Newmarket Friday: Guest Post by Steve Bonnick

Many years ago, I met a bunch of guys on a message board devoted to English and Irish racing (including a certain top 10 propunter in the UK today). One of the sharpest was Steven Bonnick, known then on the forum as Falleratthefirst or just FALLER for short. We have remained friends and he is one of the best judges I know. He’s been a huge help over the years in the work I’ve done for covering the Breeders’ Cup and I’m also proud to call him a friend. Today, he offers his take on a couple of VERY interesting Newmarket races tomorrow. Take it away, Steven!

Newmarket plays host to a couple of intriguing Group contests this Friday, both of which have potential implications for the Breeders’ Cup in early November.

The Shadwell Rockfel (15:00 GMT) is for freshman fillies and has provided a runner in the Juvenile Fillies’ Turf in each of the last four-years, most notably Daaheyh, who won the Rockfel and ran second to Sharing at Santa Anita last year. Her trainer, Roger Varian, is represented by NAZUNA this year and this daughter of Kodiac has improved with each of her three runs this season. Having landed a Doncaster maiden on her second start, Nazuna returned to the same track to contest a valuable nursery and ran a perfectly acceptable race to finish second off a mark of 80. She has risen 7lbs for that run but that looks warranted and it would not be a surprise to see this filly improve again. She will enjoy the return to seven furlongs but her form to date gives her plenty to find and you would imagine connections would be thrilled with some black type here.


She is not quite the lowest-rated runner in the Rockfel this year, with that dubious honour going to ALBA ROSE, who has a rating of 83 after just two starts. She would appear to be a good thing for a handicap off that number, however, having run extremely well on her debut in what is starting to look a hot race at Lingfield – the winner is likely to be rated 100+ following a romp here today (Thursday) and the fourth looks a good horse having justified strong support to win a Sandown novice next time out. Alba Rose was a winner second up herself, powering clear having travelled very smoothly at Thirsk. The time was fair for one that won easily and this well-bred filly will continue to improve.

She is a free goer and likely to be forwardly placed, although the most likely front-runner is Aiden O’Brien’s MONDAY. The implications of this are quite significant as the track naturally favours speed anyway, but with a strong tailwind and soft ground prevailing it could prove extremely difficult to peg the pace back. Monday didn’t run to much of a level on her debut but was wide all of the way with no cover and plugged on nicely enough into fourth. She was always going to improve a lot on her second start and so it proved, making all to land a Listed race at Leopardstown in gritty fashion. That effort was backed up by the clock and, while she likely appreciated the sound surface there, Monday ran well enough on soft on her debut. She has a beautiful pedigree, with her dam having won a Group 1 at two, and is the most likely winner.

Both of Monday’s principle market rivals should relish the going. ISABELLA GILES took her form to the next level last time out when presented with seven furlongs on a slow surface, romping home by seven lengths in a Group 3 at Goodwood. The time was reasonable but that form has not worked out and there is a strong suspicion that she raced on the best part of the track that day, but this likeable filly is game and won’t go down without a fight.

Similar comments apply to SANTOSHA, who has the best figures in the book and might be able to eke out some more improvement now tackling seven furlongs for the first time. She’s out of a dam who appeared to stay ten furlongs well and ran a blinder on the July course in a Group 2 earlier in the year. She subsequently landed a Group 3 at Ascot – with Isabella Giles behind – and can probably be forgiven a rare poor effort at York last time, slowly away and on the backfoot subsequently. She should get into a better rhythm this time, although he running style may see her at a disadvantage tomorrow.

VERDICT: Alba looks the most interesting from a punting perspective based on breeding and given the scope to improve and ability to stay–5-1 would be a good price.

This is quite the renewal of the Shadwell Joel Stakes (15:35 GMT) with three Group 1 winners in the field taking on two rapid improvers.

The obvious place to start is last year’s winner BENBATL who returns from over six months off. However, he goes well fresh and third in the Saudi Cup was a pretty sensational effort given the level of opposition. His Group 1 wins have perhaps not come in the strongest of races but this consistent performer is fairly formidable when he gets his favoured good ground. However, he has never been at his best on soft ground – withdrawn from a recent engagement at Goodwood due to wet going – and the forecast rain is a big concern. He could get an easy lead on a track that is likely to heavily favour speed but his prospects will largely depend on the weather. Either way, this should put him spot on for the Breeders’ Cup, where this versatile performer has the Mile, Classic and Dirt Mile as potential options.

Similar concerns abound about the 2000 Guineas winner KAMEKO, who returns to the calmer waters of a Group 2 having contested some of the most prestigious races in the Pattern. That Guineas win looks a bit stronger than it perhaps did a couple of months ago and it’s fair to say he hasn’t had things go his way since then. A patent non-stayer in the Derby, Kameko got no run in a messy Sussex Stakes – form isn’t working out – and ran much better than it looked last time, making rapid progress up the rail into second but finding himself unable to sustain that effort. A mile does look his bag but both of his parents appeared better on decent ground and a penalty means he has to give weight to some very smart older horses – he would appear a promising Breeders’ Cup Mile race, however, if he runs well here.

Amongst the talented older brigade is REGAL REALITY, whose third in last year’s Eclipse would give him every chance. He did too much from the front last time and although he has some solid form with give in the ground he appears to be better on a sound surface.

The same would apply to URBAN ICON who looks out of his depth having yet to make much of an impact at Group level, while DUKE OF HAZZARD did win back-to-back Group races last season but that form is nothing special and he, too, would not want much rain.

ZABEEL PRINCE will like the ground, though, and made a breakthrough at Group 1 level when winning the Prix d’Ispahan last year. He lost his way subsequently but shaped a little better last time – he will need to step forward again.

Perhaps the most interesting runner in the field is TOP RANK, who has always been well regarded. A winner of five of his six starts, he took the step into Group company in his stride with an emphatic victory over another progressive type. He will love the ground and this May foal should continue to improve as the year goes on.

The other improver in the field is TILSIT, who has very similar form lines to top rank. He showed both quirks and a fine turn of foot last time out and should improve again on just his fourth start. He was withdrawn on good-to-soft ground earlier in the year and is another who will not want rain.

VERDICT: The market looks to have this one about right. (ED NOTE by PTF: Based on the write-up, I may take a chance on Top Rank)

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