It seems sensible to remind us all that three-year-old handicaps are notoriously complicated and this race proves it with one winning favourite in the last ten years (and a co-favourite as well to be precise), with the most recent winners scoring at odds of 28/1 and 16/1 so all things are possible. Aidan O’Brien is not usually associated with mere handicappers but he did have a few early entries but he has two left in here to go to war with. Assuming his regular jockeys had first pick then Kellstorm (15/2 Each Way) is the one to be on under Seamie Heffernan for owners that include China Horse Club as well as the usual suspects. Yet another son of Galileo he was third to US Army Ranger on his return in April before winning his maiden by a length and a half over twelve furlongs at Tipperary and more recently finished second to Ebediyin at Naas. He did look a bit one paced that day and may well be better off now stepped up to this trip, and if he repeats his best effort this afternoon then he ought to be on the scene when the chips are down and looks the value call.
Aidan also has the lightly raced Unicorn (16/1) in here who may have got in under the handicapper’s radar. After a third on his debut he took his maiden at Leopardstown by close to five lengths before stepping up in class to the Group Two Beresford Stakes at The Curragh when a well beaten seventh of nine to stable companion Port Douglas. Not seen since (and that was last September), he is a son of Galileo out of a Danehill mare and bred to be a lot better than a handicapper, though whether he can get this trip having never raced beyond a mile so far is the really interesting question.
Mark Johnston has the next horse we feel we ought to mention as Regal Monarch (9/1) tries to shrug off a six pound penalty for winning by a length at Pontefract in a Class Three handicap. That was over a mile and a half but the son of Notnowcato wasn’t stopping at the line and took some pulling up, suggesting that the extra two furlongs won’t be an issue and may even bring about further improvement. Whether he will find this race coming a bit too soon after winning last Sunday has to be considered, and we aren’t 100% convinced he will go up by as much as six pounds anyway, but he is clearly in top form and worthy of a place in our race preview.
Sir Michael Stoute has decided to divert Shraaoh (7/2) here as opposed to his alternatives earlier in the week and the punters seem to see that as a hint as he currently trades at the head of the betting. Lightly raced with just the five starts his only win so far was a Newcastle maiden but he put in a huge run at Goodwood last time out when touched off by Dal Harraild in the valuable Qatar Handicap going under by a short head at the line. Put up two pounds for that defeat, it could have been a lot worse to be fair and connections will think he can improve more than that with added experience and an extra quarter of a mile to travel this afternoon.
To round things off we have Forth Bridge (10/1) who is on a slow upward curve for Newmarket trainer Michael Bell having finished third at Nottingham, second at Salisbury, and most recently when taking his maiden at Haydock in early June. Not seen since his, fitness has to be taken on trust but he is improving race on race and isn’t badly weighted this afternoon and as he is owned by The Queen, he would prove to be a popular winner with the racing public.