Two-year-olds hold center stage in Britain and Ireland this weekend. Newmarket hosts the first two Group 1 events of the year on the British calendar for juniors, both over six furlongs.
There are also Group 2 one-mile two-year-old contests in Britain and Ireland that are not only good prizes in their own right; they also open the European Road to the Kentucky Derby series, which will be looked at in a separate story.
In addition, it’s also the weekend of one of Britain’s most important handicap races, the Cambridgeshire at Newmarket.
All races at Newmarket are subject to the Rest of the World Bet Back, where players who opt in can get a maximum of $10 of their win bet returned in fields of six horses or more if their horse finishes second. So let’s have a look at some of them.
Race 2, Newmarket, 9:25 a.m. ET: Cheveley Park (G1), 6 furlongs, 2-year-old fillies
This looks like a decent renewal of the Cheveley Park, with most of the best six-furlong juvenile fillies taking part. However, the race looks to be at the mercy of Aidan O’Brien’s #6 Meditate. She decisively won her first four races, among them the Albany (G3) at Royal Ascot and the Debutante (G2) at The Curragh. She then started evens favorite in the 7-furlong Moyglare Stud (G1), only to be run down by the very impressive Tahiyra.
Despite her 2 1/4-length defeat, Meditate was still more than four lengths ahead of the rest of the Moyglare Stud field. She may appreciate the drop back to six furlongs here, and with no Tahiyra in this field she looks very tough to roll.
There is still a number of very promising fillies in the field. #9 Trillium, like Meditate a daughter of No Nay Never, has been outstanding in winning her last three, the most recent a thrilling win over The Platinum Queen in the 5-furlong Flying Childers (G2) at Doncaster. Her best efforts of her have been at five furlongs but she did win easily over six furlongs at Newbury July 15.
Princess Margaret S. (G3) winner #2 lezooDuchess of Cambridge (G2) victor #4 MawjDick Poole Fillies’ S. (G3) heroine #1 Juliet SierraLowther (G2) winner #7 swingalongand Round Tower (G3) scorer #8 Treasure Trove add to the puzzle. However, I’m going to support Meditate all the way.
- $10 win/$30 show: #6 Meditate
- $1 trifecta: 6 with 2, 7, 9 with 1, 2, 4, 7, 8, 9
Race 3, Newmarket, 10 a.m. ET: Middle Park (G1), 6 furlongs, 2-year-old colts
Eight horses are set to start in the Middle Park, and again it looks a good field. The first three in the Prix Morny (G1) are back – #1 blackbeard, #6 Persian Forceand #7 The Antarcticalong with recent Sirenia (G3) victor #3 Mischief Magic for Godolphin and Gimcrack (G2) runner-up #2 marshmallow.
Blackbeard and Persian Force have both displayed class and competitiveness over several races, and the former’s tenacity will be tough to match if it becomes a war of attrition. But perhaps the best form effort came from Marshman, who found only the unbeaten Noble Style too good in the Gimcrack. He was nearly four lengths ahead of the rest and should measure up here.
The most interesting of the unexposed horses is #8 Zoology, a four-length winner of his only race to date. This is a much tougher task for the James Ferguson-trained Zoustar colt, but he shouldn’t be dismissed.
- $10 win/$30 show: #2 marshmallow
- $2 trifecta: 1, 2 with 1, 2 with 3, 6, 7, 8
- $1 trifecta: 1, 2 with 3, 6, 7, 8 with 1, 2, 3, 6, 7, 8
Race 4, Newmarket, 10:40 a.m. ET: Cambridgeshire H., 1 1/8 miles, 3-year-olds and up
With a total purse of £200,000, this great heritage handicap has not surprisingly drawn a very good and even field. Interestingly, a number of the key forms are through a horse that was being tried over hurdles in Ireland last November.
#10 Protagonist won three of his first 18 races for Irish trainer Jessica Harrington. The last of those 18 was a fourth-place finish in a 2-mile hurdle contest at Punchestown, and it seemed that may be his career path.
However, he was switched to leading English trainer William Haggas in June and has since won two of his three starts, all over 1 1/4 miles. Two starts back he beat another well-backed Cambridgeshire runner, #15 Savvy Victoryat Doncaster, and at his most recent start he beat #21 Dual Identityanother genuine Cambridgeshire contest.
Protagonist has a change of rider for this event but he won’t lose much with Tom Marquand taking the irons.
Haggas also has another leading chance here with #4 Mujtaba. Owned by Shadwell Stud, who also owns the unbeaten Haggas-trained star Baaeed, Mujtaba showed an outstanding turn of foot when winning a handicap at Doncaster Sept. 7, despite not really being asked for his best from him until the last 1 1/2 furlongs.
Godolphin’s Saeed bin Suroor is four-handed here with #9 Brilliant Light, #14 First View, #19 Electrical Stormand #26 Night of Luxury; the latter might be the most interesting of those, showing good form prior to a last-start failure over a longer 1 1/2-mile trip.
I’m always a fan of young horses on the way up in British handicaps, and one that fills that criteria is #20 Kitsune Power. The Roger Varian-trained three-year-old won very well at Beverley last start and has just 120 pounds to carry.
Despite the good form around Protagonist, I was most taken by Mujtaba’s effort at Doncaster and will be supporting him strongly.
- $10 win/$30 show: #4 Mujtaba
- $1 trifecta: 4, 10 with 4, 10, 15 with 4, 10, 15, 20, 21, 26