While many a Ten to Follow player’s eye will be drawn to the three-year-olds with Classic bonus points in mind, siding with proven quality could be a more fruitful tactic. Last year’s top five scorers were Magical, Ghaiyyath, Addeybb, Tarnawa and Battaash. With Tarnawa the youngest of those at four, those in the twilight of their racing careers are certainly worth keeping on side in this game.
We’ve cast our eye over some of the likely protagonists this season.
John and Thady Gosden’s king stayer has ruled the division for the previous four seasons having won four Goodwood Cups, two Yorkshire Cups, two Lonsdale Cups and three Ascot Gold Cups. He returns as a 7yo for his final season with his main aim to emulate the great Yeats by winning four Ascot Gold Cups.
He’s only finished outside the first three on 4 of his 25 appearances, but with two of those unplaced efforts coming in his last two outings, when finishing 7th in a slowly run Arc and 12th in the Long Distance Cup, some feel he may be past his best and this season could be one too many.
However, he still racked up 81.4 points and finished 12th on the top performers list last year. His consistency over a five-season career has been remarkable and you would have to be brave to bet against him scooping a big haul again in one of the less competitive divisions. His campaign will be based around Group One success and you can be sure the Gosden team will have Bjorn Nielsen’s charge tuned up to the max for his swansong season. He will be kicking off in the Sagaro on Wednesday and it may just be worth watching that before deciding on whether or not he makes the team sheet.
Yet another of Gosden’s embarrassment of riches, he appeared as though he would be the dominant force in the 1m2f division after winning the Brigadier Gerard and Group 1 Prince of Wales’ Stakes. However, his season slightly tailed off with a third in the Juddmonte International and then a poor showing back at Ascot, finishing last of ten in the Champion Stakes. As a result, he only picked up 57.6 points which he looked much better value for.
On his day, he looks unbeatable. His recent trip to Meydan when winning the Dubai Turf with relative ease from a less than favourable draw showed the talent he is. If he is able repeat that performance it would be a major surprise if Group 1 success wasn’t secured at some point through the season. The ten-furlong division is one you must pick at least one horse in with three bonus races scheduled over the distance including the Prince of Wales’ Stakes, Juddmonte International and Champion Stakes. It’s going to be a fascinating division with both Addeybb and Lord North returning, but Addyebb will be a 7yo this season, so with a little improvement Lord North may just be the one to side with at five. Equally, adding both to your stable could prove a shrewd move.
Just one of Godolphin’s stars who looks set for a big season. Last year he took the Group 2 Lennox Stakes, Group 1 Prix Maurice de Gheest and Group 3 Prix de la Porte Maillot in his stride and is on target for a similar 7f campaign in Europe. With points awarded for any races won around the world for the duration of the competition, he’s one who may be slightly overlooked by many stables with most will focusing on the household names running mainly in the UK.
Charlie Appleby’s 5yo picked up where he left off in 2020 with an easy enough win in the 1351 Turf Sprint at Riyadh in February before a less impressive performance finishing ninth in the Group 1 Al Quoz Sprint in Meydan a few weeks ago so it might just be that he is slightly behind the top Group 1 performers. Along with the fact he isn’t likely to feature in too many bonus races through the season, you may want to focus on horses with those engagements on their radar. Having said that, he did look highly progressive last year and more of the same should see him eclipse the 74.3 points he notched up in last years competition.
John Gosden has landed on another brilliant mare after the retirement of Enable, although those are rather big boots to fill. Last season Nazeef showed how tough she was having endured a busy campaign with seven outings and picking up four wins in the process. Those victories included two Group 1, a Group 2 and a Listed success which saw her tally up 83.5 points and coming in 9th on the top performers list of last season.
Her third behind Fancy Blue in the Group 1 Nassau Stakes at Goodwood, could possibly be a sign of what may be to come this season. She got outpaced a couple of times towards the end of last year and will have a harder time picking up Group 1s this term. She is perhaps one who will need some clever campaigning to hit the same points tally as she managed last year, that said there is no better team than the Gosdens to have Sheikh Hamdan’s star mare ready for battle.
This one took everyone by surprise last year, none more so than us, as the 7yo gelding didn’t even feature on last year’s 400 horse shortlist having started the season as an out and out handicapper. A drop in trip to 6f proved to make all the difference and saw a maiden Group 1 success for Hollie Doyle and Archie Watson. Owners Hambleton Racing along with Watson believe there is still more improvement to come this season and being by Pivotal there is a serious chance they could be right. His progeny do appear to thrive as they get older, as we have seen with Addyebb and African Story.
The plan looks to be to start at Royal Ascot before returning to Haydock and Ascot with perhaps a trip to Deauville, so plenty of Group race points on offer and if the improvement from last year can be matched, he’s certainly one for the short list who may be overlooked by many Ten to Follow stables.