Saturday 20 January 2018

Alice Springs looks class act in Sun Chariot

Alice Springs and Ryan Moore
Alice Springs and Ryan Moore

Wayne Bailey

With the calendar page now displaying October, it won't be long until the National Hunt season kicks in. But we still have eight Group Ones on the Flat to look forward to over the next few weeks including the Group One Fillies' Kingdom Of Bahrain Sun Chariot Stakes at Newmarket today (4.0).

With a forecast price of 4/1, Francis-Henri Graffard's Volta is one of the more interesting entries for this one-mile contest with nine runners set to go to post.

A winner of the Group Two Prix de Sandringham at Chantilly in June, Volta was third in the French Oaks but her trainer has said that a mile is her best trip and she's versatile on most types of ground. She's got room to improve but she's failed twice in Group One company which is becoming a worry. There's an international feel here with a couple of other French fillies including Ervedya but, at 11/8, Alice Springs is tipped to land the prize for Aidan O'Brien and Ryan Moore.


With two Group Ones to her credit, she has the form in the book to win another top race and it was great to see her bounce back to her old self in the Matron Stakes at Leopardstown last time, having failed to fire in the Prix Rothschild at Deauville in July.

Although the ground was good-to-soft at Leopardstown, she showed a great turn of foot to take control but her Falmouth Stakes win here was on firm ground which proves she's a bit of an all-rounder. A daughter of Galileo, it will take a good one to beat her today.

Of the rest, Always Smile has place claims and yesterday evening's price of 12/1 seems reasonable. Third to the selection in the Falmouth, she found the 7f trip a little short when finishing fourth in a Group Three at Goodwood a couple of months ago.

A little earlier at Ascot (2.30), Western Hymn gets the nod around 100/30 in the Gigaset Cumberland Lodge Stakes. John Gosden's gelding has been a little frustrating to follow and hasn't won a race since May last year but the five-year-old was only beaten by a neck in the Brigadier Stakes at Sandown, having traded below 1/2 in-running on Betfair.

He later ran with credit but was out of his depth in the Group One Prince of Wales' Stakes at Ascot, and he's forgiven for his latest flop in the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes there as he never found his rhythm with the way the pace developed. With Frankie Dettori back on board, he's sure to go close this afternoon. Arab Spring is expected to go off as favourite and some bookmakers had him chalked up at 3/1 yesterday. He should go well but he's got a couple of pounds to make up on Western Hymn.

In tomorrow's Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe at Chantilly, I'm taking a chance on Dermot Welds Harzand around 7/1 despite the fact that he cost me a small fortune backing him last time out in the Irish Champion Stakes at Leopardstown. Unfortunately, he was struck by another horse on that occasion and finished a little lame, but Dermot Weld's dual Derby winner has recovered well at home and is said to be in fine order.

While it's not the best preparation for such a big race, he also had a few niggles before winning the Derby including a pre-race scare in which he lost a shoe and needed ice. The son of 2009 Arc winner Sea The Stars has no stamina issues and it will be interesting to see how early Pat Smullen will ask him to kick on.

He had a good gallop on Tuesday morning and it's all systems go for the big one. The favourite Postponed is certainly the class act of the race and comes here with a nice picket fence beside his name having now won six in-a-row including a very strong renewal of the International Stakes at York last time.

It's hard to find any negatives although all the positives have been built into his price and there's very little value left around 7/4.


Richard Fahey's Heaven's Guest sits mid-division in the weights for the Totescoop6 Challenge Cup Heritage Handicap (3.40 Ascot) and early odds of 16/1 seem generous with the six-year-old on a fair mark of 102.

He won this race off 100 which may not be too relevant anymore as it was back in 2013 - but he's a fairly consistent sort and has been on the road a while with nine wins from 44 races. He's been a little disappointing in his latest couple of races but the handicapper has eased him 4lbs this year which now leaves him with some wriggle room. Fahey describes him as being in "grand old form" at home and the 7f trip would appear to be his optimum.

While it's been quite some time since he's got his head in front, he's got a decent place strike rate of 42pc and had you backed him each-way in all of his races, you'd show a profit of 29 points. Dean Ivory's Librisa Breeze will probably go off as favourite around 5/1. He wasn't disgraced when fourth in a Group Three at York last time out but I reckon the handicapper has his measure.

Weekend selections

2.30 Ascot: Western Hymn

3.05 Ascot: Shalaa

3.40 Ascot: Heaven's Guest (e/w)4.0 Newmarket: Alice Springs

3.05 Chantilly: Harzand (tomorrow)

Irish Independent

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