Matchbook Ante-Post Focus – Goodwood

9 min


Goodwood Cup (Tuesday)

A race which has been utterly dominated by Big Orange, the winner for the last two years, and better than ever this season. He’s also advantaged by the race’s upgrade to Group 1 status, meaning he doesn’t have a penalty to carry for his epic win in last month’s Gold Cup at Ascot. All in all, he is very hard to oppose, but the one chink in his armour is the possibility that the meeting will start on softish ground, on which he is arguably not as effective as when hearing his hooves rattle.

Big Orange (front) on the way to winning the Gold Cup during day three of Royal Ascot.

There is every chance of fairly heavy rain on Saturday night, which would be enough to see “soft” in the going description. That might have disappeared again by Tuesday given a bit of sunshine, but the uncertainty makes it hard to step in at around even money, and there is bound to be some opposition on the day, whatever the conditions are. If you intend to back Big Orange, it makes sense to wait.

Sussex Stakes (Wednesday)

If there is one shortie to get stuck into early at Goodwood, then it is probably Ribchester, who has developed so well in the past few months that he now appears to have no chink in his armour. Ground conditions, opposition and tactics all come alike to him, and he will surely start a strong favourite whatever reports emanate from Ballydoyle about Churchill, who had looked the perfect miler until humbled at Royal Ascot. Churchill may bounce back, but precocious Guineas winners have tended historically to lose their form in the second half of the year, and while Timeform still rate him open to further improvement, we may well have seen the best of Churchill already.

Will Ribchester be the lay of the Goodwood Festival.

Gleneagles had a similar reputation when ante-post favourite for this a couple of years ago, but he was a surprise no-show on the day, and failed to find his old form when eventually making it back to the track in the autumn. If Aidan O’Brien works his magic and delivers the dual Guineas winner at his peak, then he will still need to improve to overcome Ribchester, while there is the possibility that he will underperform again, or possibly fail to show at all.

Nassau Stakes (Thursday)

Winter has been a revelation since joining Aidan O’Brien from David Wachman, but having danced every dance over a mile this season, she must be taken on at this longer trip. Sure, there is stamina in her pedigree, and she has an entry in the Yorkshire Oaks over even further next month, but her dame was a Wokingham winner, and she is blessed with similar speed, so I take the view that she will not simply take the step up to ten furlongs in her stride at this stage of the season.

Queen’s Trust may have the right qualities to beat the fancied Winter.

A much more attractive bet at the prices is Queen’s Trust, who was given too much to do against the boys in the Prince of Wales’s Stakes last time, and is the one to beat on the form she showed when winning the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf in November.

King George Stakes (Friday)

Battaash has impressed at Sandown the last time out, but he does need to prove he can repeat his Esher form elsewhere, and three-year-olds don’t have a great recent record in this event, so he looks ripe for taking on. Marsha seems to have lost a few fans when beaten at the Curragh recently, but that wasn’t the disgrace it’s been painted as, and she has the strongest piece of form in the race when conceding a penalty in the Palace House Stakes at Newmarket in May.

Dane O’Neill on board Battaash wins The Coral Charge during the Summer Festival at Sandown Park Racecourse.

She was catching Profitable with every stride in the Kings’ Stand, and that rival rather lost his form in the second half of last season, so I would expect her to turn the tables if the pair met again. She will have learned plenty from her experience in this race a year ago, when her relative rawness saw her beaten.

Stewards’ Cup (Saturday)

Hard to get stuck into such a handicap without seeing how the ballot pans out, let alone the draw, but Orions Bow must be high on the shortlist having enjoyed little luck in 2017. One who may miss the cut, but looks really well treated now cutting back to sprinting is Sir Dancealot, who connections tried to turn into a Guineas horse without success. He bounced back to form when just beaten in the Bunbury Cup at Newmarket, and might do even better granted a really strong pace back at six furlongs, hinting that way as a juvenile.

He needs plenty to come out if he’s to take his place, but there is nothing to lose given bets are refunded on balloted-out runners, and he’s sure to be overpriced given so many layers don’t appreciate that fact.