Horse Racing

Betfred Group 2 Hungerford Stakes Preview

Betfred Group 2 Hungerford Stakes Preview 16.10 Newbury
(Group 2) (CLASS 1) (3yo+)

This weekend the Channel 4 cameras will be at Ripon and Newbury, and the big pattern race of the day is the Hungerford Stakes at the latter track. This Group 2 has been won by some useful types in the past decade, and no horse older than 4 years old has won it since Balthazar’s Gift came out on top at the grand old age of 6 back in 2009.

He is one of just two winners that returned at double figure prices in the last decade, but only two favourites have obliged in that period. This year’s renewal looks particularly open, and a case can be made for most of the contenders. If you are weighing up a wager on this contest, you should check out our in depth preview below.

CONVEY
 
Trainer: Michael Stoute
Jockey: Pat Smullen
Age: 4yo
Odds: 5/2 Ladbrokes

Michael Stoute has trained three previous winners of this contest, but he hasn’t tasted success since Kieran Fallon steered Chic to victory in 2004. This year he relies on Convey, and this beautifully bred 4yo son of Dansili is near the head of the market at odds of 5/2 with Ladbrokes. That looks a pretty skinny price for a horse that has produced more disappointing runs than good ones.

He has been highly tried during his career but he has never been the most reliable. He won his maiden on debut as he liked, but it took another 7 runs before he managed to get his head back in front. That win came last time out at Ponte (8f gd/fm), but he had to drop down to Listed company.  He was less than half a length behind Home Of The Brave in a Group 3 at Haydock back in May (7f gd) but in truth he always looked held. I am not sure 7f is his best trip, and if it was a mile you would possibly fancy him to turn that form around. He is no certainty to reproduce the form of his last run either, and at his current odds of 5/2 he doesn’t appeal as a solid bet.

DARK EMERALD
 
Trainer: Brendan Powell
Jockey: Adam Kirby
Age: 6yo
Odds: 14/1 Bet365

This 6yo son of Dark Angel has been a wonderful servant to connections. He is a dual handicap winner at the Meydan festival and he has run some big races in defeat at Group level. He has won 8 of his 46 starts, placing on 16 other occasions. He ran a poor race on his final start in Meydan, and he was also poor on his comeback run on home soil. However, it was much more like it last time over course and distance when he found just one too good in a high class handicap off a mark of 106.

Powell has wasted no time in stepping him back up in grade, and he has the look of a lively outsider. He has been placed in a couple of Group 3s and a Group 2 in the last 18 months so he is a proven performer at this level. He has been beaten less than a length on his last two visits to Newbury, so he clearly has an affinity for the track. He is vulnerable to improvers, but there are plenty of holes to pick in most of his rivals and, at odds of 14/1 with Bet365, he could surprise with a big run.

GOLDEN STEPS
 
Trainer: Marco Botti
Jockey: Frankie Dettori
Age: 5yo
Odds: 14/1 Sportingbet

This son of Footstepsinthesand has proved to be a reliable performer in handicaps, but he has yet to show that he can mix it at pattern level. He comes here on the back of a smooth success in a 7f handicap at Newmarket off a mark of 99, and Frankie Dettori has been retained for the ride. He has been on board for three of his four career wins, so that has to be viewed as a big positive.

He has only been tried in Listed company on two occasions, and both times he was well beaten. However, one of those races was run on unsuitably soft ground, and the other came at Lingfield on the all-weather. He has always been a top of the ground turf horse, and he could be capable of making his presence felt once the rain stays away. However, he has a lot to prove, and at odds of 14/1 with Sportingbet he is probably best watched.

HOME OF THE BRAVE
 
Trainer: Hugo Palmer
Jockey: Jim Crowley
Age: 4yo
Odds: 6/4 Skybet

Hugo Palmer has had a season to remember, and the classic winning trainer will be looking to add another big race to his CV on Saturday. Home Of The Brave is a warm order for the Hungerford Stakes, and he has already beaten a couple of his rivals here in the not too distant past. He has been ultra-consistent this season, winning his first two starts and then going close behind Dutch Connection on his first try at Group 2 level at Goodwood (7f gd/fm).

