A cracking renewal as always, even if the prize money cannot be what it once was.
The fact that we have a full field of 28 runners here and a consolation race shows despite diminutive prize pot that owners, trainers and jockeys are still desperate to win this age-old race.
The Stewards’ Cup has been as tough a race as ever to whittle down, but do so we have to these final six candidates we think have what it takes to go close on Saturday:
A nine-year-old now with 45 runs under his belt, there are no surprises with Danzeno but that is part of his charm here as he has conditions he likes, is well drawn and is in form having been placed at York.
He simply has to lose some ability, there’s no doubt about that, but on current form he doesn’t necessarily seem to be more than 10lbs below his all-time best, though carries that much less than at his peak mark of 115. Each-way chance for Mick Appleby.
Drawn near the stands side rail is David O’Meara’s Gulliver, another with 40-plus runs who we know all so well.
The six-year-old is pretty close to his best right now having run fourth in the Wokingham and a short-head second in the Scurry Handicap over at the Curragh. He has tons in his favour beneath Angus Villiers, with the issue being his new handicap mark of 109 meaning it comes down to whether his jockey’s 5lb claim can make a positive difference or whether his inexperience counts for too much the other way.
Lambourn-based Joseph Tuite knows how to ready them, and in Kimifive he now has a very real contender for the Stewards’ Cup.
A five-year-old with plenty of mileage behind him, Kimifive stays seven furlongs but put in his best performance of the past few months over six at Haydock when second to Barbill, and now over an even quicker six he may well improve more.
Cieren Fallon is in high demand and it’s easy to see why, making his 3lb claim very much a bonus for Kimifive and that will make him popular in the betting market for sure.
It remains a very difficult task for an inexperienced three-year-old to take on their elders in a rough and tumble handicap such as this one, but Meraas has certainly been backed as though he can compete.
Furthermore, this son of Oasis Dream is trained by Mark Johnston and that immediately most likely puts him in the ‘tough’ category so there are no worries there.
The real truth though is that, despite having obvious improvement to come at this age, he may not be as well handicapped as some believe having gone up 6lbs for winning an average race at Hamilton and so he may need more time to win a race of this stature.
We very much fancied this horse to do the business at Royal Ascot in the Wokingham consolation race, and he very nearly did.
He finished third there and while we’ll never quite know exactly what stopped him putting up his very best performance there we now don’t care, as he came out next time and showed exactly where he is headed.
Extremely well backed for today’s jockey Tom Marquand, William Haggas’ four-year-old routed his field at Newbury to set himself up for this and it seems a 7lb rise is not enough to hold him back.
The only doubt may be his high draw, though how negative that is remains to be seen, and all in all we couldn’t ask for a horse with more in his favour than this one who by the end of the year should be in Group 3 territory at least.
Stone Of Destiny
Form figures of 0-460 aren’t exactly inspiring, but nonetheless Andrew Balding’s five-year-old Acclamation gelding still possesses plenty of ability and it would be no surprise to see him run close at a big price.
The King Power team have unearthed some nice types in the past and while this is one of their more exposed horses, Silvestre De Sousa is sure to get the very best out of him and he rates an each-way chance.
A competitive renewal, but it is hoped that NAHAARR is in the same form as we saw at Newbury. If he is, and he has indeed improved a little since then, he can continue to make a mockery of his handicap mark and he should land a famous win.
Kimifive and Stone Of Destiny are worth considering for places but don’t have as much progression in them as the selection.