This running of the Group 3 Henry II Second Stakes is the weakest I can remember. The fact Enemy, a horse exposed at Group level on a number of occasions, is a short-priced favourite confirms that impression.
Enemy is certainly the likeliest winner under Frankie Dettori, so the market has that right, but he often finds himself poorly positioned and produced a below-par effort in this last season.
The remaining three British contenders are Nate The Great, Roberto Escobarr and Sleeping Lion, but they are no world beaters and the market could be seriously underestimating French contender PRINCESS ANNE at monster odds.
The youngest and least exposed horse in the field, Princess Anne’s form is admittedly difficult to assess, but French horses are often too easily dismissed on their British raids (Gold Tweet’s 14-1 Cleeve Hurdle success at Cheltenham in January for Gabriel Leenders springs to mind) and she is 2-2 over 1m7f or further in France.
Her trainer Hiroo Shimizu could hardly have identified a weaker Group race for stayers and his mare is entered in the Ascot Gold Cup.
That suggests the best could be yet to come and it is worth drawing a line through her return from a 90-day break at Longchamp on heavy ground over 1m4f this month.
This marathon test on quick ground seems to be more her bag. With five runners going to post, I’m happy to take a flyer on her each-way for two places.
The focal point of the evening is unbeaten Derby winner Desert Crown’s long-awaited comeback in the Group 3 Brigadier Gerard Stakes.
This is his first start since his Epsom heroics and the sky is the limit for this four-year-old son of Nathaniel. I wouldn’t be overly concerned about the 355-day break for Desert Crown as his trainer, Sir Michael Stoute, is well capable of readying one following a layoff.
Stoute excels with older horses and Desert Crown is completely unexposed after just three runs, but an enforced absence does suggest a degree of fragility.
He obviously has bigger targets in mind and if he is to slip up this campaign, it might be in this race. Hukum, the second best horse in the race, also returns from nearly a year off over a 1m2f trip short of his optimum - he is best known as a 1m4f horse who stays 1m6f.
In the big two's favour is a probable decent pace with Desert Crown’s stablemate Solid Stone in the field along with Claymore, who also likes to stride on.
Cash has only raced once more than Desert Crown with four career starts and is the only horse in the line-up bar outsider Chichester with the benefit of a recent run.
This hold-up performer makes plenty of appeal in the 'without the favourite' market. The David Simcock-trained four-year-old is often keen in his races, but Jamie Spencer should have every chance of settling him in what is sure to be a truly run affair, and gives the impression 1m2f is his trip.
Cash’s only try at this distance yielded a staying-on second to subsequent Irish Derby winner Westover at this track in a Classic trial on what was just his second racecourse start.
There is little doubt Cash is better than we have seen, and his recent close second to Chindit was franked by the winner filling the runner-up position in the Group 1 Lockinge last weekend.