Last year's winner, Silverheels, went on to be placed at Group class, so something for this year's winner to live up to.
Richard Hannon's juveniles are beginning to click into gear with the tidy success of Lyric Ace and fair debut effort of Black Monk. Their representative is called Meringue Pie. This chestnut son of Sahkee's Secret cost 60,000euros as a yearling. The mare, Queen's Pudding, won on her only start at two, trained by James Fanshawe, she raced just three times before retirement. This April foal is likely to be fancied in the betting and the stable feature about a 20% strike rate with their juveniles at this course. However, it is never easy to win on debut.
Another April colt is Regal Dan, the first juvenile of the season for Charles Hills. This Irish-bred son of Dark Angel cost 36,000gns. The mare won the Brocklesby on debut for Alan Jarvis although achieved little thereafter. In his last few years as a trainer Barry Hills sent a number of decent two-year-olds to make their debut at this course and his son could well follow this pattern. The stable feature a fair win and place rate with their fancied juveniles on debut. It is a positive that this is the only ride for Michael Hills on the card. He isn't the type to waste his time.
Mick Channon has been successful with a couple of two-year-olds on their second starts. Ouzinkie cost 20,000gns as a yearling, however was a more expensive foal. A son of Kodiac, he is owned by Box 41, who do well with their recruits. The betting is the best guide to this youngster's chance and best watching if weak in the markets. The stable feature a much higher win rate on their second start although often perceived as winning more times on debut than they do. Winners are generally fancied.
Vestibule is one of two fillies in the line-up. An America-bred daughter of Kheleyf, she could be something of a bargain buy at 5,000gns. This representative of Eve Johnson Houghton is a good-looking juvenile. In a recent quote she said: ''We finally had some rain in the week and could work on the grass Wednesday, so had a big work morning which was a great success. As a result I've entered Vestibule in a race at Windsor....1st 2yo runner could be exciting!'' It is interesting that she has been entered for a maiden at Newmarket and Cathy Gannon was similarly booked to ride. The stable feature quite a poor win rate on debut, which tempers enthusiasm. An interesting juvenile.
World Freight Girl hails from a stable which rarely win on debut and best watched.
The raced juveniles will certainly benefit from their initial experience which is often the difference between winning and losing at this stage of the season. However, Lea Valley Black, Fortinbrass & Modern Society need to improve.
Lea Valley Black was a relatively cheap purchase at 11,000gns. Trained by Tom Dascombe, he went off unfancied in what looks to be a fair Kempton maiden. The fourth & fifth have franked the form. This son of Three Valleys is quite tall, but may appreciate a stiffer test of stamina. However, he looks the best of the raced and is likely to be sharper for that racecourse bow. The betting is the best guide and if priced 13/2 & less features fair win and place claims. Kingscote was originally booked to ride Majestic Jess but now pilots this charge.
Fortinbrass ran in the same race but was never really involved. A relatively cheap buy, this son of Baltic King isn't the most imposing and needs to improve. It is interesting to note that Beckett gave this colt an entry for the Brocklesby Stake (which could be viewed as encouraging). However, best watched.
Modern Society was similarly disappointing in this contest. He is a bonny little colt, one of very few skewbalds in training (chestnut with white patches) and a lovely looker. Owner-trainer Andrew Reid said this son of I Was Framed had been going well at home but showed little ability on debut when 80/1. The sire fee of £1,000 may suggest this progeny are moderate but best of luck to connections for a two-year-old who will be a talking point at Windsor.
John Gallagher has quite a pricey debutante at £32,000. Fletcher Christian is a son of Bahamian Bounty out of Lady Dominatrix who was a capable horse for Nerys Dutfield. She won a Novice Stakes in comfortable fashion on debut over 5f before competing in the Hilary Needler (Listed), Coventry Stakes (Group 2), Sweet Solera (Listed) & May Hill (Group 3) at two. A second in the Sweet Solera, was trumped at three by Listed & Group 3 success. Attaining an official rating of 109 and nearly £100,000 in total prize earnings she was a gifted horse. A interesting juvenile for the stable owned by C R Marks. The negative is that the yard rarely have debutant winners and for that reason is best watched but could go well next time out.
One of the more interesting juveniles making its racecourse bow is Baddilini, trained by Alan Bailey. This February foal was relatively cheap buy at £14,000. This son of Bertolini is out of a winning mare. She comes from a stamina-bred family and won on debut at three in France but over 1m 2f. It is interesting that Bailey had this youngster entered to run in Nottingham Stakes race (won by Dreamy Ciara) but takes this engagement. That could well be a positive sign from a stable who often go well with their early-season two-year-olds. If strongly fancied in the betting would make more appeal.
Conclusion: A difficult race to assess with the form horses showing little on debut. Lea Valley Black may have win and place claims if priced 13/2 & less, but looks weak on the exchanges [Sunday, evening]. This could well go to a debutante. Meringue Pie should be respected although difficult to assess on debut. Regal Dan catches the eye being the only mount for Michael Hills and for that reason alone is high on the pecking order. Vestibule is intriguing, because I get the feeling Johnson Houghton likes this filly, who is a good-looking sort judged from photos. If strongly fancied Ouzinkie has win and place claims although statistically the stable are much better on their second start. Fletcher Christian is worth noting for the future. Baddilini could go well if baked.