After an eternity of rain and depressingly grey weather, much of the UK is being treated to some actual, real-life sunshine and warmth this week, setting a perfect scene at Flat Racing HQ for their three-day Craven Stakes meeting. Newmarket’s opening event of the season hits its peak on Thursday with with ROARING LION trading at odds-on for the Craven Stakes itself at 3.35pm. John Gosden is sure to have another stellar year and a win for this 118-rated, 2000 Guineas bound son of Kitten’s Joy would certainly set the Master trainer on the right path in that respect — but is this jolly vulnerable? Is there any value to be had in taking him on?
Hugo Palmer has secured the services of one Ryan Moore for his unexposed runner White Mocha, a winner in two of his three career starts to date. Rated 99, he has a small mountain to climb to get involved here, while his speed figures as a 2yo don’t really stack up either. Charlie Appleby has saddled up 7 winners from 13 runners in the past 28 days and the Godolphin trainer boasts an impressive 26% strike rate from all of his runners at Newmarket. With two runners in the Craven Stakes, he looks the only man capable of upsetting favourite backers. Masar has some of the better 2yo form on offer, but his profile is patchy at best and it is difficult to know exactly what he will bring to the table first time out.
So the interesting runner for the stable is GLORIOUS JOURNEY, an unbeaten son of Dubawi who landed a Group 3 in France after winning his maiden over 6f at the July course last June. He’s been off the track since September and has to forfeit experience to his chief rivals here, but he’s done everything right so far and is very interesting with another winter under his belt and the yard in very promising form.
The “Race Of The Day” tag on Thursday must go elsewhere from the Craven however, as the 3.00pm Group 3 Abernant Stakes over 6f is going to be an absolute blinder. The returning Brando won this race last year and also won a Group 1 in France during a busy 2017 for the son of Pivotal. Reported to have had a breathing operation since we last saw him, Kevin Ryan’s charge very much sets the standard on the best of his sprint form. The elephant in the room however – and it’s a big one – is the French raider LE BRIVIDO, who finished runner-up in the French 2000 Guineas before display signs of real class at Royal Ascot when battling hard to deny Spirit Of Valor in the Jersey Stakes. He hasn’t been seen since, but is generally regarded as a top class prospect for the 2018 season.
A drop back to 6f is an interesting move first time out considering how progressive he appears to be at 7f-1m+, but the fact remains that Le Brivido is unbeaten in two starts at 6f and there’s no obvious reason why he shouldn’t have the speed to do himself justice against some tricky older rivals, and a few other 4yos *(including Spirit Of Valor)* in opposition. Mick Easterby’s Perfect Pasture has fitness and confidence on his side after a quality win in the Cammidge Trophy at Doncaster, so he has to be respected, but can he reproduce that form at a new track? The 8yo has had 46 career starts, not one of them at Newmarket…a fair feat.
Magical Memory is another talented name to consider for Charles Hills, with that man Frankie Dettori booked to ride, but the record shows him to be a horse that is exceptionally difficult to catch right. However, the addition of the pint-sized Italian in 10 of the 6yo’s 26 career starts, realises a better overall hit rate, with form figures for the pair reading: 1111470210 (5/10). He won this race in 2016 and at double figure odds, might be worth a small saver.
But the French have done well with the Flatsters they’ve sent over to Britain so far in 2018 and exciting 4yo LE BRIVIDO certainly fits the description “Disruptive Youngster” from our neighbours on the continent and hopefully he can develop into a horse to be reckoned with in the months to come. A Group 3 win here over 6f would certainly open up some options for him at sprinting distances, but you get the feeling that the 1 Mile division is very much up for grabs and that this horse will likely excel over further. Which of course puts him firmly in-line for tilts at races like the Lockinge Stakes and the Queen Anne Stakes at Royal Ascot, in the early part of the Summer.
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