Tuesday 20 March 2018

Gosden's Eagle to land on top at Newbury

King George runner-up looks too good for rivals in feature

Eagle Top winning his maiden at Newbury last year under William Buick – the horse returns to the track today with Frankie Dettori aboard for the Dubai Duty Free Legacy Cup
Eagle Top winning his maiden at Newbury last year under William Buick – the horse returns to the track today with Frankie Dettori aboard for the Dubai Duty Free Legacy Cup

Hillstar returns to Newbury this afternoon in a bid to defend his Dubai Duty Free Legacy Cup crown.

In soft ground a year ago, Michael Stoute's five-year-old drew clear late on to claim a first win since his 2013 Royal Ascot victory just prior to his finishing third to Novellist in the King George VI & QE II Stakes. After winning here, he then went on to secure a breakthrough Group One success in Woodbine.

Hillstar hasn't been nearly at his best in three runs this term. He was apparently a sick horse at the end of last year, but there was enough in his latest outing at Goodwood to suggest that he might be on the way back.

Having raced unusually handily on an unsuitably fast, switchback track, he was ultimately outpaced in a Group Three behind Dubday and the re-opposing The Corsican, eventually finishing sixth of seven. Given that he likes to have something to aim at, there was a little more to his performance than his finishing position suggests.

Back on a suitably soft surface here, then, Hillstar might well run better again. At odds of 12/1 in a six-runner race, he appeals as an each-way bet to nothing to finish in the first two, but you'd struggle to say with any confidence that he will win.

In contrast, this year's King George second Eagle Top really should be winning. A similar horse to Hillstar in that both won Ascot's King Edward VII Stakes prior to getting placed in a King George, John Gosden's four-year-old hasn't won since that June day last year.

Second to Snow Sky in the Hardwicke at the royal meeting, Eagle Top was carried out on his shield when nosed out in the King George by the stubborn Postponed, the duo drawing clear of the rest. In the Hardwicke, he had Postponed and Hillstar behind, so his form is pretty solid.

While there was a doubt going into the King George whether or not he would handle the rain-softened ground, he coped with it admirably well. As such, today's slow conditions shouldn't hinder him, and it would be massively disappointing if a horse that Gosden had suggested would head straight to Longchamp for a stab at the Arc doesn't prevail in this Group Three.

Indeed, with the weights favouring Frankie Dettori's mount, odds of around 10/11 seem slightly generous. In Scotland, Algar Lad might be overpriced at 20/1 for the Ayr Gold Cup. The pacey five-year-old has done well since joining the insatiable David O'Meara yard last year, winning three times over five furlongs before breaking his duck over six at York in May.

When last seen in a good race on the Knavesmire on July 25, he kept on stoutly to be sixth over six behind Tanzeel. The suspicion is that there is more to come from him over this trip, so he appeals here off a pound lower mark.

At Newmarket, Tony Martin's Cassells Rock is worth a look in the Cesarewitch trial.

Billy Lee's mount remains relatively unexposed on the Flat, and, off a pound lower mark, a reproduction of his second to Toe The Line at Leopardstown a year ago should be enough to see him go close now that he switches back to the level here.

Irish Independent

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