Dalghar can star on day of glorious uncertainty
Stand by for five rhapsodic, ruinous days on the Sussex Downs
You can see the sea from parts of the grandstand – assuming, that is, you can wrest your gaze from the voluptuous downs, plunging beyond the spur of the track itself, and instead turn back south, towards Chichester cathedral and the Isle of Wight. But that is not the only way Goodwood reminds you of what sets this island apart.
It's rather akin to the best of British art, or music. Even Turner, or Gainsborough, or Vaughan Williams, are seldom found near the centre of the world pantheon, the way Shakespeare is. For many Britons, however, their work strikes a deeper chord than any Raphael or Mozart. And much the same holds true of the next five days at Goodwood, which are cherished far beyond any objective sense of the quality of the racing itself.
Never mind global standards. Even in this country there are meetings that concentrate greater quality: Royal Ascot, most obviously, but also the Ebor meeting at York next month, and a few others besides. Today's opening card, for instance, comprises one Group Two race, two Group Threes, three handicaps and a maiden. Even so, for many this is perhaps the quintessential ritual of the British Turf. For the stage itself exalts the drama. That swaying panorama, pitching from the grandstands, might well have stimulated fresh heights from Turner and Vaughan Williams alike.
In their absence, of course, you know what to expect where every prospect pleases. And our grubby pursuit of financial gain over the next five days will guarantee vile imprecations against not just fortune, but also its hapless agents, the jockeys. The twists and undulations of the track's wholly impractical topography create such notorious traffic problems that finding the fastest horse tends to be barely half the battle.
Races over seven or eight furlongs are particularly fraught with peril, and it would be surprising were the biggest prize of the day to prove a clean fight. The Lennox Stakes – sponsored, like all the televised races today, by Betfair – seems to have been specifically targeted for Finjaan and Balthazaar's Gift, first and second last year, but they did prosper from the deficiencies of others on that occasion. Three-year-olds have a good record, but Red Jazz made too hasty a return to the track, after his terrific run at Royal Ascot, and must show that he has retrieved his freshness; and Air Chief Marshal must confirm that his apparent, belated improvement is for real.
The best value is instead Dalghar (3.25), who combines that less-exposed quality – still being pretty lightly raced – with some persuasive runs on the board. Though a half-brother to middle-distance champions in Daylami and Dalakhani, he proved very well suited by the drop to this distance at Longchamp last month and might well have found the Queen Anne Stakes, just ten days later, coming too soon. After racing so freely in the early stages, moreover, he did well to stay involved until fading inside the eighth furlong. In the context of this race, fifth behind the top-class Goldikova and Paco Boy represents solid form regardless, but this may prove his optimum trip.
The Gordon Stakes also looks wide open, and indeed Harbinger himself bombed in the race last year. His sire, Dansili, has produced another big improver in Dandino, but he must attain a new peak in this company. Arctic Cosmos justified some conspicuous fast-tracking at Ascot, from an all-weather handicap to the King Edward VII Stakes, and both figure prominently in the Ladbrokes St Leger betting. But the two Godolphin colts both introduce an unexposed profile of their own, Simon De Montfort remaining entitled to live up to the hype that preceded his arrival from France in the spring, and Film Score (2.45) having come a long way very quickly. His strong finish for fourth in the Hampton Court Stakes is rock-solid form, and already puts him right in the mix – quite apart from the improvement that seems certain now that he steps up in distance, on only his third start.
The downhill sprint course offers jockeys another kind of hazard, many being tempted to go too fast too soon, but you can easily picture Richard Hughes rising to the challenge in the Molecomb Stakes. He feels that the tactics agreed for Zebedee (4.0) at Royal Ascot were too positive, and the colt has since reiterated previous promise at Sandown. Hughes should be at his most daring, and most thrilling, behind Stone Of Folca, considered by his trainer the fastest he has trained, or Lord Of The Stars, who is likely to flourish for the drop in distance.
Almiqaad (2.10) warrants perseverance in the opener, having failed to get home over a longer trip when too free after a lay-off at Haydock last time. He has looked a Group horse in the making, on occasion, and remains feasibly handicapped in a field lacking overtly progressive types.
Chris McGrath's Nap
Satwa Laird (4.35 Goodwood)
Looks an ideal type for this track, having again travelled strongly when weaving out of midfield at Newmarket last time, and critically has a draw near the inside. That should enable Gérald Mossé to get him covered up, without leaving him too much to do.
Big Issue (5.05 Goodwood)
During his press open morning last week Richard Hannon volunteered this Dubawi colt as among the most talented still to emerge from the juvenile wing of his prolific stable.
One to watch
From a stable that has struggled to meet its usual excellent standards this season, Captain Macarry (JJ Quinn) showed signs of renewal over 10f at Sandown last week, leading for a long way, and will look well handicapped when returned to a mile.
Where the money's going
Northern Alliance is 12-1 from 20-1 with Totesport for tomorrow's Galway Plate.
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