The One To Beat

By Sean Cronin

Bar one no-show when he had excuses in the G3 Jersey S., Beat the Bank (GB) (Paco Boy {Ire}) would be unbeaten and the progressive gelding gets the opportunity to book a ticket to Champions Day in Friday’s G2 Shadwell Joel S. at Newmarket. After his 10th in the June 21 Jersey at Royal Ascot, he has registered three-length wins over this trip in the July 13 Listed Sir Henry Cecil S. on the July Course here and in the G3 Thoroughbred S. at Glorious Goodwood Aug. 4. On the latter occasion, he showed he can handle rain-softened ground and trainer Andrew Balding holds him in high regard. “Beat the Bank has not been seen out for almost two months because we decided to give him a little break and miss the Celebration Mile, but I am very happy with him,” he said. “He has done everything that I have asked of him both at home and on the racetrack, apart from one blip at Royal Ascot, and seems to be a very solid individual. I am keen not to get ahead of myself with him, and only time will tell just how good he could be, but he does hold an entry in the [Oct. 21 G1] Queen Elizabeth II Stakes at Ascot on Qipco British Champions Day.”

Another who is engaged in that mile championship decider is a similar up-and-comer Sir John Lavery (Ire) (Galileo {Ire}) from Ballydoyle and he could be one of the most notable latecomers on the mile scene. Unlucky not to have won Leopardstown’s G2 Solonaway S. when running into major traffic issues en route to finishing fourth last time Sept. 9, the relative of Hawk Wing showed when winning his mile maiden by seven lengths at Gowran Park in October that he handles testing ground and he has the Listed European Free H. winner Whitecliffsofdover (War Front) to help him here. Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid Al Maktoum’s Mustashry (GB) (Tamayuz {GB}) is linked in with Beat the Bank on the form of his latest success in the nine-furlong G3 Strensall S. at York Aug. 26 and racing manager Angus Gold is quietly confident. “This has always looked the obvious race for him since his win at York, he’s had a nice break. I was very impressed with him there, I thought he was impressive in a decent race and he’s a horse Sir Michael has always had a lot of time for,” he commented. “He’s a powerful horse, a real galloper, and I’d obviously love to see him stay in training but that will be up to Sheikh Hamdan.”

In a strong renewal that could see the emergence of the main challenger to Ribchester (Ire) (Iffraaj {GB}) and Al Wukair (Ire) (Dream Ahead) in the QEII, Cheveley Park Stud’s Zonderland (GB) (Dutch Art {GB}) takes high rank. His nose second to Lightning Spear (GB) (Pivotal {GB}) in the G2 Celebration Mile at Goodwood Aug. 26 was his first outing since finishing in the same position behind the same rival a year earlier and he is certain to improve markedly for that experience. “That was a huge performance after being off for so long and he only lost in a head-bob,” trainer Clive Cox commented. “I’d be a little concerned if we got too much rain, but he’s had a few weeks since Goodwood and I’m hopeful he can run a big race.” Bringing South African form to bear is the Jan. 28 G1 Sun Met hero Whisky Baron (Aus) (Manhattan Rain {Aus}) and it will be fascinating to see how he fares against this tough European company. “We’ve got plans to prepare him to go to Hong Kong in December,” explained trainer Brett Crawford. “Since we gelded him he’s won five in a row, including a group one. I think he’s a horse we’ve still not got to the bottom of. I’m very excited about him. He’s had a very good preparation. Friday will be part of his preparation towards Hong Kong, but going into a group two in England you can’t go into the race needing the run or being unfit, so we’ve done a lot of work on him and he’s in a very good place at the moment.”

 

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