Local trainer Mark Johnston took this with 7/2 favourite London Express in 2006 and Sir Michael Stoute won with 6/1 joint favourite Galactic Star in 2007, but no favourite has obliged since and with winners at up to 33/1 it is clearly getting trickier to call! As both mentioned trainers are the only ones to have won it twice in the past decade it makes good sense to start with them though Mark Johnston has a couple in here so we will have to try to second guess “Braveheart” for now. Stars Over The Sea (15/2) is a son of Sea The Stars (you guessed), and could yet be well weighted if you look at his most recent form. Despite a few runs over hurdles for David Pipe and two victories he seems a lot happier without the odd obstacle in his path and ran away with a Class Three handicap at Pontefract last time out by an easy five lengths, hence the rise in his weights from 95 then to 100 this afternoon. He made all the running that day and never looked likely to be caught, and although this is a higher quality race a five pound punishment does at least look reasonable in the circumstances, and like most of the stable’s horses he won’t be easy to pass.
Looking at the stats and it makes sense to move on to a Luca Cumani runner as the stable sit on a 40% strike rate as we write. His one any only entry here is Shakopee (8/1 Each Way) , a four-year-old son of High Chaparral who won a mile and a quarter handicap at Doncaster two races ago but flopped badly when last seen at Goodwood. He never got in to the race that day for whatever reason but could be of serious each way interest on his first ever try at a mile and a half which is admittedly pushing it a bit on breeding but may yet bring about considerable improvement.
Meanwhile, Barsanti (11/2) sits at the top of the early betting for trainer Roger Varian who scored earlier in the week with our tip Postponed. After winning three in a row from February to May he was put up to a rating of 105 which seemed enough to stop his winning run though he has placed twice since at Pontefract when third to Loving Things and then third to Pamona, both in Listed races so this is a drop in class. Although he kept on well over a mile and three quarters last time he looks a lot happier at this twelve furlong trip, and with the stable coming back to form after a quiet patch we can fully understand why he sits at or near the top of the betting.
Whether Moonmeister (7/1) is as popular with the punters as his odds suggest or the bookmakers are just running scared of a possible Tony Martin gamble is open to question but the fact is he is a short enough price on recent efforts. Last time out he was sixth to Golden Spear at Galway beaten two and a half lengths at the line at odds of 33/1 but he does remain on the same mark and we are struggling to make a case for him other than his trainers remarkable record in handicaps.
To end with, Sylvester Kirk is in cracking form lately and he has Gold Prince (11/1) in here with Frankie Dettori booked to ride the son of Nayef who ought to just love this going even if the form book tells us otherwise! He was two lengths fourth to Arch Villain at Ascot on Shergar Cup day over two miles when last seen but is just as happy over this trip though a place may be the best they can hope for as he hasn’t won in nine races now since August last year.