BIG RACE PREVIEW – The Lockinge Stakes from Newbury

Night of Thunder, Olympic Glory, Farhh, Frankel, Canford Cliffs, Paco Boy…the last 6 winners of the Lockinge Stakes ran over 1m at Newbury is a roll of honour blessed with absolute quality, where all horses have at some point have been near to the top of the game. It just shows how important this race is in the flat racing calendar and top trainers go all out to win the £200,000 first place prize.

This year the build up has been made even more interesting with the declaration of Limato. This horse, who has never been out of the front two, is sheer class and has the engine of a worldbeater. He has the tendency to just cruise through his races and has had a turn of foot quick enough to put races to bed in a matter of strides. He was beaten 3L by Muhaarar in the Commonwealth Cup at Ascot but was on the wrong side of the draw that day, and showed his quality next time up when beating a strong Group 2 field at Doncaster. His 2nd at Longchamp was heartbreaking – he gave away the best part of 6 lengths at the start when slowly away and just couldn’t reel in eventual winner Make Believe when he hammered home round the outside under Ryan Moore. Stepping up to a mile would be no problem due to his smooth travelling style, so why is he 3rd favourite at 6-1?

The simple answer is the ground. It has been well documented how much this horse needs a decent surface to perform, and the quicker it is the better it is for him. The going stick at Newbury read 4.9 as of Thursday morning, but with no rain forecasted and some decent weather since it may well turn up better than what connections are thinking currently. They will walk the course beforehand but my suspicion is that they need to get a run into him before Royal Ascot and if there is any chance he can perform to 90% of his ability, he will run. Ground conditions really will matter to him and I would advise waiting until at least Friday night for a going report.

Toormore is currently the 4-1 favourite. It isn’t hard to see why, as he is ground-versatile and ran a super race in this last year when fairly unfancied finishing 2nd to Night of Thunder at 15-2. Since then he has barely put a foot wrong, and won well on his seasonal reappearance beating Dutch Connection narrowly at Sandown. Bet365 mile winners have a good record here (2 of last 10 winners ran in that race) and favourites have a brilliant record in this race, so it could pay to side with Toormore at 4-1.

Kofi Bear is one that will relish conditions if they are a bit tacky underfoot. He performs well in the mud and Gerald Mosse will take the ride for which he has won twice on him from three attempts. He was very poor in his toughest race to date in the Queen Elizabeth II on Champions Day but he pulled very hard that day which was unlike him and you can effectively draw a line through that. He is very lightly raced, though, and more in this race may well have more to offer, especially given his 9-2 price tag.

Belardo is a very interesting runner for Roger Varian. If the ground does stay soft then he will love those conditions and two of his last three runs have been very interesting – firstly finishing a close 2nd to Solow at Ascot in the same race Kodi Bear disappointed in, and then winning as easily as you like at Doncaster on soft ground after. He wasn’t seen to best effect next time out and James Doyle does jump off onto Toormore, but he could run a big race at 7-1.

You would imagine that Dutch Connection and Arod would need better ground and GM Hopkins doesn’t quite have the class needed to win here. Mahsoob is talented but has only won once over a mile and that was his maiden (which admittedly has worked out well). He does travel well so the drop in trip on softer conditions shouldn’t be a big issue, but at 10-1 I would be tempted to look elsewhere.

Euro Charline could be a big price to run a good race under Ryan Moore. Fillies and Mares have won this three times from just nine runners and Euro Charline is very talented on her day. She finished just 5L behind Solow in Meydan, before a close 2nd in the Falmouth to a top notch Amazing Maria. She had two very good efforts in Group 2 and Group 1 events in Meydan for her last two runs so comes here fit and ready to roll, with a handy allowance for Mares. At 20/1 she could be very overpriced and would be my outsider selection.

One thing to note is that 10 of the last 10 winners of this race has come from the top 4 in the betting, so it is a race where the classier, well backed horses tend to do well. For me the ground is a key issue as if it does come up better than soft Limato could prove the one to go best.

Be sure to check out the supporting card – some fantastic racing on the Newbury card including a fascinating maiden in which last year Birchwood was victorious – and Shalaa was poor in 8th. Crystal Zvesda was a winner in the fillies race also. Some real stars could be making their debuts this weekend.

Good Luck with whatever you go for and my selections will be out Friday evening once the ground situation is cleared up.

The Snout.

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