Matilda Picotte bids to put the seal on an excellent campaign with victory in the Thoroughbred Industry Employee Awards Challenge Stakes at Newmarket.
Kieran Cotter’s stable star was a Listed winner at Headquarters at the end of her juvenile campaign and returned to the Rowley Mile to finish third in the 1000 Guineas in May.
She subsequently finished fourth in the Sandy Lane at Haydock and second in a Group Three at Tipperary before opening her account for the year in last month’s Sceptre Stakes at Doncaster.
Having resisted the temptation to have another shot at Group One glory in the either the Prix de la Foret or last weekend’s Sun Chariot, Cotter is hoping to strike Group Two gold in Friday’s feature.
“We’re very happy with her and her record on the track is second to none. This is obviously another step up in class, but she’s in great form and we think she’s up for it,” he said.
“We were tempted to supplement for the Group One last week (Sun Chariot), but we decided to wait for this as she showed in Doncaster she’s certainly a Group Two filly anyway.
“We’d like a bit of rain and it looks like there’s a small bit to come. She’s a good-actioned filly, so hopefully she should go on the ground.”
Richard Hannon has a strong hand, with Prix de la Foret third Shouldvebeenaring and the high-class Chindit both declared, while last year’s winner Pogo is back to defend his crown for Charlie Hills.
John and Thady Gosden’s Audience is the likely favourite after filling the runner-up spot in both the City of York Stakes and the Park Stakes. Joe Murphy’s outsider Lord Massusus is the other contender.
A bumper eight-race card gets underway with the Newmarket Academy Godolphin Beacon Project Cornwallis Stakes, in which trainer Kevin Philippart de Foy hopes to saddle Inquisitively.
The Ten Sovereigns colt was placed twice for Ollie Sangster before making a successful and impressive debut for his trainer in the Listed Roses Stakes at York in August.
Philippart de Foy said: “He’s in good shape and we’re hoping the ground stays as it is at the moment. The horse is in very good form, but he needs fast ground in order to show his turn of foot.
“He came out of the York race in very good form. We had to give Doncaster a miss because of the ground, so hopefully there will be minimal rain at Newmarket.
“This is highly likely to be his last run of the season.”
Donnacha O’Brien expects the demands of the race to bring out the best in Asean, who has her sights raised to Group Three level after winning a Cork handicap and a Listed prize at the Curragh.
“She’s in good form, she’s worked well and everything has gone well since her last run. Hopefully the rain stays away as she likes a bit of nice ground,” said the trainer.
“It’s a logical step and she’s got plenty of speed for the fast five furlongs in Newmarket, so hopefully she’ll run well.”
The Godolphin Lifetime Care Oh So Sharp Stakes also carries Group Three status and throws up an intriguing clash between Ralph Beckett’s recent Salisbury scorer Skellet and the Charlie Appleby-trained Dance Sequence, who won a July Course maiden three months ago but has not been seen since.
Skellet has been snapped up by Juddmonte since her last run and the leading owner-breeders’ racing manager, Barry Mahon, said: “We’re looking forward to seeing her out and we’ll find out a bit more about her.
“It looks a good race – Charlie Appleby’s filly looked very good the day she won. Ours is a big filly and it’s all about next year with her, but it will be good to give her a bit more experience.
“She has a beautiful pedigree – she’s a half-sister to Skitter Scatter (Group One winner) and it’s a Group One pedigree from top to bottom. The fact she’s by Kingman made her extra appealing.”
Chic Colombine, winner of her last four starts for George Boughey, adds further depth to the seven-furlong juvenile contest.