Our second big staying handicap is a 1¾-mile affair, again for £100,000.
Though many of the maximum 16-runner field appear to have some sort of chance at their best, in narrowing down this field we thought it was the four-year-old group who may dominate given the strong likelihood they will almost all improve.
Six of the 7 four-year-olds in the race made the shortlist, namely:
Charlie Appleby remains positive about Bandinelli and it seems he still has a big race in him at some point.
It may be however that the Dubawi gelding is rather betwixt and between at the moment. As a 98-rated horse, he isn’t ready to go into Group company. However, he is also not the best handicapped given that his improvement has been steady rather than sharp.
He has won four of his last 6 races though, so who are we to say that his improvement has stopped now?
Aidan O’Brien’s Cleveland comes into this race as the Chester Cup winner and it’s an interesting move from the yard to go back down in trip with him.
Some may think it was the rather extreme distance that brought about his improvement on the Roodee, though the facts say otherwise.
He ran to a mark of 98 over just nine furlongs in November 2020, and to 103 over 18½ furlongs last time so we can’t say it’s all about the trip.
Having gone up 5lbs for a narrow win he’ll need to improve again, but as a lightly-raced four-year-old that is an almost guaranteed scenario anyway.
Juan De Montalban
Juan De Montalban has been a talking horse several times over and was once a very expensive buy.
It’s not hard to see his time coming though, and now that he is with Kevin Philippart De Foy, he is reaching the sort of level we expected when he was with Andrew Balding, when he was trained in Italy and when he was with David O’Meara.
His win over a mile-and-a-half last time at Ascot was a fluent one and has put him spot-on for this, though he’s gone up 9lbs in the handicap and so will need to reach what will comfortably be a career high.
Joseph O’Brien trains this Galileo colt and he is having only his fourth career start.
Second in a Listed race last time, Okita Soushi is now rated 104 which is tough and his handler will need to have uncovered a good bit of improvement in him. Staying shouldn’t be a problem though which is half the battle in this race.
Another raider from Ireland is Pita Pinta.
The Sir Percy filly, much like Okita Soushi, was runner-up in a Listed contest last time out and once more it remains to be seen whether or not that has completely ruined her handicap mark.
She went up from 93 to 102 for that performance and in fact is now 20lbs higher in the weights than when last winning which is quite something.
John and Thady Gosden will fancy their chances in the Ascot Stakes with Marshall Plan, and could be looking for a famous handicap double with their Stowell here in the last.
Although right near the top of the weights, Stowell does not look badly handicapped at all for this contest.
His current rating of 104 was gained a whole year ago, at Royal Ascot in fact, and it would be very reasonable to expect that he has improved a fair bit since then.
His third to Max Vega in the John Porter and fourth to Al Aasy in the Buckhounds read OK, but this trip is what he really needs.
Stowell was arguably an unlucky loser in the Queen’s Vase last year, a Group 2 of course, with those just ahead of him achieving ratings of 110 (Kemari) and 111 (Wordsworth) thereafter.
It would be no surprise at all to see him get back to his best now, in fact he may better what he did in the Queen’s Vase which would make him very hard to catch in this race.
It’s hard to know what more there is to come from Bandinelli, Juan De Montalban and Cleveland and all are feared.
The Gosden runner STOWELL however ticks so many boxes and at the very least is the safest bet in the race.