Star Of Mystery is understandably popular for the Empress Fillies' Stakes after an 11-length win at last time. That was her second start and it is often the case that punters will suspend their disbelief when a horse does something apparently freakish, when it is not on their debut.
Remember that Star Of Mystery was 1/3 that day, so a wide-margin win was hardly a bolt from the blue. You could argue that similar applies to WHAT A QUESTION, whose debut win at Goodwood came as 100/30 favourite. However, this horse had drifted from the first show on course, so it is far more reasonable to suggest that she has more to work on. That is before even considering her being one run less exposed than the favourite.
What A Question could hardly have won more easily at Goodwood. She drew away in the last furlong for minimal pressure. The Johnston yard knows the benefits of targeting black type early and this target will be more than just a natural next step for a yard with a long-standing reputation for skilled placement of their horses.
There are serious doubts about the first two in the betting in the Fred Archer Stakes. New London was second in September's St Leger, but has not been seen since and he has not only had a wind operation in the meantime, but he has also been fitted with a tongue tie. That is hardly a ringing endorsement. Meanwhile, Al Aasy has run only once since Champions Day in 2021.
Admittedly, both horses have been runner-up in a Group 1 so either of them recapturing their best would surely be good enough. The doubts just mean that you can reasonably decide to take your chances on a solid alternative, should one be found.
KEMARI fits the bill. He was second in this race last year, to Rebel's Romance who wound up winning the Breeders' Cup Turf. He also chased that horse home in a Group 3 at Goodwood next time. His form has come in fits and starts since, but his runs at Meydan show that he retains his ability into 2023 and he is now race-fit after a run at .
Kemari's form is a little bit off that of the top two in the betting, but not by a huge amount and once the doubts over those two are factored in, he is a reasonable bet.
With Aldaary it is fitness. With Pogo it is form. Berkshire Shadow needs to show he has the pace for 7f in Group company. Audience has looked up to this class only when racing against handicappers at Leicester.
You can put forward doubts about most of the field in the Criterion Stakes. Jumby is the solid 7f horse of the moment, so he offers a safe option. At five times his price, I would be inclined to have a small bet on outsider SAM MAXIMUS.
This horse won a Listed race over 6f here in August, beating Vadream. On his next run, he again did his best work at the finish over a stiff 6f when chasing home Art Power at the Curragh. That was it for him in 2022, despite him looking well worth a shot over 7f. On his reappearance at , he proved easy to back and got tired. He is expected to come on for the run.
In terms of ratings, Sam Maximus is not so far off that he should be or bigger. Factor in his potential for this trip, and his proven aptitude on the track, and it could be argued that something in low double-figures would represent fair odds. Act accordingly while the tasty prices last.