13 AUGUST 2015
TOTEPOOL SOVEREIGN STAKES(Group 3)
(CLASS 1) (3yo+) (1 MILE)
Thursday’s highlight comes from Salisbury, where Captain Cat is back to defend his crown in the Group 3 Sovereign Stakes for Roger Charlton, with the enigmatic Jamie Spencer booked for the ride. Tullius, the 2013 winner, is also back for another go and there are plenty more with chances in an open looking race. With only one winner at odds bigger than 11/2 since 2005 it has usually paid to side with horses near the head of the market. The ground is currently described as good to firm, but there is rain forecast so that could change.
1. CUSTOM CUT (O’MEARA/TUDHOPE)
This 6yo gelded son of Notnowcato is the highest rated horse in the field at 117 and has been a grand servant to connections since arriving from Ireland. Multiple winner at up to Group 2 level on all sorts of ground. The step up to Group 1 level has proved beyond him so far, but he should find things a bit easier dropped back to Group 3 level today.
Was behind Tullius at York over 10.5F, a trip that stretches him, and he is best judged on his previous effort behind Arod at Epsom (8.5F) over a much more suitable trip when Tullius was a further length behind. He carries a Group 2 winner’s penalty, but the step back down to a mile today will suit, he is versatile regarding ground and he cannot be safely discounted for a trainer that is having yet another outstanding season.
2. TULLIUS (BALDING/FORTUNE)
Gelded 7yo who took this race back in 2013. Joint 2nd highest rated at 114, and has looked as good as ever this year, landing the odds in a Listed contest (8F good) on his seasonal return and last time out bagging a Group 2 at York (10.5F good to firm) when he reversed previous Epsom form with Custom Cut. Multiple winner at up to Group 2 level during his career.
Looks versatile regarding ground and the forecast rain will not worry him. However, he was behind Custom Cut when they last clashed over this sort of trip at Epsom, and the extra couple of furlongs they faced at York would have suited Tullius a lot more. He also carries a Group 2 penalty, and he could struggle to confirm his superiority over Custom Cut off level weights back at this trip (Custom Cut conceded 5lb to him at Epsom).
3. CAPTAIN CAT (CHARLTON/SPENCER)
6yo gelding back to defend his crown in a race he won very impressively last season. Is a dual Group 3 winner, and has also run well at both Group 1 and 2 level, including a good effort off level weights behind Custom Cut at Newmarket (8F good). He was beaten just two lengths by the O’Meara horse that day, and in receipt of 5lbs today he should get a lot closer.
The big worry is his below par form so far this year. His seasonal return was a decent enough run at Lingfield behind Tryster (10F standard) when he didn’t get a clear run, but his two runs since have been very disappointing, finishing well down the field at both Newbury (8F good) and Haydock (7F good). However he has been freshened up since then and I am sure Mr. Charlton will have him in peak condition for his repeat bid. Serious chance of making it two in a row.
4. DARK EMERALD (POWELL/KIRBY)
5yo gelding that proved a revelation when sent to Dubai by his shrewd handler Brendan Powell. Bagged a couple of valuable handicaps in impressive fashion over there (6F and 7F good) before stepping up to a mile in a Group 2 and emerging with huge credit in second place behind Safety Check. Obviously hated the dirt on his next start over there, and was put away until reappearing in June with a respectable handicap run behind Gm Hopkins off 111 at Ascot (8 good to firm).
Stepped up on that with a good effort behind Home Of The Brave at the Curragh (7F good/yielding) in the Group 3 Minstrel Stakes and that should have put him cherry ripe for this. Handles an ease in the ground too, which could be crucial given the forecast, although he certainly wouldn’t want it bottomless. Is a reliable and consistent sort that should give his running, but it is hard to see him getting his first Pattern level victory in this field. Each way claims.
5. MOOHAARIB (BOTTI/HARLEY)
4yo colt who has won a handicap off 93 and also bagged a Listed race on his penultimate run back in April. Rated 114, and gets in off 5lb lower than Custom Cut who he would be meeting off level weights in a handicap. Dam is related to a host of Group 1 winners and he is by Oasis Dream, so pedigree wise he certainly has the credentials to succeed at this level.
However, he ran no sort of race upped to the highest level in the Lockinge at Newbury, beating only one home and with a couple of today’s rivals well ahead of him. Hasn’t looked the most straightforward of rides on occasion, and seems to be a bit of a quirky customer. Claims if he returns to the sort of form he showed when winning at Ascot, but his run at Newbury remains fresh in the memory and he is probably best watched today.
6. SHIFTING POWER (HANNON/DOBBS)
4yo colt with some of the strongest form on offer in this field, including a good fourth to stable-mate Night Of Thunder in the 2000 Guineas, and subsequently proved that wasn’t a fluke by filling the runner up berth behind Kingman in the Irish equivalent, on heavy ground. For all that high class form though he has only won two races at pattern level, his first being a Listed handicap, and his last one being a Listed event at Windsor (8.5F good to firm) back in May. Is also rated 114.
