RACE 1 2.00pm
Investec Banking Handicap
SIR Michael Stoute knows a thing or two about today’s first race, the Investec Private Banking Handicap, after saddling Conduit to victory in 2008.
The son of Dalakhani went on to take the St Leger, King George and back-to-back Breeders’ Cup Turfs in a memorable career that saw him win seven of his 15 starts.
Time will tell if STRAVAGANTE, who follows in his hoofprints for Stoute this afternoon, will be anywhere near as good – but he is my first selection, despite a lacklustre run last time.
On that occasion at Sandown he was beaten a full 12 lengths, but his conqueror was Jack Hobbs, who is now a leading contender for today’s Investec Derby.
His handicap mark of 89 certainly looks easy enough considering that John Gosden’s Classic hopeful now boasts a rating of 112.
As a two-year-old, Stravagante beat Puissant and Keble, the latter having held an entry for this year’s Derby up until recently.
The reliable Paul Mulrennan was handed the ride that day and did not disappoint. But Stoute’s decision to give three-time champion jockey Ryan Moore the leg-up this afternoon has to be a positive.
Moore, also aboard Conduit in 2008, will be out to maintain his impressive strike rate with the trainer. Their partnership remains strong despite his increased number of engagements with Ballydoyle.
If the forecasts are correct and crowds on the Downs are in for a sunny day, the quicker ground will play to Stravagante’s strengths too.
I’ll also be keeping an eye on Andrew Balding’s Cosmic Ray. The trainer is a regular winner at Epsom and this son of Phoenix Reach looks the right side of the handicapper. He’ll appreciate the extra two furlongs in particular.
His detractors will point to a disappointing performance at the course in the Investec Spring Meeting, where he pulled far too hard in the early stages.
But, with a couple of runs under his belt now, I expect such quirks to have been ironed out.
I also liked the look of Taper Tantrum’s seasonal reappearance after an impressive campaign as a two-year-old. Beating Mick Channon’s mudlark Popeswood on softish ground at Windsor was a decent effort.
It was Moore who rode Taper Tantrum to both of his successes but, as mentioned, he’ll be on Stravagante today.
Resonant may well be popular in the market after a typical Franny Norton pillar-to-post success at Goodwood.
But those around him today won’t let him dictate so easily and if they don’t get him, the handicapper may already have done so, following a 15lb hike after his last success.
Plenty to consider in the opener today, but Stravagante is a fairly confident selection.