Need for speed: five things we'll learn from the Temple Stakes
Armstrong Aggregates Temple Stakes (Group 2) | 5f | ITV4/RUK
We cover all the angles for Saturday's big sprint which looks as competitive as ever . . .
Will she, won't she?
She has a different jockey and is trying a different trip but the biggest question is whether she will take part.
There was give in the ground when dual Group 1 winner Quiet Reflection gained all her previous successes – an awful lot on Sprint Cup day here last September – but the possibility of thundery showers at the end of a drying week could persuade connections to run.
She drops back to five furlongs for the first time since landing the Cornwallis as a two-year-old – the last time she was ridden by anyone other than Dougie Costello, who has now been replaced by Martin Harley.
Trainer Karl Burke has no concerns over the switch of jockeys and said: "She's a very straightforward filly, Graham Lee hadn't sat on her at all before winning on her twice on the track.
"Any rain would be a big positive, I'll walk the track and see how the ground is. She's back in trip and not short of speed but this is a prep run for Ascot; whatever she does she'll improve on. But if she runs well over five it brings races like the Nunthorpe and the Abbaye as options later in the year."
Can Washington DC finally win a Group race?
Most unusually for a colt from all-conquering Ballydoyle, Washington DC has tended to come up short in Group races – often agonisingly so.
Since going down by two lengths to stablemate Air Force Blue in the Phoenix Stakes as a juvenile, he has finished second in Pattern company a further five times – beaten less than a length on four of those occasions.
He's become a familiar sight in top sprints, invariably running on at the death without quite getting there. He went mighty close when beaten a neck by Take Cover in the King George Stakes at Goodwood last summer and that was the margin once again at Newmarket three weeks ago when he just failed to reel in Marsha.
Wayne Lordan gets the ride for the first time since he was fifth in the July Cup last year, with Ryan Moore at the Curragh, and trainer Aidan O'Brien said: "He ran a very good race in the Palace House last time.
"He loves five furlongs and a strong pace so that he can be produced late. The better the ground, the more he'll like it."
Could Take Cover smash the record for oldest ever winner?
Take Cover reached new heights as a nine-year-old last season, recording his best ever Racing Post Rating when beating Cotai Glory in a Listed race here and when pipping Washington DC to land a second King George Stakes.
Since the Temple Stakes was first run (at Sandown) in 1965 its oldest winners have been eight-year-olds Perryston View (1980) and Kingsgate Native (2013). Should Take Cover win as a ten-year-old he will be the oldest ever winner of the race.
Trainer David Griffiths said: "He was better than last year – he was placed in a Group 1 – and I think he's at least as good this season, his work last week was very impressive.
"Can they improve at ten? You wouldn't think so but he's lightly raced. He's really well and has done plenty of work. He'll come on for the run but the ground will be perfect for him – I hope they don't get the showers!"
Can Clive Cox do it again with another progressive four-year-old?
All eyes were on Mecca's Angel in this race last year. The Nunthorpe winner had the ground in her favour and was backed down to even-money favourite. However, she was beaten a neck by Profitable, whose trainer Clive Cox tries again this time with Priceless.
His latest contender looks a similarly progressive sprinter, the five-length winner of a Listed race at Bath last month who shaped better than her Palace House fifth might suggest as she paid the price for helping force a strong pace.
"She's clearly talented, with bags of speed and it's good to have a nice chance again," Cox said. "I think she'll keep improving as the year goes on.
"She wouldn't want too much rain but we're going there with a realistic chance if conditions are suitable. She ran a satisfactory race in the Palace House and she's in great heart."
How good might Marsha look come 4.10?
Few who were at Newmarket three weeks ago would have been in any doubt Marsha was a top-class sprinter - and any remaining sceptics could be won over here.
The filly herself will be safely tucked up at home at Sir Mark Prescott's yard in Newmarket as her form is put to the test nearly 200 miles away.
She was conceding weight all round in the Palace House, thanks to her Prix de l'Abbaye victory last autumn, and became the first filly to defy a penalty since Lochsong.
That performance could be made to look all the better should runner-up Washington DC, or Goldream (third), Kachy (fourth), Priceless (fifth), Alpha Delphini (eighth), Cotai Glory (ninth) or even Thesme (14th) advertise the form with success here.
What they say
Bryan Smart, trainer of Alpha Delphini
He had a terrible draw on the wings at Newmarket and has a better draw this time so should get a bit of early cover. He looks really well and deserves to be there but he could do with a drop of rain.
Charlie Hills, trainer of Cotai Glory
He slipped over coming out of the stalls in the Palace House and Jamie Spencer did well to stay on. You can’t make ground up in races like that but it was pleasing to see him stay on and finish not beaten far. I think he’s well up to this level.
Robert Cowell, trainer of Encore d'Or and Goldream
This was the logical next step for Goldream on the way to Ascot and I think he's come on a lot for his first run. I hadn't overcooked him for that, he was only 90 per cent and I saved a bit in the locker. Encore d'Or has turned into a very good horse on the all-weather and needs to transfer that to grass. The faster they go the better for him.
Paul Midgley, trainer of Final Venture
He was excellent in Dubai, to win twice out there was unbelievable. He's in good form and working well. The plan was always to come back to five furlongs in this country, he has lots of early speed and sees his races out well.
Tom Dascombe, trainer of Kachy
He's very well indeed and ran a nice race at Newmarket last time. He's been a bit in and out through his career but if it's an 'in' day he has a good chance.
John Gosden, trainer of Waady
I hope the ground is better than it was last time we had runners at Haydock as it was a very disappointing surface at their last meeting. This is Waady's trip and any rain would enhance his chances.
Nigel Tinkler, trainer of Thesme
She's very well in herself. She bumped her nose going to the start last time and you'd have thought that would have affected her performance. We'd be delighted if she was placed.
Derby day bonus the big draw for Scoop6 players
Haydock, York and Goodwood provide the Scoop6 action on Saturday, with the big incentive being the £358,004 sitting in the bonus pot.
That cannot be won until the following Saturday – Derby day – and to put themselves in line for it players must navigate five handicaps and the Temple Stakes. The win fund builds from £69,567.
Totepool spokesman Andrew Griffiths said: "The Scoop6 will provide punters with their big bet fix this weekend as the total prize fund is forecast to hit £500,000.”