Key questions: can Mark Johnston continue his domination in the Woodcote Stakes?
Investec Woodcote EBF Stakes | 6f | 2yo | ITV/RUK
Will Marie's Diamond’s ability to handle ground prove decisive?
Mark Johnston boasts a fine record in the Woodcote and bids for a third victory in the last four years courtesy of Leicester heavy-ground winner Marie’s Diamond.
That proven ability to handle a testing surface could be decisive with underfoot conditions at Epsom likely to be soft.
The trainer's son and assistant Charlie said: “He’s not done a lot wrong in his two starts. He won nicely at Leicester and then ran a solid third in what appeared to be one of the best two-year-old races of the season so far at Newbury.
“That Leicester win came on heavy ground so we know he'll handle conditions at Epsom. He has an obvious chance.”
The Irish Rover, winner of that Newbury race for Aidan O’Brien, is Royal Ascot-bound.
Can Its The Only Way continue Hannon’s good record in race?
Its The Only Way, who finished one place behind Marie’s Diamond at Newbury, represents the Richard Hannon stable, which also has a good recent record in the Woodcote.
The yard won it in 2013 with Thunder Strike, 12 months later with Baitha Alga, and then in 2016 with Legendary Lunch.
Its The Only Way has shown an abundance of early speed on his last two starts, and Hannon said: “He’s not drawn great but will hit the gates very well and Ryan Moore is a big plus.
“He's getting better and more professional with each run and is definitely in the same league as some of our previous winners. He’s got a lot of speed and Epsom will suit.”
All being well, Its The Only Way could go to Royal Ascot afterwards, while the Weatherbys Super Sprint looks an obvious target in July.
Is Cosmic Law a major player?
It’s a long way from Carlisle to Epsom – in terms of miles and quality of racing – but Cosmic Law looks just the type to progress as he gains experience.
There was plenty to like about the way the Richard Fahey-trained colt – a £90,000 yearling purchase – stayed on up the hill to beat Aloysius Lilius by half a length, which represented considerable improvement on his Doncaster debut fifth.
Fahey said: “He’s a laid-back type who improved for his first run when successful at Carlisle. He needs to step up. He might.”
Can True Belief and Usain Boat take the next step?
Plenty of people clearly expected a big performance from True Belief on his recent debut at York’s Dante meeting, as he was sent off the 11-8 favourite for a maiden over six furlongs.
Although those punters lost their money, a fair proportion will be prepared to embark on a recovery mission at Epsom as the Godolphin colt shaped with promise in fourth behind I Am A Dreamer.
Usain Boat needs to show improvement after winning at Newmarket recently, but his trainer George Scott believes that is entirely possible.
“He’s a lovely sort and hasn’t done much wrong,” said Scott. “He has to step up on what we’ve seen from him so far, but he’ll handle the ground well and I’m very hopeful.”
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