David Cleary runs the rule over a potentially mouth-watering line-up for the Sun Chariot at Newmarket on Saturday...
"However, four runs in 2021 suggest that Althiqa is a significantly better filly now than she was then. She has been successful on three of those four starts, in a Group 2 at Meydan in the winter and then Grade 1 events at Belmont and Saratoga this summer."
While nearly all the Group 1 action in Europe next weekend takes place at Longchamp, there is a potentially cracking renewal of the Sun Chariot Stakes at Newmarket on Saturday (14.55). 17 fillies have been entered, including no fewer than five to have scored at this level this season. The early market is dominated by the three-year-olds, but there's a four-year-old dark horse in the shape of Althiqa, who looks overpriced on the Betfair Sportsbook at 15.014/1
At first glance, Althiqa's name might test the memory of most British racing fans. She's not been seen here since finishing runner-up in the Group 3 Sceptre Stakes at Doncaster just over a year ago. That was as good an effort as she produced in 2020, her first full campaign, and wouldn't be good enough to make her competitive in a race as strong as the Sun Chariot looks likely to be.
However, four runs in 2021 suggest that Althiqa is a significantly better filly now than she was then. She has been successful on three of those four starts, in a Group 2 at Meydan in the winter and then Grade 1 events at Belmont and Saratoga this summer. It's true that all her form lines involve beating her stable-companion Summer Romance, which is always a bit unsatisfactory, but they do suggest she has improved run by run. Her stable, that of Charlie Appleby, continues to enjoy a stellar season and he can be guaranteed to have Aklthiqa spot for this test.
If Althiqa is able to reproduce that US form under prevailing conditions, then she's entitled to be right in the mix against the best of her younger rivals.
Hard to choose between Mother and Alcohol
Clashes between Alcohol Free, Mother Earth and Snow Lantern have been threading their way gloriously through the summer. Alcohol Free was too keen for her own good when behind Mother Earth in the One Thousand Guineas, but comprehensively turned the tables on muddy ground in the Coronation Stakes at Royal Ascot, with Snow Lantern splitting the pair. In the Falmouth Stakes on Newmarket's July Course, it was Snow Lantern's turn to come out on top, an enterprising change to front running not paying off for Alcohol Free.
The balance shifted yet again in the Sussex Stakes at Goodwood, in which Alcohol Free got the better of the Two Thousand Guineas winner Poetic Flare, with Snow Lantern third. That is the best piece of form shown this year by any of those entered in the Sun Chariot. Poetic Flare had won the St James's Palace on his previous start and went on to finish a close second to Palace Pier in the Jacques Le Marois. Alcohol Free failed to run to the same level next time out, but her defeat in the International at York looked due to the longer trip, pure and simple.
It's slightly surprising Alcohol Free isn't favourite ahead of Snow Lantern. Snow Lantern hasn't gone on in quite the anticipated manner in two starts since the Falmouth, the Sussex and then the Moulin at Longchamp. She definitely more of a stayer than Alcohol Free and might well get done for foot at a crucial stage on Saturday.
Mother Earth won the Prix Rothschild on her outing after the Falmouth and probably ought to have won a third Group 1 this year when unlucky behind No Speak Alexander in the Matron Stakes at Leopardstown. That was a messy race in which the winner - also entered on Saturday - was seen to maximum advantage; the form looks significantly in advance of anything else she's done and there must be a doubt that No Speak Alexander can repeat the form.
Mother Earth looks a very straightforward filly, and while she probably ranks just third in this stellar triumvirate with Alcohol Free and Snow Lantern, it's not by much - a win for her in the Sun Chariot certainly wouldn't be a surprise.
Tactics working needed to help Beach and Rover run above themselves
Other entries of note include the Guineas second and third Saffron Beach and Fev Rover and Primo Bacio, who keeps finding trouble in running, including when fifth in the Falmouth. Nevertheless, that run was probably Primo Bacio's best, which wouldn't be good enough.
Saffron Beach and Fev Rover had struggled to reproduce their Guineas form but both finally did so last time, Saffron Beach winning at Group 3 level at Sandown, Fev Rover runner-up in a Group 2 in Ireland. Both are likely to be ridden more handily than the market leaders, so a following wind would be a help. Otherwise it is hard to see why either of them should be turning the tables on Mother Earth from the Guineas.
Lavender's Blue is one last one to mention. She beat Benbatl and Pogo in the Celebration Mile at Goodwood last month, the pair franking the form when first and second in the Joel Stakes here last week. Lavender's Blue has been around a while and she's not quite so good as beating Benbatl (in particular) might suggest.
It's a race to savour, but taking a chance on Althiqa looks the way to play it.
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