Another competitive handicap this week which is chock-full of unexposed, progressive three-year-olds, and the one who tops the shortlist is HYPOTHETICAL. He looked a smart prospect when making a winning start at Chelmsford last year, and shaped as if better for the run when finishing fourth in the Classic Trial Stakes at Kempton earlier this month. That looks a strong piece of form, with the runner-up, Pyledriver, winning the King Edward VII Stakes at this meeting on Tuesday. Hypothetical is the type to progress further, and figures on a fair mark now sent handicapping.
This looks a very open renewal of the Wolferton, but FOX TAL strikes as the type that will have even more to offer as a four-year-old. His form as a juvenile in 2018 stacks up, and he proved himself smart when making a winning reappearance at Doncaster last season despite being very easy to back. Fox Tal then seemed to excel himself when finishing fourth to Magical in the Champion Stakes over this course and distance on his final start. That is solid form and, given Fox Tal clearly goes well fresh, he looks a solid contender here dropped into listed company. Regal Reality was below form in the Champion Stakes when last seen, but he has been gelded since, also has some solid Group 1 form to his name, and it is interesting that top connections are persevering with him.
There are plenty to consider in the Jersey Stakes, but MOLATHAM had excuses in the Autumn Stakes at Newmarket when last seen, perhaps finding the softer ground unsuitable, but he also wasn’t helped by being rather isolated in the centre of the track while the first two kicked for home on the stands rail. The form of his win in listed company at Doncaster prior to that reads very well, though, and he remains a very smart prospect. The unbeaten King of Leonidas is also very interesting, having found a chunk of improvement to give weight away to another good prospect at Newmarket this month, and he is another to keep on side as he climbs the ranks.
BATTLEGROUND was surprisingly weak in the market on debut given his pedigree – he is the first foal of the yard’s high-class mare Found – and could only finish fifth, but there was plenty to like about that debut, shaping very well under a sympathetic ride. Battleground wasn’t knocked about, and is the sort to improve markedly for that experience, while the step up to seven furlongs will also be in his favour. He is preferred to Golden Flame, who finished runner-up on debut at Haydock, and looks sure to progress and win races.
All eyes will be on STRADIVARIUS here, who is bidding to become the first horse since Yeats to win the race three times in a row. As his odds suggest, he has a fantastic chance of doing so, this year’s renewal not looking deep, and he is 5 lb clear of Cross Counter on Timeform weight-adjusted ratings. Stradivarius is strongly fancied to achieve the feat, given he made a promising return to action over an inadequate trip, and John Gosden reports him to have come out of the race very well. Technician is the unknown quantity in the field trying this extreme trip for the first time, and should be well suited by it.
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Normally one of the most competitive handicaps of the week, and this year’s looks no different. However, on Timeform weight-adjusted ratings, FINEST SOUND is 9 lb clear of his nearest rival (assuming that third reserve Establish doesn’t get a run). He showed fairly useful form in three runs last year, but after undergoing breathing and gelding operations in the off-season, plus the addition of a first-time tongue-tie, Finest Sound showed much-improved form to make a winning reappearance/handicap debut at Haydock this month. Finest Sound is due to go up 12 lb in the weights, so able to run under a 5 lb penalty here, he makes plenty of appeal from a handicapping perspective for the same connections that won this race with Ostilio in 2018.
AFRICAN DREAM didn’t have to progress to open her account at the second attempt in March, but she showed much-improved form in defeat when giving weight to a useful sort at Newbury last time. African Dream is able to race from a BHA mark of 80 here, but her reassessed mark following her run at Newbury last week is 96, effectively making her 16 lb well in here. With that in mind, she is hard to oppose, and has been backed accordingly in recent days.
- 13:15 – HYPOTHETICAL
- 13:50 – FOX TAL
- 14:25 – MOLATHAM
- 15:00 – BATTLEGROUND
- 15:35 – STRADIVARIUS
- 16:10 – FINEST SOUND
- 16:40 – AFRICAN DREAM
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