The recent heavy rain is nothing new for Sandown Park’s top evening meeting of the year, featuring the Group 3 Cantor Fitzgerald Brigadier Gerard Stakes. With soft going likely, there may be one or two defections but this quality card always throws up plenty of Royal Ascot clues.
An intriguing Cantor Fitzgerald Equities National Stakes produced Rizeena last year and this Listed contest features three unbeaten horses this time around.
Seven horses have been declared for this 5 furlong dash, headed by the once-raced unbeaten Cock Of The North. Scott Dixon’s son of Cockney Rebel was an impressive 3 length winner on debut at Doncaster in March and steps up in class here.
Escalating was well beaten by Cock Of The North on debut but put that poor effort behind him when winning at Kempton Park a couple of weeks later. He then went to Ascot and was involved in a controversial finish, having veered violently left and arguably hampering Kibaar, before finishing first past the post by half a length. Even so, that showed Escalating to be a progressive type and Pat Eddery’s son of Three Valleys comes here with plenty of experience.
Roudee made a winning debut at Ripon but came off second best at Chester against Mukhmal, who might be a very smart colt. Tom Dascombe’s colt is certainly entitled to run well here.
Via Via represents Clive Brittain who of course trained Rizeena to win this race en-route to a sparkling two year old season last term. Via Via is a son of French Guineas and Derby winner Lope De Vega and won a Ripon maiden by a neck and is hard to assess.
Bonnie Grey is an interesting runner having landed his maiden in impressive style in soft going, at Warwick earlier this month. Rod Millman’s son of Hellvelyn cannot be completely discounted as he steps up in class.
Cajoling is a filly out of Intense Focus and after disappointing on debut, made no mistake next time out when beating the beautifully bred Russian Heroine at Windsor. Her price that day suggests she was not strongly fancied but the result was decisive.
Tiggy Wiggy has been selected as the Richard Hannon runner and that may be a tip given the mass of two year old talent at his disposal. This daughter of smart stallion Kodiac, was out early and made a huge impression when winning her maiden on debut by 7 lengths at Kempton Park in March. Whilst the form was perhaps not much to write home about, Tiggy Wiggy followed-up in a small Salisbury race in early May. She then ran a fine race to finish second in a Listed contest at York, beaten half a length by Patience Alexander and looks a leading contender here.
The Cantor Fitzgerald Henry II Stakes has often given some valuable insight into the Gold Cup at Royal Ascot and this year might be no exception.
Twelve horses have been declared, headed by the classy recent Chester winner Brown Panther, who should handle conditions with no problem. Last year’s Goodwood Cup winner readily disposed of the smart Hillstar on rain-softened ground in the Ormonde Stakes and looks a big threat here.
Camborne is an interesting runner for John Gosden and enjoyed a fine end to last season, winning Newbury’s Group 3 Arc Trial. Whilst he ran seventh in the recent Yorkshire Cup behind Gospel Choir, he was only 4 ½ lengths adrift and staying on well from the back and a better performance is expected on this occasion.
Biographer hasn’t won since October 2012 and was a well beaten eighth in a Nottingham contest in April. Whilst the ground should not inconvenience this son of Montjeu, the quality of opposition might on recent form.
El Salvador makes the journey over from Aidan O’Brien’s yard and is partnered by Ryan Moore. The 5 year old chestnut son of Galileo has clearly had complications and pulled up at Leopardstown last July and was not seen out again until winning at Limerick last month. He was then beaten just a nose by Tarana in a Listed race at the same venue and had some useful sorts behind including Inis Meain and Parish Hall.
The German colt Girolamo travels over having run poorly when last of seven at Cologne on his comeback run. He now steps significantly up in trip, running 2 miles for the first time.
High Jinx ran his usual creditable race when fifth in the Yorkshire Cup last time and has sound place claims but rarely wins these days.
Then we have the intriguing prospect of Menorah making his Flat racing debut. This Cheltenham Festival winner certainly enjoyed Sandown Park and soft conditions when winning the Listed Oaksey Chase on his most recent start at the end of April and it will be fascinating to see how Philip Hobbs’s 9 year old gets on, with Kieren Fallon taking the ride.
Oriental Fox landed the Cesarewitch Trial at Newmarket last autumn and ran well to finish sixth to stable mate Scatter Dice in the real thing. He will strip a lot fitter for his 6 lengths third to Tac De Boistron in the Sagaro Stakes last month but probably needs to improve.
Ex-German Group 1 winner Seismos is an interesting runner for Marco Botti. Last year’s Grosser Preis von Bayern winner has since travelled to France, Canada, Hong Kong and Dubai and now makes his English debut, having disappointed at Meydan.
