Last year this race was won by Escalating, trained by Pat Eddery, on his third start. He disappointed on debut when made favourite in the Brocklesby Stakes, victorious on his second start at Kempton. This son of Three Valleys ran at Group 3 but disappointed.
A trio of winning debutantes make this a fascinating race - almost certainly the best race we have seen this juvenile campaign.
Gifted Master was tested at Stake class when racing at Newmarket on debut against the Brocklesby Stakes victor Ravenhoe. This son of Kodiac was pretty fancied in the betting [4/1]. The favourite didn't have much luck in running but it would have made little difference to the result because Hugo Palmer's colt surged clear of the field after being held up just behind the pace. He was coltish that day which often puts pay to a horse's chance. However, it was a sparkling display and by all account Dr Ali Ridha horse could have a glowing future.
Buratino was similarly stylish on his debut at Chelmsford City when winning readily by over three lengths. The form of that race has yet to be tested but the second and third both held entries for the Brocklesby Stakes and one cost a considerable amount at the yearling sales. Mark Johnston had a treble with his two year olds that day and all look good prospects. This son of Exceed And Excel was very inexperienced that day. Turning courses can be hard work for a horse learning his craft and in many respects that made his performance all the more outstanding. This bay colt is likely to improve a good deal for that first run and difficult to limit his ability. A talent who should be a worthy challenger to the favourite.
The last of the trio is Handytalk, who is trained by Rod Millman. This Irish son of first season sire Lilborne Lad was backed on debut at Winsdor when the stable fielded two horses, the other more fancied in the betting. Raj To Riches looked to have the aces up his sleeve but April foal nabbed him on the line. The form of that race doesn't look in the same class as the two mentioned. It is worth noting that Millman's two year olds are not pressed on debut and this youngster could well improve. On balance, I would take a watching brief.
Mark Usher's Arlecchino's Rock finished third behind Handytalk and needs to improve. Usher's horses usually come on for their racecourse bow and this colt looks up to winning this season. Another horse who is best watched although he, like the other juveniles, do not carry a penalty.
Interesting to see Aragon Knight making his return to racing after unseating his rider on debut at Newbury. Heather Main doesn't train many two year olds but this son of Kheleyf was well backed that day. That maiden often features a few decent juveniles. This looks a stiff ask and there is always a concern horses who show temperament will act in a similar manner. It is also true that a lot of horses who fluff their lines on debut come back all guns blazing. This bay colt has a lot to prove and best watched.
Richard Hannon has been relatively quiet this early season. It is intriguing they have Log Out Island making his debut at this level. This Irish bred son of Dark Angel is out of a twice-winning mare. He was purchased at the yearling sales by Ross & Peter Doyle Bloodstock for £95,000. This stable should always be respected with such a huge string of juveniles and the betting will give a good idea of the merit this horse is held. However, it would have to be significantly backed for me to view it as a worthy challenger and if weak in the betting is best left alone. It would be a supreme effort to win against this opposition.
Conclusion: A race to savior this early season - two potentially smart two year olds in the shape of Gifted Master - who was sparkling at Newmarket - and the untapped ability of Buratino who was clueless at Chelmsford City. I will be watching and enjoying this contest as a purist. Gifted Master would get the nod if pressed. Stakes races are a law unto themselves - never say never. It is unlikely Handytalk will tarnish the hopes of the major fancies. Arlecchino's Rock and Aragon Rock have a mountain to climb, while Log Out Island is set a stern test to beat such promising opponents on debut. All have it to prove. It looks a duel between Gifted Master & Buratino. Enjoy.