Horse Racing

Neptune Investment Management Gordon Stakes

2.35 Goodwood – Wednesday 29th July 2015
Neptune Investment Management Gordon Stakes Preview
(Group 3)
(CLASS 1) (3yo)

Sir Michael Stoute trained the winner of this event last year and he has been the most successful handler in recent times, taking three of the last seven. He also saddled Fiorente to be a close second in 2011 and when you consider that he had no representative in the race in 2010, 2012 or 2013 it makes those stats even more impressive. He is only a short head away from having a 100% record with his entries since 2008. He has Disegno this year.

The race has not been a happy hunting ground for favourite backers and indeed the last jolly to oblige was Stoute’s classy operator Harbinger back in 2008. However, whilst favourites do have a poor strike rate, there has not been a winner priced bigger than 7/1 since 2005, which would suggest it is not a race for outsiders either. Below is a preview of the runners and riders and what I believe to be their prospects.

1. DISEGNO (STOUTE/ATZENI)

The only entry for master trainer Sir Michael Stoute, and is entitled to maximum respect coming from those quarters. Had just the three runs as a 2yo, starting off with a pleasing third place in a maiden at Newmarket (6F good) behind Justice First and the useful Burnt Sugar. He then was sent off at odds on at Kempton upped to 7F (polytrack) on his next outing, landing the odds with the minimum of fuss.

He was stepped up in class on his final 2yo run in a listed event at Ascot (7F good) and ran with credit behind dual listed winner and subsequent Group 1 placed Kodi Bear from the Clive Cox yard, shaping as if a further step up in trip would suit.

He reappeared this year in another listed race, The Feilden Stakes at Newmarket (9F good to firm) and ran a cracker to finish second, just two lengths behind Derby winner Golden Horn and again staying on well. He was kept to that class in The Dee Stakes at Chester (10.5F soft), going down by a short head to Not So Sleepy with today’s rival Prince Gagarin a couple of lengths behind in third. It was disappointing that he couldn’t win that day but at least he showed he can handle ease underfoot.

He was stepped into Group 3 company for the first time last time out at Royal Ascot (10F good to firm), and while he reversed the Chester form with Not So Sleepy he still only finished fourth, beaten seven lengths. However, he had to be switched twice having been denied a clear run two furlongs from home, and he may have got closer with a bit more luck as he stayed on well enough for fourth when he eventually found daylight.

This colt lacks nothing on the pedigree front either, being a son of Fastnet Rock and out of a Sliver Hawk Mare who produced her best display over 12F in a Group 2, and was Listed placed over 11.5F, both on fast ground. Her half-sister was second in the Yorkshire Oaks (12F good to firm), and they are out of a sister to five time Group 1 winner Divine Proportions, who is a half-sister to Whipper. It is a truly impressive pedigree, and it would suggest that 12F should be well within Disegno’s compass. One of the main contenders and available to back at 11/2.

2. HIGHLAND REEL (A O’BRIEN/J O’BRIEN)

Beaten favourite in the Irish Derby, a race that I really fancied him for, but had excuses as he sweated up very badly beforehand. He ran well below his best that day, and is surely capable of better. He won a Group 2 here as a 2yo (7F good to firm) on just his third start, and was put away for the winter.

He reappeared at Longchamp in the French 2000 Guineas (8F good to soft) but ended up a well beaten 11/8 favourite. Many of O’Brien’s horses are not wound up fully for their first run back, and it was no shock to see a much improved effort next time in the Group 1 Prix Du Jockey Club (10.5F good to soft) when he was a good staying on second to the impressive New Bay, shaping as if 12F would be ideal. It was no wonder he was sent off at just 11/4 for the Irish Derby, but he didn’t run his race, and could be worth another chance back at a course where he has already won.

Unsurprisingly for a Coolmore horse he is exceedingly well bred, being a son of Galileo and out of a Danehill mare who is a full sister to a five time Group 1 winner, and a half-sister to another triple Group 1 winner. Overall he has been inconsistent this season, but IF he shows up at the top of his game he could be hard to beat. He is the current market leader at 2/1.

3. MEDRANO (BROWN/LYNCH)

Been the flag bearer for his relatively small yard this season, and was rewarded for a string of consistent efforts at Group 3 and Listed level with an emphatic victory last time out, giving today’s rival Prince Gagarin an absolute trouncing in a Listed race at Hamilton (11F soft). He has been beaten by Storm The Stars twice this year, but there is no shame in that as the Haggas horse went on to be placed in both the English and Irish Derbies.

