Atalanta Stakes: All about Aljazzi

The Atalanta Stakes is the feature race from Sandown on Saturday
The Atalanta Stakes is the feature race from Sandown on Saturday

Timeform's Adam Houghton previews the Atalanta Stakes at Sandown on Saturday...


"That represented a career-best effort by some way; a mile on fast ground and time between her races seemingly what she needs..."

The race report on the 2012 renewal of the Atalanta Stakes at Sandown began: 'A large field for the first running of this long-established event as a Group 3, though in truth it was quantity over quality, the winner's performance not a patch on those of the last three years which had led to the raising of its status.'

However, while the form may not have appeared the strongest at the time, the race did at least provide a good platform for the pair of three-year-olds that led home the 16-strong field, with both returning the following year to taste success at pattern level. The winner Dank added to her tally with victories in a pair of Grade 1s in the US, namely the Beverley D Stakes and the Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Turf, while the runner-up Ladys First returned to dead-heat with Integral - also a subsequent Grade 1 winner - in the 2013 renewal of the Atalanta.

Last year's winner Persuasive races in the red, white and blue of Cheveley Park Stud, who could be represented on Saturday by the Sir Michael Stoute-trained Intimation. Stoute is the leading trainer in the history of this race with six victories - Dank and Integral having added to earlier wins for Dabaweyaa (1988), Hyabella (1991), Wasseema (2006) and Strawberrydaiquiri (2009) - though whether Intimation will actually line up here is debatable. She ran up to her best and was unlucky not to win when second in a Group 3 at the Curragh on Sunday, and looks well up to winning a similar event, though the close proximity of that race is an obvious concern here.

The market leader at this stage is the Marco Botti-trained ALJAZZI. She excelled herself when second in the Duke of Cambridge Stakes at Royal Ascot (Greta G ninth, Opal Tiara thirteenth) last time, making headway under pressure over a furlong out, and running on well to get within three quarters of a length of the very smart Qemah. That represented a career-best effort by some way; a mile on fast ground and time between her races seemingly what she needs. Rain forecast for Sandown this week is a concern, therefore, but she does at least come here fresh, 10 weeks having passed since that latest outing, and - 2 lb clear of the field on weight-adjusted ratings - Aljazzi stands out as the clear one to beat.

Nathra was rated higher than her stablemate Persuasive at this time last year, having won the Nell Gwyn Stakes at Newmarket before acquitting herself well in both the 1000 Guineas and the French equivalent at Deauville. Her career has been on a somewhat different trajectory since, though she shaped as if coming back to her best when two and a quarter lengths third to Massaat in the Hungerford Stakes at Newbury last time, looking better for her reappearance, and shaping as if a step back up to this trip will suit.

The Sandringham Handicap - another race won by Persuasive in 2016 - looks set to have a bearing on matters here one way or another, with Dancing Breeze (seventh), On Her Toes (eighth) and Tisbutadream (ninth) all likely to reoppose. The latter has continued her gradual improvement in three subsequent starts, including when winning a listed race over C&D (Dancing Breeze third) last month. More is likely to be required here though, a comment that also applies to On Her Toes, who very much had the run of the race when winning a listed race at Ascot (Tisbutadream third, Urban Fox fourth, Nathra sixth) five weeks ago.

The consistent Lincoln Rocks also deserves a mention, having shown improved form to win a competitive handicap at York last time. That was her tenth start of the season, but she shows no signs of slowing down, and is well worth a try in this higher grade after winning off a BHA mark of 100. She could still have more to offer and cannot be totally discounted, though the suspicion is she may be vulnerable to a classier sort. Indeed, it looks a big ask up against a filly of Aljazzi's quality off level weights here.

Recommendation:

Win back ALJAZZI in Saturday's Atalanta Stakes at Sandown

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