The main focus of the Champagne Stakes is the presence of Too Darn Hot, but he’s already well established as a hot favourite, and the angle in is to oppose one of his main rivals in the place market, and I believe Phoenix of Spain is very vulnerable despite a visually impressive win in the Acomb Stakes at York.
The sectionals of that race suggest he is not at all flattered by his win, but the way the race developed saw those who challenged early do so on what proved to be the unfavoured part of the track, and Phoenix of Spain, whose effort was made latest and widest of all may well have been given the perfect set-up.
He does have the physical scope, but he will probably need a fair chunk of improvement to beat Dark Vision, let alone Too Darn Hot.
It’s possible to crab the former given the pace also collapsed to an extent in the Vintage Stakes he won at Goodwood, but while the placed horses have let the form down, he appeared much the best horse on the day and had to overcome various difficulties to produce a challenge, clearing away sharply at the finish.
Recommended: Lay Phoenix of Spain for a place @ 2.75 or shorter (liability 3.5pts)
Impressive as she was at York in the Galtres Stakes, it seems there has been a massive overreaction to the chances of Lah Ti Dar here; it’s true that she is unexposed at the highest level, and has impressed with what she’s done to date, but what she’s done should not be overplayed.
The filly she beat into second at York had finished last on her sole previous start at the same level, and that level, it must be reiterated is listed class.
Prior to that Light of Joy had been winning Class 4 handicaps, and that is a world removed from the achievements of even the outsiders in this field; pretty much any of these would have produced a performance of similar merit, if perhaps less style given the opportunity.
There is, it cannot be denied, an aura about Lah Ti Dar that makes her success on the Knavesmire seem very pleasing to the eye, and she does have style. Style, however, is no match for substance in the dog-eat-dog world of the racetrack, and while I must admit that the substance could very easily be lurking under the surface, it is the style she is being judged upon, and men who judge “the fairer sex” on style, tend to come unstuck.
Give me A Woman of Substance every day!
Recommended: Lay Lah Ti Dar @ 3.0 or shorter (liability 5pts)
Making all the running up Doncaster’s deceptively testing straight has not been easy at this fixture, with every winner on Thursday’s card getting comments like “waited with” or “rear” in the early calls. That pattern wasn’t as obvious on Friday, but only the Flying Childers winner sustained speed throughout, and that’s reason enough for taking on Ostilio here, for all the Britannia winner is a hard horse to pass.
Rather than laying him, which I think is dangerous enough, I hope he can set it up enough for the well-treated Fire Brigade to get the perfect tow, and Michael Bell’s smart handicapper has been threatening to come good for a while.
He built on earlier efforts when third at Ascot last time, and I think Town Moor is a more suitable track for him, with his flop in the Lincoln easy enough to forgive given conditions.
Recommended: Back Fire Brigade @ 8.0 or bigger (1pt)