Thursday 5 December 2019

Muwaary can set standard in Criterion

Gosden colt can take Newmarket prize after fine comeback run

Rattling Jewel, 14, with Wayne Lordan up, cross the line by a nose in a photo finish ahead of In Salutem, with Pat Smullen up, to win at the Curragh last night. Photo: Sportsfile
Rattling Jewel, 14, with Wayne Lordan up, cross the line by a nose in a photo finish ahead of In Salutem, with Pat Smullen up, to win at the Curragh last night. Photo: Sportsfile

All eyes will be on the Curragh this weekend but there is still some interesting fare to delve into across the water.

Group Threes comprise the best of the quality on offer, with the Criterion Stakes at Newmarket one of the more intriguing events. The markets have So Beloved and Breton Rock as the likeliest winners.

On ratings, there is no denying that they have their chances, but they are also two of the more exposed runners. There are others of real note, including Birchwood, which is the highest rated on duty with a mark of 114.

A smart juvenile last year when winning three of his seven starts and placed behind Air Force Blue and Hit It A Bomb in Group One company, Richard Fahey's Godolphin colt also got to within two lengths of Galileo Gold in a Goodwood Group Two.

On his return in the French 2,000 Guineas, he bombed quite badly. Maybe he didn't quite stay, maybe he just wasn't ready for such an intense assignment, or maybe he simply hasn't trained on.

We'll learn a bit more about Birchwood now, but, on dropping back to seven furlongs with a run under his belt, he is worth an each-way sally at odds of 7/1.

Muwaary, though, appeals as being the one for the win money. Successful on its sole outing as a two-yea-old and then first time out as a three-year-old in the 2014 Free Handicap, Muwaary ran well in his three other starts that year.

He was beaten a couple of lengths in the French 2,000 Guineas and the Prix Jean Prat, either side of giving Mustajeeb most to do in the Jersey Stakes.

Generally speaking, John Gosden's charge has raced a little too keenly for his own good, but there were signs that he is starting to mature when he returned after missing all of 2015 at York two weeks ago.

Over a mile that day, Sovereign Debt appeared to set steady fractions, yet Paul Hanagan was able to keep Muwaary reasonably relaxed at the rear.

When the race unfolded, despite those at the front end being at a distinct advantage, Muwaary still managed to get into contention. He finished with a real flourish to be beaten a couple of lengths in third behind Mutakayyef and Sovereign Debt, faring much better than anything else that came from behind.

It was a performance that left the impression that there is still plenty to come from him.

Crucially, given his style, the drop back to seven looks sure to favour him, and his form figures at the trip read 112. Of course, there is always a chance that he will suffer from the bounce factor on his second run back after a lay-off. However, at odds of up to 5/1, he is simply far too big to pass up.

At Newcastle, where the Northumberland Plate takes place on the new all-weather surface, last year's Criterion winner Markaz - another Hamdan Al Maktoum colt - is of interest in the Chipchase.

Owen Burrows' Dark Angel four-year-old likes a decent surface, and improved for his comeback to chase So Beloved home at Haydock last month. The winner had flown that day, but Markaz often does its best work between the two and the one poles

He drops to six furlongs here, and it wouldn't surprise to see him ridden more aggressively by Paul Mulrennan. He has recorded both of his career wins at this time of year, so odds of up around 6/1 are very attractive.

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