Investec Woodcote Stakes
RICHARD Hannon (24) and Richard Fahey (15) have trained more two-year-old winners than anyone this season, and yet again they look to hold the trump cards for the speed test for youngsters this afternoon.
You need a special juvenile for this downhill six furlong dash, one with the pace to hold his position early on. But the horse also has to be nimble and athletic enough to cope with the undulations and the sweep around Tattenham Corner.
In that respect, we are playing with a blind deck. Yet both BAITHA ALGA (Hannon) and Ballymore Castle (Fahey) learned an awful lot when winning around Chester, which is a similarly tough test for a two-year-old. Both showed promise on their debut – Baitha Alga against smart Godolphin colt Winslow at Haydock, while Ballymore Castle travelled well before being sucked into a duel up front at Newbury. Significantly, Hannon and Fahey are trainers whose two-year olds always improve for a run.
Baitha Alga went like a dream last week at Chester despite being badly baulked early in the straight. His adept side-step was impressive to get out of trouble, and ensured he picked up the lead easily to win with any amount in hand. It was a hugely impressive performance and Hannon, whose yard won this race 12 months ago with Thunder Strike, has always rated him as one of his better first-half-of-the-season youngsters.
Like Baitha Alga, Ballymore Castle stepped up on his debut at Chester. Despite being tapped for toe over the five furlongs, he hung on in there and produced a strong burst to go between horses in the last 100 yards and win going away.
Ballymore Castle will be better over this six furlongs, but the crucial factor is the draw. He is in eight, one from the outside, while Baitha Alga has the inside stall, where Thunder Strike was positioned last year.
Mick Channon, first and second in the last two years, relies on the filly Exentricity, but she takes on colts for the first time. Her apprentice jockey Willie Twiston-Davies is unable to claim his 3lb allowance, so I prefer Sir Alex Ferguson’s Red Icon, who landed a gamble at Haydock recently after showing promise behind Ballymore Castle at Chester.
BAITHA ALGA 2.05pm Epsom (today)