We are under no illusions that Ribchester is the one to beat, but I think Lightning Spear has the best chance of getting the better of him. I won on him on his debut at Kempton back in 2013 and have only ridden him once at home, and that was last year, but David tells me that the horse is in a pretty good place at the moment – and he knows the horse better now, as he has been with him a year – and he should get the strong pace he likes in this big field. The one big hope that we have of lowering Ribchester’s colours is the quicker ground. It was soft when he was third in this race last year and it was definitely on the easy of good when he was third in the QEII. He was only a length behind Ribchester that day, when I also think he started out on the worst part of the track ground-wise. Everything has to go right for him to beat the favourite, but we know he likes the track and the ground, is in good form, and ran very well on a soft surface first time up in the Lockinge.
I rode Arawak at Ascot last week and he gave me a very good feel. He is a powerful colt, long-striding, and I had a difficult job to pull him up after the piece of work. I can see him putting this field to the sword from an early stage, and maybe staying there.
Lady Aurelia seems to be on everyone’s mind but to my way of thinking Marsha should be favourite. She is an improving sprinter, who did really well to win the Palace House under a 7lb penalty, and is handled by an under-the-radar trainer when it comes to Group 1s. Trained by Aidan, I think she would be the clear favourite.
I wouldn’t have thought that Churchill will be beaten here.
I quite like his chances. For me, the favourite Thomas Hobson has plenty to prove and I see the Chester Cup fourth Who Dares Wins as a much bigger danger, and maybe the one to beat. But my horse has a lot going for him. This race invariably goes to a jumps trainer, and Nicky has won this race in recent years. The horse comes into the race having been in great form over hurdles, and he is now rated 148 after going close in the 3m Grade 1 novices’ hurdle at Aintree. He had been off the track with tendon and pelvis problems for the best part of four years before embarking on his recent jumps campaign but I know him well from the Flat back in 2013, when I won on him at Epsom and finished fourth in the 2m5f handicap at Goodwood. A mark of 92 looks pretty good, and everything looks in place for a big run from him, and his draw in three should allow me to get him into a reasonable position and to get him to relax.
With 24 runners, this looks a bit of a lottery. My intended mount is now going to the Norfolk, so I haven’t got a ride, or a strong opinion on the race.
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