Can Aidan O’Brien win every single classic in the UK and Ireland this year? You bet your bottom dollar he can and I’m banking on Rhododendron keeping the Group One ball rolling in the Investec Oaks on Friday at 4.30.
I was sweet on Rain Goddess ante-post for the Ballydoyle team as well, but the master handler relying on his own judgement rather than mine, he’ll aim her at either the Munster Oaks at Cork or the Ribblesdale Stakes at Royal Ascot instead. She will go close wherever she runs.
However, that change of assignment means I have shelved the planned extension to my house and rely instead on the English Guineas runner-up in the fillies’ Classic.
First of all let’s get things straight. Rhododendron wasn’t unlucky in the 1,000 Guineas at Newmarket. It’s just that she didn’t have the requisite tactical speed to get her out of trouble when the eventual winner Winter made her move.
She’s by Galileo out of a Pivotal mare and that blood line screams out for 1m 4f. Granted a clear passage through the race she should see off the likes of Enable (flattered by having the run of the race at Chester) and Prix Saint-Alary heroine Sobetsu.
Praise the skies above, we finally have a double figure field for Thursday’s Coronation Cup which in the last few years has been an egg-and-spoon race.
Last of seven in the Dubai Sheema Classic, Highland Reel looks sure to try and make all over the Derby course, but he has enough to find with Prize Money on that Dubai form. I suspect that Oisin Murphy on Elbereth won’t allow him a free run up top.
Journey is a fascinating opponent having won her last three of 2016, but this is by far the hardest challenge she has faced in her career to date. If there is a heavy pace up front that could just favour the real stayers here, Red Verdon and Idaho.
Stamina to burn
The former is better than his two runs at Sandown and Chester suggest, but I have to admit having a soft spot for Idaho.
Third and second respectively behind Harzand in the Epsom and Curragh Derby’s, he has stamina to burn and we know he handles the twist and turns of the Surrey track.
Incidentally, I know Eaton Square has been pleasing John Gosden at home and is expected to run very well under top weight in the 5.50pm at Epsom on Friday. The main danger is the well-balanced Chester winner Zamjar.
The Investec Derby on Saturday 4.30pm is a real puzzle but one thing we should be able to count on is the ground riding on the fast side of good come post time.
That is a negative for the likes of my original fancy Dubai Thunder (worked very well last week), live outsider Pealer and Benbatl.
I am a huge fan of Cliffs of Moher. True, he only landed the Dee Stakes in workmanlike style, but he was very green and was running on really strongly at the business end. Word from Ballydoyle is that he has come on a bundle for that run and a fast run 1m 4f will be his domain.
Of his rivals, I expect the giant Eminent to stay the trip and drying ground wouldn’t be a problem for him. The supplemented Permian and progressive Cracksman are respected in an open year.
The big sprint of the day, The Dash at 3.45, looks a superb renewal and features the last five winners of the race.
Much will of course depend on the draw, but granted a nice slot Line of Reason, trained by last year’s winning handler Paul Midgley, could be nicely weighted off 97. So grab a nice slice of the 16/1 odds for a tasty each-way play.
The booking of 7lbs claimer Josh Bryan for Blaine for the sprint finale on Saturday at 5.50pm is a shrewd move by the Golden Horse Racing Club. He looks a solid each-way play to land this valuable contest for the second year running for his enthusiastic owners.
However, I shall also be having a back-up bet with the frustrating Ninjago.Down to a career low mark of 89, he’s the type of enigmatic character likely to be suited to this helter-skelter 6f.