In a week that has generated so much interest in the feasibility of fixing a race, the connections of David Junior have gone to extraordinary lengths to do precisely that - and in one of the most important contests of the summer calendar.
Needless to say, they are behaving in scrupulously legitimate fashion. By purchasing Royal Alchemist, the most plausible frontrunner among those rivals left in the Coral Eclipse Stakes at the five-day stage, they have merely sought to guarantee the strong pace they consider essential to David Junior. Unfortunately, they may not be the first to discover that any attempt to manipulate the outcome of a race can backfire.
Their belief is that David Junior was unable to show his best form in the Prince of Wales's Stakes at Royal Ascot because a championship field spent most of the race going a plater's gallop. Yet the fact remains that Ouija Board scythed them down despite being delayed in her own challenge, being briefly trapped on the rail.
A stronger pace for their rematch is hardly likely to blunt Ouija Board's acceleration. After all, she has top-class form over a mile and a half as well. Equally, she was such a revelation at Ascot that it suddenly seemed plausible that she has craved the shorter trip all along. It may prove that only her class has previously got her home over a mile and a half.
Either way, there was nothing sinister about David Junior's weakness in the betting during the week. Punters were simply reacting to the bookmakers' eccentric decision to make David Junior favourite. To embrace the excuses offered for his defeat at Ascot with such enthusiasm, when his finish lacked commitment, was the height of credulity.
Now that Ouija Board has found her way to her deserved position at the head of the betting, the only reservation is that her trainer at first dismissed the idea of going to the Eclipse as "a bit greedy". This may have had more to do with the desire for the mare to hold her form for the autumn, when the Breeders' Cup and Hong Kong will be on her agenda, than concern over her busy spring. But it is possible that this race would have looked so weak without her that her connections have been tempted to take a chance against their instincts.
The bottom line is that all her rivals will have to raise their game to trouble Ouija Board, but her performance at Ascot was the best of her career and must have demanded a generous effort. And the race does have an inviting shape to it for each-way punters.
Aussie Rules was not himself at Chantilly last time and is capable of finding improvement at this trip, while Notable Guest did not get home at Epsom and could go well restored to 1m 2f.
But the most progressive profile belongs to Blue Monday, who ran an excellent race under a big weight at Ascot despite being inhibited by the firm ground. Horses wary of such conditions are more comfortable going uphill, and the stiff track will suit his style of winding up a finish. Roger Charlton always has a precise grasp of where his horses belong, and he recommended the owners supplement the lightly-raced Blue Monday (3.15).
Channel 4 also has cameras at Haydock, where DOCTOR SCOTT (nap 2.20) can build on the promise of an unlucky Ascot run. Unexposed over this kind of distance, he is on a fair mark and the long straight will play to his strengths. Red Lancer (next best 3.30) caught the eye at Epsom, and is on a 5lb lower mark than when second in this race for a previous trainer.
Nap: Doctor Scott (Haydock 2.20)
NB: Red Lancer (Haydock 3.30)Reuse content