Cheveley Park Stakes
There has only been one winning favourite in the past six years and so even though Sacred Bridge will be coming into this unbeaten, it pays to look beyond the obvious in this contest. Sandrine lost her unbeaten record to Zain Claudette in the Lowther Stakes and back off level weights, there isn’t much between those two at all.
One who seems to be improving and could very well cause a mini upset here is Karl Burke’s Illustrating. She’s a winner of two of her four starts, all of which have been over 5f. A fast ground victory on debut and a soft ground victory in a conditions race at Glorious Goodwood shows how versatile she is with regards to ground, which bodes well for an early autumn fixture. Her latest start was in a Group 3 at Deauville where she finished a never nearer third.
I think the fact she’s stepping up in trip will be the main catalyst to her improvement.
Her Dam was second in a Fillies Mile and won a Rockfel over 7f as a juvenile, combine that with her strength at the end of her races so far, I’d be shocked if she’s not better at 6f than 5f.
She has to take a step forward to be involved, but that’s certainly possible.
Back Illustrating @ 12/1
Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe
This is set to be a fascinating renewal. Snowfall suffered a shock defeat in the Vermeille but had looked imperious over a mile and a half before that. However, I don’t think a great deal of that classic crop and in her Yorkshire Oaks win, as easy as it was, her main rival was Wonderful Tonight, for whom the ground was far too quick. I’m not saying she won’t win, but she’s far from invincible.
Godolphin are throwing everything at the Arc this year, with superstar classic winners Adayar and Hurricane Lane looking to take their chances. I must admit I really like them both and I don’t have much between them either, only that Adayar has the stronger form having beaten his elders in the King George. But I just can’t get away from Tarnawa. She’s won her last four at this trip, including over course and distance last year. Her win in the Breeders’ Cup Turf was pretty remarkable considering the position she came from and how wide she was round the home turn. I think she’s bulletproof in terms of trip, ground, attitude and ability. There was no shame in finishing second to St Mark’s Basilica in the Irish Champion Stakes over shorter, as I’d have that as the best form on offer this season.
Having been trained specifically for this contest all year, she’s going to be cherry ripe.
Back Tarnawa @ 10/3
Willie Mullins has farmed this race in recent years, winning the last three renewals. He has the market leader in the shape of M C Muldoon who was arguably unlucky to lose at Royal Ascot. But I’m more interested in his stablemate Burning Victory. She’s a Grade 1 winning hurdler having been fortunate in the 2020 Triumph Hurdle, but has also won her two flat starts since moving to Mullins from France.
What’s also interesting about Burning Victory is that she’s taken the same route as the yards three recent winners of this by running in a handicap at the Galway Festival.
She’s won her last two flat starts, so hasn’t reached her ceiling yet, is proven on differing types of ground and the way her trainer targets horses at this race, I think he would have had this in mind since her win in June.
Back Burning Victory @ 14/1
Long Distance Cup
I’m a little bit surprised by the market of this race – it has Stradivarius and Trueshan joint favourites at 5/2. On the balance of things that’s possibly about right given their strengths lie in different areas. But for this particular race, that they’ve both won once and with the extreme likelihood that the ground will be on the soft side, Trueshan should be clear market leader in my eyes.
Unfortunately, he’s been pulled out on a number of occasions this year due to the ground being too quick, the chances of that also being the case in October is pretty slim. When he got his conditions in the Goodwood Cup, he was relentless and pounded the fielded into submission by galloping on tirelessly. When he gets that ground, I don’t think anything else can match him and it could even be that Stradivarius doesn’t even turn up here as the Prix du Cadran a couple of weeks prior could instead be his end of season target.
Taking 5/2 about a horse who seemingly needs soft ground, who if he gets it will be nearer an even money chance (shorter if Stradivarius doesn’t run) on this particular day appears great value to me.
Back Trueshan @ 5/2
Queen Elizabeth II
Hopefully we’re set for one of the clashes of the season here, as the unbeaten Baaeed takes on the (almost) unbeaten Palace Pier. The former burst onto the scene with a maiden win in June and hasn’t looked back, claiming the Group 1 Prix du Moulin in September, beating some established older milers. In previous performances, he’d effortlessly cruised into the lead and booted clear, I didn’t really feel that was the case in France. I was expecting him to rocket clear, but he didn’t, he maintained a decent enough gap between himself and his rivals, but it wasn’t the “wow” performance some were anticipating.
In racing generally, we want the unbeaten horses to stay unbeaten and until they are, believe they’re invincible. In reality this isn’t the case and I think he’s got a serious task on his hands to cope with Palace Pier.
Last year’s Champion Miler suffered his only defeat in this very race last season, having lost a shoe. In that respect, there is some unfinished business.
He has an entry in the Champion Stakes and Gosden has mentioned the idea, but by the sounds of things, if the ground is soft, they won't think about it any longer.
Palace Pier is a truly exceptional miler with five Group 1 wins. Gosden stated he was only just 80% fit when claiming his second Jaques le Marois at the expense of Poetic Flare (strong form). To beat that field on the bare minimum of work is extraordinary and testament to the horse’s talent.
When comparing him to Baaeed, I don’t think the market is appreciating the quality of Palace Pier and what he’s achieved, the fact he’s not favourite is just more inviting for me.
Back Palace Pier @ 9/4
The Irish Champion Stakes may have been a small field, but the quality was superb and I love the form line. St Mark’s Basilica narrowly defeated Tarnawa, who in turn was ahead of Poetic Flare, both multiple Group 1 winners. The winner has a turn of foot rarely scene at the top level against classy opposition, but the way he goes up a gear when asked is remarkable.
In the French Derby and the Eclipse in particular, we saw it to devastating effect. In the latter contest he comfortably defeated Mishriff and Addeybb, two proven Group 1 winners, barely breaking sweat. Then to beat what I think will be the 2021 Arc winner is some of the strongest form out there. What’s especially important to note regarding that is the form in which the stable was in at the time. Aidan O’Brien had 1 winner from his last 40 runners, which is mightily rare, and St Mark’s Basilica was that winner. So, when things were seemingly not right in Ballydoyle, he still had the ability to produce yet another scintillating performance – he’s the real deal alright.
He’s proven on soft and slightly faster as well. Receiving weight, I just can’t see anything getting near him. The Champion Stakes is the next obvious race for him and while there is some 5/2 around, I’ll be snapping it up.
Back St Mark’s Basilica @ 5/2