Gabrial can show younger rivals the way in York feature
With Epsom behind us and Royal Ascot around the corner, this is one of those rare Saturdays in Britain that lacks a marquee event.
From a punting perspective, the race that appeals most in lieu of any real quality fare is the Ganton Stakes at York. This is a Listed mile race that sees the return of John Gosden's Muwaary.
Fourth in the 2014 French 2,000 Guineas and then second to Mustajeeb in the Jersey Stakes at Royal Ascot, he hasn't run since finishing fifth to Charm Spirit in the Prix Jean Prat nearly two years ago.
Having had just five starts, Muwaary is clearly still massively unexposed; he could conceivable prove too good for today's 10 rivals and will probably do so in time, regardless.
However, as a keen type that hasn't had a run for 698 days, he might be one to watch. Muwaary is joint top-rated at 112 along with Mutakayyef, which doesn't have the same sort of potential to progress.
Mutakayyef could, of course, be good enough to oblige here, but he hasn't been taking his chances. William Haggas' son of Sea The Stars is dropping in grade and that might be enough to get his confidence back up after six placed efforts in a row.
In truth, there are plenty in with chances, as there will be little between the likes of Sovereign Debt, Mindurownbusiness, Jalotta and Top Notch Tonto, which beat Gabrial in this last year.
This time, though, Gabrial stands out as a particularly appealing prospect. Rated 2lb below the top duo, Gabrial does most of his winning in the first half of the year. Of his seven career victories, only one has come in the second half of the year, so this is the time to catch him.
That said, Richard Fahey's seven-year-old performed to a high level on his final start last autumn, posting an excellent effort to be third in the QE II behind Solow and Belardo.
Although Gabrial has gone winless in 16 starts since landing the Lincoln in March 2015, he has progressed with age.
When third to Solow and Arod in last year's Sussex Stakes, it was only the second time that he tackled a Group One since he filled the same position in the Goodwood feature behind the mighty Frankel in 2012.
Earlier this year, the Dark Angel gelding ran reasonably in good company, but his latest effort in defeat at Newbury was a real eye-catcher.
In the Lockinge Stakes, he kept on with a flourish to be beaten five lengths by Belardo, a display that suggested that he might be coming back to his best once again.
If he can build on that, he should take plenty beating as he strives to go one better than last year under William Buick. He is as big as 6/1 to do so, which is too big when you also factor in that his Louth-born handler's team is in excellent form.
Katie Walsh's decision to fly in for the ride aboard Richard Hannon's Nayel is of obvious note, while down at Sandown the Scurry Stakes is another Listed race of interest.
Michael Dods' Easton Angel will be popular here and she certainly looks a little precocious on the back of her reappearance win at York, where she accounted for Gracious John.
On a line through the runner-up, Ornate might have a bit to do to better Easton Angel, but he is fancied to score. Although Haggas' three-year-old has only won once in six starts, he has been second, third or fourth on each of his other outings.
When last seen at Lingfield in January, he ran a little flat when chasing Gracious John home at odds-on. On that occasion, he had his tongue tied down, having also been just denied at odds-on at Wolverhampton previously.
It is possible that Ornate was found to have a breathing issue, and it wouldn't be the greatest surprise if we were to learn that he has undergone surgery.
Either way, the fact that he has been freshened up will stand to him, and it's also significant that Ryan Moore has been booked to steer.
At odds of around 3/1, then, Ornate can put his natural pace to good use in this five-furlong dash.
Across the pond in New York tonight, Exaggerator will attempt to follow his famous Preakness Stakes defeat of the Kentucky Derby hero Nyquist in the Belmont Stakes. He is a worthy favourite, and the Pimloco runner-up Cherry Wine also runs.
Nonetheless, both came from the rear in the Preakness, which was run at suicidal early fractions. Given the cut-throat gallop, Nyquist ran a blinder to finish as close as he did in third, and he wasn't the only one to emerge with credit in defeat.
Stradivari's performance to be fourth can also be upgraded. Trained by Todd Pletcher and co-owned by Michael Tabor, Stradivari was the only other horse to finish in the first six that raced close to the pace.
While the other leaders - apart from Nyquist - all paid dramatically for their exertions, he kept on gamely to the line, leaving the impression that he would stay further.
As such, at odds of 8/1, he is too big to ignore now that he steps up from 10 to 12 furlongs under John Valazquez.
The last time Un De Sceaux went to Auteuil, we doubted Willie Mullins could turn water into wine by somehow making him stay.
We won’t make that mistake again. In fairness, even Mullins had indicated that last year’s Arkle Trophy hero looked an out-and-out two-miler. However, on reverting to hurdles for last month’s extended two-mile-five-furlong Prix la Barka, Un De Sceaux didn’t seem quite so one-dimensional.
He raced more evenly for Ruby Walsh en route to powering clear up the Auteuil straight. Tomorrow, his stamina will be tested over 3m 1f in the French Champion Hurdle.
Of the 12 runners, seven are Irish or English, with Mullins also saddling Thousand Stars and Whiteout. At this stage we are willing to simply accept without question that Mullins can execute the unthinkable.
Un De Sceaux has bounced back to his best with a vengeance. Few would have envisaged him winning a Grade One of this ilk, but Mullins’ genius seemingly knows no bounds, so a remarkable fifth win in the race for the yard is expected.
Mullins and Walsh also combine for fellow recent course winner Footpad in the four-year-olds’ equivalent. They don’t do things by half, so a double is likely.