Thursday 22 February 2018

Rewilding can go the distance

Richard Forristal

Richard Forristal

Despite attracting just five declarations, this afternoon's King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes at Ascot has the makings of an absolutely top-quality renewal.

In a fascinating mini duel, St Nicholas Abbey, long-term favourite for last year's Derby before being ruled out through injury, is finally set to tackle Workforce, the horse that scorched to such a glorious Epsom victory in his absence. Not for the first time this term, then, the Coolmore and Khalid Abdullah operations are to the fore.

However, as Blue Bunting's triumph in Sunday's Irish Oaks proved, Godolphin is once again a potent force. In particular, Mahmood Al Zarooni's team is excelling, and Rewilding's presence in today's Group One adds real depth to this prestigious event.

Lest we forget, it was Rewilding which lowered the colours of the mighty So You Think at the royal meeting in June. When you recall Workforce's subsequent submission to So You Think in the Eclipse, that's a piece of form that's hard to top.

The three-year-old Nathaniel is also interesting. Just beaten by Treasure Beach at Chester in May, John Gosden's colt sluiced up in a Group Two here in June. While this test may come soon enough for him, his presence adds further quality.

Over the past couple of days, St Nicholas Abbey, with Joseph O'Brien taking the reins for the first time on a horse that is trained by his father Aidan, has become an appealing option as he has drifted to as big as 3/1 from a shade of odds-on.

He may not have been impressive in the Coronation Cup at Epsom last time, but he didn't seem to handle the track at all yet still won.

Nonetheless, Rewilding, available to back at up to 10/3, might be poised to cause another minor upset.

Although well beaten in third behind Workforce in the 2010 Derby, he is a horse that is clearly improving. Granted, ill-judged tactics on So You Think worked in his favour here last time, but the most crucial point about that triumph from Rewilding's perspective was that it came over a 10-furlong trip that is short of his best. The further they went, though, the stronger he got. Back over a mile and a half now, he could provide Frankie Dettori with yet another red-letter day at his beloved Ascot.

In the afternoon's big handicap, the Betfair Summer Double International, The Confessor is worth a speculative investment at up to 12/1 under Cathy Gannon.

Hawkeyethenoo, an impressive winner of the Victoria Cup here last time out in May, heads the market for this, but he has plenty to do off an eight-pound higher mark that leaves him with top-weight. Henry Candy's The Confessor is far less exposed.

A three-time winner last term, this one ran a nice race to be third on his reappearance, before performing equally well to be beaten just a couple of lengths from an unfavourable draw in the big sprint handicap at The Curragh on Derby weekend.

The Confessor competes off the same mark now for a weight of just 8st 4lb on the slow ground that he loves. Breaking from stall seven, he is again poorly drawn, but he may be progressive enough to overcome that.

In the Ascot opener, Katie Walsh and Nina Carberry both make a flying visit to take part in the ladies' race on First Cat and Divine Call respectively. While their mounts have solid chances, slight preference here is for Discovery Bay.

Roger Charlton's colt disappointed over 10 furlongs last time, but the return to seven furlongs ought to help the promising three-year-old to fulfil his potential.

David Marnane's Alnashmy goes the other way by stepping up to a mile in the Deloitte Handicap. Fourth on his handicap debut when keeping on over seven furlongs at Tipperary a fortnight ago, he could run a big race here under Colm O'Donoghue.

Best Bet: Rewilding

Irish Independent

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