Truth be told, it is a quiet enough weekend really. You can forgive it though, seven days after the Derby, 10 days before Royal Ascot begins. There are only a finite number of high-class horses.
It is a weekend for treading warily. The last thing you want to be doing is starting the weekend with a hatful of half-cocked opinions and ending it with a big negative. Choose your battles wisely. You don’t have to fight every one.
You might choose to fight the Pinnacle Stakes battle, mind you. (The 2.40 at Haydock in layman’s terms.) It looks like a tough one at first glance, but there are angles. Ambivalent looks like a favourite that you can take on. You can understand why she is favourite, she is a relatively lightly-raced filly who still has scope for progression, and who ran a cracker to chase home the talented Dalkala in the Group 2 Middleton Stakes on her debut this term, and her trainer Roger Varian has won the last two renewals of the race.
However, she may have been flattered by her latest run. It may have been a weak enough Group 2 contest, perhaps the winner excepted, and the third and fourth were both well beaten by Thistle Bird in a Group 3 race at Epsom on Oaks day.
Also, Ambivalent was very keen through the early stages of that race. She is a keen-goer, hence the hood that usually adorns her head. While she has won over a mile and a half, the step back up from her latest run over 10 furlongs today may not be in her favour. They will be going a half a stride slower today than they did at York, and she is going to have to settle at least a little better than she did then.
It is not a given that she will improve for her seasonal debut, given that she won on her debut as a two-year-old and as a three-year-old: she does go well fresh. She may have been a little over-rated by the market.
By contrast, Souviens Toi may have been a little under-rated. Marco Botti’s filly won three races in Italy last season, including a listed race at Capannelle, and she ran a cracker on her British debut at Goodwood a month ago to finish third behind Khione.
The Dalakhani filly didn’t enjoy the run of the race that day. Cathy Gannon went for a run up the rail on her about three furlongs from home, but the gap there closed, with the result that she had to switch back and try to make her ground among horses, which she did, running on nicely and willingly to finish third.
It is highly unlikely that she would have beaten the winner even if she had enjoyed a clear passage, but Khione is very good and is highly-regarded by Luca Cumani and Kieren Fallon, and Souviens Toi would have finished a lot closer to her with a clear run than the two lengths by which she was beaten.
Unlike with Ambivalent, it is reasonable expect improvement from Souviens Toi. She improved with racing last season, her first season to race. Also, that Goodwood run was her seasonal debut, her first run in Britain and her first run for Marco Botti. It is probable that she will improve for it, and she doesn’t have to improve a great deal to give herself a real chance of winning this.
She stays a mile and a half well, she is proven on good ground and her sire’s progeny tend to go well on fast ground. Also, she has raced just seven times in her life, she is only four, so she has plenty of scope for progression. Odds of around 5.7 or 5.8 are more than fair.
Jehannedarc is interesting at a decent price. Ed Dunlop’s mare actually finished half a length in front of Souviens Toi at Goodwood, but she enjoyed better luck in-running than the Botti filly did. Also, didn’t go on from that behind Willing Foe at Newbury last time, and she just doesn’t have the scope for progression that her year-younger rival has.
Prussian is also interesting. She was a nicely progressive filly for Mark Johnston last season. She was an impressive winner of a handicap at the track last September, Saeed Bin Suroor’s horses are in flying form, and she ran out of her skin to finish second to her now stable companion, subsequent dual Group 1 winner Sajjhaa, in a Group 2 race at Meydan in February the last time we saw her.
However, she may have been flattered by the bare form of that run. Dark Orchid and Igugu set off far too fast in the race, thereby setting it up for the closers, so it was to Prussian’s advantage that she was held up out the back through the early stages.
While she has won on fast ground, her best form is on soft, and she is by Dubai Destination out of the Sadler’s Wells mare Russian Snows, who was second in the Irish Oaks on yielding ground and who won the Prix de Royallieu on soft. All of that suggests that at least a little bit of cut in the ground might be ideal for Prussian.
Also, she has looked good over nine and 10 furlongs. On her only attempt to date over a mile and a half, in the King George V Handicap at Royal Ascot last year, she finished 15th of 18. She still has to prove her stamina for today’s trip. She was busy last year for Mark Johnston, she raced no fewer than 15 times, and she just may not have that much scope for progression now.
Quiz Mistress is surely better on easier ground than the lightning fast ground she is going to encounter today (as long as they didn’t go mad with the watering system last night), and Souviens Toi is the bet.
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