Ralph Beckett has won the last two renewals of the Group 2 Park Hill Stakes at 3.00pm, in 2016 with the brilliant Simple Verse and last year with 25/1 outsider Alyssa. The master at Kimpton Downs Stables is represented by Isabel De Urbina in search of a hat-trick, a very decent but ultimately inconsistent filly who wears cheek-pieces for the first time in the £100,000 Thursday showpiece at 3.00pm.
Seven of the last ten winners of the Park Hill went off at 5/1 or less, so it is reasonable to expect a fancied runner to score in 2018 and this year, the market leading duo cut a formidable pair for the remaining six fillies to aspire at. The 4yo generation have a better record in the race in the past decade, but 3yo market leader PILASTER could well be a cut above these if she continues an impressive rate of progression so far in the famous Cheveley Park colours. Roger Varian’s Nathaniel filly finished 7th on her only start as a 2yo, but is unbeaten in three races so far in 2018 and in her last two races, she has displayed a real touch of class which will carry her far if she continues to thrive on racing.
Pilaster’s last three Racing Post Ratings (RPRs) read: 94, 101, 108, while her Topspeed figures across the same winning run read: 80, 91, 103. It’s clear to see she is going the right way and another similar step forward for this 1m6f contest should see her land a second Group success.
She gets a 10lb weight-for-age allowance against her main market rival, Horseplay, who scored an RPR of 111 and TS of 87 when finishing a respectable 4th behind the top notch and Arc-bound Sea Of Class in the Yorkshire Oaks last time out. There is a reason the older horses have to give weight to their youngers, but on theory of pure form-based ability, Horseplay does have a bit on her plate to give Pilaster the thick end of a stone and a beating, despite having a 3lb advantage on adjusted RPRs and considerably more experience.
Horseplay also needs to prove she gets the trip, over an additional two furlongs, while Pilaster has already won at this distance at Goodwood in early August, where she beat the very useful Maid Up, who has been supplemented to take her chance in the St Leger on Saturday. So for backers of Pilaster, stamina is assured – which is important.
Good to soft ground is a bit of an unknown, but Pilaster is a seemingly versatile and straightforward type of animal, so she is ticking all the boxes for me here under the diminutive Italian maestro that is Andrea Atzeni.
If there is to be a surprise, it could well come in the form of the aforementioned Isabel De Urbina, who has stacks of experience to call upon and conditions will be just about perfect for Beckett’s charge. If the headgear sharpens her up, she may not be far away. But it’s Pilaster for me in the feature contest on Day 1 of the brilliant St Leger meeting on the Town Moor.
The £300,000 Weatherby’s Racing Bank 2yo Stakes at 3.35pm is a hugely valuable 6f contest for some of the sharpest juvenile sprinters around. As you’d expect, it is a well populated race and a hard race to predict the outcome of, but I’ll shove up CRITICAL DATA as one that could be over-priced for Richard Hannon and Hollie Doyle, a much improved jockey in 2018. This horse has good form over both 6f and 7f and perhaps that ability to stay a little further will help the in-form colt follow up his recent Wolverhampton success with a respectable run here. An RPR of 89 and Topspeed rating of 85 last time out suggests he is a smart operator in the making and he’s nicely weighted on 8st 6lb on the back of that.
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