Sir Michael Stoute confirmed on Wednesday that Crystal Spirit will run in the Gp 1 Prince of Wales’s Stakes over 10f at Royal Ascot next week rather than the Gp 2 Hardwicke Stakes which he won 12 months ago.
Regular pilot William Buick misses the meeting as he continues to convalesce with post head-injury syndrome and Frankie Dettori takes over in the saddle on the five-year-old who is 5/1 (from 6s) with BetVictor for what is, arguably, the race of the week.
The ground is soft at Newbury this afternoon where the feature race is the listed Abingdon Stakes for 3-y-old fillies over 10f. Terebellum created a very favourable impression when winning at Goodwood on debut and John Gosden spoke in glowing terms of her post-race. If she handles today’s underfoot conditions she is the one to beat but, as a daughter of Sea The Stars, that is not a guarantee.
The vote goes to Antonia De Vega (3.00) who won her first couple of starts as a juvenile before finishing last in the Fillies’ Mile when she finished lame. As a daughter of Lope De Vega she should be at home on today’s surface, she escapes a penalty for her Gp 2 win as a juvenile and she holds two Group 1 entries later in the season.
Qamka (2.30) is a half-sister to seven winners and ran with considerable promise when third at Nottingham on debut albeit well behind winner Twist N Shake. She is unlikely to meet anything of that class today although To The Moon looked a promising sort when runner up on her sole 2-y-old start. Her seasonal reappearance at Windsor was disappointing, but the fact that she was well punted beforehand would suggest connections were expecting a much better run.
The form of the Amanda Perrett yard puts me off Zuba in the 12f Handicap and preference is for Alan King’s Group Stage (4.40) who promises to appreciate the step up to 12f for the first time having finished runner up on his handicap debut over 10f from a 3lbs lower mark last time. Andrew Balding’s Admirals Bay won a modest Yarmouth race from a 5lbs lower mark on fast ground last time, but this looks a better race.
There is a precautionary inspection at Nottingham planned for 8am and it might be prudent to swerve Colwick Park. No such problems expected at Yarmouth where I hope to see Junior Rip (3.25) reverse last week’s Windsor form with Cherry Cola on 6lbs better terms.
The selection travelled like the best horse for much of the race in his first-time blinkers last week but was mugged late on. I would be optimistic he can go one better although he must show he is as effective on today’s soft ground.
At Uttoxeter this evening Lord County (7.20) can go one better than when beaten a neck at Bangor-on-Dee on good ground last time. This return to soft ground holds no terrors but a big danger is Very First Time who has his first run since joining Dan Skelton. It is well documented that the yard have a history of returning horses – who have been in the doldrums – back to their very best form and the market should provide us with valuable clues as to stable expectations for this potentially well-treated recruit.
The Skeltons’ also saddle ex-Irish Teddy’s Ace (7.50) in the Maiden Hurdle over 2m 4f. The selection was bought for £20,000 from Tattersalls Ireland back in March and he has one bit of form on heavy ground in Ireland that makes very good reading at this level. He has also had his wind tweaked since joining the yard. A market move for winning pointer The Cattlejobber would be worth noting given the form of the Donald McCain yard.