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Crawford hoping to toast Hong Kong-bound Whisky Baron

Whisky Baron: raider had a taste of Newmarket's Rowley Mile last week
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3.35 Newmarket
Shadwell Joel Stakes | Gr 2 | 1m | 3yo+ | ITV4/RUK

KEY QUESTIONS

Named after popular champion owner-breeder Jim Joel, one of the few to own the winner of the Derby (Royal Palace 1967) and the Grand National (Maori Venture 1987), this £100,000 mile heat pits hard-knocking older horses Sovereign Debt and Custom Cut into battle with up-and-coming three-year-old Beat The Bank, while South African raider Whisky Baron adds extra intrigue.

Another victory for South Africa?

Eagle Mountain and Soft Falling Rain provided the country's top trainer Mike de Kock with success in this in 2008 and 2013, and Whisky Baron is out to embellish that record.

Off since winning the Grade 1 Sun Met (formerly known as the J&B Met) at Kenilworth in Cape Town in January, he spent three months in quarantine in Mauritius and has been based at the South African-owned Abington Place Stables on Newmarket's Bury Road.

"We've got plans to take him to Hong Kong in December, so that's our bigger plan and since we gelded him he's won five in a row, including a Grade 1 on his last start," said Zimbabwean-born trainer Brett Crawford, who is based in Cape Town.

"I think he's a horse we haven't got to the bottom of and I'm very excited about him. It's not been easy coming off three months quarantine in Mauritius and this is part of his preparation for Hong Kong, but going into a Group 2 in England you can't go in needing a run or being unfit, so we've done a lot of work with him and he's in a very good place at the moment.

"He's a big horse - he weighs 560kg - and is a horse who would not like soft ground, so we're hoping the weather gods are on our side.

"We took him to Newmarket last Monday and he did struggle a bit with the undulations, which we did expect and that's the reason we took him to the track, but he's a fast learner and each time he's been back to the Heath he's got better and his work's improved. I think it was a good call to take him to the track and hopefully he'll handle it."

Balding's Bank-er?

Beat The Bank looked a horse to follow when winning the Thoroughbred Stakes at Goodwood on his last appearance - after which Andrew Balding hinted he could be up to competing at the highest level - although the trainer is not getting carried away just yet.

Owned by Leicester City chairman Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha, the Paco Boy gelding has won four of his five starts.

Balding said: "He 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 was also entered in a Group 2 at Chantilly on Saturday but we opted to go for the Joel instead because it was closer to home and because he already has form on the Rowley Mile. He is fairly versatile when it comes to ground conditions so the current good going will be fine for him.

"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 Queen Elizabeth II Stakes at Ascot on Champions Day."

Cox still walking in a winter Zonderland?

Clive Cox is having a season to remember, but has had to do without the well-regarded Zonderland for much of it.

A minor hold-up in the spring and testing ground at Glorious Goodwood meant last year's 2,000 Guineas sixth did not appear until the end of August in the Sussex track's Celebration Mile, which he lost by a nose to Lightning Spear.

"We were very pleased with his performance in the Celebration Mile when he sadly just got chinned on the line, but he's come out of the race well," said Cox, whose campaign could get even better with Heartache and Profitable on Group 1 assignments this weekend.

"I just hope they don't get too much rain [at Newmarket] - that would be a negative - but he's in excellent form and a reproduction of his last run would give him every chance."


What the others say

Ruth Carr, trainer of Sovereign Debt
He's been a star all season and his penalty has made it difficult for him, but he's held his form really well and the ground will suit. He still seems in good form, so hopefully he can go there and be competitive again.

Angus Gold, racing manager to Hamdan Al Maktoum, owner of Mustashry 
I don't think he needs further, but he's good, long-striding horse who doesn't quicken in a hurry, so we'll need to be handy with him and make plenty of use of him. He's a very nice horse who has done everything right and I'd like to think he's got more to offer and hope he's a horse we can keep next year.

Aidan O'Brien, trainer of Sir John Lavery and Whitecliffsofdover
Sir John Lavery is in good form having run well over the trip in the Group 2 Boomerang Stakes at Leopardstown last time. We've been happy with him since. Whitecliffsofdover finished just behind Sir John Lavery at Leopardstown. We're happy with him and the better the ground the more he'll like it.


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I think he's a horse we haven't got to the bottom of and I'm very excited about him
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