Inside Track: Arod can deflect Thunder bolt
Chapple-Hyam colt set to blitz Lockinge rivals on straight mile
Cougar Mountain is today charged with becoming just the second Irish-trained winner of the Lockinge Stakes since it became a Group One 20 years ago.
His esteemed handler Aidan O'Brien was responsible for the previous success, Hawk Wing's brilliant 11-length rout under Mick Kinane in 2003 fondly remembered as one of the most complete mile performances in modern times. Cougar Mountain faces a massive task under Joseph O'Brien.
The 18-runner field is the largest in the event's history. It lacks a bona fide star of Hawk Wing or Frankel's ilk, but it is deeply competitive, with an 11lb handicap spread covering 16 of the runners.
Night Of Thunder, an inexplicable conqueror of Kingman in last year's 2,000 Guineas, is top-rated on 121. Notwithstanding that bizarre Classic and its anomalous result, Richard Hannon's colt went on to prove himself a decent miler, finishing second to Kingman in the St James's Palace Stakes and also placed twice behind Charm Spirit in the Moulin and QE II.
Night Of Thunder deserves to be favourite for this, but he isn't so far ahead of the others that he might not be vulnerable to an improver.
Michael Stoute's Ryan Moore-ridden Integral is a live alternative. She, Toormore and Tullius all have chances, likewise Custom Cut. David O'Meara has done a fine job with the former George Kent-trained gelding. At six years of age after 38 runs, though, Custom Cut has limited scope to progress at this level. The 110-rated Arod is the one to keep on side. Peter Chapple-Hyam is a long way removed from the force that he was of old and he has still to get off the mark this year.
However, he won't have forgotten how to train a good horse, which this fellow could yet prove to be as he is still unexposed with just seven runs to his name. Second to The Grey Gatsby in the 2014 Dante and fourth to Australia in the Derby, he then hosed up in a non-event at Leicester before finishing fifth to Australia in York's International.
Each of those starts came between 10 and 12 furlongs, and he ran well when dropped back to nine for his reappearance at Newmarket, where he was thwarted late on by French Navy in a Group Three.
The bare form of that won't be enough here, but it hinted that Arod could be effective at a mile. He is a keen sort that didn't finish strongly over further, so he could be a real contender now if he gets a march on his rivals under Andrea Atzeni.
The likes of Hawk Wing and Rakti have shown how Newbury's straight mile can lend itself to a powerful front-runner, which is what Arod has the potential to be. At up to 25/1, he is overpriced.
Moore can't do the weight on Stoute's Dissolution (Atzeni) in the London Gold Cup. However, Khalid Abdullah's Roger Charlton-trained second string Time Test is a fair substitute, and is fancied to go close now that it steps up in trip.
Plenty of light will be shed on the Gold Cup contenders over the next few weeks.
At York yesterday, Snow Sky gamely saw off Brown Panther, but the winner has been ruled out of the Royal Ascot race already. While Brown Panther will run in the Group One, he wilted badly at the end of the dour 20-furlong trip when fifth in 2014.
Dermot Weld is responsible for the only other horses trading at single-figure odds. His Cheltenham hero Windsor Park is an 8/1 shot after maintaining its 100pc record on the Flat with a third win at Gowran Park, though he would need to be supplemented.
Weld's Forgotten Rules is the 7/2 market leader. Likewise unbeaten in three Flat starts, he showcased his enormous potential when landing a two-mile Group Two at Ascot in October. He returns at Navan tomorrow, and it's possible that his price would collapse if he were to win impressively.
Willie Mullins sends five raiders to Auteuil this weekend.
There were no markets available last night, but today's trio of Val De Ferbet, Gitane Du Berlais (both in the Prix La Barka) and Analifet (Listed Hurdle) probably aren't going as an afterthought.
On His Own's tilt at tomorrow's €850,000 Grand Steeple Chase de Paris may be more speculative. The 11-year-old has had a mixed season, his Lexus Chase second, Gold Cup fifth and Imperial Call Chase rout the stand-out moments.
Still, the three-mile six-furlong trip will suit On His Own, so he could trouble a few of the locals under Ruby Walsh.
Lay Of The Day
Mrs Jordan was shading favouritism last night for the opening novices' handicap hurdle at Bangor this afternoon.
The King's Theatre mare makes her debut for Sophie Leech under Paul Moloney, and maybe she will do well off a reduced rating. Still, in 11 starts since winning a Stratford bumper in 2013, she has never got within eight lengths of a winner, so she doesn't appeal.
A Little Each-Way
Mick Easterby's Can You Conga isn't without a chance of finishing in the first three in Newmarket's concluding five-furlong handicap.
The Piccolo five-year-old won on the July course over six furlongs two years ago off a mark of 84, and he has fallen to 79 now after some moderate turns. However, he has shown recently that he doesn't lack early pace, so he might outrun his odds now that he sports first-time blinkers under Pat Cosgrave.