Mark Milligan has two selections as Glorious Goodwood raises its curtain, as well as Joseph O'Brien horse over at Galway...
"His prior win at York when convincingly taking care of Sir Ron Priestly is a strong piece of form in the context of this race, and William Buick clearly gets on very well with Andrew Balding's son of Noble Mission."
Tomorrow's highlight as the Qatar Goodwood Festival gets under way is undoubtedly the Group 1 Al Shaqab Goodwood Cup at 15:35, which features Stradivarius going for a momentous fifth win in a row in a race he's made his own.
Has Stradivarius had his day in the sun?
From a betting perspective, much of the interest centres around whether or not you think John & Thady Gosden's 7-y-o is as good as he once was, the evidence mounting to suggest he probably isn't.
At his peak, Stradivarius managed to record a Timeform rating of 127 (achieved in last year's Ascot Gold Cup), while since then he's run to figures of 117, 123, 114, 36, 116, and 118 most recently in this year's renewal of Ascot's showpiece.
If we chuck out that 36 when he clearly wasn't right having run in the Arc just a fortnight previously, we get a median rating of 117 for Stradivarius' five most recent efforts.
There were also mitigating circumstances for his run in the Ascot Gold Cup this year - though his passage wasn't quite as bad as some would have you believe - unlikely to have beaten Subjectivist no matter what kind of trip he got.
Now ratings are not the be all and end all, and I'm certainly not using them as a stick to beat him with, though when dealing with a short-priced favourite, the key is to find out whether the price is merited or not.
Based on the evidence in front of us, I'd suggest 2.2 is probably not a price worth taking on a horse who doesn't seem quite as good as he was (albeit still a smart performer).
If we take the view that Stradivarius is likely to run somewhere between 117 and 123 on the Timeform scale, then this looks an open renewal, with plenty of his rivals capable of running to that sort of level on their best days.
So, which way to jump when looking for a bet in the race?
The obvious starting point is Trueshan, who missed the Ascot Gold Cup due to drying ground and easier conditions will be more in his favour here. He ran a blinder when fourth under a big weight in the Northumberland Plate last time.
Mark Johnston's Sir Ron Priestly is stepping up to 2m for the first time, though the suspicion is he would prefer faster ground, albeit forecast drying conditions up to the race would certainly work in his favour.
Aidan O'Brien is three-handed in a race he's won twice previously, with the mighty Yeats in 2006 and 2008.
Last year's Derby winner Serpentine remains with that one effort very much a standout on the balance of his form, though he has to be respected back in trip having failed to stay in the Ascot Gold Cup last time.
He'd be just about the pick of the Ballydoyle trio if able to replicate his Epsom run, though the jury is very much out on that score.
Spanish Mission is the one who fascinates me most in here.
He's a horse who's always shown plenty of talent, though hasn't always delivered. However, there are signs now that he's finally putting it all together at the age of 5.
There's also an argument to suggest he had a slightly worse trip than Stradivarius in the Ascot Gold Cup last time, yet still managed to finish ahead of that one. His prior win at York when convincingly taking care of Sir Ron Priestly is a strong piece of form in the context of this race, and William Buick clearly gets on very well with Andrew Balding's son of Noble Mission.
I'd be happy taking a chance on Spanish Mission, whose form could be just about to go to the next level for a trainer who's having a fantastic 2021.
No Blues for Appleby
The other bet on the Goodwood card is Space Blues, who is bidding for a repeat in the Group 2 Unibet Lennox Stakes at 15:00.
A real 7f specialist, Space Blues looks to have been laid out specifically for this race having not been seen since finishing down the field in the Al Quoz at Meydan in March.
A winner of the STC 1351 Sprint over 6.7f in Saudi Arabia on his reappearance in February, it's worth forgiving that Al Quoz effort as 6f on a flat track is an absolute bare minimum for Space Blues nowadays.
A compact type ideally suited to the tight Goodwood track, Charlie Appleby's son of Dubawi looks sure to put up a big effort for a yard that's carrying all before it this year.
The main danger to the selection could well come from his own stable in the shape of Creative Force, who's done nothing but improve this year and was far from disgraced when fifth in the July Cup at Newmarket last time.
However, my feeling is that this track just plays more into the hands of his stable companion, for all that Creative Force looks sure to give a good account.
Mazagran is a great price
Over at Galway, the Colm Quinn BMW Mile Premier Handicap at 18:15 is as competitive as you'd expect for an 18-runner affair at a mid-summer festival.
However, there are plenty in here that have already tipped their hands to the handicapper, while there could be one who has yet to fully show what he's capable of on turf.
Step forward Mazagran.
This could well be one of the shrewdest purchases of the year for Joseph O'Brien's yard, being bought out of Satish Seemar's UAE stable for just over £12.5k.
What makes Mazagran of particular interest is that he's still unexposed on turf, having done the majority of his racing in the UAE on dirt (won twice at Jebel Ali).
His recent debut for this yard could hardly have been more impressive, as he strode away with a minor contest at Limerick, winning with plenty in hand. An opening Irish mark of 94 looks more than workable and he'll take plenty of stopping if getting the breaks.