Tiger Cliff made a hugely promising return when beaten just ¾ of a length by Gospel Choir in the Yorkshire Cup and looking a real threat. Now trained by Alan King, Tiger Cliff landed last year’s Ebor but has at times looked like this is more his grade and he is likely to prove a big danger.
Whiplash Willie is something of a dark horse and Andrew Balding’s 6 year old son of Phoenix Reach made a remarkable winning comeback at Salisbury in soft ground at the beginning of May. That was Whiplash Willie’s first run since August 2011, when he finished a fine second in the Melrose Handicap at York, having won at Glorious Goodwood before that. He clearly retains ability but has had problems and there is the risk of the dreaded ‘bounce’ factor, but connections clearly think a lot of him to have persevered for so long.
Body Language completes the field and finished second to Oriental Fox in that Newmarket contest last year. She was well down the field in the Chester Cup but showed promise when fourth in a Listed Hamilton handicap last time out. However this contest is much tougher.
The feature race is the Cantor Fitzgerald Brigadier Gerard Stakes and has a field of five runners, largely because of the ground.
Last year’s QEII runner-up Top Notch Tonto steps up in trip here, having disappointed in the soft at this course in April and then run sixth behind Olympic Glory in the Lockinge Stakes.
Hillstar was a most progressive 3 year old colt last term, progressing from handicaps to land the King Edward VIIth Stakes and then placing in the King George. He failed to handle the track in Meydan but ran much better when chasing home Brown Panther at Chester and is capable of more.
Remote is a fascinating runner here, having been off the course since winning the Group 3 Tercentenary Stakes at Royal Ascot last June. That was Remote’s third win on the trot and he might have played a significant role in the remainder of the season but for problems. It is interesting to see him kept in training and his return to action may provide a platform for bigger targets although on this first run, in possibly testing conditions, he is probably best watched.
Sharestan is another to make his seasonal debut, having moved from the Aga Khan’s ownership to Godolphin. Two years ago Sharestan won the Irish Linconshire Handicap and was beaten just a head by that prolific Group winner Famous Name whilst trained in Ireland by John Oxx. However a campaign in Meydan in spring 2013 yielded one victory from four starts and after a lengthy break he returned to win the Listed Doonside Cup at Ayr in September. Sharestan has not been seen out since but is a talented individual at his best.
Sheikhzayedroad completes the line-up and David Simcok’s 5 year old has run some good races in defeat, twice finishing placed last term behind Forgotten Voice in the Wolferton Handicap at Royal Ascot and then third in the Group 3 Glorious Stakes at Goodwood. Having landed a handicap in Meydan he found the competition stiffer during the spring and comes back here after a break.
The Cantor Fitzgerald Corporate Finance Heron Stakes is a Listed contest that often throws up one or two improving horses set to take higher order in Group mile contests later in the season. Perhaps the best advertisement for the Heron Stakes came in 1979 when the mighty Kris started his long string of victories here, having been narrowly defeated by Tap On Wood in the 2,000 Guineas.
End Of Line heads the five runners and did run in a Guineas on his latest start; finishing ninth to Karakontie in France. In fairness he was drawn wide on that occasion and does not seemingly face anything of that quality here. He is perhaps better judged on his four lengths second to What About Carlo in soft ground here a month ago and is certainly open to improvement having run just the three times so far.
That is twice more than Indy, who won a Doncaster maiden by four lengths in soft going last November and is very hard to assess on that sole effort. The second that day was Penny Drops, who has fair form but is probably short of Listed class at the moment.
Master Carpenter races here and connections will be looking at this race as an opportunity to pick up some nice prize money and a Listed event. Rod Millman’s son of Mastercraftsman has run with great credit on all three appearances this spring and his starting odds of 80/1 in the Greenham seem quite insulting now, given he stayed on most encouragingly for third place behind no less than Kingman and Night Of Thunder. He then ran third to Western Hymn in the bet365 Classic Trial here in April, before chasing home Pinzolo at Newmarket a couple of weeks ago.
John Gosden fields the former Italian-trained Nonno Giulio who landed a race in Italy last year before moving to Newmarket. His sole effort to date was a last place finish in the Investec Derby Trial Stakes at Epsom, won by Our Channel, but of course Epsom suits some horses and not others and he is entitled to another chance.
Patentar won his only start at two and Marco Botti then cast him into the cauldron of the Craven Stakes for his three year old debut. Patentar found that contest too hot but was not entirely disgraced finishing 6 lengths fourth to Toormore and subsequent Dante Stakes winner The Grey Gatsby. That race looks pretty good now and suggests Patentar has a fair modicum of ability and with only two races under his belt, he is open to improvement.