'She's absolutely bouncing' - who is a threat to Free Wind and Bluestocking in the Middleton?

Free Wind (left) and Bluestocking clash in the Middleton Stakes
Free Wind (left) and Bluestocking clash in the Middleton Stakes

Free Wind lines up in a weaker-looking Middleton Stakes than the one she won in gritty fashion 12 months ago.

The John and Thady Gosden-trained six-year-old fended off the subsequent winners of the Duke of Cambridge Stakes (Rogue Millennium), Fillies & Mares Stakes (Poptronic), Prix de Royallieu (Sea Silk Road) and Prix Jean Romanet (Aristia) 12 months ago, not to mention arguably the moral victor of the Curragh's Pretty Polly Stakes in Stay Alert.

The Middleton trip is as sharp as Free Wind wants, but acts as an ideal starting point for a mare with an unblemished record first time out. York seemingly brings out the best in her as well.

Had Warm Heart failed to master Free Wind in a ding-dong battle for the Yorkshire Oaks last summer, perhaps she’d have already been retired as a Group 1 winner. That is the big goal this campaign.

Free Wind might be reaching her zenith this year, although she has five lower-mileage four-year-olds to contend with. That group includes an old rival in Bluestocking.

The pair met in the Yorkshire Oaks and Fillies & Mares in 2023. The score is one apiece with Bluestocking faring best at Ascot. Expect additional duals as the season unfolds, although perhaps we won’t see the best of Bluestocking until she gets soft ground. For Free Wind, the quicker the surface the better.

Free Wind (Frankie Dettori,white) beats Rogue Millennium in the Middleton Stakes
Free Wind (white) beats Rogue Millennium (right) in the Middleton Stakes at York in 2023Credit: Edward Whitaker (

Novus is a bona fide mud-lover and won’t get her conditions, while Caernarfon falls short at this level on the balance of her form. The market is correct with its assessment of Sapphire Seas and Infinite Cosmos posing the greatest danger to the big two.

The Charlie Appleby-trained Sapphire Seas was a late developer last year, only racing on turf for the first time in September. She had Infinite Cosmos’s measure when the pair met in the John Musker Stakes at Yarmouth, but there are reasons to mark both performances up.

The winner was too keen, while Infinite Cosmos was returning from a 126-day break on only her fourth start for Sir Michael Stoute. It is Stoute's style to bring his horses along slowly and there are shades of last week’s rampant Huxley Stakes winner Passenger about this filly, who was third when sent off favourite for the 2023 Musidora.

Passenger filled that position in the Dante the following day and endured a similar spell on the sidelines (84 days) following his Derby struggles before returning to win a Group 3 at Windsor on only his fourth run in August.

While Infinite Cosmos lacks the form to win this, she smacks of a surefire improver this season.
Race analysis by Robbie Wilders

What they say

Ralph Beckett, trainer of Bluestocking
She’s been training well and we expect the track and quickish ground to play to her strengths.

Jack Channon, trainer of Caernarfon
I was delighted with her run at Newmarket, she really needed it and couldn't have come out of the race any better. She's absolutely bouncing and brings a bit of match fitness to the table. Hopefully she can show her class.

Thady Gosden, joint-trainer of Free Wind
She’s pleased us at home through the spring and started last year off with a win in this race, so it made sense to go back. Mr Strawbridge has kept her in training with the prime objective of winning a Group 1 this year after her near-miss in last year’s Yorkshire Oaks.

Ryan Moore, rider of Infinite Cosmos
Free Wind and Bluestocking are obviously the form fillies, but the boss [Sir Michael Stoute] has his horses in good form. As a four-year-old. you’d hope there is progression in her after just the four starts. I’m happy with her. I think the track will suit, as will the recent rain.

Gary Moore, joint-trainer of Novus
She’s been in good form since Goodwood, but she’s a soft-ground filly so hopefully they get some of the showers that are going around.

Charlie Appleby, trainer of Sapphire Seas
She had a little break after her run in Dubai and looks great heading into this. She has a bit to find on the ratings, but stepping back up in trip should suit. She deserves to be in the field and we hope she can be competitive.
Reporting by David Milnes

Read our Thursday previews:

2.45 York: 'He should have a great chance' - trainer quotes and analysis to solve the 20-runner Hambleton puzzle 

3.45 York: Charlie Appleby 'on weather watch' as he hopes rain comes for leading Derby hope Ancient Wisdom in the Dante 

4.15 York: Breeders' Cup star Big Evs given 'ideal starting point' as Mick Appleby eyes more major prizes

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David MilnesNewmarket correspondent