David Cleary takes a look at the weekend's first two Group 1 events for two year olds, with a suggestion for both.
"All three beaten horses from the Phoenix could again line up against him in the Middle Park - that Ebro River is the joint-longest priced of the quartet, frankly, makes no sense."
Although the Cambridgeshire will be billed as the weekend's big betting race, the two Group 1 events for two year olds on the same Newmarket card, make more appeal as contests in which to find some value. The Middle Park Stakes for colts, at 15.00, looks a tight affair with plenty of the field having run against one another more than once; the Cheveley Park for fillies, at 14.25, probably doesn't have quite the same depth and there is an obvious favourite, who possibly ought to be shorter than she is.
Perfect Power: tactics a potential issue for strong finisher
To start with the Middle Park, in which Perfect Power holds favouritism at the time of writing. He is already a winner at Group 1 level, having won the Morny at Deauville last month. Asymmetric and Armor, who were third and fourth there, are also entered on Saturday. On his previous start Perfect Power had finished only fifth behind Asymmetric in the Richmond at Goodwood.
Those two races were run in contrasting fashion. The Richmond was a muddling contest, at least in terms of pace, in which Asymmetric had the clearer run and showed the better turn of foot. In the Morny, which was run at a much stronger gallop, Perfect Power finished really strongly to lead well inside the last 200 metres after Asymmetric had quickened to the front.
Recent runnings of the Middle Park have tended not to be kind to those ridden too far off the pace, so Perfect Power, who is usually dropped out, may need some tweaking of tactics.
Prior to the Richmond, Perfect Power had won the Norfolk at Royal Ascot in a three-way photo, just a head in front of Go Bears Go. The latter went on to win the Railway Stakes at the Curragh and then finished third to Ebro River in the Phoenix Stakes. There is a case for suggesting that Go Bears Go is a bigger price than he should be, but if that be so, then Ebro River is definitely a bigger price than he should be.
Ebro River: National defeat still a really good effort
Ebro River is about the most experienced in the line-up for the Middle Park, with eight races already under his belt. He had looked to have his limitations shown in three of the early Pattern events, including in the Richmond and behind Lusail in the July Stakes. However, a switch to more forcing tactics has paid off on his last two starts.
In the Phoenix, Ebro River took on and mastered Go Bears Go for the lead and, having looked in trouble a furlong out, responded really well to pressure to defeat Dr Zempf, Go Bears Go and Castle Star. All three beaten horses from the Phoenix could again line up against him in the Middle Park - that Ebro River is the joint-longest priced of the quartet, frankly, makes no sense.
Ebro River definitely showed quirks in his early starts, though they weren't on show in the Phoenix, nor when he finished third in the National Stakes, back at the Curragh earlier this month. He was again ridden from the front and made a bold show, but stamina against a couple of very smart prospects ebbed away at the end of seven furlongs. He still finished just half a length behind runner-up Point Lonsdale, a piece of form that is on a par with anything most of these have achieved. A return to six furlongs under an attacking ride ought to be ideal.
Point Lonsdale's trainer Aidan O'Brien has three entries, none of them obvious types for a Middle Park, the most interesting the long-absent Glounthaune. He made a winning debut at the Curragh in April, beating the now-useful Castle Star, but he's not been seen since. Clearly support for him, or either of his stable companions, should be noted.
Sacred Bridge could outpoint Lowther principals
In the Cheveley Park, Zain Claudette and Sandrine renew rivalry after finishing first and second in the Lowther Stakes at York. With Sandrine 3 lb better off for a length beating, there should be little between the pair and it is possible that Sandrine will be better suited by Newmarket than she was by York's flat surface.
However, the best form in the race has been shown by the Irish-trained filly Sacred Bridge. She has won all four of her starts, stepping up considerably when tackling Pattern company for the first time in the Round Tower Stakes at the Curragh last month. A reproduction of the form she showed that day would almost be good enough to win at this higher level, so she's clearly the right favourite.
Tenebrism, like Glounthaline in the Middle Park, is an Aidan O'Brien wild card. She hasn't been seen since for even longer, overcoming greenness to win at Naas on debut in March. She looked good that day on heavy ground as she drew away late on. Clearly she must have had issues since and her lack of experience would be a concern as well, but she can't be discounted.
Eve Lodge saw her form in the Sirenia Stakes last time boosted at the weekend, when the placed horses fought out the finish of the Mill Reef at Newbury. She was building belatedly on early promise in the Sirenia, whether that was in part due to taking so well to the polytrack surface, is a concern for the switch back to turf here.
Well-bred Illustrating sure to improve at six furlongs
If there is an option against Sacred Bridge, one to spring a surprise at longer odds, then it might be Illustrating. She has had four runs at five furlongs, winning twice. For her defeats, she didn't know enough in the Queen Mary after just one run at Catterick; last time, in the Prix d'Arenberg at Longchamp, she was unlucky, scuppered by the draw, doing well to finish a closing third.
Illustrating is sure to benefit from the step up to six furlongs, from the way she runs as well as her pedigree - she is a daughter of Maids Causeway, who won the Rockfel at two and then finished runner-up in the Guineas and won the Coronation Stakes at three.
So far as the Middle Park goes, Ebro River, despite being nibbled at soon after the prices were posted on Monday afternoon, still makes appeal on the Betfair Sportsbook at 9.08/1. Illustrating at 13.012/1 gets the nod in the Cheveley Park.
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