Enbihaar will have to fight off smart youngsters to keep grip on Lillie Langtry
Qatar Lillie Langtry Stakes (Group 2) | 1m6f | f/m 3yo+ | ITV/RTV
Although this is a disappointing turnout for the money, it is difficult to conjure up horses who are deemed to be in need of distances longer than 1m4f.
Even so, this is the smallest field for the race in recent years by clear water. No fewer than seven have ever turned up during the last decade, often more than ten.
Part of that might be to do with the presence of Enbihaar, who won so impressively 12 months ago. That was comfortably the best performance in the race's relatively short history and might have deterred some of those whose connections would otherwise have been minded to try.
The three who do take her on are a pretty choice bunch. Manuela De Vega was second last year, but is improved in 2020 and comes here after a wide-margin win in the Lancashire Oaks.
Admittedly, her penalty for that win partly offsets the progress she has made. She also got the weight-for-age allowance last year, but given she is as effective at 1m4f, it is not obvious she was taking advantage as such.
The two three-year-olds who run this year are more obvious types to be ahead of the weight-for-age scale's line of best fit. Firstly, there is Snow, who won the Munster Oaks and was fifth in the Irish version. She is a sister to Kew Gardens, who won the St Leger and beat Stradivarius in last year's Long Distance Cup.
The other runner is Cabaletta, whose credentials for this sort of trip are even more obvious. Her dam is Allegretto, who won the Prix Royal-Oak and was successful in the Goodwood Cup (a Group 2 back then) on her only visit to this course.
Cabaletta herself has run only four times, but has generally made it count. She beat Frankly Darling on her debut at Yarmouth, then was second to Franconia at Newbury in June. A flop in the Lancashire Oaks was soon shrugged off when she won readily in Listed company at Newbury last time.
The visual impression there is worth taking in. Cabaletta was trapped behind horses for a long way in a steadily run race, but kept on strongly once in the clear and was always looking like the winner for all she only prevailed by half a length.
While Cabaletta in particular is a better betting proposition at Friday's evening prices than Enbihaar, it is not doubted that the favourite is the likeliest winner.
After winning this last year, she followed up in the Park Hill and was third in the Group 1 Prix de Royallieu. Those opposing her are relying at least in part on a hangover from her ring-rusty return in the Princess Of Wales's Stakes. At a shade of odds on, the temptation is there.
Keith Melrose, betting editor
Manuela camp hopeful of turning tables
On last year's running of the Lillie Langtry, Manuela De Vega has a mountain to climb to reverse form with Enbihaar, but her big-race jockey Harry Bentley is not giving up hope.
The Ralph Beckett-trained filly has always been held in high regard and followed up solid runs in the English and Irish Oaks to finish a five-length second to Enbihaar in this race 12 months ago.
That leaves Manuela De Vega, who gives Enbihaar 3lb, with plenty to do but she has won both starts at Haydock this season, beating subsequent Hardwicke Stakes winner Fanny Logan in the Pinnacle Stakes before a comfortable success in the Lancashire Oaks, a race in which the reopposing Cabaletta was fourth.
"She's been very good this season and although she's stepping up in trip from the Lancashire Oaks, I don't see that as a problem." said Bentley, a previous winner of the race on the Beckett-trained Simple Verse in 2015.
"She finished second to Enbihaar in the race last year, but she's a better filly now and I don't think it's unrealistic to think she can reverse the form. My only reservation is the ground is likely to be on the quick side for her, as she's better suited to an easier surface."
Enbihaar, one of many high-class middle-distance fillies and mares in the John Gosden stable, recorded her most impressive victory in the Lillie Langtry last year and also won the Listed Daisy Warwick Fillies' Stakes on her only other start at Goodwood.
"She had a nice warm-up in the Princess of Wales's Stakes, the ground was not her favourite that day and she's better on top-of-the-ground," said Gosden, who seeks a third win in a race elevated to Group 2 status two years ago.
"She knows the track well and we'd hope for a bold showing from her. The mile and six is ideal for her."
What they say
Roger Varian, trainer of Cabaletta
There was nothing wrong with her first run of the season behind Franconia and then she didn't fire for whatever reason in the Lancashire Oaks on ground that was quite heavy. She bounced back nicely last time and looks like she'll get this extra two furlongs. It's a small field but it's a good one and she'll need a career best, but I think she's going the right way now.
Aidan O'Brien, trainer of Snow
She's in good form and we always thought she'd stay much further than a mile and a half. We're looking forward to seeing her run and hopefully she can go close.
Reporting by Andrew Dietz