Racing round-up: Expect Headman to be the top man at Royal Ascot

If we don't know what happened in the past how can we predict the future?


Not Darn quick enough?

The run-up to last week’s Dante Stakes at York revolved around the star two-year-old of last season, Too Darn Hot, who was making his seasonal reappearance having missed the 2000 Guineas due to a minor setback. However, in the race itself, Too Darn Hot failed to meet market expectations, sent off the even-money favourite, and was beaten fair and square by the rapidly progressive Telecaster, having no answer for that rival in the closing stages.

Too Darn Hot’s trainer John Gosden was quick to confirm post-race that he will now drop back in trip to a mile and contest the St James’s Palace Stakes at Royal Ascot in mid-June. It is worth noting though that he hasn’t grown much from two to three, and is by no means certain to prove a better three-year-old, as you can’t conclusively say he was beaten by a lack of stamina at York; he’s bred to stay the 1¼m trip and further.

Telecaster, on the other hand, took the step up in class in his stride, showing himself a thoroughly worthy Derby contender, sure to be at least as effective over the longer trip, though whether he runs at Epsom remains in the balance, needing to be supplemented to take his chance.

Mustashry on his way to the top?

The established older milers were all much of a muchness last year, and with many of the same players still around, this first domestic Group 1 mile of the year had a familiar feel to it, with 13 of the 14 runners covered by 5 lb on Timeform weight-adjusted ratings.

It was the six-year-old Mustashry who found the most improvement to come out on top, admittedly having plenty go his way, but he had shaped well on his return, and is only now starting to show his full ability. There’s no reason to think he won’t be able to repeat this effort, and he now looks a leading player in the Queen Anne Stakes at Royal Ascot.

One who shaped better than the bare result was Le Brivido, who came on as expected for his reappearance and would have likely finished second if getting the breaks, having to wait for a gap and finishing with a flourish once in the clear. A winner of the Jersey Stakes at Royal Ascot in 2017, he too will likely head to the Queen Anne next, and the early double-figure odds about his chance make appeal.


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Head and shoulders above the rest

The London Gold Cup always proves a strong piece of form, horses such as Time Test and Al Kazeem successful in the race before going on to win multiple times at pattern level. Roger Charlton trained both of those and enhanced his excellent record in the race with this year’s winner Headman, who left his seasonal reappearance run over the same course and distance well behind, producing a decidedly smart effort under top weight to dispatch of a good-looking field.

Headman looked really well beforehand and, open to further improvement, a step up in grade is surely on the cards, with the Hampton Court Stakes at Royal Ascot an obvious next port of call (the same connections’ Time Test won that race on his next start). It is a strong-looking race and should be viewed positively moving forward, with several in behind sure to be winning races sooner rather than later, particularly Sinjaari, Good Birthday and Forest of Dean.

One to back next time

The Tim Easterby yard haven’t had the fastest start to the season, but plenty of his horses are looking well handicapped, one in particular being Al Erayg. He was well backed ahead of his run at Thirsk on Saturday, and looks to be coming to the boil, again catching the eye, coming wide two furlongs out and finishing strongly from an unpromising position.

Al Erayg is yet to win on these shores, but looks interesting from a mark in the mid to low 80s, and is one to look out for in a similar event next time and holds an entry at York next Saturday.

*Prices correct at publication but are fluid

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