Ground the major concern as host of speedy juveniles gear up for Molecomb
Wednesday: 3.00 Goodwood
Markel Molecomb Stakes (Group 3) | 5f | 2yo | ITV/RTV
After Chipotle's disappointing effort on soft ground in the National Stakes in May, his jockey Charlie Bishop said: "We were very disappointed at Sandown, the ground completely blunted his turn of foot."
Even deeper underfoot conditions are expected for this year's Molecomb.
Since his Sandown defeat, the Brocklesby winner has showcased electric acceleration on quick ground to strike in the Windsor Castle at Royal Ascot before suffering a troubled passage in the Super Sprint at Newbury 11 days ago. A clear run may have helped him hit the frame.
The son of Havana Gold holds Boonie, Armor and Kaboo on his Ascot run but enters this race with serious ground doubts. Armor – a son of No Nay Never, whose progeny can handle soft going – has a good chance of reversing the form for trainer Richard Hannon, who saddled King Of Rooks to finish second in this race in 2015.
Fearby's Dragon Stakes victory was as visually impressive as Chipotle's late surge in the Windsor Castle. The Ed Bethell-trained two-year-old bolted up by five lengths on rain-softened ground and recorded a huge career-best Racing Post Rating of 105.
It is hard to envisage runner-up Mojomaker or the aforementioned Kaboo turning the tables, and a similar display could make this Gimcrack entry the horse to beat.
Steel Bull broke the mould of a standard Molecomb winner by coming into last year's race on the back of a maiden victory rather than competing at Royal Ascot or at a higher level elsewhere.
The unbeaten Chimgan and recent Yarmouth maiden winner Swayze look to follow suit after impressive last-time-out successes. Both need to step up but they represent leading connections and could have a say at big prices if they handle the ground.
Five fillies have won the Molecomb since 2000, though only once since 2007 (Liberty Beach in 2019). The Andrew Balding-trained Nymphadora is the sole filly in this year's line-up and will have to improve on her Queen Mary 11th to feature, but she receives the 3lb sex allowance and could be helped by testing conditions.
Race analysis by Tom Collins
'Fearby looks a million dollars'
Ed Bethell is hoping the likely soft ground at Goodwood will not derail the chances of the exciting Fearby, who arrives on the Sussex Downs on the back of Listed success.
Fearby produced a fine performance in the Dragon Stakes at Sandown this month, putting five lengths between himself and Mojomaker, who reopposes here.
His natural speed and class were also in evidence when breaking his maiden on his second start at Wetherby under jockey PJ McDonald.
"We're all excited to be part of a race like this in our first season," Bethell said. "The ground is an unknown. I know he won on good to soft at Sandown, but it was drying then rather than really testing.
"They say it's going to be soft, which isn't ideal, but is better than running him on heavy. That really is my only concern as he goes there looking a million dollars."
Bethell confirmed Fearby's preparations had gone superbly and is already eyeing a next step on the juvenile ladder should the colt come through this Group 3 test.
"I'm so happy with the way he's trained in the last few weeks and now it's just about having our fingers crossed that he handles the ground and puts in a big run," the trainer added.
"Our main target had been the Gimcrack but he came out of Sandown so well that we thought this became the next natural progression. The Gimcrack would still be within reach if he ran well."
What they say
Richard Hannon, trainer of Armor
He's a hard little two-year-old who will love the ground. I like him a lot. He ran a very good race at Royal Ascot and has been working super. I think he has a big chance.
Adam Ryan, assistant to Kevin Ryan, trainer of Boonie
He's done really well since Ascot and has always been a juvenile we've thought a lot of. He ran a huge race at Ascot and this has been the plan ever since. The ground is our only question mark.
Clive Cox, trainer of Chimgan
He was very impressive at Nottingham and has taken a big step forward since that debut success. However, it's a case of being hopeful rather than confident that he'll handle the ground.
Ed Walker, trainer of Kingboard Star
He won well at Bath but we were really disappointed with his run at Newcastle next time. However, he's much better on grass. He's a fast-ground horse so we just hope it dries out enough for him.
Dave Loughnane, trainer of Mojomaker
The ground is not what we want as he would be happier on quick ground. We'd be reluctant to run on heavy. We need to find more to beat Fearby but Goodwood is a very different track to Sandown.
Reporting by Tom Ward
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