THE CHEVELEY PARK STAKES
The six-furlong Group 1 at Newmarket in October is the Cheveley Park Stakes in name, but the Princess Margaret Stakes is as much the Cheveley Park Stakes in nature, or nurture, because the famous red, white and blue silks were carried to victory by Russian Rhythm in 2002, by Soar in 2004, and by Angel’s Hideaway last year, while Dance Diva, Regal Realm and Nannina were all placed.
Step forward Dark Lady, from a high-class Cheveley Park family (granddam was Peeress), who booked her ticket for this with a 5l firework display at Lingfield, in turn paying a classy compliment to her Newbury suppressor So Sharp, who’s also coming to play at Ascot.
Both are Group-class fillies, make no mistake, but the problem for the pair is that they may well be up against the best two-year-old filly around, such is the impression that Summer Romance has made in winning her two starts by a combined total of 8l, looking Kingman’s queen among juveniles.
What a way to start the day, because this is the most meaty and meaningful renewal of the Princess Margaret there’s been for a long time: Raffle Prize’s position as top dog in the division is very much under threat from this blue-blooded bunch.
THREE IS THE MAGIC NUMBER
What number attempt is this for him in the race: three. What’s his lenient penalty in pounds: three. Where’s he drawn: three. That’s why three is the magic number for Makzeem in the Moet & Chandon International Stakes at 2.25.
In the 2017 edition, when favourite, Makzeem was first home…in his disadvantaged group but only sixth overall, and last year he was really motoring when hitting traffic and trouble. So, this race owes him one, and he arrives in the form of his life, having hacked up at Newbury last weekend, putting himself way ahead of the game in handicapping terms.
You know the racing cliché of ‘the bigger the field the bigger the certainty?’ Well try telling that to Makzeem, who’s got 28 rivals to deal with, amongst them the first three from last year’s renewal, Burnt Sugar, Arbalet and Ripp Orf, and it wouldn’t be an Ascot handicap without Raising Sand.
All the same, Makzeem stands out from the crowd, who’s following the maxim of is at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. Third time lucky?
LIGHT THE HOME-TURN TOUCHPAPER
It’s the home turn of the King George when all hell will break loose. We can talk – and believe me we will talk in the build-up on Sky Sports Racing – about weights and measures, about terms and conditions, but the bend run from 3f out to 2f out will be the most dynamic and decisive furlong of the race and perhaps the season.
That’s the point in Enable’s playbook when she powers up. We know that, and her rivals riders know that, and plans can be as easily disrupted as executed, especially when Ballydoyle are running not one, not two, not three but four.
And ‘fighting fire with fire’ is the term I’ve hijacked for Crystal Ocean, because his skill-set is virtually the same as Enable’s, blessed with the speed and the style to cover any move she makes, if he’s in position.
It’s a twelve-furlong race, but the tenth furlong alone will be worth the entry fee, as that’s when it will all kick off. The dynamics of the drama and the drama of the dynamics is the reason this year’s King George is unmissable.
LIKE FATHER, LIKE SON?
It’s fitting that on the day of the King George, a race the legendary Pat Eddery won twice (Grundy in 1975 and Dancing Brave in 1986), a race is named in his memory. Prior to its renaming as the Pat Eddery Stakes in 2016, a year after his death, the two-year-old race was known as the Winkfield Stakes, established in 2006, since when it has been the launchpad for two Group 1 winners, latterly Toronado and firstly Raven’s Pass.
By any measurement, Buhturi, a son of Raven’s Pass, faces a tall order in this year’s renewal, coming in off a maiden win, lighter on experience than all bar one, the one being a budding monster for Godolphin by the name of Al Dabaran, but there have been flashes of his sire’s style in Buhturi’s two runs.
A debut second at Goodwood was followed by a win at Haydock which hardly met market expectation (went off 4/9), scrambling home on the face of it, but it gets better with a re-watch, and there’s a feeling that Buhturi is building to something big.