The Stewards’ Cup is as fiercely competitive as ever but Dancing Star (13/2) looks to have every chance of becoming just the third three-year-old in the last 33 years to win the prestigious sprinting prize (3.45pm Saturday at Goodwood on CH4 TV).
The Aqlaam filly has gone from strength to strength this season, winning three of her four starts. The form of her latest victory at Newmarket has been franked by the fifth, Mont Kiara, and second, Priceless, who filled the first two places in another valuable Newmarket handicap two weeks later.
Dancing Star carries a 6lb penalty but is 1lb better in compared with future engagements. As a progressive course and distance winner, who is fully effective on fast ground, she is hard for this preview to fault.
Sprint king David ‘Dandy’ Nicholls (pictured) makes life difficult for punters by saddling three, Orion’s Bow (13/2), Kimberella (14/1) and Blaine (40/1). The first named took a few starts to find his form, but has improved out of all recognition in recent months, winning five races in a row and going up 34lb in the weights in the process. He recorded a career-best effort when winning the Scottish Stewards’ Cup over six furlongs at Hamilton earlier this month by 3¼ lengths and, although penalised 6lb, has winning form on good to firm going and must be feared.
So, too, must Kimberella, who won the Sky Bet Dash Stakes at York last week with a little in hand after a succession of near misses in major sprint handicaps. The Kyllachy gelding also carries a 6lb penalty, but looked better than ever at York and, with his confidence bolstered, should run another big race.
Growl (14/1) failed in his hat-trick attempt when stepped back up to seven furlongs in the Bunbury Cup at Newmarket three weeks ago, but still finished fourth of 16 beaten just 1¼ lengths behind Golden Steps. Back at six furlongs and off the same mark, he must have a decent chance of resuming winning ways. He is 6lb better off for 2¼ lengths with Kimberella on their running over five furlongs at Chester in May so, while they have both improved since, there may not be much between them this time.
At much longer odds, Withernsea (33/1) has done all his winning with cut in the ground, but is fully effective on a sound surface and has run creditably in defeat on his last four starts. He has not run over six furlongs since a year ago last April, but led the pair that stuck to the near side at this distance in the Gigaset International Stakes at Ascot last week, before eventually finishing seventh, beaten 4½ lengths. He hardly jumps off the page as a readymade winner-in-waiting, but that is reflected in his price and he could surprise a few better-fancied rivals.
As usual, it is possible to make a case for most of the 28 runners but DANCING STAR is the most convincing. Her draw in stall 23 is less than ideal but she looks an exceptional filly who, like last year’s winner Magical Memory, can win the Stewards’ Cup en route to Group company.
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