The 2,000 comes around, and it’s not as strong a race as it might have been. Several leading fancies, Winker included, have fallen away and no surprise packages have emerged. The ground will probably be genuine good ground, which will suit most but not Raven’s Pass.
The big question for me is whether I can get away from New Approach. Everything is right for him and he’ll probably run to the best of his ability – he runs prominently and he’s unlikely to find any trouble in running. He is unbeaten over five races as a 2yo and winner of the Dewhurst – he is bred to improve from 2 to 3. He simply cannot be anything other than favourite.
I followed and backed him last year and I thought throughout that he ran in the manner of a very decent horse. I never got to believe he was exceptional and I don’t believe that now. He only just got home in the Dewhurst after a lot of hard driving – he was being scrubbed along halfway through the race. He would have felt that and he might remember it.
Ibn Khaldun also had a long 2yo season, but they were mostly weak races and it was more of an education for a slightly backward horse than anything else. I don’t think he’ll feel the effects of the season, and all the noises are that he is the one from the Godolphin trio who really trained on. I’m a little concerned that the trip could be on the short side, but he is bred to be a miler.
Raven’s Pass is first class, but the ground is slightly against him – this is a very decent looking renewal and he’d have to be exceptional if he was to win on his second best ground. I think he’ll fall short.
Anything else is going to have to improve dramatically to play a part, and I think the race might be too good for that. Perfect Stride was strongly touted last year but was backward – he is probaby the most likely to spring a surprise, but it’s a big ask. My gut says that Dream Eater could run a big race, but his form is short of the mark.
I have to stick with the favourites. New Approach was “all there” very early last year and I don’t think he can improve as much as Ibn Khaldun, who was a bit backward. Ibn Khaldun needs to improve if he is to win, but he has plenty of scope. I’ll take him to win, New Approach to come second and Raven’s Pass third – these three could be a class apart.