French form to prove key in Middle Park
Unfortunately, last week's main bet Invincible Army could only manage second place in the Mill Reef stakes despite trading at even money in-running.
A couple of furlongs out, he ran out of room and lost ground, but I won't make excuses and James Garfield was a worthy winner under Frankie Dettori. Thankfully, the previous selection Desert Encounter had won at 13/2 and a later bet, Take Cover, won at 8/1 so I head into today's battle with the layers in reasonably good order.
I didn't have enough space to do a write-up on Take Cover last week and simply put his name as one of the week's selections, but he really is a fantastic horse for a ten-year-old and is worth a mention today.
Described by his trainer David Griffiths as "an absolute legend", the gelding made all the running and beat a number of horses half his age, including Cotai Glory. With 13 wins from 40 races, including Group Twos, he's been a fantastic servant to connections.
It's not too often you see a horse on the Flat capture the imagination through longevity but I've become a big fan and he seems to keep bouncing back, just when you think he's past it. I'm not quite sure where he can go from here and they can't go on forever, but he still gets out of the stalls in a flash and on a good day like last week, he can put it up to the best of them, regardless of age.
I began this column with the word 'unfortunately' and I'm hoping it won't prove to be a negative term this afternoon in the Group One Juddmonte Middle Park Stakes at Newmarket (2.55).
Trained by Karl Burke, Unfortunately has been away in France so a little off the radar, but he has come on in leaps and bounds since winning a minor event at Hamilton back in May.
A winner of the Group Two Prix Robert Papin at Maisons-Laffitte, the two-year-old beat stablemate Havana Grey to land the Group One Prix Morny at Deauville in August, but it will be interesting to see the colt back in Britain against some familiar names.
The early markets have him priced up at 9/2 with Sands Of Mali the favourite at 4/1, but the selection is on a steady upward curve of improvement and I sometimes wonder if punters are guilty of not taking French Group One form as serious as they do British or Irish.
Sands Of Mali, for example, has a Group Two victory to his credit and while no doubt an improver which is also coming on in leaps and bounds, Unfortunately has the top form in the book already. So there's a hell of lot to like about that price with Jim Crowley booked to ride.
Earlier, Clemmie is my idea of a rock-solid bet around 13/8 in the Fillies' Juddmonte Cheveley Park Stakes (2.20). A full sister to Churchill, Aidan O'Brien won this last year with Brave Anna and Clemmie has won her latest two races at this six-furlong distance, with the most recent Group Two Duchess Of Cambridge Stakes noteworthy as it was a fairly strong renewal.
Threading will surely make a good race of it. Mark Johnston's filly won a Group Two on just her second start which is no mean feat although it wasn't the toughest race in the world so this will give us a good indication of where exactly she's at right now.
At Haydock, Ice Age is a very interesting entry in the 32Red Gold Cup Handicap (3.15). Expected to go off around 8/1, he's won three in a row and races off 91 with an 8lb penalty - but he's due to race off 101 in the future so could be a couple of pounds ahead of the handicapper. At the prices, he's taken each-way
In tomorrow's Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe at Chantilly, Enable can justify her short price around 4/5 as she seeks a fifth Group One in a row.
A remarkable filly, she's been supplemented at a cost of €120,000 and while she didn't need to be at her best to claim the Yorkshire Oaks at 1/4 last time out, her previous King George VI at Ascot win was stunning.
Having saddled the first three home last year, Aidan O'Brien's challenge is seriously respected but John Gosden's dual-Oaks winner is the real deal and will prove very hard to beat.
The market gives Cote D'Azur almost no chance around 50/1 in the Betfred Cambridgeshire Handicap (3.35) but with 35 runners going to post in the annual cavalry charge, anything can happen in-running and I'm certainly not keen on taking a short price on any of these.
The Les Eyre-trained gelding has been below form lately but he's back down to his last winning mark of 93, and his front-running style may keep him out of trouble in such a large field.
1.50 Newmarket: Nelson
2.20 Newmarket: Clemmie
2.55 Newmarket: Unfortunately
3.15 Haydock: Ice Age (e/w)
3.35 Newmarket: Cote D'Azur (e/w)
3.05 Chantilly (Sunday): Enable