The Group 2 Lennox Stakes market suggests that this is a two horse race but do Godolphin’s 9/4 joint favourites, Dutch Connection and Home Of The Brave deserve to be so far ahead of the rest at Goodwood (3.10pm Tuesday on Channel 4)? There are a couple of three-year-olds with realistic claims.
Home Of The Brave carries Godolphin’s third colours for Hugo Palmer. This four-year-old son of Starspangledbanner is unbeaten in his two runs over this distance of seven furlongs this season. He kicked off his campaign by taking a listed race at Leicester in late April and followed up by making all and beating Sir Michael Stoute’s Convey a neck in the Jury Stakes at Haydock a month later. Palmer has said that Home Of The Brave is a bigger, stronger horse this year and that he was a ‘fruit loop’ as a three-year-old.
Last season Home Of The Brave had five outings but was disqualified after his biggest win in a Group 3 on softish at the Curragh. He beat Gordon Lord Byron three and a half lengths but traces of a banned substance were found in his sample. James Doyle presumably prefers him to Godolphin’s other contenders.
Godolphin’s second colours will be worn on Dutch Connection by the impressive James McDonald. McDonald has benefited from William Buick’s enforced holiday after a contretemps with the French stewards. This four-year-old shares a rating of 115 with Home Of The Brave but is yet to get his head in front this season.
Trained by Charlie Hills, Dutch Connection has had three outings, all over a mile, this term. He began his season by getting narrowly beaten by Toormore in a Group 2 at Sandown in April on good to soft. He did not help himself by being rather keen under Jim Crowley. Next time he failed to strike a blow in the Lockinge at Newbury in May. He might have done too much behind Belardo’s pacemaker as he did not appear to get home.
Earlier this month Dutch Connection was runner-up, beaten two lengths by William Haggas’ Mutakayyef, in a Group 2 on the round course at Ascot on quick ground. He was held up by George Baker and produced at the right time but was not good enough. On the positive side he definitely handles this track. He won his maiden here as a juvenile over this distance on good to firm and finished second in this race last year, beaten three quarters of a length by Toormore.
The least fancied Godolphin representative, Birchwood (6/1) carries their all blue silks. This three-year-old son of Dark Angel is rated just 2lb lower than the leading pair and has excuses for his disappointing first two runs this season. Many horses failed to fire in the Group 1 Poule d’Essai des Poulains at Deauville, the French 2000 Guineas. Almost all of them had to wait for ages in the stalls whilst the winner, The Gurkha, was being re-plated. Birchwood finished last, beaten 17 lengths. Next time out he encountered monsoon conditions and heavy ground at Newmarket in the Group 3 Criterion over this distance and was beaten nearly 30 lengths.
Three weeks ago Richard Fahey (pictured) tried him in a visor for the first time in a listed race at Chester. It seemed to do the trick. He beat the favourite, Dandy Nicholls’ Sovereign Debt, a length receiving 8lb from him on unsuitably soft ground. Sovereign Debt was runner-up in a Group 2 at the Curragh next time out, only beaten half a length by Gordon Lord Byron.
Birchwood was very decent as a juvenile, winning three of his seven starts. He took the Group 2 Superlative Stakes over this distance on quick ground at Newmarket and was Fahey’s first Breeders’ Cup runner. He was only beaten half a length into third in the Juvenile Turf over a mile. Birchwood has won twice on fast ground and has the considerable assistance of Ryan Moore who can be trusted to make the right decisions in a fast run affair.
Owen Burrows hopes to spoil Godolphin’s party with Hamdan Al Maktoum’s Markaz (8/1). A more easily recognisable son of Dark Angel, this four-year-old grey colt won the Group 3 Chipchase Stakes over six furlongs on the all-weather at Newcastle on his latest outing. He was beaten about three lengths in his previous two starts over a furlong further – at Leicester by Home Of The Brave in April and by David O’Meara’s So Beloved in another listed race at Haydock in May.
The form book suggests that this colt always needs a couple of runs to come to hand. Last season he scored once, on his fourth start over this distance in the Criterion Stakes on good to firm. As a juvenile he won his maiden third time out on fast ground and was runner-up in his next three runs, including a Group 3. Burrows’ horses are running well and Markaz is rated only 1lb lower than the leading pair. He should enjoy conditions and has each-way claims under Paul Hanagan.
Hugo Palmer also saddles the three-year-old Gifted Master (8/1). Unlike many of Kodiac’s offspring, he seems to need good ground and will get it. He was last seen trying to make all and getting beaten eight lengths in the Jersey Stakes over this distance in the mud at Royal Ascot. He was previously a beaten favourite in the Group 2 Sandy Lane Stakes at Haydock over six furlongs, finishing four lengths behind Karl Burke’s talented ‘closing’ filly, Quiet Reflection.
Gifted Master is a spirited individual who won his maiden first time out as a juvenile whilst fully displaying his physical credentials for a career at stud. Palmer admits that his charge was not focused on racing until he was gelded. Gifted Master improved markedly after the operation and achieved a sequence of five wins, including two Group 3 affairs over six furlongs and a mile. Unfortunately he still has only one way of running, from the front. His stablemate Home Of The Brave likes to lead too.
Gifted Master shares a rating of 114 with Markaz and benefits from a 7lb age allowance putting him right in the picture. Jim Crowley is probably going to be tasked with keeping him away from Home Of The Brave.
The three-year-old Dream Dubai (25/1) might run better than his price suggests. He did not race as a juvenile but won on his debut at Lingfield over six furlongs in April. He was beaten two lengths by Gifted Master next time in the Group 3 Pavilion Stakes at Ascot later that month. In mid May he started as the favourite in the listed Carnarvon Stakes at Newbury but was beaten 11 lengths by the runaway winner, Log Out Island.
His trainer Silvester Kirk saddled him in the Commonwealth Cup next. He was steadied after the start and was beaten four lengths by Quiet Reflection into eighth. This son of Kyllachy might enjoy his first experience of quick ground and an extra furlong but will need to, currently rated 105. Silvestre De Sousa rides him for the second time.
Peter Chapple-Hyam’s Buckstay (14/1) is the veteran of the field at six years old. He has amassed over £190K running in handicaps, winning four of his 28 starts. This is his first encounter of Group company and, rated 109, he looks unlikely to be good enough to win. Buckstay has failed to get in the money since he was given his current mark in May but he is effective over this trip on quick ground. As a hold-up horse a fast run race could play to his strengths, Jamie Spencer partners him.
The four-year-old Tupi (33/1) was runner-up to Highland Reel in the Vintage Stakes over course and distance for the Hannons on quick ground in 2014 but looks to be up against it here. He started this season with a promising run, getting narrowly beaten in a Group 3 at Newmarket in May but has been well beaten in his four subsequent starts. Blinkers have been tried to no effect. He will love the fast ground but off a rating of 105 it is difficult to fancy him, even with Frankie Dettori on board for the first time.
The ratings indicate that this could be a closer run thing than the bookies suggest. Hugo Palmer’s Gifted Master may well do too much in front. There are similar concerns with his stablemate Home Of The Brave (9/4). They could set up the race for a more amenable type, such as Birchwood.