Zacinto can set up rousing 'Rip Van' date
Richard Hannon always sets a blistering early-season pace. The Wiltshire trainer's string is invariably primed from the off, and he reaped rich rewards when his speedily bred pair, Dick Turpin and Canford Cliffs, finished second and third respectively in the 2000 Guineas at Newmarket.
Dick Turpin tackles a mile again in tomorrow's French equivalent, while Canford Cliffs does likewise at Royal Ascot. And in that respect they are mirror-images of their older stablemate, Paco Boy, which starts a warm favourite for Newbury's totesport.com Lockinge Stakes (3.05) over a mile despite being at his best over seven furlongs.
Pace Boy went off at 11/8 to win the race last year, when soft ground almost certainly sapped his stamina. In the end he finished a tame fourth behind Virtual, but his prospects were further compromised by the demands of the straight mile.
Quicker ground will help his cause, as will the absence of a confirmed front-runner to stretch the field. And Paco Boy's confidence is soaring after he dismissed talented opposition at Sandown last time. He deserves his billing as a warm favourite.
Nevertheless, marginal preference is for Zacinto. Yes, he lacks a recent run, and yes, an early crawl will blunt his ability to deliver his sharp finishing kick. But the form book states that Michael Stoute's colt finished closer to Rip Van Winkle in Ascot's QEII Stakes last season than Paco Boy managed in the Sussex Stakes.
Zacinto should also have thrived for his winter break. He played catch-up for much of last season: having reappeared only in August, he was running in Group One company the following month.
This lightly raced four-year-old can take a successful step towards a mouth-watering rematch with Rip Van Winkle at Royal Ascot.
MURTAGH THE ONE TO WATCH AT NEWBURY
Johnny Murtagh travels to Newbury ostensibly to ride Kargali for Luke Comer, and while the five-year-old appears out of his depth in the Lockinge, Murtagh has attractive prospects of getting among the winners.
He starts the afternoon aboard the unraced Abrasive in the 10-furlong maiden (1.25), in the process renewing an association with William Haggas that saw the combination win the Lincoln with Penitent in March. Abrasive is well thought of and does not appear to have too much on his plate here.
The fillies' handicap (4.15) is infinitely more competitive in that Alice Alleyne, Sard and Plume, which had a 1000 Guineas preparation, could be anything.
Which is another way of saying that Murtagh's mount, Catherines Call, will start at attractive odds. This fast-improving filly has been sailing in shallow waters at Folkestone and Wolverhampton, where she has been outclassing inferior opponents. Her turn of foot is a valuable weapon in a race where the early pace should be strong.
Also at Newbury, Sabotage looks the likely winner of the Aston Park Stakes (2.00), and Green Moon is a value alternative to Verdant and Monterosso in the ultra-competitive London Gold Cup Handicap (2.30). This one improved beyond recognition when asked to tackle 10 furlongs last time.