Our expert takes a look through the ante-post betting for the Lockinge Stakes and predicts one of last season’s stars to play a starring role at Newbury next month.
Newbury racecourse hosts many important National Hunt races throughout the autumn and winter months. However, when the flat racing season starts to shift into top gear towards the latter stages of spring, all eyes will be on Newbury as they stage the 58th renewal of the Lockinge Stakes.
Some of the most talented one milers on the planet will take to the turf on Saturday the 20th of May, set to battle it out for this much sought-after Group 1 title and an early look at the ante-post betting suggests this year’s renewal of the Lockinge promises to be an absolute cracker.
) currently leads the way in the betting and Hugo Palmer will be hoping his charge can recapture the form he showed during the early stages of last season, when he cruised to the 2000 Guineas title at Newmarket. He was beaten to the Irish 2000 Guineas title by just two lengths, but bounced back to winning form with a powerful victory in the St James’s Palace Stakes at Royal Ascot.
Three more outings in prestigious Group 1 races followed, but Frankie Dettori was unable to spur his mount onto a third seasonal victory. His final two runs of the season were rather disappointing, crossing the line eighth in a huge race at Deauville before finishing fifth behind several potential Lockinge rivals in the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes.
(4/1 William Hill
) rounded off an excellent three-year-old season with a narrow victory in the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes at Newmarket, beating Ribchester
) to the title by half a length. Her most high-profile defeat of the season came in the Irish Champion Stakes behind Almanzor and Found, but Aidan O’Brien’s filly won four of her other five appearances during the summer, winning the 1000 Guineas, the Epsom Oaks, the Nassau Stakes and the Pretty Polly Stakes at the Curragh.
Richard Fahey will have been encouraged by Ribchester’s 2016 campaign, despite that notable runner-up finish behind Minding at Newmarket and a third place finish in the Sussex Stakes at Glorious Goodwood. After coming home three lengths behind Galileo Gold in the 2000 Guineas last May, the Godolphin-owned colt secured a maiden Group 1 triumph in the Jersey Stakes at Royal Ascot, before exacting revenge upon his 2000 Guineas conqueror by beating him to the Prix du Haras de Fresnay-Le-Buffard at Deauville.
(6/1 William Hill
) was sent for an end of season adventure to the Breeders’ Cup by Aidan O’Brien, but she was handed a tricky inside draw and failed to make any impact in the Breeders’ Cup Mile. She was decisively beaten on her first four appearances of the 2016 season, before returning to the winners’ enclosure in the Group 1 Falmouth Stakes at Newmarket. Two further Group 1 triumphs followed at Leopardstown and again at Newmarket to round off an encouraging three-year-old season.
William Haggas also sent Mutakayyef
) on a couple of off-season excursions, finishing third behind Tepin in the Woodbine Mile Stakes and fifth in the Dubai Turf at Meydan. He’s only managed to score two victories in his last nine appearances, both of those coming over a mile at York and Ascot, but Hamdan Al Maktoum’s six-year-old is yet to win a Group 1 title.
David Simcock will have been delighted with Lightning Spear’s
(7/1 William Hill
) run in the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes, when he crossed the line just over a length behind Minding and Ribchester in third. That was his best effort in a Group 1 since moving to Simcock’s yard and his only victory of the season came when dropping down to a Group 2 to beat Zonderland
) in the Celebration Mile title at Goodwood.
Ribchester winning here at Newbury at the start of his two-year-old season.
John Gosden will have been encouraged by the progress Persuasive
(16/1 William Hill
) made last season. He started his 2016 campaign with a victory at Goodwood in a Class 4 handicap, but ended it with a Group 3 triumph at Sandown and a second place finish behind Alice Springs on his Group 1 debut at Leopardstown.
Martin Meade’s Acclaim
) is yet to try his hand at a Group 1 contest, but three successive victories to finish off his three-year-old season - including a good victory over Lumiere in the Group 2 Dubai 100 Challenge Stakes at Newmarket - will surely see him make the step up into more esteemed company.
Home Of The Brave
) began last season in excellent fashion, winning a Listed title at Leicester before claiming a maiden Group 3 title in The John of Gaunt Stakes at Haydock. He was beaten to Group 2 titles by Dutch Connection
) and Richard Pankhurst
) at Goodwood and Newbury respectively, before putting in a weak effort on his Breeders’ Cup debut in the Turf Sprint.
Richard Pankhurst was an 11/1 shot when he beat Home Of The Brave to the Hungerford Stakes here at Newbury and looks open to further progression. Convey
) was a 9/4 shot when he finished sixth and last in that race at Newbury, but two good victories on the all-weather at Lingfield will give Sir Michael Stoute some encouragement that he could improve when he returns to the turf this summer.
There have been very few upsets in the Lockinge over recent years and, considering the overwhelming strength at the head of the betting for this year’s renewal, it’s only sensible to head back to the top of the market to pick out a possible winner.
Lightning Spear has plenty of improvement in him and Ribchester could come on from his narrow third-placed finish in the Dubai Turf at Meydan. However, Aidan O’Brien enjoyed a dominant season in the big races last year and with his stable starting this new campaign in fearsome form, MINDING could be the best bet in this year’s Lockinge.
She was the best three-year-old filly in Europe last season and it took an excellent performance from Almanzor, who went on to win the Champion Stakes at Ascot and the Horse Of The Year award, to end her exceptional winning run. Fillies may not have the greatest record in this contest over the past decade, but four-year-olds have come out on top in eight of the last ten renewals and Minding looks the perfect type to land Aidan O’Brien a second Lockinge crown.
20/5/2017 2:55pm Newbury Lockinge Stakes selection – MINDING (4/1 William Hill)