All eyes will be on Rome on Saturday evening but first I hope we can line the pockets on the racing front. Let us digest the seven ITV races on offer tomorrow afternoon including the first ‘Battle of the Generations’ contest of the year, the Group 1 Coral Eclipse.
Blink and you will miss it. The Coral Charge is run over the minimum trip of five furlongs in the middle of the course and has been won by the favourite in five of the last eight runnings.
The likely market leader here is Arecibo after his excellent effort in the King’s Stand Stakes. That was a race that suited his hold-up style and while this stiff track will help, I do not see the same breakneck pace on offer there as was at Royal Ascot.
Lazuli and Came From The Dark met at the Guineas meeting with Lazuli coming out on top by a neck and they meet again on the same terms. Lazuli easily brushed aside Keep Busy over track and trip last season before a well-beaten fourth in this contest. Keep Busy has a decent draw in one and got a confidence boost at Ayr last week after some solid efforts in top company.
The ground may not be soft enough for Ainsdale after his close second in the Temple Stakes, so I will chance recent course and distance winner ATALIS BAY.
He gets a valuable 5lb weight-for-age allowance as one of just two three-year-olds in the race and he beat some good horses from his age group at Nottingham on his seasonal return while giving weight away. He had no answer to Winter Power, who did too much early at Royal Ascot, but bounced back to win well here three weeks ago under Andrea Atzeni.
Our first visit to Merseyside and a very competitive staying three-year-old handicap to unravel.
Summer’s Knight is on a hat-trick for handicap king Sir Mark Prescott and has only been edged up 4lb for winning at Bath ten days ago. He also won over this trip at Doncaster and is undoubtedly progressive.
Dhushan went from last to first under a confident Danny Tudhope at Musselburgh four weeks ago and is a big player up two furlongs in trip and off just a 7lb rise, while Harlem Soul made it fourth time lucky in stylish fashion at Ripon and is also respected up in trip for Mark Johnston.
At a big price, I would not discount course winner Sir Rumi who won over ten furlongs here and was not disgraced at Royal Ascot. If he stays the extra half a mile, he could easily hit the frame off top weight, while Soapy Stevens beat Oceanline in a three runner race over course and distance under Franny Norton and wasn’t seen to best effect at Royal Ascot in a muddling pace. He is a player, as is Alpine Stroll, who was second in a decent Salisbury contest and surely will not be a maiden much longer.
Those are comments that also apply to AURIFEROUS, who goes here for the Andrew Balding team who continue to fire in the winners. This lightly-raced gelding was also a close second at Salisbury, looks likely to progress further for the extra trip and has a light weight under Hayley Turner, who rode a double for the yard at Chester last week.
If the thundery showers do arrive at the track, then Tashkhan will also appeal having won twice on soft and heavy ground, including at Haydock and was another not suited by the run of the race at Royal Ascot last time having been well backed.
Another competitive handicap puzzle over the mile to solve, this time at Sandown, where Ransom was a notable withdrawal on Friday.
The return of last year’s winner Montatham is a huge ride for young Irish apprentice Adam Farragher. He has ridden twenty winners in his homeland but is yet to strike since switching to these shores. Montatham is just 4lb higher than last year with the rider’s claim and was a good third at Doncaster on his return, form that has worked out well.
Pythagoras has faced some tough tasks this season and ‘shapes’ as if the drop back to a mile will suit, having won some decent juvenile prizes at this trip and gets 9lb from his elders as the sole 3yo in the line-up.
There are a few genuine group horses lining up in this handicap with Accidental Agent, Marie’s Diamond and Bedouin’s Story all used to lining up in pattern company and may appreciate the drop in class while Trais Fluors won tidily over track and trip before a fair effort at Royal Ascot. He does still look fairly treated on his French form but a wide draw in twelve is not ideal.
I will side here with ACQUITTED who finished last in this race twelve months ago. He was sent off just 11/2 after finishing second to Palace Pier at Newcastle in a novice contest and reappears here 3lbs higher, but is reunited with James Doyle who was on board when just nabbed in the Spring Mile at Doncaster in March.
He was not beaten far in the Victoria Cup at Ascot and should appreciate the return to a mile after sticking on for second at Chelmsford over seven furlongs recently. He is well drawn in stall two and with a few front runners in here, should get a decent tow into the race and help him to settle.
Just one three-year-old has won the Lancashire Oaks in the last fourteen running but I think the classic generation can land the 2021 renewal.
MYSTERY ANGEL is an absolute star who never runs a bad race. She went off very quick in the Oaks at Epsom and yet managed to keep all bar the runaway winner Snowfall at bay.
She will not mind any rain that falls and even her Musidora fourth reads well in this race. She deserves to get her head in front once again.
Dubai Fountain beat subsequent Hoppings Stakes winner Zeyaadah in the Cheshire Oaks and has proven she stays this trip this season. All the 3yo form ties in but I fancy Mystery Angel to uphold Oaks form as she is an uncomplicated ride.
Alpinista will be a warm order after a short head success at Goodwood in a small field on season appearance. That form has taken some knocks and she is priced up on her Yorkshire Oaks second to Love last season. For me she picked up the pieces that day late on after others had tried to compete with Love and she can be taken on at around 13/8 here.
