Diligent Harry to land Hackwood Stakes at Newbury

It’s fair to say there’s something for everyone on another action-packed Saturday, with high-class flat racing from the Curragh and Newbury, supplemented by the very competitive Summer Hurdle and Summer Plate over jumps at Market Rasen.

As it’s high summer, though, I’ll be sticking to the flat races for this column.

The Juddmonte Irish Oaks (15:25) is the highlight of a stellar card in County Kildare, where the Epsom Oaks heroine Snowfall is sure to take a world of beating.

Having looked pretty exposed throughout a busy juvenile season, this daughter of Deep Impact has taken her form to a completely new level this year, her reappearance win in the Musidora at York followed by that 16-length demolition job of Mystery Angel last time.

While her winning margin was undoubtedly aided by the testing conditions at Epsom, she’s certainly not ground dependant, and doesn’t meet the strongest of fields here. Indeed, as is so often the case in these top races, a couple of the main dangers may well reside in Snowfall’s own stable.


Divinely and Willow have both run to similar levels this year, though I readily prefer the former of that pair. She wasn’t seen to best effect when fourth in the Ribblesdale at Royal Ascot last time, improving on her previous form while having to come from a disadvantageous position.

Divinely finished just a neck behind Nicest (who also runs here) and I thought there was enough in the run there to suggest she’ll reverse that form, though getting the better of Snowfall will be a whole different ballgame, who was well ahead of her in the Oaks.

Stone last at Epsom, Willow quickly put that behind her when winning in listed company at Naas last time, always doing enough having taken up the running a couple of furlongs from home, though she is perhaps a tad more exposed than most.

The aforementioned Nicest – trained by Donnacha O’Brien – is still relatively unexposed after just five starts, though it did seem she was seen to maximum effect when third in the Ribblesdale last time, with Gavin Ryan making his move at the right time and getting a decent gap to go through.

It’s hard to make a strong case for anything outside of those already mentioned, though if there’s one at a big price who’s yet to fully show her hand it could be Joseph O’Brien’s Mariesque.

An easy winner of a Galway maiden in June, she was plunged straight into listed company later that month but wasn’t really up to the task, finishing fifth behind Willow. It’s worth noting, however, that she still looked rough around the edges (hung left) but made some late headway.

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It’s not inconceivable to think she can improve enough to claim a minor share, though it’s a bit of a stretch to suggest she’ll be good enough to win a race of this calibre at this stage of her career.

This looks a race to sit out from a betting perspective, with Snowfall a prohibitive price, but hopefully she can treat us to the same sort of spectacle we saw at Epsom. For those looking for something from an each-way perspective, I wouldn’t put you off Divinely, though it’s a race I’ll just be watching.

Diaz all day for me…

There are better punting opportunities to be had on the other side of the Irish Sea at Newbury, where the 14:25 Bahrain Turf Series Handicap has a good shape to it. Plenty of these stayers have been round the houses, so to speak, and it’s a lower-mileage pair that look the ones to concentrate on.

I’m a big fan of Zeeband and was mightily impressed by the way he dismantled his opposition in the Northumberland Plate consolation race at Newcastle last time. Fitted with a first-time visor, Roger Varian’s son of Sea The Stars travelled strongly throughout before quickly settling the issue when hitting the front.

That was Zeeband’s first try at two miles and he stamped himself a progressive young stayer with that performance. There’s no reason to suggest he can’t continue that progression back on turf, and a revised mark of 96 still works workable, though he’s tight enough at around 3.55/2.

One who possesses just as much staying potential as Zeeband is David Simcock’s Rodrigo Diaz – a Golden Horn gelding with tons of stamina in his pedigree.

He racked up a hat-trick of wins on the all-weather last season, starting off from an opening mark of 59 before quickly progressing to be a good deal better than that. Second on his reappearance this year at Newmarket, he defied a mark of 83 at Doncaster next time before finding the run of the race all against him at Kempton last time.

All three of this season’s runs have come at a mile and a half, and the step up to two miles for the first time, coupled with what should be a solid pace at the trip, can see Rodrigo Diaz resume his progression.

Harry can leave Kings Lynn frustrated…again

We go from stayers to speedster for our other bet, which comes in the six-furlong Group 3 Bet365 Hackwood Stakes (15:00).

King’s Lynn heads the market and is a much-improved performer this season, his Haydock win at listed level in May earning him a shot at the King’s Stand Stakes at Royal Ascot, where he acquitted himself admirably in seventh having met trouble in running.

Turned out again quickly in the Wokingham from a mark of 100, King’s Lynn again ran creditably, finishing third behind another pattern-class performer, the year-younger Rohaan.

And it’s another 3-y-o who can deny King’s Lynn this time.

Diligent Harry only made his debut in January but progressed quickly to notch three victories, including the 3-y-o sprint on AW Championships Day at Lingfield on Good Friday.

It’s also worth noting that his sole winter defeat came narrowly at the hands of the aforementioned Rohaan.

Given a bit of a break after Good Friday’s exploits, Clive Cox’s colt was a lot better than the bare result in the Chipchase Stakes at Newcastle last time. Up with the strong pace throughout, he couldn’t last home but gamely hung on to finish third behind the more patiently ridden Chil Chil.

The Chipchase runner-up Good Effort is absolutely rapid – as fast a sprinter as I’ve seen early doors in recent times – and the fact that Diligent Harry could keep up with him while still running well for one so inexperienced is big a feather in his cap.

There doesn’t look anything in Saturday’s field with the early pace of Good Effort and it could well be that Diligent Harry gets to boss things up front.

If that’s the case, he’ll take plenty of pegging back, a flat six furlongs on turf likely to see him to really good effect.