Timeform preview Saturday's Magnolia Stakes at Kempton and pick out their best bet.
"...is a very straightforward front runner/prominent racer, so certainly looks ready for this step up in grade."
Timeform on Matterhorn
Last year's renewal was won by Fabricate, who is prominent on Timeform weight-adjusted ratings once more as he bids to give Michael Bell a fifth win (from just 18 runners at the time of writing) this season.
Fabricate also won the Winter Hill Stakes at Windsor (by neck from Global Giant) in 2018, and was second in the Gordon Richards Stakes at Sandown (a short head behind Crystal Ocean) in between that effort and this race last year. He was a respectable third to Alignement in the Prix Dollar at Longchamp on his final start, leading inside the final furlong, and is likely to run well here once more, having not been out of the first three on each seasonal reappearance to date.
The horse he has most to fear - on Timeform ratings at least - is Matterhorn. He's a very smart and progressive handicapper who won three times as a three-year-old (his first season on the track) and has since added three more wins this year, obliging at Lingfield in January, Chelmsford in February, and then over C&D (by five lengths from Executive Force) last time. Matterhorn won with plenty in hand that day and is a very straightforward front runner/prominent racer, so certainly looks ready for this step up in grade. As a result, it's no surprise to see him atop the ante-post market.
Second favourite at the time of writing is fellow 'Horse In Focus' Mootasadir. This rangy colt has been beaten twice on turf but has a perfect record on the all-weather, adding a fifth win after a five-month break at Wolverhampton (well positioned, travelled well and beat Kelly's Dino by one and three quarter lengths with plenty in hand) last time. The drop in trip here won't inconvenience and he is respected, for all his Group 3 winner's penalty makes life tougher.
William Haggas has won the Magnolia Stakes three times, and saddles Victory Bond in his bid for a fourth. His wins in 2018 included the Easter Classic AW Middle Distance Championships Stakes at Lingfield (by half a length from Master The World), and though below form in a handicap at Wolverhampton earlier this month, he's bounced back from moderate runs in the past, most notably when winning a minor event at Chelmsford towards the end of 2017. He ran well over a mile here in November and should appreciate the step back up in trip this weekend.
Haggas trained Willie John to win his maiden at Yarmouth in 2017, after which he was bought for 1.9m guineas and transferred to the care of Roger Varian. After a setback in the spring of 2018, Willie John won at Doncaster (by five lengths) in August before finishing a well-held last of seven behind Ghaiyyath in the Group 3 Prix du Prince d'Orange at Longchamp seven weeks later. A half-brother to Dreamfield and from the family of the very smart Jazzi Top, he's worth another chance to improve.
Big Country won the Rosebery Handicap on this card in 2017, and has spent most of his time in better company since. He produced good efforts when runner-up in three listed events in succession between November and February, but put in a rare below-par effort when only fourth to the classy Wissahickon in the Winter Derby at Lingfield last time, briefly short of room entering the straight before losing third place late on. He's the type to bounce back, but even his best still leaves him a little vulnerable. The consistent Court House was a gallant second from the front in the Winter Derby, but likely faces more competition for the lead here.
Raymond Tusk's wins in 2018 included a listed race at Hamilton and the Group 2 Gran Premio del Jockey Club at Milan (by half length from Walsingham), both over further. He was a respectable four lengths sixth of 14 to French King in the (local Group 1) H. H. The Amir Trophy at Doha on his reappearance last month, prominent throughout, and is not one to totally rule out here on his all-weather debut despite his 7 lb penalty.
Of the rest, Extra Elusive progressed with each start last term, including when winning here (by two lengths from Pippin), but was last of seven to Young Rascal in the Legacy Cup at Newbury on his final start. He still has time on his side, though, in contrast to Master The World who underperformed when trying to defend his Winter Derby crown last time. He should come on for that reappearance, but the eight-year-old may find himself outgunned by younger horses where it matters.
Robin of Navan's last win came back in June of 2017, and his form over shorter trips last season leaves him with plenty to find against much more upwardly mobile rivals, while Pivoine looked to struggle off his new mark (8 lb higher than for York win) when well held in the Cambridgeshire when last seen. This step up into a higher grade may actually help, as will the break as that HQ run came at the end of a long, hard season, and he's two from two here so is not discounted.
Minimum Bet Guarantee
Betfair's 'minimum bet guarantee' on all Class 1 and 2 races in the UK and Ireland - which means all customers are able to bet to win a minimum of £500 - has been extended to cover all races at selected meetings this week. T&Cs apply.
If the major players stand their ground, this will be the strongest renewal for some time. John Gosden doesn't have a Romsdal or an Arctic Cosmos on his side this year, while William Haggas' challenge (Victory Bond) looks less imposing than in recent seasons.
Matterhorn and Mootasadir look the most progressive and - in receipt of 5 lb from his rival - the first-named gets the nod. At a price, dual course winner Pivoine could run well, for all his record fresh isn't a good one.