Best Of Days
We were initially disappointed with Best of Days in the Edward VII Stakes, even in the knowledge that he was facing a hell of a task on his seasonal debut, but given time to reflect, there were mitigating circumstances, and he wasn't disgraced in being beaten just over eight lengths by Permian. He got a bit upset before the race, lashing out behind and rocking in the stalls, which caused him to miss the kick, whereupon he was caught too far back and forced to cover plenty of ground in a slowly run race.
I think it was just freshness which caused him to misbehave in the gate, but as a precaution, we will fit him with a stalls rug, which he's worn without incident at home. Since Ascot he's been working very well on rain-softened turf and appears in great form, so I think he'll cope well with underfoot conditions. Despite the fact that his wins have come on good to firm, I'm not convinced he's entirely comfortable on very fast ground, and he was most impressive visually as a juvenile when racing up the hill at Sandown in his maiden.
James (Doyle) wasn't convinced he stayed at Ascot, and while I think it's premature to jump to that conclusion based on a run where plenty went wrong, the drop back to ten furlongs on a galloping track should not be a problem. He's got a bit to prove taking on older horses for the first time, and we are conceding plenty in terms of experience to Spark Plug, who looks a worthy favourite, but there are lots of reasons to think Best of Days can get back on track, and he will have the assistance of a new jockey in the shape of Oisin Murphy.
Gifted Master & Koropick
On one hand, it's a shame they have to run against each other, but the reality is that there aren't that many opportunities for six-furlong horses with their rating (Both BHA 109) at this time of year. In the next month, there just the Phoenix Sprint at the Curragh and the Goldene Peitsche at Baden Baden for horses in this bracket unless you want to carry big weights in handicaps.
We considered entering Gifted Master for the Stewards' Cup, but passed on that early-closing race as he was sick when coming back from Meydan. He's fine now, and showing he's as good as ever at home, and he will run in the blinkers he wore for the Godolphin Mile. I was worried that he might struggle for pace on the dirt, but the blinkers really sharpened him up, and he covered the first six furlongs of that contest in track-record fractions. If he can repeat that, he'll be hard to catch, but there is a slight concern about conditions should the going ease. He has won at Newmarket with some give, but Pat Smullen raised a question about the ground when he disappointed last year's Jersey Stakes. I think it's sometimes too easy to blame the ground when a horse disappoints, so we'll let him take his chance, and if he doesn't like it, we won't do it again.
Koropick has improved from Newcastle, but will need to if he's to defy a penalty for his Chipchase win. His early troubles this season have been well documented, but he's proven very tough and consistent since we dropped him back to sprinting at Sandown, and his second to Baataash in the Scurry Stakes looks even better now. He was well beaten on soft ground here on his return, but moved well until losing a shoe, so I've no qualms about running him back on an easy surface.
The first thing to say is that it's great to have Frankie back from injury to ride, but while Ghayadh won his maiden readily, he could be vulnerable conceding weight to some very well-bred newcomers, notably the Group-1 entered Helvetian. The problem is that under the new rules he no longer qualifies to run in nurseries after winning a maiden on debut. In addition to the maiden, he now needs either a second win or two more runs to get a mark. I'm sure he's improved since Beverley, and he sets the standard, but it's hard to gauge the opposition accurately.
Harlow made a wonderful start to his career when winning at Newcastle, and looked in need of further than a mile when third on his handicap debut at Chelmsford. He disappointed on ground which was much too fast at Newmarket in May, but came back from that a sick horse, and it's taken a him time to recover. I think he will stay this trip, but he'll need to settle well if he's to do so, and that's why I'm refitting him with a hood, which he wore when winning at Newcastle. I think he could go well, and it will be pleasing if he can resume his progress after a break.
I've always liked Apphia very much, and she coped well with a bit of ease when beaten in a photo on her debut at sandown. She is a little delicate and that's why we went straight from winning a maiden to running her in the Ribblesdale, where she was an excellent fifth. It's just as well we're not trying to find a handicap for her, as she went up 21lb for the Ascot race, but given her beautiful pedigree, the aim has always been about gaining black type, and this race has been on her agenda for some time. She looks tremendous and continues to please in her work, while the return to easier going will suit. I feel she got away with quick ground at Ascot, but I'd not be in a hurry to race on similar ground again. It's gratifying to see she was priced up as favourite for this in the early lists, mainly as it shows we've found the right opportunity for her, and it will be great in terms of her paddock value if she wins.
We hoped Manchego might just develop into a Classic candidate at one stage, but he failed to stay when we tried him at Newbury, where he also came home sick. He's another who took time to recover, but is in good form now, and hopefully ready to make up for lost time. I think conditions will suit him well, and this is a valuable race, but it's a disadvantage that he will effectively be racing from 5lb more than his official mark. He's out of the handicap anyway, but finding a jockey isn't easy at the moment, and most of the lightweights are at Newbury for the Super Sprint. Rather than scratch around for a lightweight we don't know, I've decided that it would be more valuable to use Josephine Gordon's experience, which I'm sure will be worth more than the 2lb overweight she will have to put up, and she knows the horse well.
There's not much to say about Mazyoun that hasn't been said already, other than that I was heartened by way he ran on at Sandown from a poor position. I wanted him to come through between horses as he is best with cover, but James was getting a poor run through until pulling him wide. Seeing daylight wasn't ideal, but he sprouted wings and kept on all the way to the line. Despite not being entirely straightforward, he definitely deserves to win another race, and hopefully he will get the splits when needed here. The plan is to go to Goodwood after this, all being well.