The Qatar Goodwood festival kicks off today with five days of brilliant action in what is one of my favourite weeks of the racing calendar.
13:50 Matchbook Betting Exchange Handicap
A typically tough start to the week and a wide open handicap over ten furlongs.
A case can be made for the vast majority of this field, but I like the Roger Varian trained UAE Prince. This Sea The Stars gelding has form on ground ranging from good to soft to good to firm, as has won over ten and twelve furlongs. This race is likely to be run at a frenetic pace, and I expect Andrea Atzeni to keep UAE Prince very handy throughout and look to use his stamina and finishing kick inside the last couple of furlongs.
14:25 Qatar Vintage Stakes
This is the first Group race of the festival, and it is a Group 2 over seven furlongs for two-year-olds.
Anything that Aiden O'Brien brings to the party is certainly worth a closer look (especially if they have been sired by Scat Daddy), and Seahenge is the current favourite for this at around 5/2. He won a maiden at Naas in very comfortable fashion, however, that doesn't look a particularly strong race and I have a feeling he may find one too good here today.
I am hoping that horse is the Mark Johnston trained Mildenberger. He is two from two so far with wins at Haydock and Newbury, and he absolutely destroyed the field at Newbury highlighting what an exciting prospect he is. James Doyle takes over the piloting duties today and I think that at a price of around 11/2, he is excellent value.
15:00 Qatar Lennox Stakes
Another Group 2, this time over seven furlongs and for three-year-olds and over. It is a very open looking race again and quite a tricky one to pick apart.
Limato is the current joint favorite and it is not hard to see why. He has won once and been placed three times in his last four races, all of which were at Group 1 level. He has only raced over seven furlongs once before, winning easily at Chantilly. I am not convinced he will be certain to see the trip out however, if they set off at a decent pace, and at the prices I will be looking elsewhere.
The Aiden O'Brien trained Spirit Of Valour was a comfortable winner of a Group 2 at the Curragh last time out with Ryan Moore on board for the first time, and I think he looks quite an exciting three-year-old. He was second prior to that in the Jersey Stakes at Royal Ascot (winning the stands side group) and he has winning form on softer ground than today, so I don't think the underfoot conditions will pose too many problems for him. I think he will be right up there with Home Of The Brave early on, and am hoping his touch of class will see him take this.
13:50 - UAE Prince - 1 point @ 7/1
14:25 - Mildenberger - 1 point @ 11/2
15:00 - Spirit Of Valour - 2 points @ 15/2