Mohaafeth bidding for redemption for William Haggas after late Derby withdrawal
3.05 Royal Ascot
Hampton Court Stakes (Group 3) | 1m2f | 3yo+ | ITV4/Sky
Just ten days ago Mohaafeth was being talked about as a live Cazoo Derby contender at Epsom. Bookmakers had him as 9-2 second favourite behind the Aidan O'Brien-trained Bolshoi Ballet after bloodless victories at Lingfield and Newmarket (twice). Then the skies opened, the ground cut up and the dream was over.
William Haggas decided to do best by the horse and take him out due to unsuitable ground. His disappointment was visible and although we will never know if it was the right call, Mohaafeth now enters the Group 3 Hampton Court Stakes with a favourite's chance.
The son of Frankel relished the step up to 1m2f on his last two outings on the Rowley Mile and fairly sauntered to victory in Listed company last time. He now faces tougher opposition but the readiness to run Mohaafeth against the best middle-distance three-year-olds in the Derby shouldn't be overlooked.
If he was considered good enough to play a role there, he deserves to head the field in this weaker line-up, providing the forecast rain doesn't get into the ground.
What does he need to prove? Well, we have yet to see how much he finds under pressure. Mohaafeth has barely come out of third gear in three starts this year – and it is unfair to judge his finishing efforts in two juvenile outings as he was raw and backward. To take prohibitive odds, you need to be confident that he responds to urgings.
From a horse who skipped the Derby to a rival who ran in it. One Ruler was the talking horse of Newmarket before the 2,000 Guineas but has largely disappointed in two starts, albeit both in Classics. Last year's Vertem Futurity runner-up has yet to match his juvenile form and demonstrate he has trained on from two to three. Godolphin won this race in 2016 and 2017 with Hawkbill and Benbatl.
Aidan O'Brien has won two of the last three runnings and is represented by Roman Empire and likely pacemaker Matchless. The pair, who run in Michael Tabor's orange and blue silks, have similar profiles after winning maidens last autumn and failing to back up in two starts this season.
Roman Empire's form has more depth, highlighted by a creditable fourth in the Dante behind subsequent Derby third Hurricane Lane. On Racing Post Ratings, Roman Empire improved 17lb, which can be explained by his preference for quicker conditions and desire for a longer trip after previously running over a mile. He's still got a chunk to find but further improvement over this distance is likely.
We know least about Movin Time, who shouldn't be written off after an impressive four-length beating of Wednesday's Queen's Vase winner Kemari at Newmarket earlier this year. He bumped into UAE Derby winner Rebel's Romance and the 98-rated Mithras in two runs last season.
It is hard to envisage Secret Protector reversing the form with Mohaafeth, who put five lengths between the pair last time. The Rosstafarian, a flashy chestnut colt, remains lightly raced but is unproven at the trip. Starspangledbanner's progeny are a combined 6-83 (7 per cent strike-rate) over 1m2f and further.
Race analysis by Tom Collins
This is the moment for Mohaafeth
Epsom's loss should be Royal Ascot's gain as exciting colt Mohaafeth finally gets his chance in the big time.
After "lots of soul searching" William Haggas and owners Shadwell made the decision to pull him out of the Derby less than 90 minutes beforehand as overnight rain had turned the ground unsuitably soft.
There is the chance of downpours overnight at Ascot but the trainer said: "I can't do anything about the weather so I'm not worried at all. We discuss it at length a lot of the time but it is what it is."
Haggas has no regrets about that Epsom withdrawal and said: "I still feel it was absolutely the right decision for the horse.
"I genuinely thought the trip on that ground would not see him at his best or anywhere near it."
Looking ahead to today, he added: "Mohaafeth is very well and I think he's in a good place, mentally. It's a nice spot, not too many runners. He's got a good chance."
One chance to judge the Derby
How good a race was the Derby? We may get a clue today as One Ruler is the first colt who ran at Epsom to turn out again.
He will be watched closely by those keen to know if Adayar is as talented as he looked, notably by Charlie Appleby, who trains both the winner and the colt who finished sixth behind his stablemate at Epsom.
Appleby said: "One Ruler has come out of the Derby in good shape and will appreciate the drop back to a mile and a quarter, together with any ease in the going. We are confident that he can be very competitive under a penalty."
Appleby also runs Secret Protector but warned: "The ground could be a question mark for Secret Protector if the rain comes.
"He was slightly disappointing on his latest outing but his second to Highland Avenue is a decent piece of form."
What they say
Aidan O'Brien, trainer of Matchless & Roman Empire
Hopefully the ground will stay nice. Roman Empire ran a very good race in the Dante. Matchless ran well last time and we feel the trip will suit him. He's a bit lazy in his races which is why we are putting blinkers on.
Alastair Donald, racing manager to King Power Racing owners of Notre Belle Bete
He ran brilliantly on his debut but it teemed down with rain on his next two starts, although he didn't run badly. We're hoping there is not too much rain. He's unexposed and improving.
Roger Varian, trainer of Movin Time
We think he's a nice colt and were very impressed with his run at Newmarket. He should appreciate the track and trip. We'll learn a bit more about him.
Joseph O'Brien, trainer of Snapraeterea
The main reason he was left in is the rain that is forecast. He loves soft ground so we will see what the weather does. If it gets slow it would swing things in his favour.
Hugo Palmer, trainer of The Rosstafarian
I'm very happy with his draw and with him. He needs to produce a career best but he's fine on top-of-the-ground and he proved as a two-year-old he's perfectly able to handle soft ground. His work was very good this week.
Reporting by David Carr
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