The Lockinge Stakes run over a mile is the first Group 1 race of the season for older horses and the only Group 1 at the Berkshire course (3.50pm, Newbury, Saturday).
The last three winners were the champions Farhh, Frankel and Canford Cliffs so, whatever the outcome, the winner will need to be very smart indeed.
Richard Hannon, Sr. won the Lockinge Stakes three times during his career, including with Canford Cliffs in 2011, and this year his son, Richard Hannon, Jr. launches a two-pronged attack on the £200,000 prize money with Olympic Glory (1/1) and Montiridge (9/1). Olympic Glory is owned by Al Shaqab Racing and, as such, has the services of retained jockey Frankie Dettori, while Hannon’s stable jockey Richard Hughes rides Montiridge.
Olympic Glory hasn’t been seen in public since finishing ninth of ten, beaten 7½ lengths, behind Wise Dan in the Breeders’ Cup Mile at Santa Anita last November, but has 7lb and upwards in hand of his rivals according to official ratings. Indeed, he holds his nearest rival, Top Notch Tonto (12/1), trained by shrewd Brian Ellison (pictured), on their running in the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes at Ascot last October and, having won first time out in both seasons so far, is unquestionably the one to beat.
Olympic Glory’s last three wins have come on soft, good to soft and heavy going, but he only failed by a short head to overhaul Moonlight Cloud in the Prix Jacques le Marois at Deauville last August on good going, so shouldn’t be inconvenienced by faster underfoot conditions.
Montiridge is clearly no slouch, but is officially rated 10lb inferior to his stable companion and has yet to win beyond Group 3 level. In fact, his recent form gives him something to find with Tullius, Soft Falling Rain and Top Notch Tonto, so it will be a surprise if he finds the improvement necessary to win.
Verrazano (5/1) is an interesting contender insofar as he has his first start for Aidan O’Brien, and his first on turf, after previously being trained by Todd Pletcher in the United States. The son of More Than Ready won two Grade 1 races over 1 mile 1 furlong last season, before finishing a well held fourth in the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile at Santa Anita in November. Aidan O’Brien has won the Lockinge Stakes once before, with Hawk Wing in 2003, but it may be asking too much for Verrazano to win at this level at the first attempt.
The other contender from across the Irish Sea, Sruthan (20/1), trained at the Curragh by Paul Deegan, is officially rated 14lb inferior to Olympic Glory and, although he has won his last two starts over 7 furlongs at Group Three level, has just a Dundalk maiden win to his name. He could belie his seemingly generous odds by running well, but he’s hard to fancy for win purposes.
Chopin (10/1), trained in Germany by Andreas Wohler, finished seventh in both the Derby and the Tercentenary Stakes at Royal Ascot last season, but having won the Grosser Ehrmann Cup, over an extended mile, at Krefeld by eight lengths earlier in his three-year-old campaign, may ultimately prove better at shorter. He finished a promising second, beaten 1¼ lengths, at Dusseldorf last month on his first start since last June and, granted normal improvement, could be the one to make a race of it with Olympic Glory.
Olympic Glory is the obvious one on form, but CHOPIN has the potential to improve on what he achieved as a three-year-old and it’s interesting that connections have decided to keep him in training. Our betting tips advice is to back Chopin each-way in this eight-runner race at 12/1 with William Hill. Update: That price has gone and now the best available is 10/1 with Bet365, Betfred, Ladbrokes or BetVictor.