Timeform preview Saturday's Mill Reef Stakes at Newbury and pick out their best bet...
"He looked one of the most promising two-year-olds seen out prior to Royal Ascot..."
Timeform on Pierre Lapin
Local trainer Richard Hannon has yet to win the Group 2 two-year-old contest but it's a race his father won four times, including the very first running in 1972 with Mon Fils who went on to win the following season's 2000 Guineas. Hannon junior, fresh from winning last Saturday's Champagne Stakes with Threat, has a particularly strong hand of two-year-old colts this season, and while runaway York winner Mums Tipple doesn't feature among the fourteen entries, the trainer still has a couple of good chances of winning the race for the first time.
Heading the adjusted ratings is Mystery Power whose best performance came when beating Juan Elcano (third in the Champagne) a length in the Superlative Stakes at Newmarket. Sent off 6/1 for the Vintage Stakes at Goodwood, it was asking a lot for Mystery Power to trouble champion two-year-old elect Pinatubo, but he underperformed all the same under conditions which weren't as firm as for his first two starts and he ended up beating only one home. All three of Mystery Power's starts have come over seven furlongs, looking strong at the finish in both his wins, and the son of No Nay Never is out of a mare who won over as far as thirteen furlongs, so there's a doubt about whether this drop in trip will suit, while Mystery Power also picks up a 3 lb penalty for his Group 2 win.
Also high in the ratings is Mystery Power's stablemate Oh Purple Reign, though he has a very different profile, having been kept busy with nine starts already. He has won three of them - all over six furlongs - in minor company, and has made the frame in the rest, including in better grade, none better than his latest start when beaten a length by a more progressive colt in Streamline in the Sirenia Stakes at Kempton earlier this month. Hannon's third entry is Temple of Heaven, winner of a valuable early-season contest over course and distance, who has a bit more to find at the ratings and is on a retrieval mission, not having been seen since disappointing in the Windsor Castle Stakes at Royal Ascot.
The only filly in the entries, Shadn, is another with winning form over course and distance, having already beaten colts in the listed Rose Bowl Stakes here in July. She didn't settle fully when a close third in something of a substandard Prestige Stakes at Goodwood last time over seven furlongs and the return to six could suit, though Andrew Balding also has her entered at Ayr on the same day.
Three of those entered contested the Gimcrack at York, another race won by Threat, with the Marco Botti-trained Malotru faring best of them when beaten five lengths into fourth. However, he shaped better than the bare result after being denied a run and is one of the potential improvers in the field, having already won in Group 3 company in Italy. Pistoletto was a bit further back in sixth but he, along with stablemate King Neptune (both beaten in a valuable contest at Doncaster last week), make less than appeal than many of the two-year-olds Aidan O'Brien sends over for the better two-year-old contests.
Spartan Fighter went into the Gimcrack on the back of two wins for Declan Carroll in novice company (beat last week's Flying Childers winner A'ali at Ripon in first of them) and he was another who didn't get the rub of the green at a crucial stage at York before winding up eighth. Another worth forgiving a down-the-field run last time is Charlie Hills' runner Royal Commando for whom little went right in the Richmond Stakes at Goodwood last time, but he had been an impressive winner of a maiden at Doncaster prior to that.
Clive Cox won this with Harry Angel three years ago and it could be significant that his entry Firepower is being persevered with at Group 2 level, but he'd definitely need to show a lot more than on his latest start when down the field at 33/1 in the Norfolk Stakes.
For the most part, those mentioned so far have come up short in pattern company, albeit with excuses in several cases, but there are four last-time-out winners in lesser grade bidding to step up in class. Among those are Impressor and Mr Kiki who have won their second starts for Marcus Tregoning and Michael Bell respectively. Impressor made all for a clear-cut win at Salisbury last time, but that was on much softer ground than he's likely to encounter here. Expensive yearling Mr Kiki needs to improve a good deal on the bare form of a win in an ordinary race at Yarmouth last time but he finished close up behind some good colts in a much hotter event at Ascot on his debut.
Northern raiders have fared well in the Mill Reef in the last ten years so and Mark Johnston bids to win this for a third time with Fuwayrit who won novice contests at Ayr (on heavy ground) and Chelmsford last month. However, he gives the impression he'll be even better at seven furlongs, and he's another with an alternative engagement at Ayr this week.
That leaves Pierre Lapin who looked one of the most promising two-year-olds seen out prior to Royal Ascot when forging clear to win a novice event at Haydock at even-money at the end of May by three and a half lengths. A half-brother to the aforementioned Mill Reef winner Harry Angel, Pierre Lapin looked on course for the Coventry Stakes at the time but hasn't been seen since that impressive debut. However, Roger Varian has given him several big entries this autumn, and some of those he beat at Haydock have been fairly useful winners themselves since. In an open race where those who have already contested pattern races look vulnerable, Pierre Lapin is taken to defy his absence and belatedly confirm that promise from earlier in the season.