This colt’s form is strong, and while his pedigree may not be as spectacular as some of his rivals it is still none too shabby. He is a son of Archipenko, who is perhaps not as prolific as some of the other stallions in the race, particularly at this sort of level. He is out of a Lomitas mare who was a Group 3 winner herself (12F good to soft), so the trip today should suit, as should the ground if it stays on the soft side of good (the forecast is for good weather all week).

He is currently priced up as the second favourite at 3/1, and if the ground doesn’t dry out he could run a big race. Anyone considering backing him should wait until ground conditions are confirmed as it will make a huge difference to his prospects. The forecast is not good for him though I’m afraid.

4. PRINCE GAGARIN (E DUNLOP/DETTORI)

This 2yo Listed winner (8F soft) has run some decent races in defeat this season, and his standout effort came behind Curvy in the Group 3 Gallinule Stakes at the Curragh (10F good) when he went down by just under two lengths to subsequent Ribblesdale winner Curvy and the Irish Derby placed Giovanni Canaletto (who was ahead of Highland Reel that day). That piece of form puts him right in the picture for this race, but it is difficult to forget the way that Medrano brushed him aside last time out at Hamilton, although perhaps the testing conditions suited the Brown horse better, even if Prince Gagarin’s Listed win did come on soft.

This son of Dubawi is a half-brother to Elusive Pimpernel, who produced his best runs on quick ground at around a mile, and another half-brother, Palavicini, was effective on fast ground too. His pedigree suggests that 12F should be fine, as his dam was a 12F winner, and stayed further too. However, he has looked to struggle to get home in his races this season thus far, and the jury is well and truly out on whether this is his optimum trip. His current odds of 8/1 look a bit skinny to me, and I am not sure he will trouble the best of these, no matter what the ground is.

5. PROPOSED (HANNON/DOBBS)

Has had six starts in total, two as a 2yo, just winning once in a 10F maiden at Salisbury on good to firm ground back in May. However, has been highly tried on a couple of those occasions and must be held in some regard by his trainer. Beaten by a combination of nearly forty lengths on his first four starts, one of those a Group 3 (12.5F soft), before winning the aforementioned maiden at Salisbury.

Last time out he was pitched into handicap company off a mark of 95 at Royal Ascot, in the race won by Space Age, and he ran an absolute cracker, finishing just a couple of lengths behind Scottish in seventh and less than four lengths behind the winner. Proposed was giving weight away to both, and it was a very encouraging performance.

He is a son of Invincible Spirit and a half-brother to Group 3 (16F good to firm) and Group 2 (12F good to firm) winner Soapy Danger, who also won on soft. His dam, a daughter of Mi Cielo, was a 3yo Group 1 winner in America on the dirt (12F). It is an attractive pedigree, and suggests that 12F should be fine for him. He can currently be backed at 25/1 and seeing as he doesn’t have to find too much with the likes of Scottish and Space Age this looks a bit too big to me. One of the more likely outsiders and could be dangerous if he gets a soft lead.

6. RED TORNADO (H DUNLOP/DOYLE)

Has had his limitations exposed at listed level on a number of occasions already this season, and was twelve lengths and six lengths behind Medrano and Prince Gagarin respectively last time out in that listed race at Hamilton.
Has already been gelded, and this son of Dr Fong looks well below the required level in this race. Can be backed at 50/1, and that price is an accurate reflection of his chance.

7. SCOTTISH (BALDING/CROWLEY)

Unexposed son of Teofilo who has already been gelded. Made a low key start at the tail end of last season, well beaten in a maiden over a mile at Nottingham. However, he nearly returned with a bang in a strong maiden at Newbury (11F good to firm) when Mr Singh, a subsequent Group 3 winner, picked his pocket in the final strides. He confirmed the promise of that run with an easy win in a 10F maiden at the same track (good), before appearing in the handicap won by Space Age at the Royal meeting (12F good to firm).

He was giving the winner three pounds that day and just couldn’t reel him in, but there was only a length and a quarter between them at the finish, so off level weights he should get closer. He is a full brother to Godolphin Group 3 winner Royal Empire (13.5F good to firm) and is out of a Listed winning (6F heavy) and placed (8F good to firm) Zieten mare. Not as illustrious a pedigree as some of the other competitors admittedly, but he has looked a progressive type, and with only four runs so far there could easily be more to come. The best price currently available is 9/1, and it wouldn’t be the biggest surprise to see him in the shake-up.

