Drought to end for Desert Creek
In the absence of any valuable big-field handicap across the water today, the opening seven-furlong contest at Goodwood looks the most appealing betting heat. As long as all eight declared runners turn up, punters will at least get paid on the first three.
Brian Meehan's Manassas looks set to go off favourite on the back of a couple of reasonable placed efforts earlier in the month. Both those starts came on slow ground so, while Manassas' three wins came on fast ground, the prevailing soft conditions may not unduly hinder him.
Nonetheless, this afternoon's ground looks set to be more testing than anything he has ever raced on. Given his relatively short odds, it might be wise to seek out a more established soft ground performer and Desert Creek fits the bill.
Of the three races that the Michael Stoute-trained colt won in late 2008 and early 2009, one was on soft and another on heavy. In light of that, Desert Creek will love the conditions, and he has plenty else in his favour too.
Most importantly, based on his latest effort at Haydock, the drop back to seven furlongs could prove crucial. The son of Refuse To Bend tends to race keenly, but struggled to maintain his early authority over a mile that day, tiring in the closing stages to be beaten a couple of lengths in fifth.
While it's two years since Desert Creek ran and won over seven furlongs, he doesn't lack pace, and the combination of the trip and the going ought to suit ideally. It should also be noted that the Haydock run was the first time that the four-year-old had been competitive in six outings since he won in May 2009.
That can largely be put down to the fact that his handicap mark was finally dropped from a high of 97 to a more accurate 89, which is just two pounds above his last winning mark. Off the same rating now, Eddie Ahern's mount is too big at 5/1.
In the 14-furlong Listed race that follows, Kieren Fallon will be hard to beat on Drunken Sailor. An ability to handle the ground will again be vital here.
Formerly trained in Longford by Paul Flynn, Drunken Sailor's six wins on turf have come on everything from good to heavy ground, yet he has defied quick conditions this year to twice be second in competitive handicaps. Back on a more favourable surface now, the five-year-old ought to prevail over six lesser-rated rivals.
Bergo and Golden Sword will be among the selection's main opponents, but Bergo doesn't appear nearly as effective as he can be when there is an ease underfoot. While Golden Sword did win a maiden at Fairyhouse in the mud two years ago, he will need to improve on recent form to factor today.
In the day's feature, the Group Two Totesport.com Celebration Mile, Main Aim isn't expected to be pushed to its limit to score under Ahern.
Poet's Voice looks the only real challenger to Michael Stoute's charge on official ratings, but that one floundered on soft ground on its penultimate start.
Main Aim, on the other hand, loves a cut. Third in a Group Two on his reappearance in May, he went on to win over today's trip at Haydock, before struggling against the top sprinters on fast ground at Ascot. He got back on track with a solid fourth over course and distance last time, and a repeat of that performance ought to be good enough.
Ahern could bring the curtain down on a day that promises much for him with another victory in the last. The Tipperary native partners Miniyamba for John Dunlop in this two-miler. A daughter of Sadler's Wells, Miniyamba is due a win in one of these rigorous stamina tests.
Best bet: Drunken Sailor