John Smith's, the long-standing sponsor of this race, has been the highest selling ale in the UK since the mid-1990's, with an electric "Extra Smooth" tap featuring on many a bar across the country. A cask conditioned variant is thankfully still produced, typically found in Yorkshire watering holes and well worth a sample, but the dross that emanates from the electric taps is to be avoided at all costs.
My hastily cobbled together list of "things I'd rather do than embark upon an Extra Smooth drinking session" stretches to a surprising length, but in these days of microbreweries and quality real ale it is hardly surprising that a beer produced on mass, once a staple in the diet of working class men, is struggling to keep its name in the lights.
Were this Twitter we would be reaching for the hashtag "#alesnobbery" but it is simply the way of the world, that things are in vogue for a period of time before disappearing into the murky undergrowth of their respective trade. The same thing happens in horse racing, admittedly on a much more rapid timescale, with trainers becoming the flavour of the day, week or month as soon as they start firing in winners before being cast out with the washing when their run comes to an end.
One of these supposed men-of-the-moment is David Barron, whose string was operating at a strike rate of 20% in May, 17% in June and, at the time of writing, 25% in July, numbers which tower over what he has achieved at the same time in previous years. Barron has two entered in the John Smith's Cup, namely Tres Coronas and Clon Brulee, with the latter of obvious interest due to his progressive profile.
Clon Brulee has tasted success on each outing this term, following up his impressive Ripon return with an equally striking performance to beat Eshtibaak in the Zetland Gold Cup at Redcar, taking his form up a notch in the process. He is 6 lb higher in the handicap but seems likely to give another good account, particularly having proved his effectiveness on a quick surface, for a yard who took this race in 2009 with Sirvino.
Whilst on the subject of previous winners it would be rude not to touch on last year's victor King's Warrior, who is best forgiven his latest effort as his stamina looked to fail when tried over a mile and a half for the first time. He could struggle to concede weight to improving rivals here though, with both Stencive and Rye House likely to be a couple of the progressive dangers.
Rye House is the only horse in the field to have a 'p' on his Timeform rating, with the four-year-old still lightly raced and almost certainly capable of stepping up on his previous form. It was difficult not to be impressed by the manner of his victory over C&D when last seen in May, comfortably landing a decent handicap off a mark of 88, and though a 9 lb rise will make life tougher he appeals as being upwardly mobile.
With regards to ante-post punting however it is worth noting that Rye House is as yet unproven on ground quicker that good and he missed an intended engagement at Royal Ascot due to the lack of rain. Being a York native I can report that it is blindingly hot at present and there is no forecast for rain, so waiting to see if Rye House is declared before wading in may be a prudent approach.
Stencive is another lightly-raced and progressive four-year-old who could yet have his best days ahead of him. He boasts some fairly strong form and put up his best effort yet when second to Opinion in the Duke Of Edinburgh Stakes at Royal Ascot, surging down the outside and briefly looking like catching the winner only to hang right as that big effort took its toll.
Having finished second four times in his career and with that Royal Ascot effort not being the first time he has hung slightly I do harbour some reservations over Stencive, particularly with the drop to a mile and a quarter not certain to be in his favour, and there is an inkling that we need to look elsewhere to find the winner.
The answer may lie in the yard of Ralph Beckett who looks set to be represented by Niceofyoutotellme. A quick look back at the form of his last three runs reads incredibly well, with no less than eight next-time-out winners emerging from his last three races. Niceofyoutotellme took his form to a new level when winning on reappearance at Kempton and improved again at Newmarket last month, accounting for the subsequently successful Nabucco by a pretty comfortable length, showing a good turn of foot in the process.
Nabucco himself is worthy of consideration for the race, competing under a 5 lb penalty for trainer John Gosden, but Niceofyoutotellme looked value for more than the winning margin when the pair met and he could struggle to reverse the form.
With Rye House unproven on quicker ground and me harbouring a couple of unidentifiable doubts over Stencive this is probably best left to Niceofyoutotellme, who makes plenty of appeal at the current 12.011/1. His latest success was his best piece of form to date, it is far from out of the question that he could improve further still if required and he appeals as being the ideal type for a race of this ilk, so is very much one to keep on side.
Back Niceofyoutotellme @ 12.011/1 in the John Smith's Cup
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