Three-year-olds just about hold sway here with five of the last ten winners, while four favourites out of ten isn’t a bad strike rate, though Barry Hills did pop up with a 20/1 winner in 2007 to spoil the punters’ party. As you would expect in pretty much any Group class event the Aidan O’Brien stable are well represented and what superlatives can we possibly add after his one-two-three in the Arc last Sunday? Some feel that everything he runs will win which is clearly unrealistic but he does have the favourite in here with Cougar Mountain (4/1) as the five-year-old looks to follow up his recent Joel Stakes win this afternoon, and with Ryan Moore in the saddle. Sent off a 15/2 chance last month he made bookmakers and favourite backers look equally stupid with a three and a quarter length win from Gifted Master over a mile and if he can repeat that run (he has only won three races from eighteen starts), over this shorter trip then he must have a decent chance though he does have to give weight away to the younger generation and seemed to need every yard to win last time out.
At these weights and over this trip he may have his work cut out to cope with Gifted Master (15/2 Each Way) who is far better over this trip and a different beast dropped back a furlong. Trained by Hugo Palmer in Newmarket his record over this sort of trip reads impressively and he clearly has a lot more speed than stamina and can come home in front this afternoon under Champion jockey elect Jim Crowley.
Mark Johnston’s Lumiere (11/1) could also be a serious danger and she was absolutely top class as a two-year-old with wins at up to Group One level (she took the Cheveley Park Stakes with Alice Springs back in fourth), but this season has not been anywhere near as successful. A six length win in Listed class is as good as she has been all season though her third to Spangled in the Group Three Sceptre Stakes at Doncaster last time was nothing to be ashamed of when possibly hitting the front too soon and if they can hold on to her a little longer here, ten she must have chances receiving eight pounds from the expected favourite.
If you believe the bookmakers then Simon Crisford’s First Selection (25/1) cannot possibly win and they may well be right, but if his astute trainer can get him back to his best then watch this space. Those with short memories may have forgotten that he finished seventh in the English 2000 Guineas behind Galileo Gold before a 50/1 second to The Gurkha in the French 2000 Guineas and in receipt of two pounds or more from his elders a repeat of that wouldn’t see him far away. Sadly for his supporters, he has been nowhere near to that sort of form in three starts since so his supporters will be clutching at straws but stranger things have happened and he has the ability dropped back to this trip but will he decide to use it.
After some late drop outs is seems that Paul Hanagan will now ride Tasleet (10/1) for William Haggas and after one run and one win this season there is a lot to like about his form whatever the official ratings may say. Six runs as a two-year-old saw three wins at up to Listed level as well as a second to Shalaa in the Richmond Stakes at Goodwood, but it seems fair to day he has had a few issues, reappearing with a win at Chelmsford in April and not being seen since. Whether he can be race fit today after over five months off is the big question, but he could yet be the best horse in this race if he is over whatever ailed him.
Aclaim (12/1) will be our last horse mentioned as Martyn Meade looks to make it three wins on the bounce with the son of Acclamation. Wins at Ascot and then Newbury in a handicap and then a Listed race suggest he on an upward curve but this really looks a step too far for now and even Frankie Dettori may struggle to steer this one home in front in this class.