Ante-Post: Cubanita the value in Fillies & Mares Stakes
Thirteen runners are left in Saturday’s Group 1 Fillies & Mares’ Stakes at Ascot and the likelihood of rotten, heavy ground adds an extra unwanted variable into the mix. Who will handle it and who won’t is not the easiest thing to gauge, not by a long chalk. Silk Sari currently heads the market at around 11/2 and although she’s dropping back in trip following a stupidly easy win over 1m 6f at Doncaster last time out, her evidently strong ability to stay will surely stand her in good stead.
This will demand a hell of a lot more, however, as destroying Groovejet and Criteria wouldn’t excite me a whole pile when you take into account what she’s tackling now. Of course, she is progressing and did win so very easily at Doncaster, but the price isn’t one I’d be interested in accepting and I am happy to look elsewhere. It’s also doubtful as to whether she’ll want such soft ground and all of her wins having come going left-handed; unlikely to be a huge issue, but you never know!
Albasharah has been supported into second-favouritism, just about, and she’s a mare I really like, one who could have further improvement in the locker despite being a 5-year-old. Things haven’t dropped right for her in her career thus far, but she looked mightily impressive at Newmarket last week when contesting a decent Listed race and it’s no surprise to see connections up the stakes.
It’s going to be the sternest test of her career as well and she has something to prove when it comes to the trip, as although her sole run at this Group 2 level resulted in a three-parts of a length third, that was on fast ground in a weak renewal of the Lancashire Oaks. Her ability to see out 1m 4f on testing ground is questionable both with the impression she gives off visually and also on her breeding, so despite thinking she’s more than capable at this level I’d be a lot happier if the race was over a couple of furlongs shorter. The quick turnaround is far from ideal either, especially stepping up to take on more talented rivals than she faced at Newmarket, and for all those reasons I have to swerve at quotes of 6/1.
Both Chicquita and Hadaatha would prefer better ground as well, so it’s CUBANITA who I’m going to give the nod to for the second time this season. She’s a frequently smooth-travelling sort who handles rotten ground well and although she has plenty of good form in the early part of her seasons, three of her four career successes have come in either October or November. It’s definitely the time of year when she’s due to peak and I thought that she ran a good race up against the boys last month, finishing a close enough third behind Hillstar despite a 3lb penalty ensuring she raced off level-weights with that smart rival. On the figures, it was probably as good a performance as she has ever produced.
Like the favourite, all of her wins have come going left-handed but hopefully it won’t be an issue and the fact that the ground will not be nice is in her favour. She’ll see out every inch of the trip without problem (if good enough to actually win!) and in what may not be a crazily run race due to the lack of many front-runners, it’s possible that she will be at a tactical advantage if taking up her usual tracking position. It’s hard to know for certain but Ryan Moore is booked and no matter how it pans out, you can be sure that she’ll be ridden to best effect. If things go her way as hoped, I think that Ralph Beckett’s mare could have an excellent chance of gaining a top-level success and the price looks on the large side for now.
Selection for the Fillies & Mares Stakes (2:55 Ascot; Saturday, 18th October):
Cubanita – 8/1, available with a few firms.
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