Saturday Preview: The Hungerford Stakes
There’s some cracking racing today and top of the lot on Newbury’s card is the Hungerford Stakes, a Group 2 over 7f. It’s an interesting renewal, for all that it’s far from mind-blowing, and I’ll take a look at it in the hope of finding the winner!
Horses listed in racecard order:
Breton Rock – progressive, improving 4-year-old; 6-12 in his relatively short career to date, improving from handicaps to stakes races this term. Made it second time lucky in Listed events when winning at Haydock on his penultimate start, defeating a useful sort in the shape of Custom Cut (three-time winner since). At the same track, David Simcock’s charge lined up in a Group 3 next time and ran a cracker, only going down by a short-head to surprise winner Penitent on ground that had unsuitably dried out. Assuming the same doesn’t happen here, he could be capable of winning in this grade.
Chil The Kite – capable, generally reliable 5-year-old; only 1-10 at Listed level or above but won a C&D handicap in hilariously impressive fashion two starts ago off a mark of 104 and finished second in the 28-runner Royal Hunt Cup at Ascot off 109 last time. Has enough class about him to be a player at this level, especially in what isn’t the best Group 2 you’d ever see, but recent form has been gained on a quick surface in truly run races and what he’s going to encounter here is a different kettle of fish. Will handle the soft ground but it’s not his optimum and could do with them going flat-out up top, which is unlikely. He’s not for me, although is far from discounted if conditions/run of the race don’t hinder.
Gregorian – occasionally very useful 5-year-old; thrice a Group winner in little more than twelve months and has four top-level placed efforts to his name as well. Officially rated the best horse in this race and, indeed, won it last year in a small field. Disappointing last time out when behind Garswood in France and that’s a worry, as he was well below par and didn’t appear to have many excuses. Is capable of bouncing back and the one to beat if doing so, but latest effort surely leaves him underpriced at the current quotes.
Producer – useful 5-year-old; 5-17 in stakes races, including a win at this level over in Turkey last year (beat Chil The Kite a head). Plenty of his form would entitle him to a lot of respect and he’s tactically versatile to a point, but a sounder surface would suit ideally and that’s a worry. Another is his latest appearance coming just two days ago as we’ve no idea how he’ll handle such a quick turnaround. Overall, he’s not my idea of a bet and the fact that Richard Hughes rides stablemate Professor instead speaks volumes.
Professor – capable 4-year-old with a decent turn of boot; yet to win above Listed level but has plenty of solid form in the book, notably when runner-up in the Wokingham at Royal Ascot off a mark of 108. That came over 6f but he’s equally effective at this trip and could be a likely type granted the race panning out to suit. Again, however, the ground could be an issue if remaining genuinely soft and I wouldn’t be too interested unless it dried out. Needs a career-best to win; hard to see that happening on top of this surface.
Brazos – decent handicapping 3-year-old; has run some good races when taking on his own age group but is another not certain to act on the ground and the only way he’s winning this is if the conditions actually bring about an ocean of improvement. Hard to see that happening and his position as the outsider of the field is justified. Biting off too much here.
A disappointing turnout in terms of numbers but an interesting affair nonetheless. Gregorian being the favourite is understandable as he’s the top-rated animal in the field, will handle the ground, act on the track and shouldn’t mind too much if this gets tactical. However, there are a few worries after his latest effort in France and looking elsewhere might be worthwhile. Chil The Kite is respected as well if getting away with the conditions (ideally wants it faster), but it’s BRETON ROCK (7/2) who will get the nod. David Simcock’s 4-year-old has progressed again this term and with soft ground on a flat track suiting ideally, he will have no excuses with the conditions. If they stay as they are, he’ll go close at worst.
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