Celestial Path is our fancy for the Racing Post Trophy.
The Racing Post Trophy has, in recent years, enjoyed something of a reputation as a vehicle for Aidan O’Brien to parade his future Derby hopes, with the much-vaunted trio of St Nicholas Abbey, Camelot and Kingsbarns defending unbeaten records on Town Moor, and the entries for the latest renewal have been dominated again by Ballydoyle. It might be expected, therefore, that O’Brien’s representatives in the race will be handpicked as the best he has, but there is something slightly different about his approach, and it may be that the clues can be read more clearly in the 2013 running won by Kingston Hill.
Last year, O’Brien sent Buonarotti, Century and Johann Strauss to Doncaster, and while they attracted a fair degree of market support between them, none could lay a glove on facile winner Kingston Hill, and history has shown that they were makeweights in the grand scheme of the stable’s overall strength. In fact, the threesome have to this day only managed to score in maiden company, and there must be a possibility that the 2014 team are in similar mould, with Jacobean, rather than his Curragh conqueror Royal Navy Ship looking the main hope ahead of Newmarket maiden winner Aloft.
Jacobean is, in all likelihood, a much better prospect than the one who beat him on debut, and given he was taken to the outside of the field in that cavalry charge, did very well to get so close to his stablemate, who took advantage of a rail draw to make most. The race is sure to have brought him on significantly, and while he is returned to the track pretty quickly after his maiden, it was a similar story with Kingsbarns in 2012. More impressive in physique (tall, rangy) than on pedigree, he is a fascinating contender, but one who is sure to be plenty short enough in the market given his apparent status as the anointed one from Ballydoyle.
Of more interest in form terms is Elm Park, whose credentials at this level cannot be questioned after he ran out a ready winner of the Royal Lodge at Newmarket late last month. That represented a career-best effort from the son of Phoenix Reach, who was racing in the claret silks of Qatar Racing for the first time. T
he going was quite quick at Newmarket, but he handled dead ground when winning his maiden at Newbury, and it’s worth noting that his sire’s best offspring have all handled plenty of cut. Elm Park is stoutly bred, with his sire a resolute galloper and his dam showed her best form at 1¼m. The stiffer test of stamina he will get at Doncaster will suit, and there is no doubt that he’s the likeliest winner on paper, albeit with that fact not missed by the market. He’d only be of interest if support for others saw him drift to 9/4 or bigger.
Another to consider seriously is William Muir’s Restorer, and a win here would cap what has been an excellent year for the Lambourn trainer. His grey son of Mastercraftsman is another for whom soft ground would be no concern, and he looked a tad unlucky when runner-up in the Autumn Stakes at Newmarket two weeks ago.
He caught the eye finishing well from an unpromising position there, having not handled the infamous dip very well, and while his 33/1 price tag suggests that he ran above himself on the day, there seemed no hint of a fluke about that run, and he is probably guilty only of winning his maiden at an unfashionable venue. That effort at HQ demonstrates that he is worthy of his place in this field, and he was incorrectly priced up when betting for this race opened. That anomaly has been corrected to a large extent in the last couple of days, but he’s still one to bear in mind at current odds.
Celestial Path has impressed in a couple of starts to date, looking to have no shortage of stamina when running out an easy winner of a listed race at Haydock last month, and while that race wasn’t hugely competitive for the grade, the speed figure he clocked marks him down as a smart prospect. Sir Mark doesn’t get many Group winners, but that’s merely because he sticks doggedly to the maxim: “Keep yourself in the best company, and your horses in the worst” – make no mistake that the baronet can train a good one when he gets it, and Celestial Path is definitely good.
Whether he’s good enough to land a race like this is up for debate, and the fact that Medrano, who chased him home at Haydock, was soundly beaten by Elm Park in the Royal Lodge suggests he’s comfortably held by the favourite. On the plus side, he would have won with much more authority in a truly run race there, and there is a strong suspicion that we are still just scratching the surface with this good-looking colt. With the strong prospect of further improvement, he’s taken to disprove that collateral formline, and makes most appeal at the current odds.
The others all have a bit to prove, with Snoano probably a little flattered by his win in the Haynes Hanson & Clarke at Newbury, where the warm favourite flopped. He showed determination to withhold the late challenge of Acaster Malbis there, but was all out to do so, and that form is probably as good as he is as a juvenile, for all he’ll benefit from strengthening up over the winter.
The BetBright Verdict
Selection: Celestial Path
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