Mabs Cross defends Palace House crown on seasonal return

Mare must concede weight all round this year

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Prix de l’Abbaye winner Mabs Cross makes her reappearance in Saturday’s Zoustar Palace House Stakes at Newmarket.

While last season the mare was in receipt of weight from her rivals via the sex allowance, this time around she is giving upwards of 4lb away to each of her 10 rivals.

With that in mind, trainer Michael Dods is well aware of the challenge, but feels the run in the Group Three will benefit her with bigger targets on the horizon.

“We thought getting a run into her would be more beneficial than working her,” said Dods.

“She’s well, hopefully the ground will be nice down there, so we thought the pros outweighed the cons to get her started.

“We knew we had the Temple Stakes at Haydock as an option as well, but she goes well at Newmarket and won it last year so we thought we’d get a run in.

“I’m not saying we won’t go to Haydock, we’ll just see how she goes. We just wanted to get her started.

“It’s nice for Paul (Mulrennan) to get back on her after missing the Abbaye through injury and she’s ready to have a day out. The horses are going well, they are just coming right and running well but it’s a long season, especially for her.”

Aidan O’Brien’s Sergei Prokofiev is a likely favourite after making a winning return to action at Navan and gets 10lb from Mabs Cross.

John Quinn’s El Astronaute thrived on his racing last season, continually surprising the handicapper.

He made a satisfactory return at Musselburgh when second and can be expected to put the pace to the race.

“He ran very well at Musselburgh because he had a penalty there,” said Quinn.

“He seems in very good nick, so we’re looking forward to it. He’s 4lb better off with Tarboosh who was behind us at Musselburgh.

“It’s a good race, but he’s entitled to be there and we expect him to run well.”

The Charlie Hills-trained Equilateral returns to the minimum distance after finishing fourth in the Abernant Stakes on his latest outing.

Hills said: “I’m looking forward to running him back over five furlongs. It certainly looked like that would suit when he ran in the Abernant and he seemed to handle the dip well.

“He’s a horse with a lot of speed and I couldn’t be more pleased with the way he’s been moving since his last run.”

The likes of Major Jumbo, Tarboosh and Queen Of Desire all hold claims to be involved.

Last year’s one-two of Defoe and Red Verdon reoppose in the Roaring Lion Jockey Club Stakes – with Ed Dunlop hoping the latter can turn the tables after he resumed winning ways at Doncaster last time out.

“This is a much higher class race, so we’re under no illusions,” said Dunlop.

“The rain has stayed away from Newmarket, which certainly won’t inconvenience him.

“He seems in good form, we know it’s a tough race but he ran well in it last year, so fingers crossed he’ll run well.

“I think gelding him has helped. He was quite a heavy horse, but he seems a bit lighter and is a bit more enthusiastic now.

“It was good to see him back on track last time but it was only a conditions race, we now go back in against the big boys.”

Roger Varian is obviously hoping for the same result – but would prefer to see some rain.

He told his website: “Any ease in the ground would help Defoe’s chance, but he has come on from his Newbury run, he looks great and we’d be very hopeful.”

William Haggas’ Young Rascal and the Mark Johnston pair of Communique and Mildenberger also take their chances along with John Gosden’s mare Coronet, who has posted a series of good runs in the highest company over the last two years.

Mabs Cross defends Palace House crown on seasonal return
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