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Middleton Stakes preview

The Dante meeting at York sets the scene before Epsom and Royal Ascot in June. It's a big, spacious track where every horse should gets its chance - although straight races will be plagued by the inevitable draw bias discussion. James Jack, @materialista27, attacks one of Thursday's highlights, the Middleton Stakes.

Betfred Middleton Stakes

The Middleton Stakes is a Group 2 for fillies and mares aged four years or older. It is run over a distance of 1 mile, 2 furlongs and 88 yards (2,092 metres), previous winners include Oaks heroine Sariska and Midday for Sir Henry. Sir Michael Stoute has won the race three times, but luckily for punters, the rotund Barbadian does not have a runner this year. There is a 3lb penalty for a Group 2 win after 31st August 2011, and 5lb for a Group 1 win in the same period. £56,710 for the winner and £21,500 for the bridesmaid. And so, onto the field:

1. Sea Of Heartbreak (5yo)
James Doyle for Roger Charlton
9-1
Carries the extra 3lbs for her win in the Prix de Royallieu in October. Beat Miss Crissy that day who hasn't been seen since finishing 4th to Vadamar a fortnight later. She finished a length and a nose behind I'm A Dreamer at Woodbine to finish off her season on yielding ground in the E P Taylor Stakes. She also ran a creditable 3rd to Green Destiny and Al Kazeem at Newbury last September which looks good after Al Kazeem's win in the Jockey Club Stakes (tipped here!). She finished 2nd to both Timepiece and I'm a Dreamer at Warwick and Newmarket last summer over 1m3f and 1m1f respectively so while not without a shout based on returning with that kind of form intact, I don't think she's our winner. Since leaving handicap company she's only won twice, and she's never run on the Knavesmire and she looks liked she's better suited to further over firmer ground.
Best Odds: 14/1 (William Hill)

2. Barefoot Lady (4yo)
Tony Hamilton for Richard Fahey
8-12
She put together a string of decent performances together last summer, winning the Nell Gwyn, 5th in the 1,000 Guineas, 2nd in the Musidora and 3rd in the Coronation Cup. So she knows how to mix it with this class of runner. She lost her regular partner in Hanagan to Sheikh Hamdan, but Tony Hamilton is an able replacement if not with the same prestige as the Champ. Excuses can be made for her opening run of this campaign at Goodwood, as she doesn't appear to enjoy too many turns or a soft track. She's only run twice over this sort of trip, but her run at Deauville in August was on the soft and as mentioned she was 2nd on good ground here last May. It wouldn't surprise me if she put in a performance that belies her price, but I just feel there are better options out there.
Best Odds: 20/1 (Bodog)

3. Beatrice Aurore (4yo)
Ryan Moore for John Dunlop
8-12
Was a good 3rd in the Earl of Sefton Stakes at Newmarket behind Questioning, but after finishing 6th in the Oaks last year, her best work came on the continent, winning the Prix Chloe and beating Barefoot Lady at Deauville. She nearly won the Lydia Tesio at Capannelle but was defeated by Quiza Quiza Quiza, who subsequently finished third behind last year's Italian Derby winner at the same track on Sunday. She acts well on the surface and although she didn't seem to stay the trip at Epsom, she was running on for a place before she tailed off. She sees out 1m2f no problem for me, and she'll appreciate the quicker ground. She's a big shout, I wouldn't expect to see 9/1 at the off.
Best Odds: 9/1 (Betfred)

4. Goldplated (4yo)
Tadhg O'Shea for JJ Murphy
8-12
NON RUNNER, don't worry though, it had no chance of winning anyway.

5. I'm A Dreamer (5yo)
Jimmy Fortune for David Simcock
8-12
Finished 2nd by a head in the aforementioned E P Taylor Stakes at Woodbine and won the Dahlia Stakes last summer, and beat Sea of Heartbreak in the Dahlia Stakes at Newmarket, but with the except of those runs, her form looks buck nasty. 4Th in the Sun Chariot, 6th in the Falmouth doesn't inspire confidence, or go anywhere near justifying her price in this contest. She was unraced as a 2yo at won her first three contests at 3, but has struggled to pick up anything until last time out. I'll be interested to see how she's wintered, and she may be a contender later in the summer for some of the fillies and mares events, but too many questions going into this run, so I'll just be watching her.
Best Odds: 6/1 (Bet365)

