Kessaar can grind out win in Mill Reef
"Swift as a bird I flew down many a course. Princes, Lords, Commoners all sang my praise.
"In victory or defeat I played my part. Remember me, all men who love the horse,
If hearts and spirits flag in after days; though small, I gave my all. I gave my heart."
Those fine words, which are inscribed at the statue of the great Mill Reef at the National Stud at Newmarket, were read out in a speech by his breeder Paul Mellon at the 1970 Gimcrack Dinner.
An absolute superstar in the early '70s, Mill Reef won the Derby, the King George VI and the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe amongst other top races, and has the honour of having a race named after him, with the Mill Reef Stakes replacing the Crookham in 1972.
I wasn't even born back then, so perhaps can't appreciate him as much as some of our older readers might, although the wonder of YouTube gives my generation some idea of his talent, and it's well worth looking back over some of his famous wins.
Having waxed lyrical about the champion, which died in 1986, I'd love to seamlessly move on to today's edition of the Group Two Mill Reef Stakes (2.55 Newbury) with a confident bet on a really talented two-year-old.
But the truth is, I'm finding the 2018 renewal quite difficult to figure out, with True Mason, Shine So Bright, Kessaar and The Irish Rover all making my shortlist.
Or perhaps I should call it a longlist.
True Mason is improving and ran well in a French Group One last time, while Shine So Bright has placed at this level in his last two races.
Shine So Bright finished ahead of The Irish Rover in the Gimcrack at York, and the latter may find it hard to reverse the form. But I'm going to try get off the fence and a tentative vote goes to Kessaar, which is trading at 9/2 at the time of writing.
John Gosden's colt got off the mark on the third time of asking when landing a minor event at Windsor in July, but he simply looked out of sorts when subsequently well beaten in a Listed event at Ripon in August.
He put that flop behind him when taking a Group Three on the all-weather at Kempton earlier this month, suggesting he's got more to come, and it's interesting to see he has a Group One Middle Park Stakes entry for next week.
Frankie Dettori takes the reins and the Italian can make it a double, having won this race last year on board James Garfield.
My biggest wager of the day will be at Catterick, where Napanook looks a cracking bet around 2/1 in the British Stallion Studs EBF Novice Stakes (1.50).
He's yet to win a race in four attempts, but it's only a matter of time and this looks like a relatively straightforward contest with only a couple of horses having a realistic chance here.
A reasonably good fourth in a six-furlong maiden at Goodwood last time, Brian Meehan's colt appeared to run out of gas in the final furlong, so the step back down to the minimum distance should give him a boost.
He should have enough to see off Fognini which appears to be going well based purely on results - but that horse is perhaps flattered somewhat as his success came in fairly weak events.
For something at a bigger price, consider backing Take Cover around 7/1 in the Group Three Dubai International Airport World Trophy Stakes at Newbury (3.30).
Last year's winner is now 11, but he's still putting in some big races at the top level, and is not quite in decline just yet.
Do the double
Racing: Trained by Michael Stoute, Mirage Dancer ticks all the right boxes around 13/8 for the Group Three Dubai Duty Free Legacy Cup Stakes at Newbury (2.20). A son of Frankel, the colt gets a 3lb penalty for a Group Three win at Goodwood last time, but the four-year-old is finally starting to show his real talent after quiet campaigns as a two and three-year-old, and should be able to overcome it.
Soccer: They’ll be very short at around 4/7, but Manchester United look nailed-on to beat Wolves this afternoon at Old Trafford. Away wins to Burnley and Watford in the league and to Young Boys in Europe have eased the pressure, slightly, on Jose Mourinho. He’s no longer favourite to be the next Premier League manager to depart. Wolves have been given a boost with some new signings, impressed but an away win here may be too much to ask just yet.
* Last week’s double was successful at an overall price of 2/1.
1.50 Catterick: Napanook
2.20 Newbury: Mirage Dancer
2.40 Ayr: Dakota Gold
2.55 Newbury: Kessaar
3.15 Ayr: Shumookhi
3.30 Newbury: Take Cover
3.50 Newbury: Get Knotted (e/w)
Get Knotted has course and distance form at Ayr, and I’m surprised to see him priced as high as 20/1 for this afternoon’s William Hill Ayr Gold Cup (3.50). Rated 97 to give him a racing weight of 8st 13lbs, which is near the lighter end of the scale, he finished mid-division off that mark in a competitive handicap at York last time – but he struggled a little near the end, and may appreciate a step down in trip today.
Previously, he won a decent York handicap for the third time in-a-row off a rating of 95 which was higher than his previous victories, suggesting he’s got plenty to offer around this level. Michael Dods’ gelding has place claims at the very least.