US Ranger to hit final top-level target
Saturday 21 June 2008
Perhaps those rash enough to have opposed his horses during the week will be wary of switching allegiance at this late stage, fearing they might infect even Aidan O'Brien with their ill fortune. But the fact is that the Ballydoyle trainer brings another formidable team to the final day of the meeting, and has already shown that nobody comes here with a strict ration of luck, whether good or bad.
He has not messed about, all four of his winners coming in the Group One races. And he has an excellent candidate for the final such prize, the Golden Jubilee Stakes, in US Ranger (3.45).
Transferred from France after running an excellent second in the Jersey Stakes here last year, this unusually powerful colt is gradually discovering his true métier as a sprinter. Having needed the run on his reappearance, in bad ground, he looked unfortunate to be drawn away from the action in the Duke of York Stakes last month. Delayed in his run, he finished best and this stiffer track should suit him ideally.
His most intimidating rivals are Sakhee's Secret, who made such an encouraging return at Newmarket; Takeover Target, the hardy perennial who again excelled when second to Equiano here on Tuesday; and Marchand D'Or, who beat Equiano over the bare five furlongs on his reappearance. But US Ranger has long promised to win a top sprint and, with the forecast rain likely to suit and a personal sunbeam over his jockey, there is no time like the present.
O'Brien can also win the other Group race on the card, the Hardwicke Stakes, with Macarthur (3.05). The strict form of his Coronation Cup third makes him the one to beat, though many people will tell you that he was flattered in a tactical race, as the only one to keep tabs on the pacemaker and stealing a long lead into the straight. But it may yet prove that he would have been even better served by the more patient tactics that previously enabled him to travel so well before shredding his rivals at Chester. At Epsom he was ridden for stamina, but it would be no surprise to see Macarthur confirm his powers of acceleration here.
It is tempting to persevere with O'Brien even in that chaotic stampede, the Wokingham Handicap, Abraham Lincoln having run creditably enough in Group One company earlier in the week, but marginal preference is for Knot In Wood (4.25). He is back down to the same rating off which he was an unlucky third in the Stewards' Cup last year, and has shown signs of a return to form in his last couple of starts.
Mad Rush (next best 5.00) is a strong fancy for the other handicap, despite being raised 9lb for finishing seven lengths clear of the rest when allowing first run to Punjabi – a top hurdler thrown in off his Flat rating – on his reappearance at Newmarket. Lightly raced, Mad Rush's only previous start over this trip had been at Salisbury last summer, when failing only in a photo to give 4lb to a filly subsequently unbeaten at Group level.
But the meeting can finish with its abiding motif, a winner for O'Brien. HONOLULU (nap 5.35) is a far better type than normally contests the Queen Alexandra Stakes and could conceivably take this quaint old prize on the bridle.
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