6. Izzi Top (4yo)
William Buick for John Gosden
8-12
The clear form choice considering she won the Dahlia Stakes on Guineas weekend, add that to her victory in the Prix De Flore in October and you've got yourself a really impressive horse? Well, not quite, she beat nothing in France, and she only really beat Timepiece at Newmarket. Sure her defeat of Dancing Rain at Newbury last year looks impressive on paper, but she only just held on and was firmly put in her place at Epsom and only grabbed third due to punters' pal Frankie. She's not going to have a problem over 10 furlongs, and as far as I'm concerned, the drier the ground gets, the happier she'll be with that. She's not for me in this, but I would be looking for an early ante-post quote for the Yorkshire Oaks, and that's my gift to you.
Best Odds: 7/2 (William Hill)

7. Mohedian Lady (4yo)
Kieren Fallon for Luca Cumani
8-12
A mile and a quarter is far too sharp for her, and so far in her handbag, she only has a listed race victory over a mile and a half at Newmarket last summer to show off. She'll struggle in this class with quite a few horses better than her. On her final appearance last season she finished 4th behind Beaten Up and Al Kazeem who've both gone on to better but two of the three she beat that day defected to hurdling and she was well beaten by Izzi Top at Newbury around this time last year. Again, not a runner I can get behind financially, but good luck if you do go for her.
Best Odds: 20/1 (BetVictor)

8. Myplacelater (5yo)
Franny Norton for Richard Fahey
8-12
A creditable 2nd in the Huxley Stakes at the Koukash meeting at Chester last week, this marked a return to some kind of form as she had only beaten 9 horses in her last 6 outings including her last 4 runs for David Elsworth. She hasn't won since taking a Listed contest at Newmarket in October of 2010 and I can't see that changing here. Too good for handicaps, not good enough for Listed/Group races. Will probably finish last in this I reckon, just like last year.
Best Odds: 20/1 (BlueSquare)

9. Sajjhaa (5yo)
Frankie Dettori for Saeed Bin Suroor
8-12
2nd in this race last year, and beat Myplacelater over course and distance last July, apart from a Group 3 win at San Siro in 2010, she's never looked like winning anything better than a Listed contest, and I'm not convinced she has the quality to step up this, sure only Midday beat her last year, but that was giving her 5lbs too, and some of the other fillies in this line-up are much better prospects than last year's field. Also, as a point of principle I'm inclined to lay anything Frankie rides these days, unless the horse is rated about 20lbs better than the field, which this one ain't.
Best Odds: 11/2 (Ladbrokes)

10. Set To Music (4yo)
Jamie Spencer for Michael Bell
8-12
This one's an enigma, second to Meeznah in the Park Hill Stakes at Doncaster over 1m7f and good winner of a Listed contest over a mile and a half here at the Ebor meeting but previous to that netted a hat trick of wins over this trip in varying ground conditions. She holds entries for the Coronation Cup and the Pretty Polly Stakes at the Curragh, so big things are clearly expected of her. Relatively unexposed in this field, and clearly on an upward curve, this is one to keep an eye on. My concern is this is her first start in Pattern class over this trip. If there's any pace in this race, she should be there or thereabouts come the finish.
Best Odds: 7/1 (BetVictor)

11. Timepiece (5yo)
Tom Queally for Sir Henry Cecil
8-12
Finished well behind Izzi Top in the Dahlia Stakes and finished third in this race last year behind her stablemate Midday. Often the bridesmaid until she broke her Group duck in some style winning the Falmouth last season, she even had a go at Goldikova in the Rothschild doing well to finish third also behind three time Sun Chariot winner Sahpresa. She's won a good chunk in Listed races, but I think this one is beyond her. A drop back into Listed events is the way forward for her, and even if she manages a fluke here, she won't stick in this company for long. All her best form is over a mile with the exception of her run in the Prix Jean Romanet and I just don't see her pinching this one.
Best Odds: 7/1 (William Hill)


ADVICE
2pt win Izzi Top
2pts EW Beatrice Aurore
1pt RFC Beatrice Aurore and Izzi Top (that's a quinella for those outside the UK/Ireland!)
1pt RFC Beatrice Aurore and Set to Music

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