Cityscape to defy odds for Charlton
Canford Cliffs has been a revelation since cantering up in the Abu Dhabi Irish 2,000 Guineas a year ago, but he can be taken on at short odds at Newbury today.
The fact that the Richard Hannon-trained colt is having his first start of the season in the JLT Lockinge Stakes is one of the reasons to oppose him. Canford Cliffs took two runs to hit peak form last term and he faces a few race-fit opponents today that just might unsettle him if he pulls too hard, which he can, or if he isn't fully wound up.
What's more, it's unclear exactly how good the Tagula colt really is. Serious question marks remain about what he beat in recording a hat-trick of Group Ones in 2010.
At The Curragh, he didn't encounter a single Group One horse. In the St James's Palace Stakes, Makfi ran no race, leaving only Dick Turpin to make him work. Dick Turpin reopposes now and is a very good horse, but he isn't top-drawer material.
Canford Cliffs then hosed up in the Sussex Stakes at Goodwood. He turned in a stunning display to beat Rip Van Winkle, but the Ballydoyle horse was operating well below the level he once did by then and there was nothing else in the race.
Obviously, the dilemma today is again whether there will be anything good enough to test him. While stablemate Dick Turpin is the obvious alternative under Ryan Moore, his successful reappearance at Sandown was so polished as to leave you wondering how he could improve, and Twice Over is vulnerable dropping back to a mile.
With that in mind, it may me worth taking some of the 14/1 available about Cityscape. Roger Charlton's lightly raced five-year-old progressed through last year to win a Listed race and a Group Three, sluicing up in the latter, with Premier Loco, third to Canford Cliffs at Goodwood previously, 14 lengths behind.
Cityscape had no reply when second to Dick Turpin on his reappearance, but Charlton is an old-fashioned trainer who leaves something to work on, and Steve Drowne didn't get remotely vigorous with him. What the run confirmed was that Cityscape is continuing to improve, so he looks overpriced in the circumstances this afternoon.
The main handicap at the Berkshire venue is the Totesport.com London Gold Cup over 10 furlongs for three-year-olds. Dominant will likely be a popular choice here on the back of a luckless defeat at Sandown last month.
Roger Varian's colt got badly stopped in his tracks up the straight before eventually flashing home for second, so he ought to go close again. However, he has also been put up 6lbs for his troubles, and General Synond may be better treated.
Another of champion trainer Richard Hannon's all-powerful string, General Synod has been a beaten favourite on its three racecourse outings. On his sole start this term, the son of Invincible Spirit did little wrong when second at this track over a mile, though it's possible he hit the front soon enough under Richard Hughes that day.
A first-time mark of 83 sees General Synod get in off just 8st 6lb now and Jamie Spencer can be expected to wait as long as necessary with him. With the run under his belt, he could be hard to beat.
In the earlier Listed race over a mile and five furlongs, Ship's Biscuit is fancied for Micheal Stoute and Ryan Moore. The Tiger Hill filly has run just six times to date, and finished last season with a second to the smart Harris Tweed in a similar event.
Another worth consideration is No Heretic in the opening maiden. Stoute and Moore have a live contender for this in the shape of Fiorente, but No Heretic's form reads well. On his sole outing last September, he finished third to Fury, which subsequently won a valuable sales race and finished fifth behind Frankel in the 2,000 Guineas.
Best bet: Ship's Biscuit