What are the best bets in the Lockinge Stakes?
A wide open renewal of this prestigious Group 1 mile contest won by the likes of Farhh, Frankel, Canford Cliffs and Paco Boy this decade. The last two horses in that list were trained by Richard Hannon Snr and his son has carried on where he left off by winning the last two renewals with Olympic Glory and Night Of Thunder 12 months ago, so his Toormore demands plenty of respect and especially as he’s coming off a Group 2 success at Sandown on his reappearance (Dutch Connection and Belardo behind). However, he wouldn’t be quite in the same class as some of the stable’s previous winners and, while he won a Group 1 at two, he has come up short on no less than occasions at the highest level since, including when finishing second 12 months ago.
Besides, Belardo could well turn the tables on him here. Roger Varian’s charge is already a Group 1 winner, albeit also in his two-year-old days when landing the Dewhurst Stakes by two lengths from Kodi Bear (more on him in a bit). Having won well on his reappearance at Doncaster in April, he was sent off 13/8 favourite for the Sandown race and he should have done better as his jockey James Doyle sat too far off the pace, being a good 12 lengths off the winner turning for home before running on to be beaten just two lengths at the finish. All his best form is with cut in the ground, which is forecast, he should make a bold bid under more enterprising tactics.
However, the one to be on is the aforementioned KODI BEAR at bet365’s 9/2. A smart juvenile, he made giant strides last season when winning in Group 2 and Group 3 company, before not being beaten far in the Group 1 Queen Elizabeth II stakes on his final start on Champions’ Day at Ascot. That run can be upgraded as according to his trainer Clive Cox he had a “small hiccup” leading up to the race and was also very fresh beforehand, which didn’t help his cause either. Reported to have done particularly well for his winter break – his trainer says he looks “amazing” and rates him an “exciting prospect” for this season – he deserves another crack at this level and I’m not too concerned about him turning up here without a run. His stable has made a great start to the season and Cox has been able to get plenty of work into him, including a couple of racecourse gallops at Kempton. The ground should be find for him too as he won his Group 2 on soft and was runner-up in the Dewhurst on a similar surface
Of the rest, I’ve a sneaky feeling that Gm Hopkins is going to run better than his 16/1 Betfred price tag would suggest and he is worth a small each-way saver. He has done most of his winning in handicap company including the 30-runner Royal Hunt Cup at Royal Ascot last June, before running second in an even more valuable mile handicap at the same track in October. Now rated 114 after winning a Listed contest (again at Ascot) on his reappearance, his handicap days are now behind him and he wouldn’t have to find much improvement to make his mark in what is a wide open Group 1. He makes more appeal than Limato, who has to prove he stays a mile, and Dutch Connection, whose best form is on faster ground than he will get here.