Mill Reef Stakes: The value lies with Strath Burn
This year’s renewal of the Group 2 Mill Reef Stakes seems to revolve around Limato and there’s little doubt that he’s the most interesting runner of this field. So far, Henry Candy’s gelded son of Tagula has an unblemished record of 3-3, two of those successes coming on the All-Weather at Kempton (maiden & novice) and the other in a Listed race over today’s C&D two months ago.
I was quite taken by the way he defeated Cotai Glory last time out and that form looks strong when you consider that the runner-up has scored in a Group 3 since and was hilariously unlucky not to win the Group 2 Flying Childers at Doncaster last week, a race he was going to win until unseating George Baker late on. A horse I like, Adaay, was a distant third, helping to boost the form further.
My issue, however, is not with his raw ability as that’s definitely in place, it’s with the ground. We’re yet to know whether Limato can act to the best of his abilities when there’s cut underfoot and with a 6/4 chance, I’d want to know for definite that he’s going to handle it. Maybe he will, but it was quick here last time and won’t be anything like that on this occasion. It’s off-putting, especially in a field of talented sorts who – as well as him – could have further improvement left in the locker.
Jungle Cat is the current second favourite and is deemed by the handicapper to be the second best in at the weights, which looks fair enough on form. He’s a really likable sort who wears his heart on his sleeve and a first win out of maiden company is definitely deserved. Again, however, all of his best form has come on good or quicker and the only really poor run of his career came on debut when walloped by The Wow Signal on good-to-soft (got much closer to that rival on quick ground at Royal Ascot). It’s entirely possible, as well, that he’s better placed to handle the surface now given his experiences since Ayr, but there’s not enough to entice me in.
Mubtaghaa interested me quite a bit before he was pulled out overnight so instead my attentions have turned to STRATH BURN for Charles Hills and Jamie Spencer. The son of Equiano was an impressive maiden winner at this track (5f) on his debut in July, beating some future winners in fine style and looking like a potential Group horse in doing so. He got the chance to prove his worth in the Group 2 Prix Robert Papin over in France just a couple of weeks later and ran a cracking race to finish second behind Kool Kompany. You can question that form to a point but Hills’ charge probably didn’t enjoy the test on offer and did, at least, prove that he can handle a softer surface. Now up a half-furlong in trip, I think that we’ll see him take another step forward (assuming all is well; hasn’t been out for two months) and the current 4/1 looks more than fair versus a potentially vulnerable favourite.
Selection for the Mill Reef Stakes (2:20 Newbury; Saturday, 20th September):
Strath Burn – 4/1, available with Boylesports.
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