Timeform Preview: Atalanta Stakes

Veracious is a hot favourite for the Atalanta Stakes at Sandown on Saturday
Veracious is a hot favourite for the Atalanta Stakes at Sandown on Saturday

Timeform preview Saturday's Atalanta Stakes at Sandown and provide their best bet...

"...down at Group 3 level for the first time, she really should prove hard to beat..."

Timeform on Veracious

The Atalanta Stakes was upgraded from listed to Group 3 level in 2012, and has since been won by subsequent Group 1 winners Integral (2012, dead heat) and Persuasive (2016).

Both were three-year-old fillies that wore the red, white and blue of Cheveley Park Stud, who have been big supporters of this race in recent years. They again have targeted one of their better fillies at the race in the shape of Veracious, who is seemingly held in high regard by trainer Sir Michael Stoute. A winner of a minor event at Newmarket on her second start last year, she was pitched into the deep end on her belated return (had a setback earlier this year) in the Coronation Stakes at Royal Ascot in June, showing much improved form to finish third, beaten seven and three quarter lengths by Alpha Centauri.

Veracious progressed again up in trip when filling the same position in the Nassau Stakes at Goodwood last time, looking as if she might win when moving to tackle the eventual winner Wild Illusion, but her exuberance told late on. The drop back to a mile here will suit and, down at Group 3 level for the first time, she really should prove hard to beat.

Her main rival according to the market is the Hugo Palmer-trained Unforgettable Filly, who bolted up in a listed race at Haydock last time, scoring by eight lengths. She had been something of a disappointment since winning last year's German 1000 Guineas but, from out of the blue, produced a clear career-best performance to rout her field. An up-and-down profile over the last 12 months, coupled with the fact that figure is very much a standout on her record, raises some doubts as to whether she's sure to repeat the form, but if she does then she will be a force in this line-up.

The John Gosden-trained Laugh Aloud hasn't been seen since winning the Princess Elizabeth Stakes at Epsom (by five lengths from Absolute Blast, quickening clear in good style) in June last year. Her absence since is disconcerting, but she is in excellent hands, and this lightly-raced four-year-old should have even more to offer; she sets the standard on Timeform weight-adjusted ratings and shouldn't be underestimated.

Desert Diamond has proved most progressive this season, winning three of her five starts, the latest when landing the odds in a mile and a quarter listed race at York by six lengths. She is effective at a mile, but given how strong she was at the finish last time it suggests her future lies over further, and she also holds an entry in a Group 3 over nine furlongs at the Curragh on Saturday.

The William Haggas-trained Awesometank confirmed herself an improved performer this year when landing a listed event over C&D last month by three quarters of a length from Desert Diamond, showing a good attitude under a well-judged ride to record her second win of the year. That form is working out ok and, still relatively lightly raced, there is reason to think she could progress again, though she will need to if she's to extend her winning run to three now moving up in grade.

Henri-Francois Devin has done well when bringing Hunaina over, winning a listed race at Kempton in April and not beaten far in the Group 3 Chartwell Fillies' Stakes at Lingfield the following month. She has since won the Prix Bertrand du Breuil at Chantilly in June and, despite underperforming in the Group 1 Prix Rothschild at Deauville last time, this represents a much easier task so she has to be respected.

Threading's best effort this season come when winning a seven-furlong listed contest by seven lengths in May, and she followed that with a respectable six lengths second to Alpha Centauri in the Coronation (one and three quarter lengths in front of Veracious), but her form has been mixed since. Threading got back on track to some extent in the Strensall Stakes at York last week, though, and would have claims if reproducing her best form.

Others worth mentioning include Clon Coulis, who deserves a crack at this having won her last two starts in listed company, while Sheikha Reika remains with potential, but she hasn't been seen since a beaten odds-on favourite in a minor event at Leicester in early-June.

This looks ripe for Veracious to get off the mark for the season and record her first win at pattern level, having shaped well in Group 1s the last twice. She is one of the least exposed and should appreciate the return to a mile. Stablemate Desert Diamond would be of interest if also taking her chance, but Awesometank has the beating of her and could prove a bigger danger at this trip.

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