An EBF Maiden Fillies Stakes over 5f 10y on good ground. Sixteen juveniles: ten raced, six debutantes and a mix of top-class trainers. By all accounts this looks a tricky event, especially with a number of the leading fancies being high drawn. It will be intriguing to see whether the majority favour the stands' rail, venture to the far rail or even split. All these variables are dependent on ground and should be considered with regard to price.
War Alert was sent off even money favourite when contesting a maiden here over 6f on debut. That was a fair contest. This daughter of War Front cost 270,000gns at the Tattersall's Guineas Breeze-Up Sales 2014. Trained by David Brown, for the Quatar Bloodstock Partnership, ridden by retained jockey, Jamie Spencer. This February foal is clearly held in some regard and holds an entry for the Lowther Stakes (Group 2). She is likely to be fancied to go well here although I would have some reservation about the drop back to this minimum trip. It could well be the case this bay filly will be slightly outpaced. I would rather take a watching brief as the trip looks sharp.
Artfilly wasn't disgraced on debut at Newmarket but improved a good deal when finishing second at Lingfield over 5f. Ed Walker does well with his two-year-olds and this daughter of Art Connoisseur is a compact, professional horse which should travel well and battle to the line. The form of that race has been franked, although the winner, trained by James Tate, won in good style. Another juvenile with a high draw (14). Should run a decent race and has claims unless there is a talent in the line-up.
Emirates Challenge was relatively fancied on debut but always on the back foot after an awkward start, then eased down in the last furlong when her chance had gone. Saeed Bin Suroor is a class trainer and this February foal is well bred out of a talented multiple-winning mare [Sand Vixen], placed in the Princess Margaret Stakes (Group 3) & victorious in the Flying Childers Stakes (Group 2). Juveniles are always deserving a second bite at the cherry and if fancied in the betting a much brighter performance should be seen on this second start.
There are a couple of juveniles which may have disappointed to some extent on debut but worthy of interest.
Carrot Top is a home bred filly in the ownership of Lady Whent who is no stranger to talented juveniles [Goldcrest won well for Henry Candy] and she is a loyal patron of Ralph Beckett. This daughter of Assertive made her debut over 6f at Goodwood, when starting 11/4 second favourite. This chestnut filly is a good-looking juvenile, deep chested with size and scope. It was clear she had sweated-up quite markedly and looked hot before the start and ran too keen over the first two furlongs, which done her no favours. Even with this negative, she held every chance until the final furlong and wasn't pressed by Dane O'Neill when their chance had gone. It is coming up to two months since that first start, which suggests there has been a problem along the way. This drop back to 5f shouldn't be a problem and I can see this filly improving on that first start and could be held in some regard by connections. A lower draw could be a good starting point if favouring the stands' rail.
Disprove hails from another trainer who knows his two-year-olds. Hugo Palmer has some good juveniles in his string and Disprove looks a bargain breeze-up purchase at £20,000. This daughter of Approve is out of a twice-place mare. This bay filly ran well over 6f in a competitive Newmarket maiden. She was too keen in the early stages but held every chance and only tired in the final furlong and still beaten under five lengths. It is always difficult to assess how a horse will fair when it drops down in distance because the pace of a five and six furlong race is markedly different. With showing abundant pace on debut you would have to consider the trainer knows best and Noel Garbutt takes off a handy 5lb. Another filly with a high draw.
Robin Hill has run well on both starts to date but may find this a stiff task although may sneak a place if this race falls apart.
*Crystal Wish has size and scope and wasn't disgraced last time out at Catterick although others make more appeal.
The betting is the best guide for the leading stable debutantes: Renaissant, Effectual, Star Fire, Candlelight & Some Show. All have claims if priced 13/2 & less.
Conclusion: A difficult but fascinating race to assess. There looks plenty of strength and depth for a run-off-the-mill maiden and those with experience could well set a fair level for the debutantes to chase. With the majority of the fancied runners featuring a high draw it will be interesting to see where the horses' race. The ground will most likely be a deciding factor and if the going turns soft a high draw would be an advantage. However, on better ground a lower draw could see one or two head straight for the rail. War Alert is likely to be fancied in the betting and this drop back to the minimum trip may not pose a problem. However, I would have slight concerns she could struggle for pace and this factor could be compounded from a high draw, especially if they race down the stands' side. With so many variables you really need a price to consider betting. Artfilly is a professional horse who will go well and probably the most proven in this field over the distance. Emirates Challenge is a well bred filly who fluffed her lines on debut. If fancied in teh betting she could well put that disappointment behind her and holds each way claims. Carrot Top is likely to improve a good deal for that first run and could be held in some regard by connections. May be worth a speculative punt if big odds are available early on the exchanges. Disprove is another who could go well if fancied in the betting. With a few debutantes from big stables this could be a difficult race to find the winner. I would take a watching brief unless you can have a speculative bet on Carrot Top. I would be looking for value at the very least.