NEWBURY racecourse received plenty of rain on Wednesday, but the forecast is much better over the next couple of days and it should be nearer good-to-firm by the time tomorrow’s card gets underway.
That is good news for STRONG SUIT, who has always been very well regarded by Richard Hannon, and is much better on a sounder surface. His last three runs have been disappointing, but there have been excuses for each defeat and the return to seven furlongs will suit perfectly in tomorrow’s Group Two Hungerford Stakes (3.05pm).
Hannon won this race in 2008 with Paco Boy and if Strong Suit can reproduce his performance from last October in the Challenge Stakes he will take this. He beat tomorrow’s rival, Chachamaidee, four-and-a-half lengths that day, giving her 5lb, and, with him only giving her 1lb this time, will surely uphold the form. Soul and Pastoral Player are both dangers, but if Strong Suit is in top form he will take all the beating.
The Geoffrey Freer Stakes (2.30pm) features some decent stayers, but MOUNT ATHOS is the one I will be backing provided conditions are no worse than good. He seems to be an improved animal since joining Luca Cumani and a win in this race will set him up for a crack at the Melbourne Cup where he would have a big chance on decent ground.
Tomorrow’s big betting race is the Great St Wilfrid (3.30pm) at Ripon and the draw normally plays a big part. Pepper Lane won this last year for David O’Meara from stall 17 up the stands side rail, but in recent years it has generally paid to be drawn low on the far side.
BERTIEWHITTLE has landed the plum draw in stall one and, after his decent run at Ascot last time, I will be backing him to win his first race of the season at 12/1 with Coral. Richard Fahey’s consistent Alben Star is the one I fear most after a series of solid efforts and he is also well-berthed in stall three. However, he’s now 8/1 and that is just a little too short for such a competitive handicap.
There is some interesting action at Newbury this afternoon and the opening two maidens are always informative. Hannon’s A LADIES MAN has reportedly been working very well at home and he should prove hard to beat for Richard Hughes in the opener at 1.50pm.
However, an even stronger fancy comes in the shape of Roger Charlton’s PYTHAGOREAN in the second division at 2.20pm. This is the same maiden that the stable won with Top Offer 12 months ago and, even though he has proven to be disappointing, Pythagorean is expected to win after a solid debut behind Montiridge last month.
The QIPCO British Champions Series rolls back into action at York next week, the highlight being Frankel’s first attempt over 10 furlongs in Wednesday’s Juddmonte International. He simply cannot be beaten and it will be wonderful to see him out again in what could be the penultimate race of his career.
We’ll be back on Friday to preview the Nunthorpe Stakes and Ebor, but you can follow me on Twitter @BillEsdaile for all my views on the week’s racing.
A LADIES MAN 1.50pm Newbury (today)
PYTHAGOREAN 2.20pm Newbury ( today)
MOUNT ATHOS 2.30pm Newbury (tomorrow)
STRONG SUIT 3.05pm Newbury (tomorrow)
BERTIEWHITTLE e/w 3.30pm Ripon (tomorrow)