Saturday 10 December 2016

'Hopkins' to write next verse at Newbury

Gosden gelding has the scope to excel over longer trip

Published 16/07/2016 | 02:30

Joseph O’Brien seems deep in thought as his sister Ana is congratulated by their father Aidan after her victory aboard Arya Tara in the Stanerra Stakes at Leopardstown. Photo: Cody Glenn/Sportsfile
Joseph O’Brien seems deep in thought as his sister Ana is congratulated by their father Aidan after her victory aboard Arya Tara in the Stanerra Stakes at Leopardstown. Photo: Cody Glenn/Sportsfile

Graham Lee resumed winning ways on his return at Chester last week after being laid low with a mystery virus.

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The Galway-born rider has been among the winners again since, and at Newbury he will be reunited with Trip To Paris.

At Royal Ascot last year, they combined for a famous breakthrough Group One triumph in the Gold Cup.

Ed Dunlop's charge hasn't won since and hasn't run at all this year, but he continued to perform to a high level last term.

Third in the Goodwood Cup, he was second in the Caulfield Cup and then ran a blinder to be fourth in the Melbourne Cup, so he has bundles of talent.

The concern on his return is that Trip To Paris is dropping to 10 furlongs in the Bet365 Stakes.

He has no significant form over the trip, and this is probably a sighter ahead of the Goodwood Cup.

Godolphin's Scottish heads the market for the Group Three. He is entitled to do so, having signed off last year with an Ayr Listed win and then returning with a respectable third to Time Test and Western Hymn at Sandown.

Maybe that form is as meritorious as many might conclude, but this corner is happy to continue to chalk it down as slightly overrated.

Regardless, Scottish might be more than capable of winning this Group Three, but there is an attractive alternative in Gm Hopkins. John Gosden's charge has to concede three pounds all round, a big ask in relation to the two aforementioned runners, plus Master Carpenter, another at the upper end of the ratings.

Nonetheless, he remains capable of progressing over this trip. Last year's Hunt Cup winner, Gm Hopkins has always excelled at a mile, but he did also win the Cambridgeshire consolation race over nine furlongs in 2014.

Likewise, he ran well in the Cambridgeshire last year, so it was no surprise to see him stepped up to this trip for a first time in a Sandown Listed race.

However, in a desperately muddling affair two weeks ago, Andrea Atzeni dictated the tempo to a nicety on the eventual winner, Ayrad. Coming from off the pace, Gm Hopkins got caught flat-footed when Ayrad quickened again in the straight, before then finishing purposefully to be beaten a length-and-a-half.

In the circumstances, it was a perfectly satisfactory turn that confirmed he should be effective at 10 furlongs.

Crucially, there looks to be plenty pace in today's race, and that should play to Gm Hopkins' advantage, so he is value at up to 6/1 to deliver for Rob Havlin.

In the Hackwood Stakes that follows, it is possible that the bookmakers have got it very wrong with Lord Of The Land.

Granted, on official ratings, David O'Meara's charge has up to a stone to find with some of his Group Three rivals.

Still, they aren't the most reliable lot, and Lord Of The Land has scope to improve. Impressive over this trip at Deauville in the autumn, he travelled smoothly when not finding enough over seven furlongs under a welter burden at Newcastle last month.

O'Meara is a dab hand at eking progress out of this sort of horse, so it's a bit of a mystery why Lord Of The Land can be backed at up to 40/1 now. Daniel Tudhope's mount should defy those odds.

Irish Independent

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