The Group 3 Timeform Jury Stakes takes place at Haydock Park on Saturday and there is an interesting mix of battle-hardened campaigners and unexposed four-year-olds entered at the five-day stage. Many of the leading contenders have already shown form good enough to land an average renewal of the race and a very smart performance may be needed to land this weekend's £60,000 contest.
Home of The Brave is the current favourite after a dominant victory in last month's listed King Richard III Stakes at Leicester, bettering the smart form he had shown in five starts as a three-year-old, including a 'win' in the Group 3 Minstrel Stakes at the Curragh in July (subsequently disqualified after a failed drugs test). He was forced to miss the Group 1 Lockinge Stakes on account of the testing conditions and instead sticks to the seven furlong trip over which he has excelled. There is heavy rain forecast for the Merseyside venue on Thursday, but the ground is unlikely to be too different from the good-to-soft surface he encountered last time and - top on Timeform ratings - he looks well worth his place at the head of the market.
Home of The Brave is closely followed by course and distance winner Breton Rock. David Simcock's charge finished second in this contest in 2014 and, although he could only manage seventh when sent off favourite for last year's renewal, he faced a hopeless task from his position towards the rear of the field. His 2015 campaign was otherwise characterised by a series of smart efforts and he returned with a typically admirable third in the Group 2 bet365 Mile at Sandown. He is versatile as regards ground conditions and can be expected to run his usual sound race. Whether that will be good enough is another question, however, and 5 lb behind Home of The Brave on Timeform ratings, Breton Rock makes little appeal at the current odds.
Adaay has the potential to do better now racing at a trip in excess of six furlongs for only the third time in his career. He proved himself to be a smart sprinter when landing the Group 2 Sandy Lane Stakes on this card 12 months ago and had the likes of Breton Rock, Coulsty and Here Comes When behind when proving himself to be equally effective at this trip in the Group 2 Hungerford Stakes last August. Indeed, that performance went down as a career-best on Timeform ratings and - without a penalty for his Newbury heroics here - that form gives him only 2 lb to find with the market-leader. He can be forgiven a below par effort when attempting a mile for the first time at Sandown on his seasonal debut and a return to the best of last year's form would mark Adaay out as a leading contender in this company.
So Beloved established himself as a pattern performer with victory in the Group 3 Supreme Stakes at Goodwood in August and ran to a similar level when beaten in better company on his final two starts of 2015. He matched that form when making a successful return from six months off the track over this course and distance recently, travelling strongly and putting the race to bed in decisive fashion. However, there are enough doubts about the value of that form to make him opposable here, the second a smart handicapper at best and the third thoroughly exposed at this sort of level.
The Andrew Balding-trained Here Comes When ran to a Timeform rating of 121 when landing the Group 2 Challenge Stakes at Newmarket in October 2014, staying on strongly to get the better of Cable Bay (won this race last year) and Breton Rock that day and giving the impression he would be capable of making his mark at the highest level in 2015. However, he failed to reproduce that form in a frustrating year for connections and, although he acquitted himself well in defeat on several occasions (second behind So Beloved at Goodwood one of his best efforts), he ultimately failed to build on the promise of his Newmarket victory. Indeed, it remains to be seen whether Here Comes When is quite the force of old and, with little reason why he should reverse recent form with Home of The Brave, he is readily passed over.
The unexposed pair of Convey and Mitchum Swagger make more appeal, though, the former of definite interest after a return to form at York last time. He has always been highly-regarded by the Sir Michael Stoute yard and they reportedly held Classic aspirations for him at the start of the last campaign. He didn't progress as hoped, but showed signs of a revival on his most recent outing and could yet fulfil his promise (Queen Anne entry), while Mitchum Swagger should strip fitter after a pipe-opener behind Home of The Brave last time. A member of Timeform's Horses to Follow, he created a good impression on his four previous starts and - if not on Saturday - he should prove capable of making his mark at this level before the year is out. The consistent Sovereign Debt is likely to be found wanting in against some younger legs here.
This looks likely to fall to one of several interesting four-year-olds in the line-up, with Home of The Brave, Adaay, Convey and Mitchum Swagger all holding claims of some sort. The former holds obvious claims on the back of an impressive return to action at Leicester, but marginal preference is for the William Haggas-trained ADAAY. He has the scope to rate higher than a Timeform mark of 119 and - with a disappointing effort at Sandown best forgotten - he is fancied to record the sixth victory of his career at a venue where he defeated the high-class Limato 12 months ago.
Back Adaay in the Timeform Jury Stakes