Muntahaa The Princes Of Wales’s Stakes Value
(Published 1810, Saturday 7 July) – A race for proper mile-and-a-half horses who may well stay further, this Group 2 contest set for Thursday 12 July was won in both 2015 and 2016 by the subsequent Ascot Gold Cup hero Big Orange, while last year the 2016 Eclipse Stakes hero Hawkbill stepped up to land the spoils for Godolphin.
With only 10 horses left in the race at the five-day stage there is every chance of this £100,000 cutting up, but it should still produce a fascinating encounter between battle-hardened older horses and the three-year-olds who are headed by Investec Derby runner-up Dee Ex Bee.
Mark Johnston’s colt, a close second to Young Rascal in the Group 3 Chester Vase in May, ran a tremendous race at Epsom to just get the better of Roaring Lion in the battle for second place behind the impressive Masar. There’s no doubt he was a huge disappointment at the Curragh last time in the Irish Derby for which he was strongly fancied, the son of Farrh coming under pressure over three furlongs out before fading to finish only seventh behind Latrobe.
Johnston suggested the ground at the Curragh may have been too quick for his charge so with the dry spell continuing unabated it has to be a concern once again. If Dee Ex Bee, currently a best priced 7/2 shot with Bet365, does run and bounces back to his Epsom form he will be hard to beat, but there is no certainty that will be the case and he appeared to have a hard race in Ireland.
There are two other three-year-olds still in the race. Aidan O’Brien’s Lucius Tiberius won a ten furlong Curragh handicap and looks out of his depth on all known form, but Raa Atoll (10/1 with Sky Bet) is progressing nicely, following novice wins at Nottingham and Leicester with a good effort in finishing fourth to Old Persian in the Group 2 Edward VII Stakes at Royal Ascot last month. This Sea The Stars colt is improving fast and is not without hope.
On to the older horses. Muntahaa, Mirage Dancer and Laraaib were third, fifth and ninth respectively in last month’s listed Wolferton Stakes at Royal Ascot won by Monarch’s Glen.That came over ten furlongs and it is quite possible that they will finish in a different order this time with an extra quarter mile to travel. Mirage Dancer (7/2 with Totesport) was sent off favourite that day and stayed on inside the final furlong without ever landing a meaningful blow, so will probably appreciate this return to a mile-and-a-half over which he beat Eugenio in the listed Tapster Stakes at Goodwood in May. He had previously gone down in a tight finish against another of today’s rivals, Barsanti, in the listed Buckhounds Stakes at Ascot. Sir Michael Stoute’s Frankel colt is a serious contender for honours.
MUNTAHAA (8/1 with Betfred) has had his training issues, but after running a solid race after 10 months off when third at Chester in May in the Group 3 Ormonde Stakes, John Gosden’s Dansili gelding ran a fine race at Ascot staying on well to be beaten two lengths. With his yard continuing in fine form he has good claims in what is a very open renewal of this Group 2 event and he looks to represent the best value at this stage of proceedings.
Laraaib (9/1 with Bet365) didn’t run to his best at Royal Ascot but had run really when when second to the subsequent Prince of Wales’s Stakes hero Poet’s Word in the Group 3 Brigadier Gerard Stakes at Sandown in May. Any easing of the ground would probably help his cause and he is respected.
Roger Varian’s Barsanti (9/2 with Coral), the horse who beat Mirage Dancer earlier in the campaign, finished fourth of five behind Crystal Ocean in the Group 2 Hardwicke Stakes at the royal meeting, a race in which he had been a close second to Idaho twelve months earlier. That was the first time he’s been out of the first three in his 16-race career and has to go down as a disappointing run. He needs to work hard to bounce back.
Godolphin’s Best Solution hasn’t run in Europe this year having been campaigned at Meydan over the winter without success. He’s a good horse on his day and he can go well fresh, but quick ground would not be ideal and on that score he is passed over. Duretto, trained by Andrew Balding, stays really well and has been campaigned over further so far this season. Although he can cope with quick ground, he is another for whom any rain would be a blessing but he is not without a chance.
Algometer was third to Hawkbill in this race 12 months ago but hasn’t been in the same form since and it would take a big leap of faith to support him on the basis of his last few efforts.
ADVICE: Muntahaa (8/1 with Betfred)
Centauri Bids To Be Alpha Female Again
The Group 1 Tattersalls Falmouth Stakes scheduled for Newmarket on Friday 13th July appears, according to the ante-post markets, to be at the mercy of the hugely impressive Coronation Stakes heroine ALPHA CENTAURI, currently odds-on at a best priced 4/5 with William Hill.
The odds compilers may well have assessed the race correctly as Jessica Harrington’s star three-year-old filly not only slammed a good field at Royal Ascot by six lengths, but previously stormed home from of the pace to win the Tattersalls Irish 1000 Guineas at the Curragh, beating Ballydoyle’s Could It Be Love by nearly two lengths.
The challenge this time is to maintain her upward curve against older fillies and mares, but with plenty of size and scope about this daughter of Mastercraftsman the chances are she is going to be hard to stop, especially if the ground remains on the fast side of good which suits Colm O’Donoghue’s mount ideally. It will certainly take a good one to halt her winning run.
There are some good ones though in the five-day declarations, including the brave Group 1 Lockinge Stakes winner Rhododendron (5/1 with Totesport), the Aidan O’Brien-trained four-year-old who tenaciously held the classy Lightning Spear in a memorable race at Newbury in May. She ran below expectations at Royal Ascot when well beaten behind Accidental Agent in the Queen Anne Stakes but that run was a rare blip on an otherwise impressive resume that also includes Group 1 success at both two and three-years-old.
The Galileo filly stays 10 furlongs and goes on any ground so a strong end-to-end gallop would see her stamina put to good use, but she’ll have to be at the top of her game if she is to overcome the expected hot favourite. O’Brien also has Hydrangea, Clemmie, and Happily entered in the race.
Hydrangea (9/1 with Sky Bet) won Group 1’s at a mile and a mile-and-a-half last term but was a massive disappointment at Ascot last month when looking edgy and she was beaten some way out in the Group 2 Duke of Cambridge Stakes. Clemmie (11/1 with Ladbrokes) doesn’t seem the same filly that was so talented at two. She again ran lethargically at the royal meeting, but Happily (10/1 with Sky Bet) wasn’t disgraced in Saturday’s Group 1 Coral Eclipse when fifth to Roaring Lion, but had a hard race there and is probably better over 10 furlongs now. She is held by Alpha Centauri on Irish 1000 Guineas form in which she finished third.
The Qipco 1000 Guineas heroine, Richard Hannon’s Billesdon Brook (12/1 with Betfred), has the fast ground she loves but has nearly ten lengths to find with Alpha Centauri having been fourth in the Coronation Stakes. She suffered a troubled passage that day and would probably have finished a little nearer, but she’s going to have to be ridden closer to the pace and raise her game if she’s to get involved where it matters most. It’s not beyond the bounds of possibility, but a place may be the best she can hope for.
Mark Johnston’s Threading (10/1 with Totesport), second to Alpha Centauri at Royal Ascot at a distance of six lengths, stayed on to run a good race in defeat but also has plenty of ground to make up. She’s a good filly and is respected, but she hit a flat spot 3 furlongs out there before staying on again inside the distance, and can’t afford to give the market leader such a start once again.
On balance, this is Alpha Centauri’s race for the taking and she can score again at the highest level, cementing her position as the best three-year-old filly miler in Europe.
ADVICE: Alpha Centauri (4/5 with Willam 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.