The first one that takes our eye is, naturally enough, topweight Farraaj (16/1), who has the steadier of 10st 0lb, but carries just a 3lb penalty for winning the John Smith’s Cup at York earlier this month. That was his second impressive handicap win in a row and, while a mile is arguably on the short side for him these days, the likely fast pace could bring his proven stamina into play in the closing stages.
At the same price, Heavy Metal (16/1) has returned to something like his best on his last two starts and is another who carries just a 3lb penalty for winning the International Stakes, over 7 furlongs, at Ascot last Saturday. He had a few of these behind on that occasion and, having won over a sharp mile at Brighton, he promises to be equally effective on this vastly different course. He is just one of seven entries for Middleham Moor trainer Mark Johnston, but if he does line up he must have a decent chance of completing a quick-fire double.
Heaven’s Guest (20/1) finished just 1½ lengths behind Heavy Metal at Ascot and reopposes on 2lb better terms. That, in itself, shouldn’t be quite enough for him to reverse the form, but the way he stayed on in the closing stages suggested stepping up to a mile could be exactly what he wants at this stage of his career. He’s only 2lb higher in the weights than when winning the Bunbury Cup on the July Course at Newmarket two weeks previously and is pretty much in the form of his life.
At much longer odds, St. Moritz (40/1) could only finish seventh, beaten 6 lengths, behind ante post favourite Velox at Sandown last time, but is 11lb better off and, if ridden with slightly more restraint, must have every chance of reversing the form on this much sharper track. Admittedly, he didn’t do his handicap mark much good when winning back-to-back handicaps in May and June, but wasn’t beaten far at Sandown off a 2lb lower mark on his penultimate start and appears to have been underestimated by the layers.
Last, but hopefully not least, I must confess to having a soft spot – possibly between my ears – for Excellent Guest (66/1). The Exceed And Excel gelding is clearly smart when on song, as he demonstrated when winning the Victoria Cup, over 7 furlongs, at Ascot on his reappearance last season off a 1lb higher mark. Unplaced runs in the Victoria Cup and Buckingham Palace Stakes so far this season don’t inspire much confidence, but outsiders is what we’re all about and he’s definitely one of those.
So, for our three against the field this week, we’re going for Farraaj, St. Moritz and Excellent Guest, in no particular order. Good luck!