Sir John Hawkins can rise to Newmarket challenge
The second half of the Flat season commences with the delights of today's July Meeting at Newmarket.
Four of the five Classics and Royal Ascot have taken place, yet there is still the thrilling prospect of a new star emerging.
Aidan O'Brien sent out a six-length winner of the Coventry Stakes in War Command, yet the colt was a 20/1 chance and looked, on paper, the least fancied Ballydoyle runner. That impressive winner is now favourite for next year's 2,000 Guineas.
In the same race, O'Brien's Sir John Hawkins was sent off at 6/1 and finished a well-beaten third. Clearly, he was highly regarded going into the race, yet his lack of experience was against him and he weakened in the final furlong.
There is every chance much better is to come from Sir John Hawkins. His mother, Peeping Fawn, was one of the stars of 2007, with all her best performances coming in the second half of the season.
She rocketed up through the ranks so quickly that her last three victories were in the Irish Oaks, the Nassau Stakes and the Yorkshire Oaks. Sir John Hawkins is almost certainly on the rise and with Ryan Moore in the plate, he can be followed with confidence in the July Stakes.
One of the more interesting runners in the Boylesports Princess Of Wales's Stakes is the Jeremy Noseda-trained Grandeur, which enjoyed a successful sojourn in California late last year, culminating in a fine victory in the Hollywood Turf Cup.
However, the four-year-old has to carry a penalty on his seasonal debut and that combination of factors might prove too much to overcome. As a result, a narrow preference is given to Universal, which is a typical Mark Johnston improver – in that he has a giant galloping stride and never knows when he's beaten.
Dare To Achieve could emerge as a possible Ladbrokes St Leger colt as he steps up from a Pontefract maiden to Group Three company.
The son of Galileo is held in high esteem by William Haggas and while it did take him three attempts to get off the mark, he looked very promising in his sole start at two and then bumped into a subsequent Royal Ascot winner, Remote, when second over 10 furlongs on his reappearance at Newbury.
Richard Hughes' mount duly outclassed some inferior rivals when stepped up in trip at Pontefract, but while he looks to have a progressive profile, Feel Like Dancing is probably a more solid option.
John Gosden's inmate turned in the best performance of his fledgling career when chasing home O'Brien's Leading Light in the Queen's Vase at Ascot and he will have no problem with the underfoot conditions.
Gosden also has decent prospects with the lightly raced Ashdan in the Insure Pink Stubbs Stakes. Montiridge is undoubtedly the horse to beat but Ashdan looks the value option for punters. (© Daily Telegraph, London)