Bahrani Star wants the rain to stay away and dead-heated in a course and distance handicap last season. She was then fourth in the Ribblesdale before being outclassed in the Oaks. She returned this season to win a listed race at Ayr and is considered each way in a trappy contest.
The Coral Distaff has become a contest for fillies on retrieval missions and this year’s contest looks no different.
STATEMENT was not disgraced in the 1000 Guineas after bustling up subsequent Fillies Mile heroine Alcohol Free at Newbury. She never threatened at Epsom, but a more conventional track should suit, and she sets the standard for connections who were left heartbroken after a narrow defeat in last week’s Irish Derby. Small consolation awaits here.
William Haggas aims for a hat-trick in the race and saddles the Lael Stable owned pair in Aunty Bridy, who was last in the Fred Darling on stable debut after switching from Jim Bolger, and Ready To Venture. She was a fair third on seasonal return but the well-beaten favourite upped in trip at Goodwood six weeks ago and the return to a mile should suit.
Auria has bumped heads with Godolphin’s impressive Creative Flair the last twice and looks to hold leading claims under Champion Jockey Oisin Murphy.
John and Thady Gosden are also doubly represented with Royal Ascot also ran Kestenna, whose best form has been on the all-weather, and Senita, who was far too keen in the Musidora and is another who should appreciate dropping to a mile.
Lucid Dreamer is another from the Fred Darling at Newbury who was disappointing. She was weak in the market there and has been give time to recover. She was impressive in two juvenile starts and a market watch is advised for confidence in her.
The Old Newton Cup is one of the trickiest handicaps of the season to solve, with a maximum field of seventeen runners over a mile and a half ay Haydock.
Mark Johnston has won the race three times in the last eight years and saddles two in 2021. The best hope appears to be Zabeel Champion whose winning run came to an end at Royal Ascot when a gallant third in his bid for a four-timer.
It was another solid run, but the handicapper has edged him up another 1lb which may count against him. His stablemate The Trader was a winner at Hamilton back in May but has disappointed in the last two, including being well-beaten at Epsom on Derby Day.
Aaddeey was two lengths behind Zabel Champion at Ascot and both will appreciate a return to quicker conditions and even if the forecast storms do hit the track it will not be as heavy as at Royal Ascot. He also looked very progressive and turned a Newmarket handicap into a rout in May, beating subsequent winner Rodrigo Diaz by over four lengths. The valuable 3lb claimer Mark Crehan eases his 13lb rise slightly and is a major player.
Longsider is a fascinating contender. He was being readied for a tilt at last Saturday's Northumberland Plate before a piece of work suggested he would not quite be ready. The Ebor is his main target, and it would be some effort to take this on handicap debut but could be well handicapped on his Lingfield in February if viewed by the subsequent exploits of the runner-up Raymond.
MY FRANKEL has two ways of running, either wins, or totally bombs out. He had a valid excuse for his poor Ascot effort last September and I forgive any horse a poor run at York. He was a good winner at Kempton on seasonal debut and although a wide draw is not ideal, he has the perfect partner in Haydock’s top pilot Richard Kingscote on board. If the rain stays away, he has every chance of troubling the judge.
Pirate King has not been seen since beating Midnights Legacy in January, and the second is 10lb worse off here after his win at Epsom on Derby Day, while Valyrian Steel is on a hat-trick after brace of all-weather wins but will find this tougher having risen 10lb for those.
The Coral Eclipse is the first test of the season that pits the classic generation against their elder counterparts. Sadly, just a small field of four has been assembled but they have won nine Group 1’s between them and amassed over £15m in win and place prize money, a large chunk of that by Saudi Cup and Dubai Sheema Classic winner Mishriff.
There are fair grounds for thinking poor Mishriff has not got the credit he deserves. After beating his better fancied stalemate Waldkonig as a 3yo his career took off, winning the French Derby and a Group 2 on turf before a poor effort on Champions Day. Since then though he has won two of the world's richest races, one on dirt and earned over £10m. David Egan is four from five on him and he sets the standard.
He may just struggle though to concede 10lb to Aidan O’Brien’s dual French classic hero ST MARK’S BASILICA. He landed both the 2000 Guineas and Derby in France, quickening impressively in the latter at Chantilly to win as he liked. That was his first start at this ten-furlong trip and was arguably his best performance.
Only he has really shone from the Coolmore Classic colts this season. The Siyouni colt also won the Dewhurst at Newmarket on his final 2yo start and he will not mind if much of the forecast rain arrives. He can give Aidan O’Brien a sixth win in the contest, a decade after his most recent.
Any wet stuff will also appeal to Addeybb, who has landed four Group 1s, three of them in Australia, and impressively landed the Champion Stakes at Ascot in October. That effort showed he belonged at the top table in Europe after some near misses, but I am not sure he can concede 10lbs to the Ballydoyle hope.
El Drama completes the line-up but has over twenty lengths to find on French Derby form, with the selection and the form of his Chester win falling someway short of the standard required here. He will help himself to at least £32k if finishing in fourth as expected.