He previously beat Convey by less than a half-length over the same 7f trip at Haydock in a Group 2 and he always looked as though he had that rival’s measure. 7f is definitely his optimum trip, and with only 7 runners in the field he could be able to get an easy lead. Good to firm ground will be fine, and he won’t be bothered if there are any showers. He comes off best at the weights, and he is the highest rated horse in the race. It is easy to see why he is the 6/4 favourite with Skybet, and if he has recovered from his exertions at Goodwood he could be hard to peg back.

JALLOTA
 
Trainer: Charles Hills
Jockey: Jamie Spencer
Age: 5yo
Odds: 10/1 Paddy Power

This son of Rock Of Gibraltar is an interesting contender and he has run some huge races for Charlie Hills this season. Apart from his seasonal comeback at Chester he has looked really good, and he has won 2 of his last 4 starts. He is versatile tactically, and though he has yet to win at Group level he is a horse that definitely has the ability to do so.

He hacked up in a 3 runner affair last time out at Haydock (7f soft) but his previous run in France was arguably an even better effort. He was only a length behind Jimmy Two Times at Deauville (7f gd/sft) in a Group 3, and that form was given a big boost in the Group 1 Prix Maurice De Gheest, where Jimmy Two Times ran a huge race in third. If Jallota can repeat that run on Saturday, he could go close at odds of 10/1 with Paddy Power.

MARKAZ
 
Trainer: Owen Burrows
Jockey: Paul Hanagan
Age: 4yo
Odds: 6/1 Coral

This 4yo is another son of Dark Angel and he has won 3 of his 17 career starts. He was in the care of the Hills’ Stable up until the start of this season, and he has been revitalised by the move to Owen Burrows’ yard. Two of his three career wins have come at Group 3 level, at Newmarket (7f gd/fm) and at Newcastle on the all-weather over 6f last June.

However, he has been mostly well held when he has been upped to Group 2 company or higher, and he was well behind Home Of The Brave in that Group 2 at Goodwood last time out (7f gd/fm). He did run a huge race behind Limato at Doncaster last season (7f gd), but he was still beaten almost 3L. He looks skinny enough at odds of 6/1 with Coral, and he will likely find a couple too good again.

RICHARD PANKHURST
 
Trainer: John Gosden
Jockey: Robert Havlin
Age: 4yo
Odds: 14/1 BetVictor

Last, but not least, we have the sole representative from a trainer who has won this race a record five times. Richard Pankhurst is the so called second string from owners Godolphin, and they undoubtedly have a much more obvious contender in Home Of The Brave. However, Gosden’s record in this race means this son of Raven’s Pass shouldn’t be overlooked, and he has a couple of pieces of form that would give him a squeak at this level. He looked a horse with bags of talent when he demolished a decent field in a Listed race at Ascot (7f gd/fm) on just his second career start.

He has a win over Dark Emerald in the bag, but he was in receipt of a fair chunk of weight from that rival at Haydock (7f gd/sft). He was only seen once after that win last season, so evidently he must have had some injury issues. He reappeared in a Group 2 at Ascot in June, and he ran an eye-catching race to finish fifth. It was a pleasing return to action, and he had Convey a couple of lengths behind. He ran no race last time out at Goodwood, but that was a hot Group 1 contest and he might not have handled the track. It would be no surprise to see him return to form at Newbury on Saturday, and at odds of 14/1 with BetVictor he is of interest each way.

CONCLUSION

Home Of The Brave is a worthy favourite here and he is a horse that looks capable of scoring at this level. However, he looks very skinny at odds of just 6/4, and I think there is better value to be found elsewhere. Dark Emerald is very tempting after his big run last time, and he is proven at this track. Jallota is another older horse that can’t be discounted, and the form of his French run at Deauville was boosted last week.

However, one of the least exposed horses in the field is Richard Pankhurst, and he represents a yard with a stellar record in this race. He looked a massively promising type when he won his Listed race at Ascot, and he showed he retained plenty of ability on his comeback run at the same venue. This strong traveller will be suited by a searching pace, and he is guaranteed to get that with Home Of The Brave in the field. It is a pity there are only seven runners in the race but, even so, I reckon Richard Pankhurst is overpriced and he is worth backing each way at his current odds of 14/1.

STEVOS SELECTION: RICHARD PANKHURST E/W 14/1 BETVICTOR

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