other horses who can be given a chance if you scan close enough through their form, but James Garfield (10/1 with Sky Bet), agonisingly caught on the line in Group 1 company in France this weekend and the winner of the Group 3 Greenham Stakes earlier this season at Newbury over course and distance, has to be respected. If there is any rain thenIreland’s Psychedelic Funk (14/1 with 888sport) would not be out of the reckoning, and Roger Charlton’s ’ Projection (8/1 with MansionBet), who narrowly missed out in Group 3 company here last time over six furlongs, looks worth a try at this longer trip now.
ADVICE – LIMATO (12/1 each-way with William Hill)
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.