Published 17.05 17/05
The highlight of the racing on Saturday is the Group 1 Al Shaqab Lockinge Stakes at Newbury at 3:40. It is the first really big mile event of the season for older horses and it presents a challenge for punters, also.
Should they side with a horse like Le Brivido, favourite despite managing just two runs since a Royal Ascot win two years ago, or Laurens, second favourite despite running for the first time since October, or something else altogether?
I am in the “something else” camp. Laurens’s position is justified if she is spot on for this after her absence, but Le Brivido’s relies too heavily on Aidan O’Brien’s genius with talented but fragile individuals, as Le Brivido seems to be.
Besides anything else, Le Brivido ran as if finding the trip plenty far enough on the only occasion on which he encountered a mile previously, when second in the 2017 French Guineas. His never-nearer third at Naas recently was encouraging but a long way short of what is being asked of him here.
There are plenty of credible alternatives in a field of 14, and the one I like the most is WITHOUT PAROLE, who is a Royal Ascot winner himself – of last year’s St James’s Palace Stakes, no less – and who has shaped better than four unplaced efforts since then might suggest.
In particular, he deserves upgrading for his fifth to global superstar Almond Eye in the Dubai Turf at Meydan last time, paying late on for overdoing things close up (97.7% finishing speed).
Lord Glitters is one of those who came past Without Parole late on, finishing third, and Lord Glitters is a strong contender here again. But a better-judged ride on Without Parole should close the gap and possibly turn the tables.
The other pertinent factor where Without Parole is concerned is that he will be blinkered for the first time at Newbury.
Blinkers can be a positive, or they can be a negative: we shall find out where he is concerned! But “playing a joker” is a more appealing proposition with a horse of proven top-class ability who is a double-figured price than with one who isn’t or who is shorter in the betting.
It looks likely that the Lockinge will be a true test, with front-runner Ostilio in the field as well as the aforementioned Laurens. But a lot of the 14 tend to be dropped out, and I would hope to see the selection sitting on the heels of the leaders rather than further back.
The other action at Newbury makes less appeal from a betting angle. The Listed Shalaa Carnarvon Stakes at 1:50 and the Group 3 Al Rayyan Aston Park Stakes at 2:25 look to be priced up more or less right, though I would have Red Impression (badly drawn last time) a bit shorter in the former and Crystal Ocean (should be a class apart) a bit shorter in the latter than the bookmakers.
The Al Zubarah London Gold Cup at 3:00 could turn up a Group performer of the future – it has been won by Time Test, Defoe and Communique in recent years – and Solid Stone is the most likely candidate this year. But dangers abound to sit out this 16-runner heat.
The card at Newmarket opens with a cracker for the Listed Betway Fairway Stakes at 2:05. Usually, I would be in no hurry to take on a horse like Raise You, who won a maiden at Newbury last time by a wide margin and in a very useful time. But that was on soft ground and he has one up against him here who could prove special.
KHUZAAM has just a second and a win in two all-weather minor events to his name, but sectional and striding analytics point to his being a potential star.
He was recorded showing a 26.4-feet stride at Lingfield (thanks, TPD) and a 26.2-feet one at Kempton, plus sectionals of 10.7s (the fastest final 1f by a two-year-old at the course in the whole of 2018) and 11.2s respectively.
Those are the metrics of a Group performer, and at the odds, – and at a trip/course that should suit him – I am prepared to give Khuzaam a chance to prove it.
There is a super strong field of 16 three-year-olds for the Betway Handicap at 3:15, in which LUXOR is worth getting with despite his own absence to overcome.
He was really impressive when winning a nursery at Newbury last October, showing a smart turn of foot and recording a useful overall time, and in-form trainer William Haggas could justifiably harbour Group ambitions with him this year.
Simon's Best Bets (scale 1-5 points):
2:05 NEWMARKET – BETWAY FAIRWAY STAKES, SATURDAY
2pts win KHUZAAM (9-2 Betfair Sportsbook, Paddy Power, 4-1 general)
3:15 NEWMARKET – BETWAY HANDICAP, SATURDAY
1pt win LUXOR (8-1 bet365, 15-2 William Hill, 7-1 general)
3:40 NEWBURY – AL SHAQAB LOCKINGE STAKES, SATURDAY
1pt win WITHOUT PAROLE (14-1 Ladbrokes, 12-1 Betfred, Bet Victor, Coral, 11-1 William Hill)