One more race at Newcastle to look at and its possibly the best of them over the mile and at level weights all round so in theory, the best horse wins. Balancing the form of a yard with the form of a horse is an inexact science and none more so than in the case of Kevin Ryan’s Syphax with the stable nought for fifteen in the last two weeks with their runners which is anything but inspiring. That said, the son of Arch is unbeaten after the two starts as a juvenile after winning at Musselburgh in a seven-furlong maiden and then by a head from Best Of Days in the Group Three Acomb Stakes over the same trip at York, staying on strongly to get up close home. Put away for the winter he still holds a list of fancy entries for the 2000 Guineas, Dante Stakes, and English and Irish Derby’s but needs to add to what we have seen so far to take his place in those contests. He is hard to judge as the sort who only seems to do enough to get to the front where it counts, but any unbeaten animal deserves respect and it will be interesting to see how he gets on in a much better race than you would normally expect on the Newcastle all-weather, though he is a very disappointing price.
In a race overloaded with potential as well as form Sir Michael Stoute has Taamol in here as the three-year-old looks to get back to winning ways. Well touted ahead of his Newmarket debut after some sparkling gallops he was sent off at 4/1 before scoring by a length and a half but was soon found out when upped in company and finishing a four and a quarter length fifth in a Listed race at Doncaster. He raced far too freely that day which won’t have helped his chances and was promptly put away to grow and strengthen over the winter. Returning here, the stable are ticking over nicely but he still has a bit to prove in this company and it will be interesting to see him in the paddock pre-race as he looked the sort to be far better as he gets older and is well worth the risk this afternoon.
Although Taamol is the selection the Saeed Bin Suroor trained Leshlaa also catches the eye with the stable in great form (53% success in the last two weeks), and the intriguing booking of Danny Tudhope in the saddle. Lightly raced with just the two career starts the son of Street Cry finished second on debut at Newmarket in October before hacking up at odds on at Kempton to take his maiden over seven furlongs by an easy five lengths in November. The bare form adds up to very little but he does still hold entries in the 2000 guineas and Derby so must be pretty decent and he ought to prove hard to keep out of the frame this afternoon.
South Seas was a decent two-year-old last season for Andrew Balding with wins at Windsor Haydock and Sandown, the last of them in the Group Three Solario Stakes when he beat Salouen by two and a quarter length after sweeping in to the lead. His final race last year saw him finish runner up to Thunder Snow in the Group One Criterium International at Saint-Cloud which was no disgrace (the winner won the UAE Derby last time out on World Cup night), and he has to be seen as a player here. If there is a concern it’s the fact that he had five runs as a juvenile which is rarely the profile of a top class classic contender but he is yet another her who should be challenging for the places if they all line up, of course.
Looking for the less exposed sots and John Gosden’s Utmost has to top that list after one run at two when winning by a length at Leicester from Roger Varian’s Cape Byron who went on to win his maiden very easily next time out. Jockey Robert Havlin was to the point after that race saying “Utmost is a big horse – a big frame – but he finished his race off strongly and hopefully has a nice future”, so read in to that what you will, but a winter off should have seen him strengthen considerably and he could be anything. The Gosden yard are ticking over nicely with a 12% strike rate which is acceptable if nothing more and he is another runner worthy of a watching brief today as they test the water to see just how good he really is on his all-weather debut.