Races over seven or eight furlongs round here tend to hinge upon so many hazards that the search for a winner tends to become a rather neurotic, complex process. Over two miles, however, punters have no need to fret about the draw, or potential traffic problems round all those twists and turns. They can simply back the best horse in the race. And on that basis there is no need to wait for Jupiter to align with Mars, or the moon to be in the Seventh House, to find the winner of the Artemis Goodwood Cup.
Age Of Aquarius has finished second in each of his three starts this season, but none of those defeats needs excusing and he is confidently expected to win today. His performance in the Gold Cup at Royal Ascot last month sets a clear standard in this field. The only caveat is that he might not have had sufficient time to recover from his extremely generous effort against Rite Of Passage at Ascot. Having looked the likely winner as he accelerated into the straight, he took the neck winner six lengths clear of the rest.
Illustrious Blue has flourished in a new discipline and adores this course, while Free Agent and Tactic are improving, but Age Of Aquarius (3.25) seems to retain a clear edge on class. The previous race on the card could hardly present a greater contrast, with 17 sprinters dashing five downhill furlongs in the Audi King George Stakes. Recent experience has taught us that an emphasis on speed is liable to leave indigenous sprinters vulnerable to overseas raiders, and there has to be a chance that a fairly motley bunch will be left gasping for breath by Starfish Bay (2.45).
Trained by Todd Pletcher, who has broken so many records in the United States, he has made all in three of his four starts this term. While it is impossible to gauge the relative worth of his form, he must be seriously fast to do that kind of thing to the speedballs that tend to operate in his homeland. The bookmakers, moreover, can only price him up on a fairly random basis, and odds of around 6-1 permit punters a very reasonable margin for error.
The day's other Group race, the Moet Hennessy Lillie Langtry Stakes, gives Flying Cloud (4.0) a chance to make her class tell over a longer trip, though she faces a couple of big improvers in Ship's Biscuit and Motrice. Best bet among the usual hectic handicap action is Solicitor (2.10) in the opener, but a sound chance is also given to Gene Autry (5.10). Richard Hannon, his trainer, can saddle yet another winner in Kalahaag (4.35) who caught the eye on her recent Newbury debut.