Two runs, two very easy wins and effusive praise from the normally reticent race-readers at Timeform will combine to make Lujain a fierce favourite for the Middle Park Stakes at Newmarket today. That, and Loder's reputation as the finest trainer of two-year-olds in the country, a man who has overcome the inexperience and unpredictability of juvenile thoroughbreds to record an astonishing strike-rate of 43 per cent with two-year-olds over the season.
With the stable as a whole also in excellent form - Loder has saddled a first and a third in Group One races in the last six days - many punters will mark Lujain down as a banker bet without a second thought. This, though, is one of betting's highest crimes, particularly when the animal in question is likely to start at odds-on, and it is vital to ask whether today's race is anything like the one-horse contest which the betting suggests.
The factors in Lujain's favour are clear, but he is also taking a considerable step up in class this afternoon, straight from a novice stakes event at York into a Group One. Lined up against him are several horses with previous experience in Pattern events, not to mention another talented and progressive colt in the shape of John Dunlop's Vision Of Night. A cosy winner at Doncaster last time, it would be no surprise to see him find enough improvement to win.
On a simple point of betting value, however, it is impossible to resist a small interest in one of the outsiders for a race which has produced several shock results in recent years. Wannabe Grand progressed from second place in one of York's feature races to win Tuesday's Cheveley Park Stakes, which makes it all the more difficult to understand why Richard Hannon's SAILING SHOES (nap 3.10) can be a 16-1 chance (Ladbrokes) this morning.
Sailing Shoes too finished second in a Group Two at York's Ebor meeting, in this case the Gimcrack Stakes. Six furlongs seems to be his trip, although he ran a fair race over five in the Norfolk Stakes at Royal Ascot, when the soft ground may also have been against him. A faster surface would probably be ideal today, but at that sort of price, it is a chance worth taking.
There are positive and negative factors in equal measure about most of the runners in the Joel Stakes, and some very unpredictable sprinters will contest the Rous Stakes. Inca Tern (next best 2.05), who returns to handicap company after some fair efforts in better company, may be overpriced at 20-1 (Tote), but otherwise there is little to quicken the betting pulse.