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Nayef Joel Stakes - Newmarket Friday

Friday's feature at Newmarket is the Nayef Joel Stakes over a mile, and returning to the blog with his excellent analysis is Gary Savage, @chesneywold.

Nayef Joel Stakes

Quite how the Joel Stakes at Newmarket has made it onto the roster of the British Champions Series is mystifying, but nevertheless it’s a competitive renewal and with the ground at HQ looking decent it’s well worth taking a look at the field.

Fanunalter is trained by Michael Wigham, who is more known for his ‘exploits’ at lesser tracks than training Group Two winners. Having said that, this ex-Marco Botti inmate ran straight and true on his only run so far for his new trainer when picking up the Summer Mile at Ascot at 33-1. With a strike rate of five wins from fifteen starts he must have a chance of following up in this only marginally better contest.

Most Improved has the single best piece of form in this race having taken the St James’s Palace Stakes at Royal Ascot. He’s the likely favourite here, and is no doubt seen as the horse with the most potential. His last juvenile run was here when third in the Dewhurst last October, but the tight nature of that contest was a pointer to the so-so nature of this year’s classic generation. With Most Improved having failed to run up to scratch in his two other runs this year (both in France), and with a penalty that sees him carrying the same weight as his elders, Meehan’s colt is crying out to be taken on.

Penitent has looked useful on a few occasions for William Haggas, not least when a well-beaten runner-up in this race two years ago. There is unlikely to be a Cityscape in this field, and with the six-year-old now running for David O’Meara, he comes into the shake-up. Two fifth-placed finishes in his last two runs, including a slightly unlucky one last time, could see him overlooked in the market here, but his best runs have come on a softer surface and the times at Newmarket today indicate that the course is firming up quite quickly.

Premio Loco is a popular eight-year-old of Chris Wall’s who ran a great race when winning a tight Celebration Mile at Goodwood last time. That was his fifth Group Two success and there’s no reason why he won’t go well again. He is another with a second in this race to his name as he was behind clear winner Ransom Note last year. He has also been sixth in the Cambridgeshire so clearly likes the course at this time of year, and although the Group Two he won last time was not as tough as this one Premio Loco is highly likely to go well.

Andrew Balding’s Side Glance has been running in Group races of all levels this year, and has fared well without really marking himself out as having improved. He won the Diomed over nine furlongs and then ran probably his best race when third to Frankel in that memorable Queen Anne. His third to Sri Putra (beaten 4 lengths) in the York Stakes, and second in the Strensall, both at York over further than a mile, were good runs and it could be that a drop back to a mile will be in Side Glance’s favour.

Michael Stoute’s Tazahum has form with both Premio Loco, (five lengths behind him when fourth in this last year), and Side Glance (a neck behind receiving 4lbs in the Strensall). The four-year-old colt is one of a few who hasn’t lived up to expectations and obviously his form ties in very closely with others, but as he is only four, and with Stoute having saddled his first winner on the Rowley Mile for 712 days on Thursday, it’s not impossible that Tazahum could step up and win his first Group race here.

Joviality is the only filly in the race and comes here on the back of a third place in the Grade One Beverley D Stakes at Arlington last time. She ran a great race at Royal Ascot taking the Windsor Forest from tough yardstick Chachamaidee, but then flopped in the soft-ground Falmouth Stakes. Her form with reliable Barefoot Lady gives her nothing to find with Side Glance and Tazahum and of course her trainer John Gosden continues in tremendous form saddling a treble at Newmarket on Thursday.

There are four unpenalised three-year-olds in the line-up and the complete outsider of the field is the first of these in James Toller’s Saigon. He hasn’t won a race in his three-year-old campaign in eight starts and finished 4½ lengths behind Most Improved in the St James’s Palace Stakes. That wasn’t a bad run but with this being amongst the poorest crop of three-year-old colts for many years you would have to overlook plenty of indifferent form to give Saigon a chance.

Michael Bell’s Sovereign Debt has an impressive win ratio having taken four of his ten starts to date. None of these was of graded status but his comfortable win in a conditions race on the July course ahead of Cambridgeshire favourite Mukhadram marked him out as a Group performer of some sort. Of course with that race taking place in July it was a soft ground effort and Sovereign Debt has since finished second in a Group Three at Salisbury. Even allowing for the step up in class, softer ground may have seen him take a lot of beating here, , but with the firmer going and the classic generation only receiving four pounds, Bell’s colt does not look to have been underrated in the market.

Stipulate represents Henry Cecil and he needs to bounce back from a disappointing showing as favourite in the Strensall Stakes last time. Receiving 11lbs from Side Glance and 7 from Tazahum (gets 4 here); Stipulate finished about 3 lengths down at the line. The fact he was already being scrubbed along when bumped by Tazahum at the two furlong pole doesn’t bode well for the return to a mile.

One of the reasons for the plunge on Stipulate last time out was that the time before he had been unlucky when fourth in a Group Three at Goodwood where the final contender, Trumpet Major, finished ahead of him when dead-heating with Archbishop. Richard Hannon’s colt has been in and out this year, with a rout in the Craven Stakes and a good fourth in the 2000 Guineas, as well as a last place in the Irish Guineas and more worryingly last again behind Premio Loco in the Celebration Mile last time. Trumpet Major should at least like a quicker surface but, again, even his good performances are just against a bunch of poor three-year-olds.

Conclusion

Of those at the head of the market Joviality seems to justify her place more than Most Improved who has the dual penalties of being a Group One winner and belonging to the classic generation to overcome. Gosden’s filly presumably got bogged down in the Falmouth and her two runs either side of that would give her strong claims here and with her trainer in cracking form again 5-1 doesn’t seem too stingy at all. Side Glance has chances again but the time it takes him to get going could count against him here as it did when Premio Loco and Tazahum chased home Ransom Note last year. Tazahum may well still be improving for Sir Michael Stoute and 10-1 is a decent price for each way thieves. Premio Loco was bounced out in a small field last time, and that tactic seemed to pay off here on Thursday when runners who grabbed the rail proved hard to pass. Chris Wall’s charge looks sure to be in the shake-up again but with few better than William Buick at taking a race by the scruff of the neck, and with Joviality having already won a race in that style at Royal Ascot, Gosden’s filly is the call.

Selection

Joviality 5-1 (general)

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