The big worry has to be his race fitness, as he was pulled up and dismounted on his last run, when well fancied for the Group 3 contested by Custom Cut and Tullius at Epsom. He was reported lame by the vet, and one has to wonder how much work he has missed and how long he has taken to get right again. Will more than likely need the run, but if he is ready to go and at the top of his game he would have a serious chance. All things considered probably best watched unless the market suggests a big run is expected.
7. SHORT SQUEEZE (PALMER/BENTLEY)
5yo gelded son of Cape Cross with four handicap wins to his name, the last off a mark of 103. He has run well in Listed company since, including a close second to today’s rival Kodi Bear at Windsor (8.5F good to firm) when he had to concede 10lbs to the winner. Is 4lbs better off with that rival today and that could be enough to see him reverse the form.
However, he was well held behind Mondialiste on his last run at Pontefract in another Listed contest, and given that he was well beaten behind Captain Cat in the Group 3 he won at Haydock the doubts have to remain regarding his capability at this level. Wouldn’t want too much rain either.
8. WANNABE YOURS (GOSDEN/HAVLIN)
4yo colt rated 107 that showed massive improvement from his 2yo season when coming out and winning his first three races as a 3yo, culminating in a Group 3 win at Goodwood (8F good to firm). Previously landed a handicap by 9 lengths off 84 at Doncaster on soft ground, so won’t mind if conditions deteriorate.
The big worry has to be his form so far this year as he has finished well beaten on both starts, on good to soft in a Listed heat at York, and then well behind Arod in a Group 2 at Ascot on good to firm. A line through Arod would give him a lot to find with some of his rivals, and he needs to show more before he could be considered as a viable punting proposition. Best watched.
9. FANCIFUL ANGEL (BOTTI/LANE)
3yo colt that has tasted victory in a maiden and a Listed race during his nine race career and is rated 105. Gets a handy weight for age allowance from some of his rivals. Has run well at Group 2 and 3 level on a couple of occasions, including behind Dutch Connection when not beaten all that far in the Jersey Stakes at Royal Ascot (7F good to firm).
He shaped as though the step back up to a mile would suit that day, and indeed he looked as if he needed every inch of the eight furlongs when he won his Listed race at Lingfield. Also ran well over 8F at Cologne in the German 2000 Guineas, so today’s trip is perfect for him. Unproven on ground softer than good to soft, so the forecast rain could be a worry. Has a fair bit to find on form in any case, so probably has each way possibilities at best.
10. KODI BEAR (COX/MOSSE)
3yo colt that was quickly stepped into pattern company last season after a superb debut effort behind subsequent Group 2 winner Adaay at Newbury (6F good). Ran well at Royal Ascot over the same trip, and won his third start at the same track in a Listed contest, lowering the colours of the useful Disegno (7F good). An admirable 2nd to Belardo followed in the Dewhurst (7F soft), which showed he can handle cut in the ground.
Defeated Short Squeeze by 3/4 of a length at Windsor back in June on his first run of the season (8.5 good to firm) and his second and most recent start saw him back at the top table, running a decent race in 4th behind Territories at Chantilly in the Prix Jean Prat. He gets a handy weight for age allowance from some of his main rivals and on the figures he looks to have an obvious chance. However, as was pointed out earlier, I’m not sure Short Squeeze is quite up to this sort of level, and he will need to show more than he did when beating the Palmer horse at Windsor if he is to win here. Rain would be a major boost to his chances.
11. MUSTADEEM (MEEHAN/HANAGAN)
Last but not least, is another promising 3yo colt who hails from the Brian Meehan yard. Rated 108 he has a fair but to find with the principals here, and he has yet to win in four runs since winning his maiden at the third attempt. Three of those came at Listed level, the other in a Group 3, and his best run came behind the ultra-impressive Time Test in the Tercentenary Stakes at Royal Ascot (10F good to firm).
Bombed out in a Listed race (10F) last time out, finishing stone last beaten over twenty lengths. Did way too much too soon that day and surely he is better judged on his previous effort behind Time Test. Even a repeat of that would still not suffice here though, and hopes are pinned on the drop back in trip eking out the necessary improvement.
A chance is taken on last year’s winner CAPTAIN CAT, who is proven at the course, over the trip and at this level. His last couple of runs have been poor, but he could be set to return to form back at this track. Custom Cut looks the biggest danger and the consistent Dark Emerald can fill the places.
Three year old horses have traditionally struggled in this race, and it could well be a similar story this year, unless the rain arrives in time for Kodi Bear. Moohaarib and Shifting Power will be dangers to all if in top form, but that is far from guaranteed.
1. CAPTAIN CAT
2. CUSTOM CUT
3. DARK EMERALD
4. SHORT SQUEEZE