It’s another huge weekend on the racing front, with one of the most prestigious contests of the year taking place at Longchamp on Sunday afternoon. The ITV crew will be there to cover the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe meeting, but before all that, we have a cracking Saturday of domestic fare to whet the appetite.
The Cambridgeshire Handicap may be a few rungs below the Arc on the class ladder, but nevertheless provides one of the most intriguing puzzles of the Autumn months and rounds out a four-race offering from Newmarket, which also includes the Group 1 juvenile double act of the Cheveley Park Stakes and Middle Park Stakes. Quality handicaps from Chester and Haydock complete the six-race salvo, which goes under the microscope in this week’s Saturday Racing Tips.
1:50 Juddmonte Royal Lodge Stakes
Group 2, 1m
There’s a strong juvenile flavour to the Newmarket card, and the two-year-olds duly get the action underway in this one-mile event. With the multiple Group 1 winner Roaring Lion counted amongst the list of recent winners, this has a habit of throwing up a smart performer, and we have a whole host of likely candidates in this year’s field. Of the nine runners on show, five arrive on the back of a success.
Despite all those last-time-out winners, a horse who finished second on his most recent outing heads the betting, as the Justify colt Capulet (2/1) makes the trip over from Ballydoyle. A winner on debut at Dundalk, he stepped up on that to go down by just a short head to highly touted stablemate Diego Velazquez in the Group 2 Champions Juvenile Stakes at Leopardstown. This represents a slight drop in class, and he is unlikely to be far away.
Roger Varian’s Al Musmak (11/2) is another for the shortlist, but overall, the one we like best is the Godolphin runner Aablan (9/2). By Dubawi, and out of the multiple Group winner Promising Run, this one boasts stacks of potential on paper and has delivered in landing each of his two starts to date. Those wins have come at seven furlongs, but he looked to only really be getting going at the line in the Group 3 Solaria Stakes last time out and may prove tough to deny.
2:05 Watergate Cup Handicap
Class 2, 2m2½f
Handicapping action for the stayers up next, in this event held over the same course and distance as the famous Chester Cup. Nine go to post in a wide-open affair, with the five-timer-seeking Baez (4/1) currently heading the betting for Jim Goldie. That hot streak is eye-catching, particularly as the winning sequence includes a success at this track and over this trip at Musselburgh. On the downside, he is unproven on soft ground and is now fully 24 pounds higher than for the first of those wins. It could be worth betting that today is the day when the handicapper catches up with him.
At twice the price of the market leader, the one to be on is the Charlie Johnston-trained Yorkindness (8/1). Like many from this yard, this one likes to get on with things from the front and put in a bold bid when going down by one and a half lengths to Baez in that Musselburgh event. He gets a nine-pound pull in the weights for that defeat, which may be enough to turn the tables at a track which can favour frontrunners able to grab the rail. Drawn low in three, he has sound claims of doing just that, and there are few better at making the running than today’s rider, Joe Fanning.
2:25 Juddmonte Cheveley Park Stakes
Group 1, 6f
The first of the Group 1 events sees a quality field of juvenile fillies lock horns over a trip of six furlongs. The William Haggas-trained Relief Rally (2/1) sits atop the market and is tough to fault, having won four of her five starts to date, with the only defeat coming when going down by a nose in the Queen Mary Stakes. On form, she holds the likes of Cherry Blosson (10/1), Juniper Berries (20/1) and Symbology (40/1), but there are others with whom she has yet to lock horns.
Topping that list in our eyes is the Geroge Boughey filly, Soprano (6/1). This one’s second to impressive Moyglare Stud Stakes winner, Fallen Angel, reads pretty well, and whilst that came over seven furlongs, this daughter of Starspangledbanner appears fully effective at this trip. Winning the race on her side of the track when third in the Albany Stakes, she then ran a cracker to go down by just a length and a quarter at Salisbury last time out, despite losing around eight lengths when rearing as the stalls opened. With circumstances having conspired against her, the suspicion is that we haven’t seen the best of her over this trip, and she looks the best value option.
2:40 cavani.co.uk The Dapper Dash For Cash Handicap
Class 2, 5f
Up to Merseyside for the only event of the day from Haydock in this competitive sprint handicap. George Boughey’s Proverb (7/2) catches the eye here, having looked a little unlucky to finish no closer than fifth off this mark at York last time out. However, he did fade out of it on heavy ground at Hamilton two starts back, which is a slight concern, with the ground already described as soft and further rain forecast.
Course and distance winners Silky Wilkie (5/1) and Manila Scouse (9/2) make the shortlist, with the latter, in particular, looking dangerous, having scored in heavy ground here off a six-pound lower mark in August. However, at a double-figure price, the one to get our each-way vote is the Robert Cowell-trained eight-year-old Arecibo (11/1). Rated as high as 113 in his pomp, this son of Invincible Spirit is beginning to look pretty well handicapped now down to 88. He has been a little hit and miss of late but may have his ideal conditions here, with his most recent effort in a soft ground handicap over this trip seeing him go down by a length and a half at Pontefract in April. He’s fully 15 pounds lower here and fancied to hit the frame under Jason Hart.
3:00 Juddmonte Middle Park Stakes
Group 1, 6f
Back to Newmarket for the colts’ version of the Cheveley Park Stakes, in what looks set to be a red-hot edition of this informative six-furlong affair. Vandeek (2/1) tops the market for Simon and Ed Crisford and brings a perfect three-from-three record to the table. With the most recent of those wins coming in the Group 1 Prix Morny, he’s the one to beat on the formbook. Just over two lengths adrift of Vandeek in that Deauville event, River Tiber (9/4) had previously looked a Group 1 horse in the making when storming home to land the Coventry Stakes and is expected to strip fitter this time around.
The aforementioned duo are greatly respected, but the horse who may just be a little underestimated here is the Ralph Becket-trained Task Force (9/1). By Frankel, and out of 1,000 Guineas-winning mare, Special Duty, this one could scarcely make more appeal on paper and has set off on the right foot in winning each of his first two starts. This demands more than his recent Listed success at Ripon, but he still looked to be learning on the job that day and, at a double-figure price, is an attractive each-way option.
3:40 bet365 Cambridgeshire
Class 2, 1m1f
Last but not least, we have a small matter of 35 contenders to attempt to whittle down in this year’s Cambridgeshire. Many may look no further than current favourite Greek Order (4/1), with the three-year-old from the Harry and Roger Charlton out on his own at the head of the market. Lightly raced and in form, having won his two most recent starts, there’s a lot to like about his chances. He is, however, up a hefty 10 pounds for that most recent win and looks a short price in this hugely competitive affair.
Geremia (100/1) makes some appeal at a really big price, having finished third on his side of the track in the 2022 edition of this – a fine effort considering he lost many lengths at the start. Unfortunately, rather than a blip, this Jim Goldie gelding appears to blow the start almost every time, meaning he comes with significant risks attached. Take a chance instead on the Roger Varian-trained son of Kingman, Akhu Najla (25/1). Touted as a potential St James’s Palace Stakes contender last season, he never quite lived up to that billing but is edging down the handicap following respectable efforts in mile events at York and Ascot, and has long hinted that this slight step up in trip may suit. Going in the first-time blinkers, he won’t need to find much improvement to be involved in the finish.