Side with Amazing Maria in Goodwood's Nassau Stakes
AIDAN and Joseph O'Brien vie for their third English Group One success of the year with the market-leading Venus De Milo in Goodwood's Nassau Stakes.
The brilliant Ballydoyle trainer is also seeking his third win in this afternoon's feature, a one mile and one furlong contest that lacks a little in terms of star appeal for a second year in a row.
As such, Venus De Milo is probably entitled to be favourite.
In the Curragh's Pretty Polly Stakes last time, she was second to last year's Nassau runner-up, Thistle Bird. She filled the same spot in the 2013 Irish Oaks behind Chicquita and in the Yorkshire Oaks behind The Fugue, so a debut Group One win would be deserved.
However, you can't be convinced that this further drop in trip on a quick track like Goodwood will really suit.
Venus De Milo's best form is over 12 furlongs and Thistle Bird swooped past her quite easily at the Curragh, when she had to be ridden aggressively over 10 furlongs.
A further drop in trip on fast ground isn't expected to bring out the best in her now, for all that this is a winnable top-level contest. Mango Diva steps up in class for Michael Stoute and Ryan Moore.
The trip is ideal, but that she only scraped by Lahinch Classics at the Curragh doesn't bode well.
John Gosden tries for his third Nassau in a row with Sultanina and Alain de Royer Dupre will saddle Narniyn. While they have immense scope for progression, there are similar concerns for both as there are with Venus De Milo over this shorter distance in these conditions.
With all that in mind, the three-year-old Amazing Maria stands out as being potentially underrated at up to 8/1. Tellingly, five of the last seven editions have gone to the Classic generation.
Ed Dunlop's Amazing Maria could make no impression on her seasonal bow in Taghrooda's Oaks at Epsom, when a lack of stamina and Dunlop's horses being off colour exacerbated the manner of defeat.
In the autumn, though, having run well in third behind the subsequent Fred Darling winner J Wonder, she went on to post two devastating wins over seven furlongs at Goodwood.
The form of her latter Group Three victory was only modest, but it was the authoritative manner of her performances that was so striking.
Amazing Maria clearly has bundles of pace and is suited by Goodwood, and the fact that she was deemed worthy of a turn at Epsom on her reappearance is an indication of how highly regarded she is by Dunlop, whose horses are running much better now.
All told, then, the daughter of Mastercraftsman, which is also the sire of The Grey Gatsby and Kingston Hill, is fancied to cause a bit of an upset under James Doyle.
The two other horses that appeal this afternoon are Saeed bin Suroor Godolphin runners.
In the 32Red Stewards' Cup, Hoodna looks too big at 25/1. The 28-runner six-furlong handicap will be a cavalry charge, but the suspicion is that this four-year-old filly is getting the hang of her job.
Twice second in similar races over this trip at Newmarket, the daughter of Invincible Spirit ran well to be a fine third in the Bunbury Cup back on the July course over seven furlongs. Off the same mark now, she can improve to score over this fast-run six for Kieren Fallon.
At Newmarket, Silvestre de Sousa does the steering on Golden Town in the seven-furlong handicap. Another son of the Irish National Stud's excellent stallion, this three-year-old benefitted from the application of a visor to win a valuable Newmarket contest earlier in the month.
Golden Town tackles older horses now off a six-pound higher mark, but he is progressive enough to win again.
Best Bet: Amazing Maria
Spring Heeled's run to be fourth in the Galway Plate on Wednesday was a fine effort. Jim Culloty's seven-year-old carried 11st 4lb, and he was the only horse to carry 11st or more to finish in the first 10. It was the manner in which he did it, though, that was most impressive.
From the start, Davy Russell sought to make the most of his mount's two most potent attributes – jumping and stamina.
The partnership jumped off up there and sat third behind the pace-setting duo of the eventual winner Road To Riches and Lord Ben.
Spring Heeled was still third as they pinged the last fence, but then Lord Ben cut him off as they rounded the bend after touching down, impeding his momentum. Russell got his steed going again to pass Lord Ben, and he was eventually just pipped for third by a bob of the head from Balnaslow on the line.
It really was a cracking turn behind a classy winner from a horse that has now won the Kim Muir, been fifth in the old Whitbread Gold Cup and fourth in the Plate on its last three outings.
Given the way that Spring Heeled travels, jumps and stays, there could be another big handicap in him.
Indeed, he could well get into the 2015 Grand National off a nice weight if his mark (current rating of 149 would have got him 10st 12lb this year) is protected. Even now, odds of 33/1 are just the slightest bit tempting.