Timeform Hungerford preview: Brave can get back to winning ways
The two top seven-furlong group races in the British calendar, the Hungerford Stakes and the Lennox Stakes, have both had plenty of prize money injected in to them in recent times. That said, the Lennox – part of the Qatar-sponsored Goodwood Festival – is now worth twice as much as this weekend's Hungerford. Despite the gulf in prize money, the Hungerford is still arguably just about the best race over seven furlongs in the country thanks to top-class performances in recent times from the likes of Excelebration and Paco Boy.
Last year's winner Adaay is entered again this time along with 2014 winner Breton Rock (third in the 2015 renewal). Adaay ended last season with a respectable sixth in the Group 1 British Champions Sprint Stakes, shaping as if a return to seven furlongs would suit him. After this second start this season, however, alarm bells were beginning to ring after he produced another laboured effort to add to his reappearance run. Adaay seemed to benefit plenty from the fitting of cheekpieces next time in the Criterion Stakes at Newmarket, where he ran right up to his best and was beaten just a head by Breton Rock, but he then went backwards again in the Minstrel Stakes last time. He now has something to prove and would perhaps benefit from the fitting of more severe headgear.
The ground for this season's Criterion Stakes was heavy, and therefore spot-on for Breton Rock who goes particularly well with plenty of cut in the ground. His win in the Hungerford in 2014 came on good to soft going, and his chances would increase with any rain.
The key piece of form for this year's Hungerford could be the Timeform Jury Stakes (John of Gaunt), a Group 2 run over seven furlongs at Haydock in late-May. Home of The Brave put up his best effort to date when winning the race this season, requiring a big effort to see off both Tupi and Breton Rock (who eventually finished fourth) in the straight and then dig deeper still to repel a late challenge from Convey inside the final furlong. Home of The Brave was slightly below that form next time in the Lennox, but he was never likely to be seen to best effect with the presence of stablemate – and fellow front runner – Gifted Master in the field. The pair rather set the race up for Dutch Connection, with Home of The Brave finishing a length and three-quarters back in second. With no Gifted Master in the field this time, Home of The Brave could get his own way out in front once again and may be hard to catch.
Convey will prove a popular selection to turn the tables on Gifted Master after losing out by just a neck at Haydock and having subsequently won a listed race at Pontefract in good style. That was just his second win since he broke his maiden, though, and Convey has proven somewhat frustrating on more than one occasion in the past, looking soft when push came to shove in the Summer Mile at Ascot on his penultimate start after looking a big player for a long way. If on a going day, Convey will be a big danger to Home of The Brave, but the general feeling is that the Haydock form will be upheld here.
Along with the regular performers over this distance, there are also a couple of interesting entries dropping back from a mile. Nemoralia was perhaps unlucky not to win at the highest level as a two-year-old last season, having been given too much to do in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf, and after an impressive six-length win in a listed race at York on her reappearance this season it seemed as though it would not be long before she made amends for that missed opportunity. The ground perhaps went against her in the Coronation Stakes at Royal Ascot (acts on good to soft but her very best run was on good to firm), but still managed to finish second between Qemah and Alice Springs, who have both followed up in Group 1 races since. A strong travelling sort, Nemoralia shouldn't be disadvantaged by the drop in trip on Saturday and will likely be a big player, with the main negative to her chances being her below-par run in the Prix Jean Prat last time, where she seemingly had few excuses on the day.
Aidan O'Brien currently has four horses entered at the five-day stage, headed on Timeform ratings by three-year-old Hit It A Bomb, who had looked a potential classic prospect for this season when winning last year's Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf at Keeneland. His absence since is of course concerning, though, and he does hold several other entries. That last point also goes for Air Vice Marshal, who would be interesting if turning up at Newbury after seemingly struggling in the soft ground in the Irish Guineas last time. Prior to that he had run well when fourth in the 2000 Guineas despite being unbalanced entering the dip, and as a big, raw individual, he could have his best days still ahead of him.
Overall, the one with the least question marks at this stage looks to be Home of The Brave, who sets the standard at the weights (Toormore is also Timeform rated 121 but must concede a Group 2 penalty to all of the field), and should also benefit plenty from the lack of competition for the lead here.
Back Home of The Brave at 3/1 in the Hungerford StakesRead More at betfair.com