What are the best bets in the St James's Palace Stakes?
The St James’s Palace Stakes is for three-year-old colts and is run over the round mile, with three Guineas winners clashing in this year’s mouth-watering renewal.
Aidan O’Brien’s The Gurkha powered to the head of the market following his runaway five-and-a-half length victory over 12 rivals in the French 2000 Guineas last time. A wide-margin maiden winner on heavy ground at Navan in April, he has clearly improved no end for his winter break and is bidding to give his trainer a remarkable eighth success in this race, although he’d be the first Ballydoyle colt to complete the French Guineas-St James’s Palace double (Landseer and Astronomer Royal won in France before being placed at Ascot). The form of his Deauville win is also questionable with the 50/1 runner-up, First Selection, finishing well down the field in the Newmarket equivalent previously.
Who else is fancied?
Kevin Prendergast’s Awtaad was taking his record to 4-5 when a hugely impressive winner of the Irish 2000 Guineas at the Curragh last time, with Qipco 2000 Guineas winner Galileo Gold well held in second and giving the form a rock-solid look. With all four of wins coming on ground with plenty of cut in it, connections will not be worried over the prospect of similar conditions for the start of this meeting – though he promises to be even better when encountering decent ground – and he may not have stopped improving yet.
The aforementioned Galileo Gold looks to have it all to do to turn around the Curragh form with Awtaad, although it can be argued that he would have finished closer with a clearer run and connections were putting some of the blame for his defeat on the yielding ground. He has raced keenly on both his starts this term and, while that didn’t stop him winning at Newmarket, some headgear might be required to help him settle better as it’s hard to get away with running freely at this level.
Any decent outsiders?
It would be a real surprise should anything emerge from outside the top three given the strength of their form and, besides, this is not a race for shocks – Most Surprised (9/1) was the biggest-priced winner in the last ten runnings and there have been eight winning favourites (one joint) in that time, including the last three. That said, Charlie Appleby’s Emotionless remains an unknown quantity after just three starts and looked a top-notcher in the making when running away with a Doncaster Group 2 last September, before suffering an injury on his final start in the Dewhurst, causing him to trail home in last. But it’s a huge ask to win this race first time out and with so little match practice behind him.
Clive Cox’s Zonderland was far from disgraced when sixth on the Rowley Mile behind Galileo Gold and has since won a Listed contest at Sandown in good fashion. Should one of the big three run below expectations, he could run into a place at big odds (20/1 with Betway currently).
Jockey quote: “I’ve sat on him a good bit since the Guineas and he seems to have improved. That’s shocked me. I didn’t think he would be able to improve that much but I’ve spoken to Johnny Murtagh, who said that’s what the good horses do” – Awtaad’s regular pilot Chris Hayes.
Who’s going to win?
It was hard not to be impressed by the emphatic nature of The Gurkha’s Classic win, but the British and Irish form looks stronger and Shamardal was the last horse in 2005 to complete the Deauville-Ascot double. AWTAAD and Galileo Gold took it each other on up the Curragh straight last time, but from the furlong pole there was only ever going to be one winner and the improving Prendergast colt is taken to confirm that form and make it back-to-back Group 1 wins.
Awtaad 4pts @ 9/4 Betway