Folkswood out to build on career-best display at Meydan
bet365 Earl of Sefton Stakes | Gr 3 | Class 1| 1m1f | 4yo+| ITV4
Godolphin had plenty of success in the early stages of last year's Flat season with horses returning from Dubai and two fit that profile here, with one in particular catching the eye.
Folkswood put up a fine performance when beaten only a neck by Decorated Knight in the Group 1 Jebel Hatta at Meydan last month and will take a lot of beating if transferring that level of form to the Rowley Mile.
Viren's Army, meanwhile, also trained by Charlie Appleby, was a handicap winner on his final start in Dubai in February, but the pair are unlikely to have things all their own way in what looks a strong race.
Spark Plug had been considered for a trip to Dubai before a change of plan, so the six-year-old should strip plenty fit enough for this first start of the campaign.
Stoute readies pair
Sir Michael Stoute has won this race four times, most recently with Notnowcato in 2006. He saddles two this time, with Abdon and Autocratic carrying his hopes.
Berkshire is back
The Paul Cole-trained Berkshire makes his seasonal reappearance. The now six-year-old has won only once since 2014 but showed a liking for the Rowley Mile when younger and could be in the shake-up if it is his day.
What they say
Sir Michael Stoute, trainer of Abdon and Autocratic
Abdon has wintered well and this looks a good place to start, but the trip might be a bit short of his best. Autocratic is stepping into Group class from handicaps but he's one we've always liked and he too has been pleasing at home this spring.
Paul Cole, trainer of Berkshire
We've had a much clearer run with him this year. He's looking better and seems to be more the horse he was. He's not wound up as such, but I'm optimistic.
David O'Meara, trainer of Bravery
He's come out of Doncaster well but he's going to have to step up again from that performance to win an Earl of Sefton. He was certainly staying on well in the Lincoln and he did it from an awkward position.
Charlie Appleby, trainer of Folkswood and Viren's Army
Folkswood put up a career-best performance in the Jebel Hatta and seems in good order back in the UK. He's fit and well and I'm confident he can bring his Dubai form to Newmarket, where he's been successful previously. Viren’s Army is stepping back in trip but showed plenty of pace at Meydan, so I don’t think nine furlongs will be a problem. As well as being successful in Dubai, he won the Dee Stakes at Chester last year. There's not much between these two.
Brian Meehan, trainer of Spark Plug
He's in good form, he's really well and I couldn't be happier with him. I had the idea of taking him to Dubai earlier in the spring but that didn't work out, so he's done a lot of work. He hasn't fully come in his coat but he goes well in the spring so we're expecting a big run.
Richard Hannon, trainer of Steel Of Madrid
Once we stepped him up to a mile and a quarter he scored in Listed company at Newmarket last year. He’s done nicely over the winter and I’m hoping he could turn out to be a Cup horse in time. I think he can move up to the next level.