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Goodwood - Gordon Stakes preview

It's a fantastic time for sports lover with the Olympics now in full swing, and racing has one of its great weeks with Glorious Goodwood and the Galway Festival. Making his debut on the blog looking at the action down in Sussex is Mark Rowntree, @uptheirons007.

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Glorious Goodwood – Gordon Stakes Preview

One of the highlights of day one of Glorious Goodwood is the Bet365 Group 3 Gordon Stakes run over 1m4f for three year olds. The race first run in 1902 is named after Duke of Gordon, one of the dukedoms held by the Duke of Richmond (owner of Goodwood racecourse). Traditionally the race is seen as a trial for the St Leger, with the 2008 winner Conduit being the last horse to land both contests.

Analysis
Michelangelo provides an obvious starting point, with the Gosden team seemingly having a plethora of good three year olds this season, and multiple options for Doncaster’s St Leger. Michelangelo landed a four runner Listed contest over 11 furlongs at Goodwood in May (Cocked Hat Stakes). In the process of this success, he showed that he handled the undulations of the track, as well as battling qualities to stay on well and see off his rivals. In the past, John Gosden has landed this contest with Masked Marvel who later went onto land the 2011 St Leger. Subsequently, Michelangelo showed further improvement to land the 1m2f Tattersalls Millions 3yo Cup at Newmarket in late June on a Good to Soft surface from Roger Varian’s Cameron Highland, staying on strongly over the slightly shorter trip in the process. On both these lines of form, the progressive three year old looks a leading contender over this extended trip of 12 furlongs.

Noble Mission represents Sir Henry Cecil. He landed two races early in the season at Newbury over a mile and at Newmarket over 1m2f. On the latter occasion this son of Galileo, saw off Michelangelo (who was making his racecourse debut). This race – the Qatar Racing Newmarket Stakes developed into something of a sprint over the final two furlongs and was run on soft ground. Taken literally, you’d expect Noble Mission to confirm form with Michelangelo (even allowing for him benefitting for the experience), but I’d suspect the latter may be a stronger stayer over 1m4f. Since these early season successes, Noble Mission has finished second of five at Newmarket on a Good to Firm surface, before showing further improvement when second to stablemate Thomas Chippendale over 12 furlongs in the King Edward VII Stakes at Royal Ascot. This again illustrated that Noble Mission enjoyed the softer surface that he is unlikely to get at Glorious Goodwood. However, it’s clear from Sir Henry Cecil that this colt is extremely well regarded and seen as a late developing type and is still very much learning his trade. Given that he is a brother to Frankel, one can understand the willingness to give him plenty of time to fully develop. The fact that he has worn the hood in the past perhaps illustrates this immaturity rather than any sign of quirkiness.

Encke represents Godolphin and Mahmood Al Zarooni. Encke landed a back end maiden over a mile at Newmaket on a Good to Firm surface in October 2011. However, on a belated reappearance on Eclipse day at Sandown in July, he narrowly landed a 10 furlong Handicap on a Good to Soft surface. Despite reportedly being a little short of work and demonstrably green this was a pleasing reappearance. Despite this improvement in form, Encke still has to prove his stamina over this longer trip, and make a further step up in grade to Group company.

Farhaan represents John Dunlop and Hamdan Al Maktoum. A seven furlong Newmarket maiden winner in August 2011, he followed up this success over a mile in a small field at Salisbury in September under Richard Hills. Farhaan has only seen the racecourse once in 2012 over 10 furlongs at Newmarket in May when only fourth of five to John Gosden’s Thought Worthy. As well as having to prove his stamina over 12 furlongs, taken literally, the form with Thought Worthy would suggest he has something to find with the market principals. Thought Worthy later went onto finish third in the King Edward VII Stakes at Royal Ascot behind the Cecil pair Thomas Chippendale and Noble Mission.

Ed De Gas brings solid form from Royal Ascot into the Gordon Stakes. Rae Guest’s colt finished third to Estimate (two places in front of Minimise Risk) over 1m4f on a soft surface. This represented an improved effort for Ed De Gas, who had earlier been highly tried when seventh of eight to Main Sequence in the Lingfield Derby Trail after a 9f maiden success on the All Weather at Wolverhampton in March and a 12f success at Catterick on a soft surface in April. In truth, Ed De Gas would need to improve further to trouble Michelangelo, but is at least proven over the 12f trip. Minimise Risk (5th to Estimate and Ed De Gas at Royal Ascot) represents Andrew Balding. This colt has also been highly tried since his success over 11f on a soft surface at Newbury in April. This has included a last of five finish in the Chester Vase at Chester’s May meeting, and a seventh of nine in the Derby at Epsom behind Aidan O’Brien’s Camelot. Whilst this looks a more realistic assignment, he’s another who would need to show further improvement in order to land this Group 3 contest. Girolamo represents Germany. He’s raced four times in Germany this season over a variety of trips ranging from 9 to 12 furlongs. In truth, it’s difficult to assess Girolamo in relation to the others, but the bookmakers seem to be taking no chances with this colt in the market. Although he represents a stable and jockey combination to be fully respected, he looks plenty short enough in the market based upon the evidence available.

Verdict
Michelangelo (win)
Farhaan (lay – stamina doubts)

Read more of Mark's excellent analysis on his blog

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