There is a strange race at Newmarket today for which only grey horses are eligible. That seems to be a gimmick and the meaningful action is at Newbury where Daban can win the feature Hungerford Stakes. The racing is very much about quantity rather than quality as there are nine meetings in Britain and Ireland and just one Group 2 race and two Group 3 contests. In terms of status the Hungerford Stakes is the main race of the day.
There is a lull in proceedings at this juncture. Goodwood has been done and dusted and the Ebor Meeting at York takes place from Wednesday to Saturday next week. We are now getting towards the massive autumn occasions like Champions Day at Ascot and the Arc, both in October. York fits in neatly because of the dates so the meeting attracts the best horses in Britain and Ireland.
If ‘100 people were surveyed’ and asked about their favourite racecourse there would probably be a geographical split. Northerners would say York is the best track in the country and southerners would go for Ascot. York is known as the Ascot of the north but in Yorkshire Ascot is known as the York of the south. The Ebor Meeting is the biggest Flat occasion in the north and the racing is spectacular.
Goodwood has benefitted from an input of prize money from Qatar while York enjoys the patronage of Saudi Arabia. The Juddmonte International is the richest race at York and the farm of that name is owned by a member of the Saudi Arabia royal family. The favourite for the Group 1 race is Barney Roy, owned by Godolphin who are based in UAE. There could be some interesting Middle Eastern diplomatic issues in Yorkshire next week but at Goodwood the racing dominated the occasion.
Some critics have said the Racing Pattern has been devalued by the increase in races at the highest level. However, nobody could complain about excessive top-level racing this weekend but that makes sense with York just around the corner. Over the four days there are three Group 1 races and 10 Group races in total. The Juddmonte International is one of the best in the world on ratings and the Ebor is the richest Flat handicap in Europe. The minimum prize fund is £70,000 for each race at York.
The best horse running at York next week could be Enable, in the Yorkshire Oaks. The horse is now the clear favourite for the Arc after France’s two main contenders ran poorly last week. On form and ratings Enable is the banker of the meeting and looks nailed on to confirm the form with Rhododendron from the Oaks at Epsom. There was a five length gap in that race and off level weights again Enable should win the race with something in hand.
Daban has some collateral form with Enable and looks overpriced at about 7/1 for the Hungerford Stakes. The race is run over seven furlongs and horses aged three and older are eligible. As a three-year-old filly Daban gets weight allowances from the older and male horses so caries up to 11 pounds less than the other runners. That type of age and sex allowance has been crucial in some major races this season and Daban can be another filly to profit from the weights.
Daban finished just over two lengths behind Winter in the 1,000 Guineas with Rhododendron a neck closer to the winner. That form would place Daban just below the higher echelons of the three-year-old filly’s hierarchy this season. The horse won the Nell Gwynn Stakes at Newmarket in April, a race that often identifies one of the best three-year-olds of the season. Winter and Enable came along so Daban dropped down the pecking order but the form is strong in the context of the Hungerford Stakes.
Librisa Breeze is the race favourite but carries eight pounds more than Daban. On official ratings the former has the better from but not by as much as the relative odds suggest. The key race is the Lennox Stakes at Goodwood. Breton Rock won that race and beat Librisa Breeze by over three lengths off the same weight. Librisa Breeze gets three pounds in the Newbury race so in theory under the race conditions there is nothing to choose between the horses but Breton Rock is more than double the price.
Daban has been placed in a Classic and the same level of form will be enough for the horse to beat Breton Rock and Librisa Breeze and win the 2017 Hungerford Stakes.