From Hawk Wing finally fulfilling his potential with a devastating wide-margin success to Frankel further hinting at his unrivalled greatness, Newbury patrons have been fortunate enough to witness some truly remarkable performances in the Group 1 Lockinge Stakes in recent years. This year's field, headed from a ratings perspective by Farhh, appears to be lacking a real superstar, but it certainly appeals as a competitive affair and could go some way to establishing the pecking order among the domestic milers in the absence of Frankel and Excelebration.
A devastating winner of the Thirsk Hunt Cup on his return last year, Farhh failed to reach the winners' enclosure in five subsequent starts, but that is easily explained by the fact he was exclusively raced in top-level events, facing talented rivals such as So You Think, Nathaniel and, of course, Frankel. While Farhh could not gain that elusive Group 1 success, he did enhance his reputation as a genuine group-race performer, producing admirably consistent and courageous displays in defeat. Also, Farhh demonstrated his versatility by performing to similar levels over one mile as well as an extended ten furlongs and he is simply an extremely likeable, reliable type.
Farhh's efforts in defeat behind some top-class rivals last year sets the standard and if Saeed Bin Suroor's five-year-old is ready to go on his seasonal return he is sure to put up a bold show. However, it is by no means an insurmountable standard that he sets, as his five defeats last year prove, and it is worth examining the claims of his rivals.
The Roger Charlton-trained Cityscape enjoyed an extremely lucrative season, kicking things off with an authoritative success at Meydan before further enhancing his globe-trotting credentials by putting up creditable efforts at Deauville and Woodbine when beaten by genuine top-notchers in Excelebration and Wise Dan. Similarly to Farhh, Cityscape's reputation blossomed last season by running well in defeat against more talented rivals and, having importantly proven his effectiveness on a sound surface, there is little reason to suspect he won't put up a bold show. However, on Timeform ratings, his best does fall slightly short of what Farhh has achieved and, of the pair, Farhh may be open to the greater progress given his lightly-raced profile.
One horse you suspect we haven't seen the best of is the Aidan O'Brien-trained Declaration of War. A winner on both outings for Jean-Claude Rouget, Declaration of War made a fairly inauspicious start for O'Brien, showing improved form but still coming up short at Group 3 level at the Curragh. However, following a cosy win at the same venue, Declaration of War signed off for the campaign with a taking success on the all-weather at Dundalk, travelling fluently and winning with more in hand than the bare margin would suggest.
Noticeably weak in the market on his return, Declaration of War had little difficulty in putting inferior rivals to the sword, once again travelling smoothly and looking to have plenty left in the tank as he eased over two lengths clear.
This obviously represents the stiffest task of his burgeoning career by some margin and he needs to improve, but he has been expertly handled by O'Brien, boasts a tremendous strike-rate and is by no means fully exposed.
Last year's three-year-olds won't go down in history as the finest of crops, but the John Gosden-trained Fencing demonstrated that he has come back bigger and stronger as a four-year-old, making light work of his rivals and having the race in the bag from some way out on his reappearance at Ascot. True, that was only a listed event and he seemingly had his limitations well exposed last term, but it is hard to knock the visual impression he created at Ascot and may simply be a completely different proposition this season.
Of the others, Beauty Parlour was disappointing on her only start for Sir Henry Cecil last year, running well below form in the Sun Chariot Stakes, but it would be foolish to write off such a promising filly on the back of one poor display and last year's French 1000 Guineas winner should not be underestimated.
In conclusion, the 2013 Lockinge Stakes lacks an outstanding performer but has the potential to be a competitive, informative race. Farhh narrowly sets the standard from Cityscape based on their exploits in top-level affairs last season, while Declaration of War is the horse open to most improvement. Unsurprisingly for a lightly-raced, progressive horse trained by Aidan O'Brien, Declaration of War hasn't gone unnoticed and is nearly disputing favouritism. Siding with form in the book, we will take a chance on Farhh taking advantage of this good opportunity and breaking his Group-race duck.
Back Farhh @ 4.3100/30 to win the Lockinge Stakes
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