Geoff Lester
6 minute read
19 Apr 2017
11:08 am

UK Flat season gets under way

Geoff Lester

Gosden has a number of talented fillies in his yard.

HIGHLY RATED. Talented filly Dabyah runs in the Group 3 Fred Darling Stakes at Newbury on Saturday.

Potential classic bubbles will be flying all over Newmarket and New­bury this week as the 2017 Flat season proper cranks up a gear with a fistful of trials, though come Saturday night plenty of dreams will be de­flated as owners and trainers ac­knowledge their winter swans are actually spring geese.

Churchill and Al Wukair, first and second favourites for the 2000 Guineas, are pencilled in to go straight for the first colts’ clas­sic at HQ on 6 May, while Rhodo­dendron, who heads the market for the fillies’ equivalent, also skips a prep-race and goes direct­ly to Newmarket 24 hours later.

However, John Gosden, who did us a lucrative turn last week courtesy of Valcartier and Mon­arch’s Glen, while unlikely to come up with a Guineas colt, has several talented fillies on the bench for the 1000 Guineas and Oaks, including DABAN and DAB­YAH, who reappear this week.

Frankie Dettori rides Daban in today’s Nell Gwyn Stakes, and the Italian is trying to win this Group 3 race for the fourth year running.

Daban is a double-figure price, having only won a back-end maid­en on her debut on the all-weather at Kempton, so strictly on form she has an awful lot to find with Aidan O’Brien’s pair, Brave Anna and Roly Poly, who finished 1-2 in last year’s Group 1 Cheveley Park Stakes but are not certain to see out this extra 200m trip.

There is also a strong French challenger of Andre Fabre’s in Pamplemousse, who was an im­pressive winner of her belated de­but at Chantilly recently, and Sea Of Grace, now with William Hag­gas, having been transferred from John Oxx, who rated her highly last year. However, Haggas thinks she might want 1600m.

Only one filly (Speciosa in 2006) has completed the Nell Gwyn-Guineas double since Tri­ple Crown heroine Oh So Sharp in 1985, and this looks an exceptional renewal, but my Newmarket mole has been waxing lyrical about the work being shown by Daban, who won going away at Kempton and is rated Group class by her trainer. She looks a terrific Eachway shot at the likely odds.

And if Daban does justify that confidence, or even go close, then that would be a timely boost for stablemate Dabyah, who runs in the Group 3 Fred Darling Stakes at Newbury on Saturday.

Dabyah is third-favourite for the Guineas, having run an ex­cellent race to take bronze in the Group 1 Prix Marcel Boussac at Chantilly on Arc Day, and I fancy she’ll outstay Queen Kindly, last year’s Lowther Stakes winner who flopped in the Cheveley Park but still strikes me as more of a sprinter than one for this 1400m trial.

Prior to her trip to France, Da­byah had won both her races in scintillating fashion, and Gosden tells me that she has wintered well, so she’ll be hard to beat here.

The Group 3 Greenham is New­bury’s Guineas dress-rehearsal for the colts and while David Els­worth is bullish about the pros­pects of Swiss Storm, who won his maiden impressively on the course last September, I’m in the Hannon camp, courtesy of BAR­NEY BOY, who was bought by Godolphin after bolting up in his only race at Haydock last year.

The Hannons have farmed this race over the years – Richard’s dad won it six times – and the trainer makes no secret of the fact that he thinks Barney Boy is “the real deal” so he’ll do for me.

Back at Newmarket today, Els­worth can win the Free Handicap with SIR DANCEALOT, who failed to stay the 1600m in the Group 1 Racing Post Trophy at Doncaster last autumn but will appreciate coming back down in distance. His form over shorter is solid, though Gosden is also sweet on dual winner Seven Heavens, who wears a hood for the first time, having disappointed on his final run last year.

Seven Heavens probably falls just short of classic material and will appreciate dropping to Listed grade, but at level weights I prefer Sir Dancealot.

Godolphin may have the an­swer to the Group 3 Earl of Sefton Stakes with FOLKSWOOD, who is fit from a successful spell at the Dubai Carnival and is rated supe­rior to stablemate Viren’s Army, while another who will lack noth­ing in fitness is the in-form KING ROBERT, who can get us off to a flyer by winning the opener.

Rivet will probably start fa­vourite for tomorrow’s Group 3 Craven Stakes, which is often a reliable Guineas trial, but his chance depends on whether he turns up in the form which ena­bled to win the Racing Post or when he flopped in the Dewhurst.

I prefer to take him on with EMINENT, a Frankel colt who im­pressed when winning his only race last year. He has an unfash­ionable trainer in Martyn Meade, but make no mistake this fellow knows the colour of his oranges and such is the colt’s reputation that if he was in one of the top yards he’d be at much shorter odds.

Also at Newmarket Gosden might have another successful day, with PEALER, beaten at 1-4 on his Tapeta debut at Wolver­hampton, expected to bounce back on the turf in the maiden, while stablemate TRICORN is on a hat-trick mission in the 1600m handicap and arguably still a kilo or two ahead of the official asses­sor.

A record crowd turned up at Lingfield for the £1-million All- Weather Championships last Sat­urday, with Sir Michael Stoute taking the feature Easter Classic with Convey.

Ryan Moore oozed confidence on Convey, who won with a bit in hand and could now be heading off to Sha Tin for the Hong Kong Mile on 7 May.

The other class performance at Lingfield came from Roger Varian’s REALTRA, who put her recent Dubai disappointment be­hind her when winning the fillies and mares race.

Varian said: “Dubai is a mys­tery – she never fired and we tried every test in the book when we got her home and could not find any­thing wrong with her. We decided to put the blinkers on and they worked the oracle, so she’ll wear them again when she returns to Lingfield, this time on the turf, for the Group 3 Chartwell Stakes at the Derby Trial meeting next month.”

Also remember the name of an­other All-Weather winner at Ling­field, Second Thought.

“He is smart,” insisted trainer William Haggas. “This 1200m was always going to be on the sharp side and 1400m will suit him bet­ter, but he can quicken and you’ll hear more of him in the turf sea­son.”