Friday 23 March 2018

Inside track: Dick Whittington can pounce

Ballydoyle colt to strike after progressing well in juvenile ranks

Dick Whittington bids to strengthen Aidan O’Brien’s Classic hand at Newbury today
Dick Whittington bids to strengthen Aidan O’Brien’s Classic hand at Newbury today

Richard Hannon dips another 2,000 Guineas prospect when Ivawood contests Newbury's Greenham Stakes.

Hannon had a leading Newmarket fancy beaten when Moheet finished a never-dangerous third in Thursday's Craven Stakes, yet he still won the race with Kool Kompany. Ivawood has preceded both in the ante-post markets for the season's opening Classic for some time. The Zebedee colt looked really precocious last term, scooting up in his first three starts, including in a pair of Group Twos.

When he stepped up to Group One company for the Middle Park, he failed to cope well enough with slower ground, eventually just denied by Charming Thought, with Capella Sansevero nearly two lengths back in fourth and Kool Kompany another length behind him.

Aidan O'Brien's The Warrior, which won at the Curragh in March before being held in third at Newmarket on Wednesday, was a half-length behind him. There is no doubt that is decent form, but the worry is that Ivawood was such a ball of a two-year-old that it's hard to know how well he will train on.

Moreover, that he didn't find as much as you might have expected him to in his only serious test is a concern, notwithstanding that the ground might have been slow enough for him.

At odds of around 6/4 today, Richard Hughes' mount isn't hard to oppose in what is an open Group Three. Stablemate Estidhkaar and his fellow Hamdan Al Maktoum-owned Fannaan couldn't be discounted, nor could Roger Varian's Dewhurst winner Belardo.

All things considered, though, odds of up to 10/1 seem too big to ignore about O'Brien's Dick Whittington. A seemingly unconsidered 33/1 shot for the Guineas, this Rip Van Winkle colt might not be ranked among the elite of Ballydoyle's blue-chip team, but he is a pretty smart animal.

While Capella Sansevero and Intense Style denied him on his first two outings, he progressed to win three of his next four starts, the defeat coming when he was third over seven furlongs in the Chesham at Royal Ascot, having led too early.

He is a horse that likes something to aim at, and his final win in the Group One Phoenix Stakes showed that he was really getting the hang of his job. On soft ground, he got on top inside the final furlong to win going away from Kool Kompany and Capella Sansevero.

Dick Whittington returns to seven furlongs now, but the trip isn't expected to be a problem.

Indeed, it may suit once he is ridden to pounce late, and Ryan Moore can be trusted to do that. Crucially, O'Brien's runners have stepped up a notch this week, and he has a vital line on Ivawood through The Warrior. Given the odds about Dick Whittington, maybe the market has yet to acknowledge that the Ballydoyle horses are turning a corner.

In the 12-furlong Group Three, Romsdal looks solid, but Michael Stoute's Arab Spring has a real life under Moore. An improver in 2014, he has the scope to go higher still.


Watching brief

Having recommended Don Cossack for the Bibby Financial Services Gold Cup at Punchestown after his luckless Cheltenham defeat, it was slightly frustrating to see him make for Aintree last week.

In our wisdom, despite also fancying him for the Ryanair Chase, we opposed him on the basis that two-and-a-half-miles on the Mildmay course might be on the sharp side. Of course, Gordon Elliott's judgment was vindicated in spectacular style, and we were left to ponder what might have been.

Until, that is, Elliott suggested this week that he is tempted to still have a cut at Wednesday week's three-miler, for which Don Cossack is as low as 4/1 from 8/1.

Notwithstanding the all-too-real prospect of yours truly being proved wrong again, with an eye on next season, it would be a treat to see Don Cossack tackle the likes of Djakadam, Road To Riches and Carlingford Lough.


Punt or pass

Oscar Rock isn't one to put any faith in at short odds in the novices' chase at Ayr.

A beaten favourite five times in his last eight starts, Malcolm Jefferson's charge isn't always the most fluid jumper and he has sported blinkers on his last two starts, albeit to good effect. Still, this is the best race he has contested for a while, so he is one to take on.


Dark horse

Philip Hobbs' old stalwart Cheltenian could run well at fancy odds in the Scottish Champion Hurdle.

Tony Martin's hat-trick-seeking I Shot The Sheriff is a worthy market leader under Paul Townend, but Cheltenian ran well for a long way when eighth under a massive 11st 12lb in what was a decent County Hurdle at Cheltenham in March.

He was found to have pulled a shoe on that occasion, which won't have helped his cause. Granted, Richard Johnson's mount has plenty on off the same mark now. Still, this doesn't look quite as hot a race, and he always puts in a shift.


A little each way

We have discussed Gallant Oscar's Scottish Grand National prospects elsewhere, but Stuart Crawford's Yes Tom is worth an each-way venture in the Ayr feature as well.

A 33/1 shot, the grey briefly led turning in 12 months ago, after which he trailed home last of the nine finishers. He may simply not have stayed the marathon journey, but he is a three-time course winner in great heart, so he warrants an each-way poke.

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