The Wokingham Stakes is one of the toughest handicaps of the entire year to get right, but with enough information at our disposal we think we’ve been able to successfully shrink this enormous field down to six key runners:
Brian Meehan trained this horse to come out first time for the season in this race last year and score from the hugely well-supported Dreamfield, and from not the best draw either.
He could potentially be a couple of pounds better this time around as he bids for a repeat, though he is 3lbs higher in the handicap. The softer conditions than twelve months ago are not a concern, nor is his fitness, so from stall 21 under last year’s winning jockey Jim Crowley he has a rock-solid chance again.
While Roger Varian’s gelding has never raced over this short a distance before, he looks tailor made for it and is a very interesting runner on that basis.
Back in May he won the 26-runner Victoria Cup on this track over seven furlongs, so on the basis that we can second guess some improvement for coming down in trip as well as some natural improvement at this stage of his career so the 4lb rise he received in his handicap rating could end up looking very lenient indeed.
Although he’s arguably underperformed in that last two runnings of this race and is now an eight-year-old, this one remains of huge interest as his trainer David O’Meara has kept him interested in the game and he’s done well in two runs this season.
As a hold-up horse from stall 22 with Jamie Spencer on board over this straight track, he has a number of things in his favour and ticks enough boxes to be considered for place money for sure.
If O’Meara has a decent chance with Intisaab, then he has an outstanding one with Perfection. A four-year-old filly formerly with John Gosden, she finished her career with the Newmarket handler by landing a Listed race in good style and reached a handicap mark of 100.
She seems to be a genuinely quick filly and it seems her owners fully understand that these types can be specifically trained for speed, something I think O’Meara is perfect for and her first two runs under his stewardship have been very good in terms of setting her up for the season.
The ground was against her at Lingfield while her run at Haydock will have just put her spot-on, so from stall 23 with Gerald Mosse up top it seems there could be a good bit more to come from her today.
Solid, likes this track, has had a pipe-opener for the season and is well drawn. Paul D’Arcy’s gelding is perhaps getting on a bit but retains plenty of ability but it remains to be seen whether putting up a 5lb claimer in this race will give any advantage at all, given that the hustle and bustle will mean some wily jockeyship is needed.
Guess who? David O’Meara. There is a feeling that after an excellent 2018 Summerghand is simply too high in the weights now, but that may not prove to be the case.
He has gone from a mark of 78 to a mark of 100 but his return appearance at Newmarket where he was narrowly beaten was probably his best yet, leading to optimism that he hasn’t finished winning.
He’s not badly drawn and has the assistance of Danny Tudhope who’s been flying at Ascot this week, so he’s not without a chance of hitting the board.
Northern-based trainers have a very strong hand here this year, nobody more so than David O’Meara whose Summerghand can take another step forward and give a great account of himself, though the nagging feeling that he may be getting close to his limit in handicaps stills remains.
Cape Byron is incredibly interesting coming down in trip; this stiff six furlongs looking absolutely ideal for him and his style of running seemingly being perfect for this event, though he may not be brilliantly drawn which is the only negative about him.
Last year’s hero Bacchus has to go close once again and rates as our ‘next-best’, but this PERFECTION really has everything needed in our view to take this race and we could just see a proper performance from her under her masterful French rider.