8. SPACE AGE (APPLEBY/BUICK)

Took three runs to get off the mark as a 2yo, finally obliging at Beverley (7.5F good to soft). Was allocated a mark of 85 and connections opted to go down the handicap route, reappearing in a Class 2 heat at Newbury (10F Good). He was dropped out that day and finished with a wet sail having been given plenty to do, storming home into fifth behind Disegno’s conqueror Time Test, from whom he was receiving 15lb in weight when the jockey’s claim is considered.

Off an unchanged mark he fulfilled the obvious promise of that run at Newmarket, over the same trip and on quick ground. Suffused, the horse he gave 6lb to and beat that day, has since gone on to win twice, last time by six lengths off a mark of 89. He followed up in impressive style in a big field at Royal Ascot stepped up to 12F for the first time off a mark of 88. Scottish was second home that day, and was carrying 3lbs more than the winner who finished just over a length in front.
His winning run came to an end off his new mark of 96 when he couldn’t manage to concede 13lb to the well-bred, Stoute trained, Dartmouth.

This colt is a son of New Approach and is a half-brother to Antiquities, who was Listed placed (10F soft) in France. His dam is a Listed winner (10.5F heavy), and she is a half-sister to the outstanding dual Group 1 scorer Street Cry and also to the dam of Shamardal. It is a truly regal bloodline, and it is no surprise to see connections having a crack at gaining some black type. The best price currently available is 10/1 and he has each way claims.

9. TOMMY DOCC (DALGLEISH/MAKIN)

Another that has already been gelded, and a horse that has left the handicapper with a serious amount of egg on his face this season. Cost just ten grand, and was well beaten on his only run as a 2yo. His first run this season, in March at Southwell in a 5F maiden, resulted in an impressive win and he didn’t go unbacked. The handicapper wasn’t that impressed though, and allocated him a mark of just 70. A poor run at Leicester on his handicap debut (7F good to firm) saw his mark drop to just 67!

He made a mockery of the mark upped to 8F (good to firm) at Redcar on his next start, winning a lot more easily than the winning distance suggests. Mr. Handicapper reacted by raising him just 5lbs to 72, and he duly won again (12.5F good to firm) at odds of 11/1. In hindsight he must have been one of the biggest certainties of all time in those two races considering what happened on his next run, when he got to within half a length of the classy Aloft in the Queens Vase (16F good to firm) at Ascot. He proved that was no fluke with another good run behind Mr Singh in a Group 3 at Newmarket (13F good to firm). He is now rated 94.

It has truly been a remarkable journey for this horse and his connections, and it would be a fairy-tale if this son of Thewayyouare could get his head in front. However, I think he might be punching above his weight in this race, and he could get tapped for toe over this sort of trip. Can be backed at odds of 20/1 but he won’t be seeing any of my hard earned. One for the romantics.

10. AMAZE ME (LITTMODEN/EGAN)

The sole filly in the field and in fairness to her she has run some decent races in defeat this season. Remains a maiden after eight starts and it is difficult to see her breaking her duck in this race. Her best run so far came in a Listed event behind Jazzi Top at Newmarket (10f good to firm), when she was beaten nearly three lengths. That form is decent, but it is probably below the level required in this. Her three runs since haven’t been too bad, but she hasn’t given the impression she is a winner in waiting.

She is a daughter of Aqlaam, and is out of a Danehill filly that won over a mile but was only rated 76. Her half-sister was a Group 3 winner in Germany, but apart from that there is nothing to get too excited about in her pedigree. This looks a bridge too far and it really will amaze me if she can win. Best odds available are 33/1.

CONCLUSION

A fascinating contest with a number of intriguing contenders. The figures would have you believe that Highland Reel should run out an easy winner, and that could quite easily turn out be the case. However, he is not the most consistent of animals, and his current odds of 2/1 are not big enough to tempt me.

If it comes up properly soft, Medrano needs considering and one that might run well at bigger odds could be Proposed for Richard Hannon. In fact there should be little between himself, Scottish and Space Age, who all ran in that handicap at Ascot won by the Godolphin horse.

The one that could improve past them all though is DISEGNO, who represents a yard that has an outstanding record in this race. He should relish the step up in trip, and with man of the moment Andrea Atzeni in the saddle he is a confident selection at 11/2.

1. Disegno 11/2
2. Highland Reel 2/1
3. Proposed 25/1
4. Scottish 9/1

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