'Moon' has right stuff to eclipse Stoute's Verdant
The Totescoop6 London Gold Cup at Newbury today will be the main betting event of the weekend. As ever, the three-year-old event is impossibly competitive, with a couple of potentially high-class horses among the 15-runner handicap line-up.
Michael Stoute's Verdant jumps off the page as one that may be poised to compete at a higher level. A winner of a maiden over seven furlongs on his second and final start last season, the Singspiel colt again caught the eye on his reappearance.
Stepped up to 10 furlongs at Sandown, Verdant won with the minimum of fuss on his first start in a handicap, and the 9lb penalty that he receives for that may not be enough to stop him now.
On the other hand, this will be no easy assignment off 9st 4lb, so he is passed over at short odds.
Monterosso is another that comes here on a sharp upward curve. Following one ordinary outing as a juvenile, Mark Johnston's colt has been a revelation in 2010. Beaten a short-head at Lingfield in January, he has gone on to win on three successive occasions.
Today, stepping up from a mile to 10 furlongs for the first time, Monterosso must enter calculations when you consider that he is now just 10lbs higher for two handicap wins. Verdant, remember, is up 9lb for just one handicap success.
That said, Frankie Dettori's mount isn't bred for middle distances, and he, too, will have to be a bit special to win off 9st 3lb.
While Kieren Fallon's mount Right Step is another that may feature, a chance is taken on the Leicester winner Green Moon.
A son of Montjeu, Green Moon is massively unexposed. He failed to land a blow in two starts over a mile in the autumn, but improved immeasurably on his return to the track last month.
On that occasion, over today's trip, Green Moon had to cut out his own running, before picking up well to run out an easy five-length winner under Dettori. Strictly on form, the Harry Dunlop-trained colt has to improve, but he has scope to do so off just 8st 11lb.
In the day's Group One contest, the totesport.com Lockinge Stakes, Paco Boy looks set to start odds-on following his smart win in a Group Two at Sandown in April. Given that he has solid recent form, Richard Hannon's charge has a live chance of avenging his defeat on soft ground here a year ago, but he still looks a couple of points too short.
While Lord Shanakill is a live each-way option at up to 16/1 on his first start for Henry Cecil, Zacinto, at around 4/1, may be the horse for the win. If you discount Zacinto's lifeless effort at the Breeders' Cup in November, he comes here on the back a length-and-a-quarter second to Rip Van Winkle in the QE II.
When Paco Boy met that Ballydoyle star previously at Goodwood, he could only get within two and a half lengths, and was arguably flattered at that, given the ease with which he was beaten.
At the prices, Zacinto is taken to give Michael Stoute a fourth win in the one-mile contest in 10 years.
Earlier on the card, Red Merlin is worth a look in the Aston Park Stakes. There are a few unreliable sorts among the field of 10, but Clive Cox's gelding established himself as utterly dependable in handicaps last season.
In his first five runs, Red Merlin was placed twice before winning three on the bounce, the latest off 92 at Haydock in July.
On his final run of the campaign, he failed to fire in a hot Ebor Handicap, but that disappointment came on the back of a long year. On his first attempt out of handicap company, the five-year-old has a chance.
A tight sprint handicap immediately follows the Group One. Pusey Street Lady, which has had a mixed start to the season, may be the one to side with after a fair effort at Ascot last time.
Best bet: Zacinto