It was billed as one of the most eagerly anticipated renewals of the Juddmonte Middle Park Stakes in recent times, but it ended up being more of a ‘Middly Park’ than the crackerjack encounter we had hoped for.
One of the race’s major players, Siskin, was extremely well backed to maintain his unbeaten record but Ger Lyons' star juvenile had to be withdrawn down at the start after getting upset in the stalls.
Then Mums Tipple, who had looked a potential superstar at York, failed to run his race – although he was subsequently found to be lame by the racecourse vet. It is far too soon to be writing him off.
So the coast was left clear for Earthlight to make it a perfect five wins from five starts, but his neck success hardly set the pulses racing and, even though he is trained by a master in Andre Fabre – who described his colt as ‘top class’ post-race – very few observers came away thinking he would be able to serve it up to Pinatubo if the pair collided in the 2,000 Guineas.
Bookmaker reaction was to cut the son of Shamardal (also the sire of Pinatubo) into a top price of 8/1 but that remains a long way short of the 5/4 market leader, who could very easily go into the winter an odds-on chance should he dispatch his Dewhurst Stakes rivals in the same sort of manner as he did at The Curragh.
Frankel was the last horse to win the Royal Lodge Stakes and go on to win the 2,000 Guineas the following season but it is probably safe to say this year’s edition hasn’t produced anything even remotely close to Frankel’s calibre.
O’Brien’s Charge Steps Up
Royal Dornoch, sent off an unconsidered 16/1 chance despite representing the all-conquering Aidan O’Brien team, had finished last of five in the Champagne Stakes at Doncaster on his previous start but the step up to a mile brought about a sharp upturn in performance and he toughed it out to see off 6/5 favourite Kameko up the hill.
He is a 33/1 chance for both the 2,000 Guineas and the Derby and that looks about right at this stage given he doesn’t look classy enough to win a Guineas and is a suspect stayer for the mile-and-a-half test of Epsom.
Coolmore’s number one 2,000 Guineas hope may turn out to be Wichita who turned Thursday’s Sommerville Tattersall Stakes into a procession. The further Ryan Moore’s mount went the better he looked and he might turn out to have more class than Armory, who is slightly shorter in 2,000 Guineas ante-post lists but who has already been put firmly in his place by Pinatubo.
We will learn more about Wichita if he turns up at Doncaster for the Vertem Futurity (old Racing Post Trophy).
The fillies’ division is wide open and it is safe to say that the jury is well and truly out on whether Saturday's Juddmonte Cheveley Park Stakes winner Millisle will be able to thrive over a mile as a three-year-old even though she stormed up the Newmarket hill to win going away.
Harrington Ends Drought
Her surprise 16/1 success provided Jessica Harrington with a first winner this side of the Irish Sea in 2019, but she remains a bigger price for the 1,000 Guineas than the filly she ran down late on at the weekend, Raffle Prize.
Betfair, who are top price about her in the Guineas (30/1) gave her a 12/1 quote for the Commonwealth Cup, suggesting they think she will end up being an out and out sprinter rather than a miler.
The unbeaten Quadrilateral, so impressive at Newbury, remains the 10/1 market leader for the first fillies’ classic of 2020.
The Joseph O’Brien-trained New York Girl was given 33/1 quotes by Paddy Power and Betfair for the 1,000 Guineas after her Weld Park Stakes win at The Curragh on Sunday but that might prove on the big side.
She encountered traffic problems and still had plenty of ground to make up in the final furlong but saw her race out in tremendous style, shaping for all the world like she would relish the step up to a mile. If she proves as effective on better ground then she looks a pretty exciting filly.
Aidan O'Brien has been utterly dominant in the Beresford Stakes, winning every edition since 2011, but latest cab off the rank, Innisfree, made pretty hard work of getting on top of long-time leader Shekhem and 33/1 Derby quotes suggest the layers don’t think we have seen a potential Epsom hero.