A post-Goodwood lull leads us to Newbury this weekend for the Group 2 Ladyswood Stud Hungerford Stakes.
It is among only eight Group races over this distance open to older horses in Britain, and therefore has attracted Group 1 performers from sprints and mile races, like Gustav Klimt, as well as the winner of this season’s only other Group 2 7f race, Sir Dancelot, and the current holder of the 7f record at Meydan in Dubai, D’Bai.
They feature high-up in the Hungerford Stakes betting as Royal Ascot, Goodwood, Meydan, and Classic form converges this Saturday, and after scouring the best horse racing odds, we might have found the best bet:
What is the Hungerford Stakes?
The Hungerford Stakes is a £150,000, straight 7f contest run at Newbury racecourse, and named after the nearby town of Hungerford. It was upgraded to a Group 2 in 2006 and has since been won by subsequent Group 1 winners Paco Boy and Excelebration, and star filly Red Evie.
Trained by Michael Bell in Newmarket, she not only won the Group 1 Matron Stakes at Leopardstown, but has since produced Breeders Cup and Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe-winning filly Found.
It takes centre stage on Saturday’s card at Newbury, and will be live on ITV4, preceded by the Group 3 Geoffrey Freer Stakes, and the Listed Denford Stakes.
How will the race be run?
Among the latest Hungerford Stakes entries, the Aidan O’Brien-trained Fleet Review and Oh This Is Us are pacemaking candidates, both capable of setting a fair gallop.
The Richard Hannon-trained Yafta should be among those closest to the leaders, with Arbalet and D'Bai just in behind and the likes of Gustav Klimt, Sir Dancelot, Breton Rock, and Librisa Breeze held up.
If Fleet Review does run, then it is likely to be set up for stablemate and confirmed runner Gustav Glimt - the 6f winner having performed well above par to be third to fellow O’Brien inmate U S Navy Flag in the Group 1 Darley July Cup at Newmarket last month.
Gustav Klimt and Sir Dancelot fight it out for favouritism with all the top horse racing bettors, Qipco British Champions Sprint Stakes winner Librisa Breeze only a point or two behind, with a preference for softer ground unlikely to be fulfilled this weekend.
Sir Dancelot (4/1 at Black Type) finished fifth in the race last year, but has been gelded since and improved to win a very messy Group 2 Qatar Lennox Stakes at Goodwood. That was over his preferred distance of 7f, a trip he is 5/12 over, with two Group-race wins this season already.
It would be no surprise to see Sir Dancelot end up clear favourite, with such solid form this season - even over 6f he got in the winning group in the Darley July Cup to be fourth, and was seventh in the Diamond Jubilee Stakes too.
Gustav Klimt (4/1 at Black Type) though brings the strongest Group 1 form to the table, having been sixth in the 2,000 Guineas at Newmarket, third in the Irish 2,000 Guineas, and second at Royal Ascot in the St James’s Palace Stakes - and boasts three wins from three runs over 7f, including a Group 2 at Newmarket last season.
Is there a trends winner?
There are a few Hungerford Stakes trends to consider, though only one looks strong enough to factor in to your selections: 11 of the last 12 winners held an official rating of 110 or greater.
This rules out all but Gustav Klimt, Librisa Breeze, Sir Dancelot, Breton Rock, Fleet Review, Cardsharp, D’Bai, Threading, and Yafta - listed in ratings order from highest to lowest.
Lethal Force was the anomaly, winning in 2012 off 107. He was a 25/1 shot that the field let go at the start, jockey Adam Kirby easing out a gap of five lengths with three furlongs to race, such was the level of respect the other riders had for the pairing.
The 2/1 favourite at top bookies Soul had already lost his race by breaking awkwardly from the stalls, so it was left to 9/4 shot Strong Suit to catch the front-runner and the 123-rated runner lost that battle by a neck.
To further whittle down the field, 10 of the past 12 winners were aged three or four and had won in the same season, and nine recent winners had run at least three times over 7f previously, leaving Cardsharp (33/1), Gustav Klimt (4/1), D’Bai (10/1) and Sir Dancelot (4/1) as candidates for your trends winner.
But who will actually win?
A thoroughly likeable character, with all eyes on a defence of his British Champions Sprint crown, he finished second to the unexposed Massaat in this race last year, when soft ground came. But there was no star three-year-old in that line up, and Gustav Klimt has the credentials to capitalise on the 5lb allowance for three-year-olds.
He has been campaigned almost completely over 1m this season, shaping as the closest thing this race has to a 2018 Group 1 winner, with Royal Ascot and Classic placings. He steps down in grade and trip now, to a distance in which he boasts a 100% record from three outings, including at Group 2 level as a two-year-old.
Sir Dancelot is not far off his equal, but will find this tougher than last month’s Lennox Stakes win with the 3lb penalty that Group 2 win earned him. Factoring in his age, Sir Dancelot will carry 8lbs more than Gustav Klimt.
Yafta is another three-year-old to note, having won his first Group 3 at Newbury over 6f last time out. His trainer Richard Hannon believes 7f is a better distance for him, and that softer ground may be an advantage one day. He is improving rapidly and uber consistent, finishing out of the first two once in all 10 runs. At 12/1 with Coral, he makes plenty of appeal, and is a great each-way option against the number one selection Gustav Klimt.
D’Bai at 9/1 with William Hill also looks value, having overcome poor draws to finish sixth in a brace of Group 1 sprints this season. He ran into all sorts of trouble in the Lennox Stakes in between those Group 1 outings, but still finished a length and a half fifth, just in behind the wall created by the first four. Don’t forget he set the 7f course record on the turf at Meydan in January.