It’s a big shame that Sir Michael Stoute’s Mubakker isn’t running here as he is definitely a horse on the up, however we still have these chief protagonists left in which is as always, a super-competitive Wokingham Stakes.
Trained by Kevin Ryan and ridden for his retainer by Silvestre De Sousa, this Bielsa finished last season in spectacular fashion by routing a competitive handicap field at Doncaster over six furlongs and he has been a long-term fancy for this for many people.
However, winning on bottomless ground and on a straight track may not equate to what he faces here, he’s up 8lbs in the weights and he is drawn on the wrong side of the track so he has plenty of obstacles to get over.
David O’Meara has booked Ryan Moore for his six-year-old and that is obviously a good move. Rated 110 on the all-weather after winning at Southwell in the winter, he is only rated 102 on the turf which at a glance could make him appear well handicapped although that’s still 2lbs more than when winning at York last year.
He’s not without a chance of course, but so often these races go to those prepared specifically and/or to those improving types who turn out to have lumps of weight in hand and on all known evidence, that is unlikely to be Gulliver.
A former Godolphin owned and Irish trained horse, Highland Dress is a fast-improving Shamardal gelding who is fit, should handle the ground, and comes into this race having won at Newmarket.
In going up 6lbs for his last success he is not one we can call badly handicapped given his trajectory, so he simply has to make this list although the races he’s won so far have not been as competitive as this one and when his bubble eventually bursts, it’s bound to be in a contest like this one.
Easily the most fascinating contender in the race given what everyone thought he would achieve after his juvenile campaign, and now something has happened to ultimately make that possible.
At two he was fifth in the Norfolk, second in the Group 2 July Stakes and fourth in the Richmond and was being aimed at top-level races last season. He started off well enough by being dragged along by the incredibly speedy Calyx in the Pavilion Stakes (third), but then took a dive by throwing in some disappointing runs.
Rated 106 at his peak, something that would lead to him being 110+ when maturing, he is in here off a mark of just 96 and now having been gelded, which works so often, he may get back to somewhere near his best which would mark him out as a very well handicapped sort.
Seven now but running right up to his best last season, Spanish City hails from a yard in sparkling form at Ascot this week and now Roger Varian will have his eye on one more massive prize.
The only doubt about this horse, who is versatile enough regarding trip and course type, is that his best work recently has been done on proper fast ground and that’s something he won’t get on Saturday.
A proper old stick in these big handicap sprints, Summerghand once again has his chance to land a big one and the booking of James Doyle by David O’Meara catches the eye.
Still running incredibly well after 30-odd races, he won in the winter at Wolverhampton, ran fourth to Ekhtiyaar in Dubai and was second last time out at Newmarket so he remains solid, but the downside to all these runs is that his handicap mark remains almost stagnant and it isn’t helping him to get his head in front.
Summerghand and Spanish City are both bound to run their race here and can be thought of as each-way plays, while it will be fascinating to see how well Bielsa gets on this season overall.
On the day, with more than a couple of negatives to overcome on paper, you’d be forgiven for thinking that he’s somewhat of a bookies’ favourite at the moment and doesn’t represent great value so he’s passed over this time.
Enter KONCHEK, a proven Group performer as a juvenile who has now been gelded and could be about to come back to near his best, just as Dark Vision did earlier in the week.