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Shadwell Joel Stakes (Group Two)
A mile Group 2 contest, it was won in 2016 by the Aidan O’Brien trained Cougar Mountain. Our expert tip for the 2017 running of the Joel Stakes live on ITV Racing is below.
The 2016 winner is where we begin the preview for this year, Cougar Mountain has struggled a little since picking up this race, seen last when fifth in the Haydock Sprint Cup. He has kept some warm company in the main but his campaign has taken in a lot of races over distances short of his best. He is not the easiest horse to win with, just three victories from twenty-nine starts, but such was his level of superiority in this race last year, he has to be respected if he turns up looking to score once more.
It is never a surprise when Sir Michael Stoute has a rapidly improving four year old. One of the quickest progressing types in 2017 has been Ballet Concerto who landed the John Smith’s Cup over a mile and a quarter at York. That extra stamina has helped him back at this mile trip the last twice when landing Group 3 prizes at Salisbury and Haydock. He has won on ground from good to firm all the way through to heavy so he will have no issues with whatever the autumn weather throws at him now that he tries his luck in a Group 2. He is going to have to up his game once more at this level but that looks entirely possible.
Another rapid improver for the Freemason Lodge maestro is Mustashry who shrugged off the rise in class when taking home the Strensall Stakes at the Ebor meeting. He had looked one to watch at Group level when winning at Chelmsford the time before. On a track that favours front runners, he turned for home closer to last having come widest of all round the bend. The way he picked up in the last furlong and a half marked him out as one to follows so although this is a further step up in grade, there would be no-one shocked if he took it in his stride given the rapid rate he is progressing at.
Twice a runner-up at Group 2 level is Zonderland for the Clive Cox yard. Both times he has chased home Lightning Spear in the Celebration Mile at Goodwood, on the second occasion back from a full year off the track. That he was able to produce such a huge effort against race fit rivals is testament to the level of ability that this horse has. Now that the cobwebs have been blown away, connections may be able to start making up for lost time. He wouldn’t want the ground too soft which is a concern given the time of year but if it comes up quick, he has a huge chance.
Beat The Bank has enjoyed a smart campaign for Andrew Balding, the three-year-old a winner of four races this season in five starts. His only flop was at Royal Ascot when faced with the quickest ground he had encountered in the Jersey Stakes. He produced a career best when last seen, ripping apart the Group 3 Thoroughbred Stakes at Glorious Goodwood, relishing the soft conditions underfoot. Time Test won this as a three-year-old in 2015 and given the potential improvement that this horse has if he gets the ground in his favour, he should be capable of more than holding his own at this level.
Despite now being an eight-year-old, Sovereign Debt has been right at the top of his game since joining Ruth Carr. He landed his maiden success at Group 2 level when he won the bet365 Mile at Sandown in April, giving him a penalty for that win to carry now. He has struggled a little this season since picking up that penalty (despite winning the Diomed at Epsom on Derby Day) seen most recently when only fourth behind Ballet Concerto in the Superior Mile at Haydock. He may not cope with younger legs once more, but he will not fail for lack of effort, given that he has looked much more straightforward for his new yard.
A potentially fascinating runner for Italy is Dicton for Gianluca Bietolini. He was a smart horse last season as a three-year-old, finishing third in the French Derby when only three lengths behind Almanzor, before running Ribchester to only two and a half lengths when third in the Prix Jacques Le Marois. He has not reached those heights so far in 2017 but was only beaten a length in a Group 3 last time out at Deauville when having to try to make his own running. A race run at a proper tempo in this country might just suit him better than in France where races tend to turn into something of a sprint. He may not get the respect he deserves by the bookies as an Italian raider, but if he could get close to his best, he would be a contender.