Fathsta can pull a fast one
As ever, the William Hill Great St Wilfrid Stakes looks set to provide an enthralling sprint spectacle at Ripon this afternoon.
A field of 20 goes to post for the six-furlong dash, with the course specialist Tajneed heading the market at 6/1. Successful in this in 2008, Dandy Nicholls' stalwart suffered his sole defeat in five starts at the Yorkshire venue when second last year.
Despite being eight years of age, a recent effort to be second behind the sensational Hoof It confirmed that Tajneed remains a real force. That is likely to be even more true now that he returns to his favourite track, but the handicapper has made life difficult for the gelding by raising him to a career-high 104 for 9st 7lb.
With that in mind, it's not entirely surprising that Nicholls' son Adrian has instead opted for Tax Free, which finished second to Hoof It at Goodwood last time. There is no doubt that the former four-time Group winner has the talent to win off his current rating of 95 given his past exploits, but he is now nine and is drawn badly here.
The David O'Meara-trained Pepper Lane is another in-form prospect that may have its chance diminished somewhat by a high draw, so preference is for Fathsta. Available to back at up to 14/1, David Simcock's charge has run well in some of the best handicaps over this trip lately, not least behind Hoof It on his last two starts.
At York, the Fath six-year-old came from well back to finish with a storming run when beaten just a couple of lengths in fourth. At Goodwood subsequently, he was again turning in an eye-catching performance before having his run cut off inside the final furlong, after which his rider allowed him to come home in his own time.
Today, Fathsta has a plum draw in between Evens And Odds and Tajneed in stall two, so the pace around him will help Robert Winston to maintain a good position early on. Equally significant, though, is that he has been dropped to a mark of 93 for 8st 10lb.
Having accounted for Tajneed and Parisian Pyramid, another of today's rivals, at York in October off a rating of 94, he could be well in off that. With the forecast rain also no deterrent to his chance, Fathsta is overpriced.
At Newbury, the Hungerford Stakes is the pick of the day's quality action. Johnny Murtagh has some fine rides at the Berkshire track, including Dubawi Gold in this.
Excelebration, third to Frankel at Royal Ascot, shades favouritism in the seven-furlong Group Two. Also second to Frankel on his reappearance over course and distance, the Exceed And Excel colt landed the German 2,000 Guineas in between.
Nonetheless, Dubawi Gold represents value at 5/1. Unbeaten in two tries over today's trip, Richard Hannon's three-year-old finished runner-up to Frankel in the Guineas.
Following that, he filled the same spot when flashing home late from a poor position in the Irish equivalent. Granted, he did disappoint behind Frankel and Excelebration at Ascot but that was an exceptionally hot race and it may have been that, on his fifth start of the season, Dubawi Gold was simply in need of the break that he has now had.
In the Geoffrey Freer Stakes, Brown Panther is fancied to enhance his owner Michael Owen's hopes of Classic glory ahead of next month's St Leger. This is an excellent renewal of the Group Three, with Meeznah and Times Up setting a high standard.
Brown Panther, fifth in the German Derby last month, had previously impressed when sluicing up off 91 in a handicap at Royal Ascot. If the handicapper's decision to raise him 18lbs for that is accurate, then he comes out well at today's weights when his three-year-old allowance is taken into account.
Also, Cape Blanco appeals at 9/4 to secure the Arlington Million spoils tonight. Aidan O'Brien saddles Treasure Beach in the earlier Secretariat Stakes at the Chicago meeting, but Cape Blanco's prospects are the more solid of the two.
Best Bet: Dubawi Gold