Kevin Blake

Big Race Verdict: Alan Dudman's with Inspiral to grab Lockinge

John Gosden
John Gosden trains top class mare Inspiral

The Lockinge at Newbury is one of the early season Group 1s and, with Kevin Blake on a mini break, Alan Dudman has Saturday's big race verdict...

  • Inspiral v Big Rock a match to savour

  • Former Lockinge runner-up a massive price

  • Alan Dudman delivers Saturday's Newbury verdict


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Gosden not quite in tip-top form

Lester Piggott was peerless in the Group 1 Lockinge Stakes with six wins, and while no rider these days comes close to the great man, this is a big Saturday for Kieran Shoemark, who let's be honest, has come in for criticism in his role as Clarehaven number one.

While not quite "Elephant in the Room" stuff, Shoemark's run of just three winners at 10% in the last two weeks has increased pressure on an already pressurised situation and high profile gig. Looking at those stats is probably a little unfair as some of Gosden's horses are behind in terms of their work, and that was a point a made by Johnny G a couple of weeks ago due to the wet conditions.

Of course a big win on Saturday will silence any critics as he has the plum ride on Inspiral, but Gosden is hardly tearing up the track either in terms of numbers and 6-40 at just 15% is below what you'd expect from an elite yard.

The percentage dice need rolling. His first win in the Lockinge came in the mid-90s with Emperor Jones - a day with a young upstart called Frankie Dettori.

Big two priced at 2/1 each

No Dettori, no Peslier, no Yves Saint-Martin, but we do have Aurelian Lemaitre. We also have Maurizio Guarnieri as the new trainer of Big Rock, a brilliant QEII winner at the back-end of last season for handler Christopher Head.

Big Rock has since left Head - a move that could be considered sacrilege from such a family dynasty, with the owners switching their horses to Guarnieri in a move that evoked memories of the Wildensteins across the channel and here. Will it be a case of Allez France on Saturday?

Connections of Big Rock were probably hopeful at the start of the week with a wet-tish forecast. However, that hasn't quite materialised. On the face of it, ground conditions will suit Inspiral far more than the Rock.

Newbury, the racecourse, hadn't tweeted anything on Friday morning in terms of a going stick update, but there are tickets pinned for a concert in the summer.

With good at the time of writing and bright conditions, it could well change to some firm in the description and Newbury does dry out well. Those are the conditions for Saturday by the way, not the concert.

Ocean Colour Scene need it soft and heavy, anyway.

The Prix Jacques le Marois at Deauville last summer was a race where Inspiral and Big Rock went head-to-head with the Gosden mare winning the argument. It was good to soft that day and while not ideal, she handled it better to register her fourth Group 1 victory before going in for a fifth later in the season.

Priced at 2/13.00 each and all 11 standing their ground from entry stage, my thoughts have changed somewhat as conditions look to be swinging very much in the favour of the star mare. With the weight pull too, I think she could have the beating of Big Rock.

Both of course are on first runs of the season with similar breaks of around 200 days.

inspiral 1280.jpg

Is there an each-way angle?

I penned the ante-post column earlier this week and nothing has changed at all with Inspiral and Big Rock, who will not budge from 2/13.00 each.

Royal Scotsman was 12/113.00 on Monday and I anticipated him perhaps going shorter, which hasn't happened at all and he's now 16s.

His juvenile form makes him look overpriced, but he's now two years older and he regressed from his 2,000 Guineas third to Chaldean in two subsequent runs. The ground wouldn't be a problem however but for a horse who went backwards set for a first run of the season off 333 days, not for me.

Remember, he was sent off 6/42.50 for an Irish Classic last term - although Oliver Cole was at a loss and puzzled post-race with a heavy defeat by saying: "We just can't work out why.

"But he's terribly sore on both front feet. It wasn't the ground, which was fine, but he's very sore. Me and the vet looked at him this morning and there is no obvious reason. He was never going and didn't pick up the bridle on the way to start, and didn't pick it up in the race."

They try the tongue-tie on him on Saturday. It will be interesting to see how he goes and whether any of the old talent is still there. You'd like to think so, or hope so anyway, but I am not convinced enough for a bet.

Bin Suroor has barely had a runner

The winds of change from a decade ago are laid bare, as Saeed bin Suroor won this with Farhh in 2013, and he added to an illustrious roll of honour for the Godolphin man who had some real stars in the 90s with Lockinge success - and he reeled off three on the spin with Cape Cross, Fly To The Stars and Aljabr.

Bin Suroor has barely had a runner this term with just one win from seven sent out from his Newmarket base. He's had a runner at Bath and a winner at Yarmouth. No crack milers there.

Sad times.

Real World is a 20/121.00 outsider and that is massive considering the horse finished second to Baaeed in the 2022 Lockinge - and he was unfortunate to meet him in the Queen Anne too at Royal Ascot that year.

However, it's not all doom and gloom. While his rating suggests he has regressed (from 118 to 109), a mile on quick ground really suits him and at one stage even held a peak of 124.

Newbury is a track he goes well at as he won the Steventon here in his younger days, and while we have to forgive a few runs abroad in Meydan, and that's easy to do, on back-form he looks more of a bet than Royal Scotsman with conditions very much in his favour.

Also, with Bin Suroor very short on any sort of superstar these days, it will certainly take us back down memory lane and the old romantic in me would love to see it. Old being the operative word.


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