Only the eight renewal of this race to work on but just the one winning favourite so it could be a case of punters beware. As things stand all eyes will be on the long awaited return to action of John Gosden’s Shalaa (2/1) who has clearly had his issues including a pelvic injury that saw him forced to miss Royal Ascot but Harry Herbert reports him to be in good heart ahead of his return though be warned, this is a prep race ahead of his major target on Champions Day in two weeks’ time. His form is clearly second to none with five wins in a row from maiden all the way through to the Group One Prix Morny followed by the Group One Middle Park Stakes here at Newmarket, and if he can repeat either of those runs here then he wins this with his head in his chest.
In all honesty on official figures, nothing can get anywhere near him with Richard Fahey’s Don’t Touch (15/2) the nearest contender but still with an awful lot to find. Now a four-year-old, the son of Dutch Art took a Listed race at Salisbury in June by a neck and followed that with a sixteenth of eighteen to Limato in the July Cup at Newmarket which suggests he would be up to winning any average renewal of this lower grade contest but perhaps not one with Shalaa in the line-up.
We really are running out of serious challengers now but Ridge Ranger (10/1) has done trainer Eric Alston proud with six wins at up to Group Three level and he could yet have a small each way chance. Last time out he finished third to Cotai Glory in the Group Three World Trophy Stakes at Newbury, finding them too quick for him close home over five furlongs, form that would give him every chance in a “normal” year, but looking short of the principles in 2016 though he could yet run on in to third if the racing Gods are shining on him here.
Robert Cowell’s Strath Burn (11/1) sits next in the betting but needs to improve considerably to take a hand unless the jolly has an off day. Trained by Charlie Hills until mid-June it may well have taken his three races since for his new trainer to work him out in which case we can start to expect some improvement now after his seven and a quarter length seventh to Quiet Reflection last time out in the Group One Sprint Cup at Haydock. Last season he finished a short head behind Twilight Son in the same race, and if he can repeat that or get anywhere near to it he could yet be a major player here.
Lastly, with Brian Meehan in decent form it would be remiss to ignore the chances of Windfast (12/1) who broke a losing run of six when taking a Listed race at Newmarket last time out by a neck from Buying Trouble, running on strongly. That was certainly his best run in a long time and he fully deserves a return to Group class as the natural next step, but in this field it really does look as if a place may be the very best he can hope for now.