While senior figures in the Conservative party continue to bicker and ‘peacock’ over the ongoing Brexit negotiations, in the wake of one key EU figure suggesting that talks had stalled for the time being, we can let the politicians crack on with that and instead indulge ourselves in a spot of high quality racing this weekend.Newmarket is the setting on Saturday for a first-class meeting that is undoubtedly headlined by the Dewhurst Stakes, a Group 1 affair that routinely identifies the very best juvenile horses in the land. Former winners include Rock of Gibraltar, Frankel and Churchill, so there is a rather lofty reputation for the 2017 champion to uphold!
A fine looking cast of runners has assembled for the 7f affair, and some intriguing sub-plots will ensure that all eyes are glued to the Rowley Mile at 3pm on Saturday.
There have been plenty of column inches devoted to the absence of Verbal Dexterity, the fine Jim Bolger steed who won the National Stakes at Curragh earlier in the season. Bolger has saddled five Dewhurst winners in the past eleven years, so the decision to keep the colt at home will have disappointed punters.
Nevertheless, a cracking field has assembled, and there are three horses in particular that catch the eye.
Keep an Expert Eye on This Sir Michael Stoute Ride
It’s always a joy when a horse’s name lends itself nicely to a ‘banter style’ title, but the truth is that Expert Eye has been writing plenty of his own headlines this term.
Two starts have brought two wins in 2017, and the two-year-old impressed mightily on debut when taking down a Plus 10 renewal at Newbury back in June. But it was the four-length demolition of the field in the Group 2 Qatar Vintage Stakes that really got betting circles in a flutter; a fantastic performance that suggested there was plenty more in the tank.
Incidentally, Expert Eye was some eight lengths clear of the fourth favourite here, Seahenge, in that turn at Goodwood, and many that were left trailing in his wake that day have gone on to win Group 2 events of their own – another nod to his pedigree.
Jockey Andrea Atzeni, who took the ride that day and will be back on board on Saturday, has been effusive in his praise. “That was the first time I had sat on him and he was very impressive. Everyone saw how impressive he was, he travelled brilliantly into the race and picked up like a very good horse.“He settled nicely into the race, I pulled him out with three (furlongs) to go – I didn’t want to commit that early, but as soon as I gave him a bit of daylight he took me to the front in two strides. When I let him go, he picked up again and won going away.
“He felt good, he’s got a big, massive stride and covers a lot of ground. I was very happy with him at Goodwood, I actually sat on him on Saturday and he is ready to go again.”
This is juvenile racing, so often we have more questions than answers about the youthful collective taking part, but all you can ask is that the horse in question shows plenty of promise at this early stage of their career.
Expert Eye has done exactly that so far, and looks well primed for bigger and better things to come. At odds of 4/7 though, you won’t be booking next year’s summer holiday anytime soon with your winnings….
The second favourite behind Expert Eye is Emaraaty, who at a best price of 4/1 should be considered something of a fanciful punt.
Underworked this term, the John Gosden horse was outclassed on debut but regained any lost pride with a comfortable two-and-a-bit length victory over Magnificent in his last outing t Newbury.
That was an impressive run, but forgive me for not falling over my feet to wager on a horse that we still know very little about.
Instead, U S Navy Flag is the each way value at 10/1. This is a two-year-old that has ran nine times in 2017 – so yes, there is the chance he has been overworked – but then if we factor in to the argument that his best performances have been his most recent two, then perhaps we can cast aside any doubts.
The first of those was an emphatic six-length victory in a Group 3 outing at Curragh – a rather tasty margin of triumph given his 11/8 closing price, before he bagged the first Group 1 win of his career in the Juddmonte Middle Park Stakes at Newmarket. Going off as nothing more than a 10/1 jolly, Seamie Heffernan produced a fantastic ride to hold off the threat of Cardsharp.
Aidan O’Brien has trained the winner in three of the last four editions of the Dewhurst, and while it would be a huge shock if he were to make it four here U S Navy Flag certainly offers tempting each way value.