The Duke’s Weekend Preview

I think it’s fair to say there are busier racing weekends in Britain and Ireland than this one, but after the dramas of last week and the General Election, perhaps we all need a quiet one.

No such thing in the States though, as it’s the Belmont Stakes, one of the key races of the American season.

Earlier on the card, in the Longines Just A Game Stakes, I think Dickinson could be of interest. She won the Grade 1 Coolmore Jenny Wiley Stakes at Keeneland in April beating a horse I really like called Lady Eli. The runner-up has since franked the form with a Grade 1 win at Santa Anita. So, Dickinson at Belmont Park gets the first shout out of the weekend.

And there will be shouting and cheering in the Belmont Stakes a couple of hours later.

Neither the Kentucky Derby nor Preakness Stakes winners line up in this year’s Belmont, but both those races provide key form clues.

Irish War Cry is one of the favourites for the race and I can see why. He ran a very strong race before tiring quickly in the Kentucky Derby in tough conditions (the track was fast but soaking wet, it was like racing through puddles on tarmac). If it’s better at Belmont Park then he has to have a chance, as does Kentucky Derby runner-up Lookin At Lee. He did all his best work late on and given the Belmont Stakes is two furlongs further, he is an appealing option.

In the Preakness Stakes, the one that caught the eye was Senior Investment. He came from last at the final turn to finish third, staying on strongly under a whip-frenzied drive from his jockey. As long as that hasn’t soured Senior Investment’s taste for racing then he could be value. The Japanese have Epicharis who will probably be well-backed on the day. Lookin At Lee just gets the nod ahead of Senior Investment.

Close to home, at Haydock, Ajman Princess certainly seems to have the edge over her rivals in the 3.30pm Betway Pinnacle Stakes. Roger Varian’s filly has improved massively and may continue that progression here. I rate Bateel as a danger though. She has switched yards to Francis-Henri Graffard from David Simcock and made a promising first start at Chantilly for her new trainer. I think there’s more to come and I’d be willing to chance her to upset the favourite.

The John Of Gaunt Stakes at 4.05 is about as tricky as a Rubik’s Cube. Although Breton Rock has to give weight to some of his rivals, I think he can prevail here. His third to Ribchester in the Lockinge was a really good performance and returning to a track where he has solid form and on soft conditions which he should relish, Breton Rock gets the vote. Growl and Mitchum Swagger may be the ones to fill the places. Have a relaxing weekend.

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