There is some good racing to look forward to this weekend before Glorious Goodwood gets underway next week, with the focus of our attention on York and Ascot.
York stage their Sky Bet raceday and there is some competitive action. The first race to focus on is the Sky Bet York Stakes, a Group 2 over a mile and a quarter. Both Afsare and Planteur are vying for favouritism at 7/2 with Sky Bet with the bookies unable to split them in this 11 runner field.
Afsare represents Luca Cumani and Kieren Fallon and come here having won a strong listed race at Sandown on easy ground last time out. He has been quite a frustrating horse who was winning his first race for over two years there and the Arlington Million is his main target next month. Let's hope he can string together two wins in a row as he's a horse who works very well at home and has cost his followers over the last couple of years. This represents a step back up in class, but he has more than enough ability for it.
I really fancy Jet Away's chances as conditions are ideal.
Quotes of the week
Planteur is trained by a fellow Italian, Marco Botti, also in Newmarket. The horse made his debut for the trainer in the Dubai World Cup back in March where he ran a superb race to finish third. He then put up another solid display in the Prix d'Ispahan to finish third behind true Group 1 horses. Last time out saw him well beaten in the Prince of Wales's Stakes at Royal Ascot behind So You Think, but he got in a bit of a tizz beforehand so can probably be forgiven that effort. This represents a drop in class after running in Group 1 company on his last 7 starts. It's a worry that the ground is on the fast side now as I'm not sure that will suit him, but on his day he is a genuine Group 1 performer.
Sir Henry Cecil won this race last year and he runs 6/1 shot Jet Away in this year's renewal. I really fancy his chances as conditions are ideal. He beat subsequent Princess Of Wales's Stakes winner Fiorente at Goodwood in May and that form looks decent in the context of this race. This will be his first step into Group company, but on that run should be capable of handling it. He was beaten over a mile and a half on soft ground at Pontefract on his most recent run, but his stamina failed him there and the drop back to 10 furlongs will suit better.
He's my choice, but of his other rivals, Wigmore Hall merits respect. Michael Bell has booked the excellent Graham Lee to ride the horse who should appreciate the drop in grade and decent ground - he is an 8/1 chance.
There is also an incredibly competitive handicap, the Sky Bet Dash over 6 furlongs. It's a wide open sprint with 20 horses declared for the race.
Colonel Mak has top weight for David Barron and is also Sky Bet's 9/1 joint favourite. Ruth Carr has declared a couple for this of which one of them, Head Space, is the other joint favourite. Colonel Mak is a smart sprinter who was being aimed at the Stewards' Cup at Goodwood before his recent win at Hamilton. Barron said the win ruled him out of the race as he picked up a penalty for the victory. Head Space has plenty of ability too, but he also has his quirks. He isn't exposed though and may grow up the more racing he gets.
Klynch (Ruth Carr), Farlow and Powerful Presence are all 11s. The latter is effective over further than Saturday's 6 furlongs and has only had one start over this trip but he's trained by a shrewd trainer in David O'Meara who places his horses well. He bought this horse for £800 in November 2010 after an uninspiring career in Ireland and he has won 7 races with him.
It's then Grissom and Kaldoun Kingdom at 12s. I like the look of Kaldoun Kingdom for Richard Fahey who will be keen to get another win on the board at the Yorkshire Summer Racing Festival. I hope the ground isn't too fast for him though as he likes a decent surface. He hasn't won for ages, but is starting to drop to a reasonable mark and he has the ability to win this if things go right. Grissom won the Scottish Stewards' Cup on heavy ground last time out for Tim Easterby, but he is effective on faster so no worries there. So it's Kaldoun Kingdom for me with Powerful Presence my next best.
At Ascot the feature is the Princess Margaret Stakes, a Group 3 for two year-old fillies over 6 furlongs. Eight have been declared and it's interesting that Jamie Spencer has chosen to go to Ascot to ride Hoyam rather than head to York for Wigmore Hall. Hoyam was second in the Queen Mary before breaking her maiden at Windsor last time out. This is her first run beyond 5 furlongs but her trainer Michael Bell thinks she will stay 6 no problem.
Maureen is a filly I like. Richard Hannon trains this daughter of Holy Roman Emperor who picked up some black type when finishing second in the Cherry Hinton last time out. The race was won by the filly I tipped up, Sendmylovetorose, but Maureen was unlucky having met trouble in running countless times and she looked the best filly in the race that day. Compensation could await here, proving the faster surface isn't an inconvenience.
Of the others once raced Badr Al Badoor and Strange Magic are interesting stepping up in class as is Irish raider Mironica, who was disappointing on her last start in the Queen Mary.
I'll be back at the beginning of the week with a full preview of Goodwood, have a successful weekend.
Jet Away in the Sky Bet York Stakes @ 6/1
Kaldoun Kingdom in the Sky Bet Dash @ 12/1
Maureen in the Princess Margaret Stakes