READY, WILLING, ENABLE?
Whether Derab is ready or willing, only the race – his first race – will tell, at 3.05. But whether he’s another Enable is another matter entirely, the price to pay for having a star such as Enable as his half-sister, both a blessing and a curse, an albatross around his neck.
By Sea The Stars, the sky’s the limit as far as Derab’s pedigree goes, but he has been given no bigger entries as yet and, in the absence of Dettori, you might have expected Rab Havlin to do the starting steering, yet he’s on the other Gosden representative, Highland Rocker, leaving Martin Harley aboard Derab.
In a field of two-thirds newcomers, all clues count, and the most expensive horse in the line-up is Godolphin’s £¾m worth of Lope De Vega, named La Barrosa, though the portents are more positive for Greatgadian, from his Royal Lodge entry to the fact that his top trainer, Roger Varian, has introduced a pair of sharp and successful juveniles at the last two Ascot meetings, Zabeel Queen and Laneqash; and Varian won this race with a newcomer (Prince Eiji) in 2018.
WHERE THERE’S A WILL…
There’s a Whelans Way, the only previous course winner in the 5.20, which is an unusual state of affairs for a 20-runner sprint handicap, though half of them are 3-y-os, a case of into the lion’s den for most, in a field of this shape and size.
That augments any advantage that Whelans Way might have as the only one with a “been there, done that” Ascot t-shirt, and it’s not just the track at which he’s got “previous” but the race itself, finishing third (of 16) last year from the same mark he’s running off this time.
Since his Newbury win (6f) in June, Whelans Way has gone off at 11/4 and 2/1, but over 5f, which is out of his comfort zone, and here he’s returning to his favoured trip, as well as one of his favoured tracks.
In short, everything is in place for Whelans Way, in a race that doesn’t look so competitive as the numbers might suggest, and a draw in the middle (12) makes life easier for James Doyle, who won on him at Newbury.
SECOND STRING TO SHINE?
Roger Varian is the top trainer at Ascot this year, operating at a terrific 29% strike-rate, with 10 wins from 35 runners. Two of those successes came courtesy of Look Closely, by virtue of progress but also position, perfectly placed as both races went, and he’d be lucky to have things drop so well a third time, in the 3.40, all of which means Varian’s supposed second string is worth a second look.
Emirates Knight has never run at Ascot, but it’s a good fit for him in theory, the skills that make him such a good Kempton operator bound to serve him well around here, namely a straightforward style and a few gears to go to. He’s also fresher than most in here, after just two runs (at Kempton) this year, and it’s strong form, a neck second to the thriving Palavecino prior to chasing home Omnivega and a couple of improving 3-y-os.
PROFESSIONALISM OR POTENTIAL?
In novice events, usually it’s one or the other: to trust in experience, or to gamble on promise. But the reason thatPure Dreamer will be so hard to beat in the 1.55 at Ascot is that he combines both. Three runs so far haven’t got to the bottom of him, including when he was favourite for a nursery at York’s Ebor meeting, finishing fourth but the only one of the dozen to make up meaningful ground.
Dandys Derriere has made a strong start to his career but, with his penalty, he’ll do well to give 6 lb to Pure Dreamer, and Twilight Calls, though clearly having an engine based on what he did for four-fifths of his debut at Newbury, needs to have cultivated a lot more in the way of end product in the meantime.
The best of the trio of newcomers looks to be Dark Shift, from the family of Ulysses and Light Shift, and given a Derby entry by Charlie Hills, but he’ll have to run to a rating in the mid-80s straight away to contain Pure Dreamer, which is rather the point, as he sets a high standard for an auction event, and he’s not yet shown all he’s got.