Monday 20 January 2020

Vancouverite can leave rivals trailing in his wake

Lightning Thunder (left) loses out narrowly to Miss France in last year’s Aqlaam Oh So Sharp Stakes at Newmarket – a repeat of this form should see the Olly Stevens-trained filly land today’s Listed contest at Haydock. STEVE PARSONS/PA
Lightning Thunder (left) loses out narrowly to Miss France in last year’s Aqlaam Oh So Sharp Stakes at Newmarket – a repeat of this form should see the Olly Stevens-trained filly land today’s Listed contest at Haydock. STEVE PARSONS/PA

Richard Forristal

Michael Stoute has won the Betfred Rose Of Lancaster Stakes twice in the last 10 years and Hillstar is a worthy market leader to give Ryan Moore his first success in the Haydock Group Three today.

Ostensibly, Stoute's Danehill Dancer four-year-old's overall form is the strongest on offer, with three successive runner-up finishes this term behind Brown Panther, Telescope and Cavalryman. He had Pether's Moon back in third when second to Cavalryman at Newmarket last time and both of those horses went on to frank the form by winning decent races at Goodwood.

The difficulty with Hillstar here is that he is dropping down to 10 furlongs. Connections clearly feel the need to change something to get his head in front for a first time in eight starts since he landed the King Edward VII at Royal Ascot last year, but all of his best form is over 12 furlongs or more.

As such, it is worth looking for suitable alternatives. Godolphin's True Story has been pushing for the market lead and he certainly has plenty appeal under Kieren Fallon at odds of around 4/1.

While the son of Manduro isn't the most straightforward, he will continue maturing and the race didn't unfold in his favour when he was fifth in the Eclipse at Sandown. Fallon was keen to get him settled in, but the pace was steady and he then got caught flat-footed when the leaders quickened.

Off a stronger, more even gallop here, he is a live contender, as he remains open to improvement and we know that the Classic generation are a cut above the ordinary.

The other one of real interest is Vancouverite, with Jim Crowley, who recently resigned his post as Ralph Beckett's stable jockey, taking the reins on the apparent Godolphin second string for Charlie Appleby.


A highly progressive three-year-old for Andre Fabre last year that won four over this trip before failing to run his race when stepped up to a mile and a half in the Prix Niel, the son of Dansili went on to be second in a Meydan Group One in March.

He then failed to cut it when finishing mid-division in the Dubai World Cup, but his return to turf at Newbury last month was encouraging.

On that occasion, Vancouverite split the reopposing Amralah and Nabucco, with the returning Al Kazeem back in fourth. In truth, sporting first-time blinkers, he should probably have won as Jamie Spencer had to negotiate his way around a wall of horses with just over a furlong to run.

Vancouverite was ultimately denied a fast-diminishing short-head, leaving the impression that he is a horse to keep on side of for now. Crowley's mount still has the scope to prove superior to this afternoon's rivals, so odds of around 5/1 look far too big.

The marquee attraction on the suburban Liverpool spread is Lightning Thunder's presence in the mile fillies' Listed race.

Olly Stevens' three-year-old was second in the 1,000 Guineas and its Irish equivalent, but she then ran a little flat when her effort petered out behind Rizeena in what was a fair edition of the Coronation Stakes at Royal Ascot.

Lightning Thunder has since been freshened up and it is a positive that she will be reunited here with her regular rider, Harry Bentley, after Olivier Peslier got the nod at Ascot.

On good ground against a field of horses that simply look inferior, she really should take plenty of beating now with her second to subsequent 1,000 Guineas heroine Miss France

There are half a dozen Irish raiders on duty at Ayr today, but the one of most interest is Money Spider at Newmarket.

Johnny Levins has conjured great improvement from this five-year-old since taking over his training this year, winning two handicaps with him in June, before Money Spider left a below-par July turn behind to get closest to Cassells Rock at Leopardstown on Thursday.

That was a fine turn that suggested there could be more to come from him yet, so he appeals off the same mark under Jamie Spencer in what is only a middling two-mile handicap.

Best bet: Lightning Thunder

Watching Brief

David O'Meara is one of a few British-based handlers who have identified Thursday's Invesco Pension Desmond Stakes as a potentially viable target.

O'Meara has entered Custom Cut, which we recently watched win twice at odds of 8/1 and 9/2, having been frustrated by its placed efforts at similar odds after recommending it on its first two starts for O'Meara.

The Fermoy, Co Cork native has now clearly found the key to the five-year-old, securing a pair of Listed wins with him on differing ground conditions over a mile, with none of his previous five wins coming over further than seven furlongs.

Mustajeeb heads some smart entries for Leopardstown's €62,500 mile event, but it is possible that the race will cut up.

If so, Custom Cut could be interesting. Fourth for George Kent in 2013, when he lost little by failing to concede weight to Gordon Lord Byron and Ansgar, he chased home the 2012 winner Duntle on his only other start at the Foxrock venue in an earlier Group Three last year.

Now that Custom Cut is seeing out a mile more resolutely, then, it's easy to see why this shrewd handler is considering travelling.

Irish Independent

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