Speedy Purser to sail home in Autumn Stakes
Michael Stoute has been in the racing business a long time now, and readers may know he has a Dewhurst win to his credit from way back in 1986.
Ajdal went off at 4/9 that year and, having looked like he was going to win easily, he showed signs of either inexperience or tiredness and slowed down a bit in the final stages. Regardless, he still beat Shady Heights by three-quarters of a length and Stoute decided to aim him at the following year's classics.
Unfortunately, he was unsuccessful in both the British and Irish Guineas and also the Derby, but later came into his own as a sprinter winning some top races including the July Cup.
He died at the age of four soon after being retired to stud but 31 years on from Ajdal's Dewhurst success, Stoute once again finds himself in the position of training the odds-on favourite for the big race (3.0 Newmarket).
Priced around 4/7 yesterday, Expert Eye will take on eight rivals for the seven-furlong Group One with Jim Bolger's fancied Verbal Dexterity scratched from the line-up following a bad scope.
Stoute admitted he doesn't get quite as many talented two-year-olds as he did in the past but Expert Eye certainly looks special based on his Group Two Vintage Stakes success at Goodwood a couple of months ago.
It was arguably the best performance we've seen from a two-year-old this season but he had one or two minor issues and hasn't raced since.
Stoute reckons he's had plenty of time to prepare him so there'll be no excuses if he's beaten but it's a race best enjoyed without a bet.
John Gosden's Emaraaty is the one most likely to offer a challenge. He'd plenty in hand when winning a minor event at Newbury last time and is almost certain to improve with experience, although this is a major step up in class.
Considering he's a Group One winner, Aidan O'Brien's US Navy Flag is also in with a chance but the favourite should prove hard to beat here.
For me, the value bet of the day comes a little earlier in the Group Three Masar Godolphin Autumn Stakes (2.25 Newmarket) with Purser set to go off around 7/2 for John Gosden under Frankie Dettori. A maiden winner on his debut, he could only manage fourth of seven horses in the Group Three Solario Stakes at Sandown.
However, I'm willing to overlook that effort as Dettori found himself boxed in a couple of furlongs out, effectively ruining any chance he might have had.
While we didn't learn too much for his subsequent success at 4/9 in a weak race at Lingfield, he clocked a very good time and did exactly what he was asked.
Ghaiyyath will probably go off as favourite. Charlie Appleby's colt cost Godolphin more than €1m and has an entry in the Group One Racing Post Trophy near the end of the month, although he was a little disappointing on his debut at 6/5 when third in a Doncaster maiden.
However, he put things right when winning a maiden last time out here in late September in a first-time hood, which seemed to help keep his mind on the job and the headgear is back today.
For something at a bigger price, consider Spark Plug around 5/1 in the Group Three Darley Club Stakes (5.25 Newmarket) with Tom Marquand booked to ride.
I put him up here as a selection in the Group Three Winter Hill Stakes at Windsor back in August but he found one of today's rivals Fabricate too good.
A penalty for that win was enough to hold Fabricate back in a Group Three at Newbury in September and I suspect the 3lb difference in the weights today will give Spark Plug the edge.
I've backed him a number of times through the years but I made a mental note to follow the six-year-old again when he beat some decent sorts in a Listed race at Sandown in July.
The Brian Meehan-trained gelding is a smart and reliable sort overall with five wins and five places from 24-career races and his form is as good as ever.
Monarchs Glen is also worth a mention from John Gosden's yard under Frankie Dettori.
A son of Frankel, he can race a little freely at times but he's getting better with experience and a Listed win at Goodwood last time suggested he's worth another try at Group Three level.
While the Betfred Cesarewitch Handicap was won by a 7/1 shot last year, it generally goes to one at a large price which is not surprising for a race in which there's usually more than 30 runners. Grumeti, Scatter Dice, Aaim to Prosper and Caracciola all won in the last ten years at 50/1 or above.
This year, 35 horses go to post (3.40 Newmarket) and I'm going to take a chance Star Rider which risks being overlooked in the betting at 33/1.
Hughie Morrison's mare has been below-form this season but a mark in the mid 90s was a little too high. She won over hurdles in December but she's back down to her last winning Flat mark of 90 which may see her do a little better than last year's eighth place off 1lb higher
2.25 Newmarket: Purser
2.40 York: Shabaaby
3.40 Newmarket: Star Rider (e/w)
4.10 Chepstow: Peak To Peak (e/w)
5.25 Newmarket: Spark Plug
Do the double
Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger will be concerned that his side are yet to win away from home in the Premier League this term but that can change at Vicarage Road. Watford deserve plenty of credit for coming back to draw with West Brom, but the Gunners are on a good run with four wins in a row. I’m backing an away win today at 8/13.
Trained by Owen Burrows, Shabaaby looks the class act of the field and the odds of 11/10 available yesterday evening for the Listed Coral.co.uk Rockingham Stakes (2.40 York) are a couple of ticks too high. He got off the mark in a minor event at Newmarket, but was hugely impressive when storming home to take a conditions race at Doncaster last time out. A small bit of cut in the ground won’t do him any harm.