What are the best bets for Newmarket on Saturday?
The Cambridgeshire is the big betting race at Newmarket and it comes under scrutiny here along with the rest of the Channel 4-televised races.
2.00: Juddmonte Royal Lodge Stakes (Group 2), 1m
Just six runners will go to post for this Group 2 and it will be a surprise if the winner doesn’t come from the front two in the market, with John Gosden’s Foundation and DEAUVILLE representing Aidan O’Brien both lining up unbeaten – Coral go 5/4 and 11/8 respectively.
The latter horse hit the ground running, unlike most of the stable’s juveniles who tend to need their first run, when winning on heavy ground at Listowel over 7f, before following up in a Group 3 at Leopardstown when staying on well in the closing stages, again over 7f. He has Group 1 entries all over the place, including next year’s Derby, and he’s evidently highly thought of. Ground conditions don’t seem to bother him and he ought to relish the step up to a mile.
Foundation is also well entered up and he impressed when landing a Listed race at Haydock earlier this month. However, he has missed the kick on both his starts and he might not get away with a similar start in this better company, while his rounded action suggests he will always be better with some cut. They were calling the ground “good” on Friday and with conditions likely to quicken up before racing this afternoon, he may find the Ballydoyle runner too hot to handle.
2.35: Connolly’s Red Mills Cheveley Park Stakes (Fillies’ Group 1), 6f
Richard Hannon’s Illuminate puts her unbeaten (3-3) record on the line in this Group 1 as she bids to enhance her claims for next year’s 1000 Guineas, but she faces stern opposition from William Haggas’ Besharah, whom she beat a nose at the July meeting here, and Mark Johnston’s LUMIERE.
Those horses finished 1-2 in York’s Lowther Stakes last time, with the Haggas filly finishing nicely clear at the line. But we could see a different result this time as Lumiere was reported to have missed work in the lead-up to that race and she didn’t help her chances in the race itself by racing too keenly on what was just her second career start.
The daughter of Shamardal couldn’t have been more impressive when winning a maiden here on her debut and connections were left drooling about that performance. Johnston revealed post-race that he is “dreaming she could be brilliant” and qualified that hype by saying her regular work rider had come back in saying she was “the fastest thing he had ever sat on.” That’s praise indeed when you think how many classy juveniles the trainer has handled down the years and I’m excited to see her strut her stuff back at HQ. At 7/2 with BetVictor, she’s worth a punt too.
3.10: Juddmonte Middle Park Stakes (Group 1), 6f
John Gosden’s SHALAA has swept all before him this season and it will be a major shock if he doesn’t land his second Group 1 victory and cement his position as Europe’s leading juvenile.
A winner here back in May, it’s hard to believe now that he was allowed to go off at 14/1 for the Group 2 July Stakes, which he won despite veering violently left close home due to greeness, and I felt a bit foolish after opposing him on his next start in the Richmond Stakes at Goodwood, which he landed in effortless fashion. He’s since poisted an authoritative success in the Group 1 Prix Morny from Gutaifan (a good winner since) on ground that was softer than ideal, and the rest don’t even come close on that form.
With the ground drying up to “good” for Friday’s racing, he will have his ideal conditions and, given he’s no bigger than 4/9, it looks a case of finding one for the forecast, or just sitting the race out and waiting for the Cambridgeshire. If you’re taking the former option, William Haggas’ Ayaya might be the one to chase home the favourite as he was a taking winner of the Gimcrack at York from Ribchester, who franked the form when winning the Group 2 Mill Reef on his subsequent start.
3.50: Betfred Cambridgeshire (Heritage Handicap), 1m1f
This has to be the toughest handicap to solve all season with a maximum field of 35 set to go to post and it’s a job to know where to start. Unfortunately, the draw doesn’t really help on this occasion as there are no strong trends have emerged and there’s been little separating the two groups in the last two runnings, with the first and second last year racing on different sides of the track.
What does seem essential is a positive performance last time out. Since 1981, only four winners finished out of the first four on their previous start, though somewhat strangely they have all come in the last 11 years. Proven stamina is another plus as the field can get competitive from a long way out and the race is often won by a horse who stays further than the big-race trip of 1m1f. When you also consider that only one horse has successfully carried a penalty in the last ten runnings, which rules out several fancied runners including Bronze Angel, who is bidding for an unprecedented third win, you are left with a much more manageable list of possibles.
Indeed, only five ‘survive’ the above criteria and they are in no particular order: Polar Forest, Prince Gagarin, Express Himself, Forgotten Hero and Nafaqa. The first two have shown their best form on softer ground than they will encounter here and are weighted up to their best besides. So, that leaves three and it’s Barry Hills’ NAFAQA who is exciting me most as a Listed winner making his handicap debut, but there’s no harm in punting the other two as well with BetVictor, who are obligingly top or joint-top price on the trio: 25/1 Nafaqa and Express Himself, 40/1 Forgotten Hero. There are five places up for grabs for each-way backers.