Royal Lodge: Our verdicts
With Sky Bet offering one of their famous first-race specials on the Royal Lodge Stakes, our team take a look at how you might want to play the race.
I'd keep this simple and back Hugo Palmer's Best Of Days. I find it very hard to see him finishing out of the three, which is what you want with the offer in mind, and he has a very good chance of coming out on top. One of the least exposed colts in the field, he was a bit unlucky to be mugged in the Acomb and that close second is on a par with any other form on show in this one.
The key thing is he looks highly likely to improve on that effort up in trip to a mile. Everything about his breeding suggests middle distances next year, but he was nearly quick enough to win over seven furlongs at Group Three level at York and a mile at Newmarket looks spot on for him at this stage in his development. A good pace looks likely and that will suit Best Of Days, who can ensure a tough week for James Doyle ends with him winning in the Godolphin blue.
I couldn't touch a Mark Johnston-trained runner with a bargepole at present. Sure, he's still having winners and a two-year-old in the same ownership as Montataire popped up at 20/1 at Chelmsford on Thursday evening (on the back of having been a beaten favourite, naturally) but a number of runners from the stable are also barely raising a gallop. That takes a chunk out of the market, for starters.
I'm not sure what to make of Douglas Macarthur after his blow-out last time. Connections will be very keen to get a decent win out of him with a big South African owner involved with the horse, but he looked to be given an easy enough lead at Leopardstown and petered out quickly when tackled.
Let's be blunt, this isn't a great renewal though, and while I could see The Anvil running well at a price, it's very hard to argue that Best Of Days doesn't have the best form in the book going into this race and as such, he's very hard to oppose.
Click here to see the latest Sky Bet prices on the Royal Lodge Stakes – stakes up to £25 will be refunded as free bets if your selection comes 2nd OR 3rd in the race.
It wouldn't surprise to see a vastly improved showing form Douglas Macarthur who was pretty easy to back at Leopardstown on his first start since mid-July but he did look relatively laboured and his price may well be a reflection of his reputation rather than achievements.
There's been plenty of chat about Best Of Days too but he was turned over at odds-on last time as well and I'll take a chance on the experienced Montataire. Mark Johnston's horses are usually well suited to Newmarket given their running styles and he looked ideally suited by the step up to a mile at Salisbury; the market just might underestimate him.
I'd be inclined to give Douglas Macarthur another chance despite his odds-on failure last time. Aidan O'Brien's colt was noticeably weak in the market ahead of his Group Three assignment on Irish Champions Day and the alarm bells were ringing pretty early on as he laboured to third place in what didn't look the strongest of contests. However, it was his first run in seven weeks and the impression he made when landing a maiden over Saturday's trip remains fresh in the memory.
It's also worth noting that O'Brien's last three Royal Lodge winners had been beaten on their previous start, one of them in a nursery, and even in the light of his defeat, that form reads well enough in the context of this race. With the prospect of more to come he gets the vote.
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