An EBF Maiden Stakes over 5f on standard going. Just fives runners: two beaten favourites taking on the debutantes, including three colts and two fillies. Last year this race was won by Escalating, trained by Pat Eddery, who was a beaten favourite in the Brocklesby Stakes.
Richard Hannon's Anwar is on a recovery mission after a promising debut although firmly put in her place by a bigger, stronger [Rah Rah] horse trained by Mark Johnston. This grey daughter of Dark Angel cost 78,000GNS at the yearling sales when purchased by Peter & Ross Doyle Ltd.
Hannon said: ''Previous experience can mean a lot on the all-weather, so we hope that Anwar, who made a promising debut last week, might be able to go one better in the opener. He bumped into a good one there and maybe Mark Johnston has another up his sleeve in Tawakkol, but our filly has taken her race well and is ready to roll again.''
This small, athletic filly has valuable experience over course and distance and Richard Hughes is likely to make that count. She was beaten at short odds by a potentially decent juvenile. This straightforward filly could well make amends but as with all these early two-year-old races it is a brave man who takes a short price when form is still untested and opposition may prove worthy opposition.
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Just That Lord was noted on debut when contesting the Brocklesby Stakes for Bill Turner, a race he usually sends his best two-year-old. This home bred filly by Avonbridge out of a talented filly who was similarly owned and trained. This chestnut colt is a fair-looking type sent off favourite that day. He showed a professional attitude and all looked well until fading in the closing stages to finish fourth. In some respects that was a disappointing run as I'm sure connections expected better. The mid-furlong pace was quite fast, while the final was pretty slow. It could be the case Just That Lord went a stride too fast although that might be clutching at straws. He certainly tired in the closing stages and looked disappointing. This juvenile will travel well but how will he finish the race? In spite of a somewhat average performance, Turner does have a record of sending his better horses to the Brocklesby and for that reason this April foal may be capable of better. There is a query why Luke Morris replaces Ryan While who partnered this colt on debut.
The stable is also represented by debutante Frank Bridge. This home bred, a son of Avon Bridge out of a winning, poor mare, is partnered by the trainer's grandson. As detailed, he rode Just That Lord on debut and this change of tactics is unusual. While pundits suggest this stable have their two-year-olds primed for debut their strike rate is far from impressive. The betting is the best guide and if shorter odds than Just That Lord it would be significant. However, I would favour the former.
Mark Johnston has made the headlines with a fantastic start to the new Flat turf season [3 of his 4 juveniles victors]. Tawakkol, a son of Firebreak out of a multiple-winning mare, has been entered to run in a few races including the Scottish Brocklesby. It gives the impression the trainer has been looking for the right race. This bay colt was an early foal and went through the yearling sales sold to Shadwell Estate for 70,000GNS. Kingsley House Stables feature a respectable win and place rate with their fancied debutantes although it can be difficult to pick the wheat from the chaff. One for the shortlist.
Rosealee is the first two-year-old runner for Jeremy Gask. This grey filly, a daughter Zebedee out of a twice-winning mare, comes from a decent family [half sister to Here Now And Why]. This filly was purchased by the trainer from Doncaster Premiere Yearlings Sale for £32,000. The Sutton Veny Syndicate [owners] done well with Sutton Veny and they will be hopeful with this prospect. Gask is an ambitious trainer although the yard have a small string of juveniles. In general, they have a poor strike rate on debut although Dark Secret won at odds of 40/1 in 2010. It is interesting this horse makes its debut so early, which does catch the eye. In 2013 Flying Bear ran well when making his debut over course and distance. On balance I'd have to take a watching brief although this horse may be worth a speculative punt at huge odds.
Conclusion: Two form horses will help build the jigsaw of these early-season dilemmas. Anwar looked to run a fair debut behind a Mark Johnston talent and eased down in the closing stages. Course and distance experience means a lot on this turning track where a slow start or running wide can ruin any chance. She will test the opposition and sets the standard. At the prices I'd have to take a watching brief. I'm intrigued to see how Just That Lord goes here after a slightly disappointing effort in the Brocklesby. Turner has sent some of his best juveniles to race at Doncaster and this colt could well be better than seen. He should travel well and this turning course may help run to the line. I'd taking a watching brief on Frank Bridge although the jockey booking is something of a mystery. Tawakkol hails from a stable that has done little wrong this season with three winners from four horses. This colt has received a stakes entry which is a sign of encouragement and been entered for other contests before taking this engagement. Personally, I find Johnston's debutantes difficult to assess. They are either easy winners or poor losers. Rosealee hails from a stable that have few debut winners although it may be a positive racing so early in the season. A watching brief.