Sentaril set to make Murtagh trip worthwhile
With no Flat racing at home, Johnny Murtagh has secured a full book of seven rides for seven different trainers on this afternoon's Ascot card.
It says much of the Meath native's universally recognised calibre that he commands such demand at will, though it is presumably William Haggas who initially prompted the journey.
Over the past five years, the duo boast an impressive 24pc strike rate together, posting a whopping 34.3-point profit to a one-unit level stake, with Rosdhu Queen's triumph in last week's Cheveley Park Stakes the partnership's third Group One in two seasons.
Today, Sentaril is a far less glamorous conveyance in the 17-runner October Stakes over seven furlongs, but she is nonetheless fancied to further enhance Murtagh's record for the Newmarket handler. Unraced as a juvenile, the Danehill Dancer filly was simply imperious in her first two starts, winning at Newbury and Doncaster by an aggregate 13 lengths.
She then turned in another cracking effort from a poor early position to flash home for second under Murtagh behind Ishvana in the Jersey Stakes at Royal Ascot, before those initial exertions and a drop in trip to six furlongs at York rendered her a pale shadow of her normal self.
Following a break of two months, Sentaril looked a far happier horse back over seven at Doncaster last time, making much of the running before visibly tiring and drifting under pressure inside the distance, eventually beaten four lengths behind Sunday Times. Ultimately, she paid the price for going too quick that day, but she can be forgiven for being a little gassy on her return from her first break.
Sentaril will be more the finished article now and she is likely to justify her ranking as the top-rated runner in the Listed contest.
Of the remainder, Godolphin's Punita stands out as the most progressive, having won her only two starts with real authority. However, the second of those came at Newmarket off a mark of just 78, which leaves her with bundles to find on the 105-rated selection.
In the Group Three Cumberland Lodge Stakes, Murtagh takes the reins on Hawaafez for Marcus Tregoning, who has won this on four occasions since 2003.
Lightly raced this term with just two starts, this four-year-old reverts to a more suitable 12 furlongs now, having failed to fully see out the mile-and-six journey in a similar race at Goodwood in August. Utterly imposing when hacking up at Newbury on her reappearance in May, Hawaafez clearly goes well fresh, so you couldn't discount her with much confidence now. Still, on figures, Starboard, representing the irrepressible John Gosden, appeals as the better option.
A year younger than Hawaafez, the Zamindar colt added to last year's fine maiden win by taking a conditions race at Doncaster in June, before looking a touch one-paced when fourth in a pair of Group Twos in France.
On dropping back to this grade at Longchamp a fortnight ago, he turned in a taking performance to make most for a ready three-length win.
That confirmed that Starboard remains highly progressive, and the step up to 12 furlongs for a first time here is expected to bring about even more from him.
Moreover, as a maturing three-year-old meeting seven older rivals, his top rating of 112 leaves him between 7lb and 15lb well in at the weights under Rob Havlin, and that is a considerable discrepancy.
My Girl Anna and Jamesie are the two Irish-trained runners on the card, with Jamesie the pick at up to 8/1 in the Challenge Cup. In a competitive handicap like this seven-furlong affair, those odds are skimpy enough, but David Marnane's charge is impossible to ignore.
First on the near side when second in the Buckingham Palace Stakes over course and distance in June, the busy four-year-old was beaten less than two lengths by Hawkeyethenoo in the Stewards' Cup at Goodwood, when the six-furlong trip proved a fraction short.
On his only subsequent start, Jamesie endured a horrendous passage when unable to mount a challenge at Leopardstown a month ago so, off the same rating here, he is overdue a bit of luck.
Best Bet: Starboard