Armory tees up Arlington Million tilt by taking on Mohaafeth in Group 2
Saturday: 3.15 York
Sky Bet York Stakes (Group 2) | 3yo+ | 1m 2½f | ITV/RTV
An ounce of revelation is worth a pound of speculation – on the day a legion of ex-Timeform experts say farewell to Halifax, it is well worth bearing in mind the words of Derek Adams, one of the founding sages.
Whether you prefer potential ability over proven form may well dictate your approach to a clash which provides an intriguing appetiser for the King George which is run just 20 minutes later.
There is no doubt that Mohaafeth is a hugely promising three-year-old, who demolished a small field of Listed rivals at Newmarket then made it four from four this season in the Hampton Court Stakes at Royal Ascot.
Such is the visual impression he has created that he was second favourite for the Derby when pulled out on the day due to the ground.
Yet what has he achieved? The form of his four wins earns him a Racing Post Rating no higher than 117. And though he was better than the bare result at Ascot, where he had to get racing some way out to close on the leader, he drifted to the right late on and has something to prove in his first clash with a smart rival.
Smart is certainly the word for Armory, who has been placed in Group 1 races in four different countries and did well to get as close as he did to stablemate Love at Royal Ascot last month as he had to come from off the pace in a moderately run race.
And he is deadly when dropped in class. The four-year-old has won his last five starts outside Group 1 company, picking up two Group 2s and two Group 3s.
Armory has a turn of foot that is a potent asset in contests that often attract small fields and tend not to be run at a breakneck gallop, making speed of the essence. He has not been beaten at below top level since his debut.
Nor should Juan Elcano be taken lightly in this grade, even if he had gone two years without a win prior to his success in the Wolferton Stakes last month.
He has long been held in high regard by trainer Kevin Ryan and a close-season gelding then a spring wind operation are perfectly plausible explanations for a Royal Ascot victory that confirmed all the promise of last year's fifth place in the 2,000 Guineas.
Acid test for Mohaafeth
Native Yorkshireman William Haggas knows what it takes to win this Group 2 contest and anything he thinks it worthwhile sending up from Newmarket is usually a really smart horse.
He has had just four runners in the last decade and they have included subsequent Dubai World Cup runner-up and Eclipse winner Mukhadram and Addeybb, who has scored four Group 1 wins since finishing second here in 2019.
Which rather points to the regard in which Mohaafeth is held. The trainer, who is not one for hype, allowed himself to describe the colt as a "pretty good horse" after he had earned this trip by completing a four-timer in the Hampton Court Stakes at Royal Ascot.
However he knows the three-year-old faces his stiffest task so far in today's first clash with older horses.
"I'm looking forward to seeing him run but it needs to go smoothly," Haggas said. "The opposition is strong, especially Armory. He's going to have to meet some smart horses soon so we might as well start now."
Haggas also runs Montatham as a pacemaker to ensure a decent gallop for his one-time Derby hope, who is expected to find this 1m 2½f trip the upper limit of his stamina.
Mohaafeth is entered in next month's Celebration Mile at Goodwood and the trainer said: "If anything, as he gets stronger he might get quicker."
What they say
Aidan O'Brien, trainer of Armory
He goes to the Arlington Million [now called the Mister D. Stakes] after this and we were keen to get a run into him on the way there. He seems to be in good form at home and everyone seems to be happy with him. This looked a nice race for him.
Alastair Donald, racing manager to King Power Racing, owners of Bangkok
It looks a very tough race. Coming back to ten [and a half] furlongs on fast ground is ideal for him but it looks a strong contest.
Adam Ryan, son and assistant to Kevin Ryan, trainer of Juan Elcano
It was good to see him bounce back at Ascot, his form just petered out a bit last year but he had his wind done and that seemed to do the trick. He's a horse we've always thought a lot of. Straight after Ascot this seemed the next logical step. It's a good field and should be a true test but we're excited for him and he's entitled to take his chance.
Read a selection of Saturday previews . . .
Racing Post exclusive offer. New customers can get £30 in free bets. First single & e/w bet only. Odds of 1/1 or greater. 6 x £5 bet token. Free bet stakes not included in returns. Free bets redeemable on horse racing only. Free bets are non withdrawable. No free bet expiry. Eligibility restrictions. Further T&Cs apply. 18+. begambleaware.org.