Talking Horses: Bank on King Frankel to lift London Gold Cup
The Lockinge Stakes is the Group One feature of the Newbury card but the London Gold Cup is the race most punters will want to crack and King Frankel (3.00) – a son of the brilliant Lockinge winner in 2012 – could be the answer.
Mark Johnston’s colt must have set a real puzzle for the handicapper, having won a three-runner maiden by a remarkable 32 lengths at Pontefract on 28 April. Despite the small field, though, his winning time was strong and suggests that an opening mark of 82 – and odds of around 10-1 could prove to be very generous.
Newbury 1.50 Happy Romance had only a neck to spare in a weaker Listed event than this one last time out, but did not have the clearest of runs and made ground readily when required. She was a good fourth in the Group One Cheveley Park last term, acts with cut and is an eye-catching price at around 5-1.
Newmarket 2.05 The drop back to 10 furlongs looks ideal for Fancy Man, who made a big move into the lead in the Chester Vase last week but faded late on.
Newbury 2.25 The 2019 St Leger winner, Logician, was beaten at 1-3 when last seen on a track at York last October and has some questions to answer, on ground that is predicted to be softer than he might prefer. The grey gets 3lb from Al Aasy, but that may not be enough as William Haggas’s runner looked much improved over this course and distance in last month’s John Porter Stakes.
Newmarket 2.40 Bellosa was heavily supported before her debut at Newmarket last month and streaked seven lengths clear in an excellent time. This is a swift step up to Listed company but she should be up to the task.
Newmarket 3.15 Smeaton’s Light is among the outsiders at around 20-1 but there was little wrong with his win at Thirsk last month, his first start since being gelded. Any further improvement could put him right in the mix.
Newbury 3.35 Palace Pier dominates the market and is clearly the likeliest winner of the Lockinge but whether he should be so far clear of Lope Y Fernandez in the betting is a different question. At around 6-1, Aidan O’Brien’s colt looks a decent each-way alternative, having finished a close third in the Breeders’ Cup Mile before blitzing his field at Leopardstown last time after stepping back up to this trip from sprinting.
Spanish Mission on course for Royal Ascot
Andrew Balding is second only to Mark Johnston in the 2021 trainers’ championship and he moved past £600,000 in prize money for the year with a double on the final afternoon of the Dante meeting at York, adding two more contenders to his team for Royal Ascot in the process.
The likely assignments for Nymphadora and Spanish Mission at Ascot next month could not be more different, as Nymphadora is being steered towards the five-furlong Queen Mary Stakes for juveniles while Spanish Mission, who stayed on strongly to take the Group Two Yorkshire Cup, is now a 16-1 chance for the Ascot Gold Cup over two-and-a-half miles.
Both deserve their chance, however, and Spanish Mission’s success was a big improvement on a disappointing run in the Dubai Gold Cup at Meydan in March.
“He shows plenty at home but the ground was a bit of a question mark,” Anna Lisa Balding, the trainer’s wife, said. “Ascot is obviously the plan and it’s lovely to get that win.
“He’s stunning and a real yard favourite, he’s just got something about him. Our travelling head lad rode him out on the track this morning and said that if he could ride him every day, he’d ride until he’s 100. You’ve got to have a shot [against the three-time Gold Cup winner Stradivarius] and he will like better ground, so that can only help him at that time of year.”
Primo Bacio will also be aimed towards the Royal meeting after an impressive win in the Oak Farm Stables Fillies’ Stakes. Ed Walker’s filly showed significant improvement for a step up to just less than a mile, making smooth headway on the bridle from last place before stretching three lengths clear at the line.
“She’s got a great turn of foot and picked up really well,” Walker said. “The Coronation Stakes [for which she was cut to around 8-1] will be next.”