14:35 Newmarket (6f Group 1)
It’s an outstanding day of racing on Saturday as Newmarket hosts some fantastic races. At 14:35 eight of the finest two year old fillies of the season clash in the Group 1 Cheveley Park Stakes but three really stand out.
Three runs, three wins for Illuminate and trainer Richard Hannon must be delighted with her progress this season. She won the Albany Stakes at Royal Ascot in June and then followed that up with a win in the Duchess Of Cambridge Stakes at the Newmarket July Festival. The fact she hasn’t run for two and a half months is a concern though.
She won by just a nose that day and the horse she beat was Besharah. Since then William Haggas’ filly has gone on to flourish and win two classy races. A win in the Group 3 Princess Margaret Stakes in July was followed up by an emphatic win in the Group 2 Lowther Stakes during the Ebor Festival at York in August. Without doubt Besharah has improved since Illuminate beat her in June and she’s fancied to reverse form on Saturday.
But the most intriguing piece of this fascinating puzzle is the Mark Johnston trained Lumiere. This exciting horse has only run two times and has real scope in the tank you’d imagine. She blitzed her rivals here on the July course by six lengths in July and then took a huge step up in class in the Lowther Stakes in August. She was sent off favourite that day which in retrospect was a tad unfair due to her lack of experience and she was beaten into second by Besharah. You’d like to think she’ll come on for that run and post a stronger effort here.
This is a fascinating race with the key form all intertwined but preference goes to Besharah to make it three wins in a row. After beating Lumiere by two and a half lengths last month she should have enough to repel her again.
15:10 Newmarket (6f Group 1)
This is another fantastic race for two year olds on Saturday – although this one features colts rather than fillies. Unlike the previous race it’s very much dominated by one runner and that’s Shalaa. The John Gosden trained juvenile has been the most impressive two year old of the season with a clutch of brutal, impressive and versatile performances. Finishing last in his opening race in May certainly didn’t set the tone for the rest of the season and that poor performance has been followed up by four eye-catching runs at this trip. A win had already been banked when Shalaa won the Group 2 July Stakes at Newmarket in July on firm ground and that was followed up exactly three weeks later by a stunning win in the Group 2 Richmond Stakes. Perhaps the most impressive win of all though came in the Group 1 Prix Morny last month in ground described officially as very soft. To go from a firm ground win one month to a very soft one the very next shows real guts. But will it come at a cost?
It’s great to see Buratino in the line up but you just get the impression he may have reached his peak for the season earlier in the summer. He looked a little outclassed in the Group 1 Phoenix Stakes in August and is passed up here.
The horse that can perhaps hurt Shalaa is Ajaya. The William Haggas trained colt seems to be getting better with every run and was a smart winner of the Group 2 Gimcrack Stakes at York last month. The runner up that day Ribchester has since gone on to win the Group 2 Mill Reef Stakes and that strengthens the case further for Ajaya. Is Shalaa better than him? Yes of course, but after a tough run on the very soft terrain in France last month is there a case for taking him on? Very much so.
15:50 Newmarket (1m 1f Handicap)
Punting doesn’t get much tougher than this, a 35 runner handicap over nine furlongs. Yes, it can only be the Cambridgeshire! Let’s pick out two on the place market.
Educate looks to have some class about him and seems to flit between top handicaps and lower Group racing. This season he’s finished third to Balty Boys, second to the very smart The Corsican at Goodwood and has won over course and distance.
Portage has only run six times and looks unexposed in this experienced, hardy field. After three runs in Ireland, trainer Michael Halford took him to Royal Ascot for the Britannia Stakes. Things didn’t go well that day but he bounced back magnificently to win a handicap at the same track on King George day. He looked a smart animal that day and followed that up with a second place in the Irish version of this race. He looks to have a big chance here.
188BET Weekend Horse Racing Best Bets
14:35 Newmarket – Besharah to Win
15:10 Newmarket – Ajaya to Win
15:50 Newmarket – Educate to Place
15:50 Newmarket – Portage to Place