Until recently Jack Berry's horses had been out of form and the Cockerham trainer thinks he has pinpointed the reason. "It's been rather hot and humid at our place," he said yesterday. And he wasn't joking.
It's probably not too chilly on the Lancashire coast this week, but Berry's string has returned to its peak just at the time its standard-bearer, Mind Games, embarks on his principal target of the season, the Nunthorpe Stakes on the Knavesmire.
Following eight winners last week Berry, who currently has the appearance of Chi-Chi (having been smacked in the face by one of his horses) was in understandably upbeat mood yesterday. "Mind Games is going brilliantly," he said. "He's absolutely flying."
The favourite attends a particularly poor Nunthorpe. There is nothing of the calibre of Dayjur, Sheikh Albadou or Lochsong, who have all won this event inside the last five years; indeed there is nothing that has won a Group One race. In such circumstances it is appropriate that the best value appears to lie with a filly who was thought to be little more than a good handicapper at the season's outset. There are form reasons to believe Hever Golf Rose (next best 3.10) can beat Mind Games.
The day's other Group race, the Lowther Stakes, was captured last year by the subsequent 1,000 Guineas winner Harayir, and if there is to be a prospective Classic winner in the field it appears it will be either Darling Flame or Dance Sequence, who dead-heated for second behind Applaud in the Cherry Hinton Stakes at Newmarket last month. As Dance Sequence (2.35) met trouble in running that day the odds are that she should come out on top this time.
The card opens with a maiden stocked largely by unraced animals, including Mukabir, Dick Hern's Dayjur colt who has apparently been starting grass fires on the Lambourn gallops. Experience in these events cannot be underestimated however and the two efforts of Raheen (2.05) cannot be faulted.
His Goodwood third has been made to look conspicuously good by the subsequent efforts of Woodborough, runner-up in the Heinz 57 (the winner in Ireland, Danehill Dancer, was the only horse to beat Raheen on his Newmarket debut) and Bijou D'Inde, who won the Acomb Stakes on the opening day of the meeting.
The middle of the card offers satchel-filling exercises in the shape of two intricate handicaps. The Bradford & Bingley (shrewd investors will open an account with the sponsors rather than speculate on their race) will have a warm favourite in Cap Juluca, but a more rewarding option is Knave's Ash (3.45), who has run well on both his last two starts over 10 furlongs while at the same time suggesting he might be better over shorter.
In the following race Vindaloo goes again for the record of 10 handicap victories in a season, but he may well be caught out by an improving type such as Pumice (4.15), who is stepped up immediately from a mile to 12 furlongs.
Off the Channel 4 telecast there is an interesting runner in the City of York Stakes in FOXHOUND (nap 5.15). Punters should not be dissuaded by the unusual Godolphin booking of John Carroll as Mind Games's jockey rode, and won on, the colt in Dubai this winter. Word from Newmarket is that Foxhound has been working well with Halling, and reports do not come more favourable than that.Reuse content