Kevin Blake’s barking on about Rover in fillies’ classic



The Back And Lay On Betfair Exchange Handicap (13:50) may only have six runners, but it is a high-quality contest and the Charlie Appleby-trained Global Storm makes plenty of appeal.

The four-year-old stamped himself as an exciting prospect when beating Arthurian Fable by a short-head in a handicap at this track last June. The bare form of that win was impressive in itself given that Arthurian Fable went on to show 16lb of improvement later in the season, but it looks even better when one watches the race and sees that he hit the front a long way from home, seemed to idle badly and rallied when challenged close home.

In short, he shaped much better than the bare form.

The promise of that win was enough to see him sent off favourite for the Golden Gates Handicap at Royal Ascot, but he ended up a long way back and came home very well to finish a never-nearer third, strongly suggesting that a mile-and-a-half would be the trip for him. His connections persevered with a mile-and-a-quarter for his next start at Newmarket, but not much went right for him on the day and he finished mid-division.

Smaller field to provide a change of luck

He was finally stepped up to a mile-and-a-half for his seasonal return in a valuable handicap at Meydan in February, but again circumstances conspired against him. Dropped onto the rail, he was locked up in traffic until the two-furlong pole, at which point the leaders had gone beyond recall. He finished off strongly in traffic, but it was far too late.

This smaller field will give Global Storm a better opportunity to express how well this trip suits him. The ground will suit, there looks to be good pace in the race and Charlie Appleby’s horses that are starting back in Europe having run at Meydan earlier this year have been running very well. All the circumstances look right for him.

Global Storm is currently rated a few pounds lower than ideal to get into the Duke of Edinburgh Handicap at Royal Ascot. It wouldn’t be at all surprising if he wins this and is a big player in that race at Royal Ascot off his revised mark.

Santa might be special but she has negatives

The main event of the day is the Qipco 1000 Guineas (15:40) and it presents a real conundrum for punters. There is little doubt that it is a renewal of the race that lacks depth, which has allowed a situation to transpire where a once-raced maiden winner is the short-priced favourite.

It is very hard to evaluate the Aidan O’Brien-trained Santa Barbara. She was impressive when winning a maiden at the Curragh last September, but it wasn’t a picture-perfect performance by any means given she missed the kick and carried her head a bit high under pressure.

The main reason she is such a short price is that Aidan O’Brien has been unusually effusive in his comments about her for the last six weeks, with her homework reportedly marking her out as something special in a yard full of Group 1 horses. She’ll be seeking to become the first once-raced maiden winner to win this race on her seasonal return since Dancing Time in 1941.

As well as that, her draw in stall one is far from ideal given she was slow to start on her debut. As was discussed in depth in this column 18 months ago, those drawn in the outside stalls with open space on their outer are much more likely to start slowly than those in stalls with horses on either side of them.

A slow start combined with a possibility of a steady pace isn’t a good combination for Santa Barbara as it raises the likelihood of her finding herself in an unfavoured position in the early stages. While the confidence behind her is difficult to ignore, she would be tough to recommend as a bet at her current price.

Rover can outrun her odds

The one that makes the most appeal as a bigger-priced alternative to her is the Richard Fahey-trained Fev Rover.

She progressed with racing last year to win a Group 2 at Deauville in game style. She went on to shape better than the result on her final start of the season when meeting with serious interference in running in the Prix Marcel Boussac at Longchamp.

A proven stayer that is a straightforward ride and will handle the prevailing ground conditions, she looks one that is likely to outrun her odds in first-time cheekpieces.