Rory Delargy casts his eye over a jam-packed Saturday programme.
"Arch Villain looked to have blossomed physically when returning at Newmarket recently, and impressed with the way he stormed away from the field when hitting the rising ground. Perrett enjoyed one of her finest moments when Give The Slip won the Ebor in 2000, and in my opinion she has another in the same mould."
Few trainers can claim to have their strings in the sort of form that Amanda Perrett has currently, and she can further enhance her recent record via the progressive stayer Arch Villain in the Allans Of Petworth Stakes (15:05) at her local track Goodwood today.
Perrett, daughter of the hugely successful Guy Harwood, has seen her fortunes wane somewhat in recent seasons, and it's more than 10 years since the likes of Tillerman and Indian Lodge were flying the flag for the Pulborough yard in Group 1 company. 2011 was little short of disastrous for the stable, with a total of £74k in win prize money from just 18 UK winners, a far cry from the heady days of the millennium. Things took a turn for the better last year, and she's already amassed more than half of that total in just a few months of the new season, prompting thoughts of a full-scale revival.
On of the new flag-bearers is the 4-y-o gelding Arch Villain, a promising sort at up to 2m last year, but just lacking the strength to carry his impressive frame. He looked to have blossomed physically when returning at Newmarket recently, and after coming off the bridle before the other principals in that 1½m contest, impressed with the way he stormed away from the field when hitting the rising ground. Perrett enjoyed one of her finest moments when Give The Slip won the Ebor in 2000, and in my opinion she has another in the same mould with this son of Arch.
If he's going to follow in the footsteps of his illustrious stablemate, he'll need to be able to win races such as today's off a mark of 85, and there are reasons for thinking that his current mark remains on the lenient side. The official assessor has taken the view that Arch Villain is better on AW than turf, and he was running off a lower mark at Newmarket than when scoring at Kempton on his final 3-y-o start. The style of his comeback win puts to bed any residual doubts about his effectiveness on turf, and the horse he gave weight and a beating to at Kempton was second off a mark of 86 in Dubai last time. With the yard in such good form, it's only reasonable to assume that he'll continue to thrive, and the step up to 1¾m alone should bring enough improvement to keep him ahead of the handicapper for a while.
In the Irish 2000 Guineas at the Curragh (15:20), the decision of Joseph O'Brien to partner Magician instead of the stable's other entries has seen the colt's price shorten dramatically, and the Dee Stakes winner is sure to start favourite. He's certainly the "sexy" runner from the Ballydoyle yard, with George Vancouver and Gale Force Ten having already come up short in classics this term. Magician was impressive at Chester, and could well progress further, but it's more the apparent weaknesses in his stable companions that his inherent class which has propelled him to the head of the market. That Chester form took a knock when the runner-up was chinned in a match at Goodwood yesterday, a contest which merely raised further questions about the merit of so many uncompetitive Derby Trials.
It makes much more sense to find a proven Group 1 performer in today's field, and both George Vancouver and Gale Force Ten have stronger credentials in that regard than their better-fancied compatriot. The former looked rusty in the Newmarket classic last time, and is capable of springing a shock, but the obvious candidate is Richard Hannon's Van der Neer, who ran such a creditable race when third to Dawn Approach on the Rowley Mile, and will find the way this race will be run suiting his hold-up style. A strong stayer at the trip who relishes fast ground, the likely sound pace will enable him to unleash a late turn of foot which should prove too much for his rivals. He may have been beaten 7¼ lengths at Newmarket, but that was a much better race than the one he contests today, and the way he kept on takingly at the finish indicates that there is plenty more to come from him.