No grounds for concern at Newmarket with Vandeek

Ed Crisford has no fears about Vandeek running on faster ground in the Juddmonte Middle Park Stakes at Newmarket on Saturday.

The Havana Grey colt, a 625,000 guineas breeze-up buy, already boasts an impressive CV, but all three of his victories have been claimed when there was plenty of cut underfoot.

After opening his account at a rain-hit Nottingham, a smooth success in the Group Two Richmond Stakes at Goodwood was secured on soft going.

The official description was then ‘very soft’ when Vandeek edged out highly-rated French juvenile Ramatuelle at elite level in the Prix Morny at Deauville.

However, Crisford, who trains Vandeek alongside his father Simon, believes switching to a sounder surface this weekend for another Group One assignment will not be an issue.

“He’s in great order,” said the Newmarket handler. “He comes into this on the back of a Prix Morny win and has to have a good chance if repeating that form.

“It’s a good field, as you’d expect for a race of this stature, but I’d say he goes in there with a favourite’s chance.

“It will be the first time he’s encountered ground this fast but he’s a nice-moving colt by Havana Grey, so that shouldn’t be a problem.”

Aidan O’Brien’s River Tiber reopposes Vandeek after finishing back in third at Deauville, when returning from a two-month absence following his Coventry Stakes win at Royal Ascot.

Stable jockey Ryan Moore told Betfair: “He had a well-publicised setback before the Morny last time, so we were very happy with his third to Vandeek there, beaten just over two lengths.

“He wasn’t at peak fitness and I thought he shaped very well in the circumstances. I would expect him to get a lot closer to the winner here, and I’d say we had a very fair shot at winning this Group One. He’s in good shape.”

Elite Status had landed a Group Three event at Deauville at the end of July but could only manage a distant seventh of nine in the Morny.

Jasour ran too freely early on before fading back to eighth, but had previously shown a nice turn of foot to score by two lengths from Lake Forest in the July Stakes at Newmarket.

After then letting odds-on backers down at HQ, the William Haggas-trained Lake Forest returned to winning ways when beating Johannes Brahms in the Gimcrack at York and appeared to have a bit more in hand than the one-length margin suggested.

His jockey Tom Marquand said: “When I got off him in the July Stakes, I thought it was inexperience that caught us out that day. He went to Newmarket afterwards and things didn’t go right for him in that novice and he got beat.

“I wasn’t on board him in the novice race at Newmarket, but we learnt a bit from that experience and that put us a bit closer to completely working out what he wants.

“He is a really cool little horse that is not flash at home, but I like him as a character, as he is a bit under the radar.”

Task Force heads into this contest with two wins from two outings, having followed up a Salisbury maiden success by staying on strongly to score in Listed company at Ripon.

Ralph Beckett’s colt is certainly bred for the job, being by Frankel out of English and French 1,000 Guineas winner Special Duty.

Barry Mahon, European racing manager for owners Juddmonte, commented: “He’s a horse who ultimately probably wants a little bit further, but Ralph made a good point in that his mother never raced beyond six furlongs at two and she went on to win two Guineas.

“There’s definitely a bit of speed there and he’s maybe still a little bit immature, so maybe another start at six will do him good before he steps up in trip next year.”

Beckett also saddles the battle-hardened Starlust, who made it three wins from seven outings when getting up close home to beat Seven Questions in the Group Three Sirenia Stakes at Kempton recently.

Coventry Stakes fourth Givemethebeatboys travels over from Ireland again after subsequently finishing third behind Bucanero Fuerte in the Phoenix Stakes for Jessica Harrington.

Sketch was tailed off behind Vandeek in the Richmond but was second favourite that day following a wide-margin front-running success at Newbury on debut.

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