Key questions as Coronet bids to confirm Royal Ascot form with Mori
Betfred Middleton Stakes (Group 2) | 1m2f56y | 4yo+ | fillies & mares | ITV4/RUK
Coronet, who showed the staying qualities deemed worthy of a crack at the William Hill St Leger last season, tackles a trip shorter than 1m4f for first time in 12 months on her seasonal comeback.
The type of older filly trainer John Gosden has proved a past master with, Coronet was kept to Group 1 company as a three-year-old with the exception of the Ribblesdale Stakes at Royal Ascot, a race in which she beat the reopposing Mori by a neck.
She ran with credit on her other starts, none more so than when chasing home stablemate Enable in the Yorkshire Oaks at the track last August.
"It has always been the plan to start her off in this race as there are not that many places she can go," said Gosden. "She's been in good form at home and is ready for a race, although it will bring her on. She should be okay on the ground unless it's rattling fast."
Can Stoute maintain his stranglehold?
Sir Michael Stoute, the winningmost trainer in a race established in 1981, saddles Mori and Smart Call as he bids for a seventh success.
Mori, a Frankel filly out of Midday, returns as a four-year-old, making her first start since having had wind surgery and with the fast ground set to suit.
She does, however, need to erase the memory of her odds-on flop at this course last summer when seventh of nine in the Listed Galtres Stakes.
"She ran inexplicably bad in the Galtres last year," said Stoute. "She appears to be in very good shape."
Smart Call, a triple Grade 1 winner when trained in South Africa, has not made the strides expected during her first year in Britain and was well-beaten on her reappearance at Kempton in April.
"She was very disappointing at Kempton and I think – and hope – that it was the surface," said Stoute. "Her homework has been pleasing and she ran very well in the race last year."
Will Chain Of Daisies get a soft lead?
With a single-figure field, the race has the potential to become a tactical affair and front-runner Chain Of Daisies would be a danger to all if allowed too much rope.
The Henry Candy-trained mare, winner of the Winter Hill Stakes last season, enters Group 2 waters for the first time but she did win on her only previous visit to the course, in a handicap over this distance in 2015.
"She only has one way of running and likes to go off in front," said Candy. "She'll probably be outclassed but she's very tough and, if the others aren't quite ready, she could exposes any chinks in their armour."
Chain Of Daisies and Smart Call will need to buck a notable trend as no horse older than five has won the Middleton since it was opened to older fillies in 1997.
Can Balding register another upset?
Andrew Balding masterminded a big shock in this race last year when outsider of four Blond Me struck at 11-1 and the trainer will be looking to pull off a similar upset with Horseplay.
The Cliveden Stud-owned filly finished fourth in the Investec Oaks, a place in front of Coronet, before ending the campaign with a below-par run on British Champions Day at Ascot.
"The second half of the season was disappointing as she started well in the Pretty Polly," said Balding. "She's always shown herself to be a high-class filly at home but hasn't transferred it fully to the track. It's a new beginning for her and I think the track will suit."
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