Great Britain Preview: Naval Power can take Dewhurst

October 7th, 2022

The Dewhurst Stakes (G1), which highlights the weekend card at Newmarket, is almost always the most important juvenile race in Europe. Though it’s not a Breeders’ Cup Challenge Series race, nor part of the European Road to the Kentucky Derby, it frequently decides overall two-year-old championship honors in Europe. Its winner also frequently goes into winter the favorite for the first Classic of the new season, the 2000 Guineas (G1).

This year could be a little different in terms of juvenile championship honors as the clear leader among two-year-olds, the Aidan O’Brien-trained Little Big Bear, is injured and won’t be there. However, if there is an impressive winner, there is a chance they may become the winter 2000 Guineas favorite, as there will be some doubt over Little Big Bear’s chances of staying a mile.

The Newmarket card also includes a trio of Group 3 races plus one of the great handicaps of British racing, the 2 1/4-mile Cesarewitch, which has drawn a field of 22.

All races at Newmarket are subject to TwinSpires’ Rest of the World Bet Back offer, where people who opt in can get up to $10 back on their first win bet in a race if their horse finishes second in races of six or more runners.

Race 1, 8:50 a.m. ET: Zetland S. (G3), 1 1/4 miles, 2-year-olds

In which #5 Flying Honours tries to redeem himself after finishing third when odds-on favorite in the Royal Lodge (G2) a couple of weeks back. With nine horses in the field, he should at least not have to deal with the farcically slow pace that the Royal Lodge was run at — more than seven seconds slower than standard.

However, if he’s as highly regarded as some punters seem to think he is, I’d have expected more from him in the Royal Lodge, and the likely short odds don’t appeal that much to me. I’m instead going for #4 Dear My Friend, who finished third at his last start behind Victoria Road, an interesting-looking Aidan O’Brien runner, and Blue Rose Cen, the decisive winner of last week’s Prix Marcel Boussac (G1) on Arc day.

  • $10 win/$30 show: #4 Dear My Friend

Race 2, 9:25 a.m. ET: Autumn S. (G3), 1 mile, 2-year-olds

Just six horses are entered for this juvenile mile, but it looks relatively even. #5 Holloway Boy, winner of the Chesham at Royal Ascot prior to two runner-up efforts in Group races, heads the field on earnings. But he has some interesting opponents in Solario (G3) winner #1 Silver Knott; two winners of their only starts in #3 Epictetus and #4 Exoplanet; stakes placegetter #2 Dancing Magic; and the two-race winner #6 Killybegs Warrior.

Silver Knott should be competitive if the ground isn’t too wet, though his three-pound penalty won’t help, while Holloway Boy can’t be left out. However, the form has worked out fairly solidly from the maiden that Epictetus won, and he looks a decent chance to make it two wins from two starts.

  • $10 win/$30 place: #3 Epictetus

Race 3, 10 a.m ET: Dewhurst S. (G1), 7 furlongs, 2-year-old colts and fillies

The withdrawal of pre-race favorite Sakheer has opened this race up further. Juddmonte has two very strong chances in the race: #2 Chaldean, winner of his last three, two of them graded stakes, and #6 Nostrum, who beat the aforementioned Holloway Boy decisively in the Tattersalls S. (G3) at Newmarket Sept. 22. The powerful Charlie Appleby and Aidan O’Brien stables, winners of six of the last seven Dewhursts between them, have their chances here as well: Appleby with the unbeaten #5 Naval Power and O’Brien with #1 Aesop’s Fables. The other three runners — #3 Isaac Shelby, #4 Marbaan, and #7 Royal Scotsman — have all won graded stakes themselves.

There’s a strong chance Nostrum will start favorite, and he should be hard to beat, but I’ve been impressed all the way with Naval Power, and Appleby has proven a master with juveniles in Europe.

  • $10 win/$30 show: #5 Naval Power

Race 4, 10:40 a.m. ET: Cesarewitch Handicap, 2 1/4 miles, 3-year-olds and up

Always a great race, and always tough to pick. With the withdrawal of Rock Eagle there are 22 runners remaining in this great staying test. It’s one of those races that frequently attracts horses from the leading National Hunt trainers; this year, they include three from Ireland’s Willie Mullins and one from Britain’s leading jumps trainer Nicky Henderson.

It’s with Henderson that I will be going. His high-quality mare #8 Ahorsewithnoname was good enough to run second behind Love Envoi in the Mares’ Novices Hurdle (G2) at Cheltenham in March, and since returning to the flat she has won both her starts, including a five-length triumph at York May 12. Though she hasn’t raced since then, Henderson is likely to have her fit and raring to go.

  • $20 win/$40 show: #8 Ahorsewithnoname

Race 7, 12:20 a.m. ET: Darley S. (G3), 1 1/8 miles, 3-year-olds and up

The day ends with this competitive 10-horse contest. Four of the runners are Godolphin owned: #3 Dubai Mirage, #7 Passion And Glory, #8 Royal Fleet, and #10 Ottoman Fleet. The biggest clue to their chances is probably the fact that William Buick is aboard Royal Fleet. He pushed the top-class Lord Glitters to a length at Meydan prior to winning a Group 3 contest there Feb. 25, and at his sole European run this season he decisively won the Listed Foundation S. at Goodwood Sept. 21.

Likely to contest favoritism with Royal Fleet is the three-year-old #9 Alflaila, winner of the Strensall (G3) at York Aug. 20. That day, the colt beat #4 Finest Sound, who then went to Canada and ran third to Modern Games in the Woodbine Mile (G1).

Though age is part of the reason Finest Sound and Alflaila are closer in the weights, the gap has closed from seven pounds at York to one pound here, and that’s enough for me to support Finest Sound.

  • $10 win/$30 show: #4 Finest Sound