Timeform Preview: Dubai Duty Free Handicap

Horse in front of stands
The Dubai Duty Free Handicap is the big betting heat at Newbury on Saturday

Timeform's Adam Houghton previews Saturday's Dubai Duty Free Handicap at Newbury and recommends a bet.

"...he is in excellent hands and could be ready to fulfil the high hopes we had for him last term..."

Timeform on Adamant

Much of the focus at Newbury on Saturday will understandably be on the three pattern races, the most prestigious of which is the Mill Reef Stakes, a Group 2 for two-year-olds that has been won in recent years by the likes of Ribchester and Harry Angel, both of whom went on to win at the top level.

However, the race to have a look at from a betting perspective has to be the opening Dubai Duty Free Handicap, a contest that is equally as valuable as the Mill Reef, with £75,000 on offer, and can boast a terrific record of its own when it comes to producing horses who go on to make their mark in Group company - Presvis developed into a high-class performer following his victory in this race 10 years ago, while last year's winner, Brorocco, has filled the runner-up spot in Group races on his last two starts, including when finding only Teodoro too good in the Rose of Lancaster Stakes at Haydock.

Brorocco's trainer Andrew Balding looks set to be represented in this year's renewal by Pivoine, who proved better than ever when resuming winning ways at York last time. He ran to a smart level on that occasion, still tanking when hitting the front two out and keeping on well thereafter to win by two and a half lengths. He has a 5 lb penalty to contend with here, but it was hard not to be taken by the manner of that success and he looks sure to give another good account, provided the blinkers he wore that day (replacing his usual visor) continue to have the desired effect.

Another who appears to have been aided by the application of headgear is the three-year-old Stylehunter. Trained by John Gosden, he has worn blinkers for each of his last three starts, which have yielded wins in a minor event at Lingfield in May and a handicap at Goodwood in August, either side of a commendable sixth in the Britannia Stakes at Royal Ascot. The way he surged clear off a steady gallop for his latest win suggests he will be at least as effective back up in trip and, still progressing, he cannot be discounted for the yard that won this race with Taqleed in 2011.

Roger Varian is yet to taste success in this valuable prize, though he would have been working as Michael Jarvis' assistant when he won it with Almiqdaad in 2009. Varian could be double-handed as he attempts to win it for the first time in his own right, with Mountain Angel and UAE Prince both appearing to hold claims of sorts. The former ran well when second at Sandown (Not So Sleepy fourth, History Writer fifth and Communique eighth) last time, likely to have given the winner even more to think about with more luck (endured trouble in-running two furlongs out), and has to be respected from the same mark, while UAE Prince has long promised to win a race of this nature. He was worried out of it after being produced perfectly on his return at Newmarket in May, however, and will need to show a bit more fight after four months off here.

Global Giant and Master The World both arrive with Group form in the book already, the former when finishing second in the Winter Hill Stakes at Windsor last time. Admittedly, that wasn't the strongest race of its type, but it still represented a clear career best and he returns to handicaps from a mark just 2 lb higher than when third, beaten a length and a half by Communique, at Goodwood the time before. Master The World hasn't won since being awarded the Winter Derby in the stewards' room at Lingfield in February, but he also reverts to handicapping on a good mark, as low as when winning the Betfred Mile at Goodwood last season.

Overall, three-year-olds have won four of the last 10 renewals and others from that age group to note include Escalator and Beringer, who filled the first two places in a handicap at Goodwood last month. There were three and a half lengths between them on that occasion, but they should be much more closely matched here, with Beringer meeting his conqueror on 5 lb better terms.

First Nation is not without claims, either, if bouncing back from a disappointing effort at York, but the one who makes most appeal at this stage is the Sir Michael Stoute-trained ADAMANT. A maiden winner at Windsor as a two-year-old, he was included in our Horses To Follow book as a horse who could 'climb the handicapping ladder over middle-distances' in 2017, but only made it to the racecourse once that season, when always doing enough to win a handicap at Salisbury.

Again lightly raced this time round, he proved better than ever when making a winning return from three months off at Chelmsford last time, making all in ready fashion (quickened clear from two furlongs out). This is clearly much tougher (8 lb higher in a more competitive race), but he is in excellent hands and could be ready to fulfil the high hopes we had for him last term, with the prospect of more to come after just six starts, a big gelding who was always likely to get better with time.

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