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Thursday, 18 October, 2018

Get ready for a Sussex stunner and a smashing Plate

Without Parole: St James's Palace winner heading to Goodwood
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A stellar day is in store with the feature races of two of the summer's biggest festivals.

Goodwood's Group 1 Qatar Sussex Stakes is up first, with a mouthwatering clash between the unbeaten Without Parole, Expert Eye, who announced his incredible talent at this meeting last year and finally seems back on track, the ever-game Lightning Spear, who has banged his head against the Group 1 door so many times he is beginning to resemble a unicorn, and a whole host of hopefuls.

From Andre Fabre's unexposed Orbaan, to talking horse Beat The Bank, Aidan O'Brien's Gustav Klimt, Lincoln, Queen Anne and Summer Mile runner-up Lord Glitters, there are plenty who will fancy their chances of adding their name to a trophy that features many of the sport's greats.

The Group 3 Molecomb adds further glitter to a sparkling occasion and, just as Goodwood winds up being Glorious for day two, the bell dings for round three of the world's biggest party – being held again this year in Galway.

Plenty will already be feeling the pace by this point, even with the helpful late start, but it has not been as ferocious as the gallop they will go in the Plate.

Over the past five years – thanks to Carlingford Lough, Road To Riches and Balko Des Flos – the winners of the Plate have eight subsequent successes at the top table to their name against the Sussex Stakes' three, and plenty of similarly young and progressive types throw their untapped potential up against some of Ireland's premier battle-hardened handicappers to see if they can make it stick.

Churchill calling?

Will the winner of the Sussex Stakes be up for the Cup? Because the International Breeders' Cup Challenge awards an automatic berth into the Mile.

In all the Challenge offers 85 places to winners worldwide for the various stakes races at the two-day spectacular at the beginning of November.

The Sussex Stakes will be the seventh Mile qualifier so far in 2018, with the first six to qualify being Legal Eagle, Happy Clapper, Nuevo Maestro, Hunt, Mozu Ascot and the Eve Johnson-Houghton-trained Accidental Agent, winner of the Queen Anne. 

A second first

Soldier's Call made all in the stands' side group to give Archie Watson a first Royal Ascot winner in the Windsor Castle and now the talented juvenile steps into Group 3 company for the first time in a bid to register his young trainer's first Glorious success in the Molecomb.

Queen Of Bermuda, 17th of 28 that day, sent off 11-2 favourite, seeks revenge, while in Norfolk fourth Rumble Inthejungle and Barbill he faces two colts sired by former winners of this Markel Insurance-sponsored sprint. Rumble Inthejungle is, unsurprisingly, by 2012 hero Bungle Inthejungle, while two years earlier Barbill's sire Zebedee was successful.

Vintage Brut, the horse purchased for a cool £280,000 by Leicester City owner Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha on the eve of Royal Ascot – only to disappoint when sent off favourite for the Norfolk, is joined in the King Power colours by Well Done Fox, who was a comparative bargain at ‘just’ 255,000gns. With £42,532.50 the first prize here, they need to win a few of these sort of races.

Repeat the feat?

Goodwood is one of British racing's most unique tests. It is a winding, uphill and down dale layout that looks more like a dropped strand of cooked spaghetti than it does a racetrack.

Consequently it suits specialists and of the 90 runners 14 are course winners, with three – Cool Sky (1.50), Billesdon Bess (4.45) and Truth Or Dare (5.55) - all looking to repeat last year's victories in the very same races.

The Ian Williams-trained Cool Sky was 25-1 when winning off a mark of 80 last year. He is considerably shorter to back it up this year off a 5lb higher mark.

Billesdon Bess got the better of Titi Makfi, Indulged, White Chocolate and Skiffle last year, but is rated 15lb higher this time around, while Truth Or Dare, a 6-1 winner last year off a mark of 87, is 33-1 this year despite being 2lb lower and possessing recent form figures of 2505.

Bad boy Bart no more?

Bartholomeu Dias is having his first run as a gelding in the 1m4f handicap (2.25). That is largely because on his last run as a colt he came to win his race and, instead of eating up the ground, attempted to take a bite out of the leader instead, the favourite, and winner, Dr Richard Kimble.

That resulted in trainer Charlie Hills sending him for the snip and now here he is, back at the scene of the crime and over the same distance. He is 1lb higher in the handicap, but carrying a little less of his own weight and should perhaps be a little more focused this time.

In his Racing Post Weekender column Hills conceded he was as surprised as anyone by the behaviour and suggested the horse should have won, stating he threw the race away. Gelding him could make all the difference.

Without Parole not only unbeaten horse on show

Without Parole is not the only unbeaten horse on show at Goodwood, with the Richard Fahey-trained Aljady the favourite to claim the 7f handicap (5.55) off a mark of 93 on what will be his fourth start.

So far he has chalked up three wins by narrow margins over six furlongs, all featuring the form book comment ‘kept on’, so logic would dictate the additional furlong here should bring about further improvement. Interestingly, he will wear Al Shaqab Racing’s second cap, with the first colours being worn by the Ryan Moore-ridden Medahim. 

Moore’s strike-rate for Medahim’s trainer Richard Hannon has dropped alarmingly this year, but the fact he struck in the Al Shaqab colours for the trainer yesterday on Watan suggests a change in fortunes could be imminent.

Ready to rock and roll

Jumps fans content to spend their time during Goodwood studying the fiendishly difficult Galway Plate should perhaps give themselves a well-earned five minute break around 1.50pm.

That is because old favourite Lil Rockerfeller, yes, he of National Spirit, Coral Hurdle – and agonising Stayers' Hurdle defeat – fame, is back on the Flat for the first time in more than three years.

He does so off a mark of 82 and will meet regular code-switcher Couer De Lion on vastly better terms than they would over obstacles. The 2017 Triumph Hurdle seventh has to give 10lb to a horse he would be getting 16lb from over hurdles. Life can be unfair.

Sussex not the only Group 1 on the card

The Sussex Stakes is not the only Group 1 on the Goodwood card. The reason for the hour-and-ten-minute gap between the second-last and last thoroughbred race is that there is a Group 1 for Purebred Arabians taking place at 5.20pm.

Qatar-based Julian Smart's Ebraz is the highest-rated in the field and has been described as "the complete package" by his trainer, though he does have more 2s and 3s in his form figures than 1s.

The dangers look to be Muraaqib, Tayf, Lightning Bolt and Ateej.

Debuchet adds quality to maiden

Few maiden hurdlers will have come to Galway in the height of summer with such choice nuggets of form as Debuchet.

Mags’ Mullins’ grey was an excellent second to the ill-fated Fayonagh in last year’s Champion Bumper and signed off in that realm with an emphatic win in Listed company at Limerick. While he fluffed his lines on his hurdling bow at Leopardstown last Christmas, he then ran respectably in defeat in Grade 1 company behind Samcro and Summerville Boy, before crumpling on landing when still leading two-out at Punchestown.

There is a bit of depth to the opening maiden hurdle he contests at Ballybrit, but he really should be stamping his authority all over his rivals under the trainer’s son Danny.

Goodwood is one of British racing's most unique tests. It looks more like a dropped strand of cooked spaghetti than it does a racetrack.

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