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Dewhurst Stakes Preview: Reasons to be Positive

ArticleImage

Adam Houghton previews the Dewhurst Stakes at Newmarket on Saturday and picks out his best each-way alternative to the outstanding Pinatubo.

First published Wednesday, October 9

Celtic Swing's breathtaking performance in the Racing Post Trophy at Doncaster in October seems destined to be enshrined in legend.

‘He turned a Group 1 event into a one-horse race, stamping his authority in a matter of strides when sent about his business three furlongs out and drawing further and further clear, ridden out to the finish, to win by twelve lengths, the widest margin of victory ever recorded in a Group 1 race for two-year-olds in Britain.

‘Without any shadow of doubt, on any rational interpretation, this was the performance of an outstanding two-year-old, outstanding not only in terms of his contemporaries but comparable with the best we've seen.’

 

So read the essay on Celtic Swing in Racehorses of 1994, a passage that bears repeating because similar sentiments apply to Pinatubo and the remarkable performance he put up to win the National Stakes at the Curragh last month, one that means he is as short as 5/2-on to follow up in Saturday’s Dewhurst Stakes at Newmarket, the pre-eminent race for juveniles in Britain.

Won by such luminaries as George Washington, New Approach, Dubawi and Dawn Approach since the turn of the century, the National Stakes is an elite contest in its own right and Pinatubo put up a display that eclipsed all of the above in form terms, such was the sensational authority with which he dismissed the winners of the Coventry (Arizona) and Futurity Stakes (Armory), taking it up on the bridle over two furlongs out and quickly storming clear, winning by nine lengths without jockey William Buick needing to pick up his whip.

Charlie Appleby’s charge did so in a very fast time, too, nearly 2.5 seconds quicker than the Moyglare won by Love 35 minutes earlier, and even a conservative estimate of that performance resulted in a figure of 134p – it was the best juvenile performance since Celtic Swing earned a rating of 138 for his demolition job on Town Moor.

That was Pinatubo’s fifth win from as many starts, and, to put his achievements into context, even the level (125) he ran to when winning the Vintage Stakes at Goodwood in early-August would have been good enough to land every Dewhurst since the renewal won by a certain Frankel, who ran to 126 when beating Roderic O’Connor by two and a quarter lengths in 2010 (the graph below features the performance ratings achieved by every Dewhurst winner since 2000).

It’s rare to see a two-year-old operating at that sort of level at such an early stage of the season, and for him to advance his form as markedly as he did at the Curragh only underlined what an exceptional talent he is. The ‘p’ attached to his rating denotes that he may yet have more to offer, a scary thought for the 10 tasked with trying to end his winning sequence this weekend.

The pick of the opposition looks to be the Aidan O’Brien-trained Wichita, who ran to a level surpassed by only Pinatubo among this season’s juveniles when winning the Tattersalls Stakes over C&D last time, forging clear in the closing stages to win by seven lengths.

With that win coming only four weeks on from his debut, this son of No Nay Never has progressed a long way in a short space of time, and, with further improvement on the cards, he is well worth a try in this exalted company, likely to have been a standout contender in an ordinary year but unfortunate to be around at the same time as Pinatubo.

Similar comments apply to stablemate Arizona, who clearly has plenty to find to reverse the placings with the favourite from the Curragh, while the Ballydoyle quintet is completed by Monarch of EgyptHarpocrates and Year of The Tiger.

The last-named pair are likely to be big outsiders judged on what they have achieved to date, but Monarch of Egypt is not without place claims if bouncing back from a below-par effort in the Middle Park Stakes here two weeks ago. Admittedly, he looked ill at ease on the track that day, but there was plenty to like about his earlier efforts, notably when chasing home Siskin in the Phoenix Stakes at the Curragh in August, and it’s still far too early to be giving up on him.

Others who have already been put to the sword by Pinatubo include Positive and Mystery Power, who were second and sixth, respectively, behind that rival in the Vintage.

The former showed smart form on that occasion, despite being five lengths in arrears at the line, and he didn’t need to improve to win the Solario Stakes at Sandown last time, finding plenty to get the verdict by a nose from Kameko, who again filled the runner-up spot when stepped up to 1m in the Royal Lodge Stakes here recently.

Positive also looks likely to be suited by going further in time, but he already boasts form comparable with what the body of this field have achieved, and, representing the Clive Cox yard that prepared 16/1-shot Golden Horde to finish a good second in the Middle Park, it would be no surprise to see him also hit the frame at rewarding odds, with further progress not ruled out after only three starts.

Mystery Power won the Superlative Stakes at the July meeting and put his below-par effort at Goodwood (scoped dirty afterwards) behind him with a good second in the Mill Reef Stakes at Newbury last time, keeping on well to be beaten just a length and a half by a potential top-notcher in the shape of Pierre Lapin. With his strength at the finish suggesting that he will be suited by going back up to 7f here, there is no reason why he shouldn’t give another good account.

Of the rest, Iffraaz and Royal Commando look out of their depth judged on the balance of their form, but Molatham rates a more interesting contender if lining up here instead of in the Autumn Stakes (for which he is favourite) earlier on the card.

Second to Mums Tipple on his debut at Ascot in July, he is unbeaten in two subsequent starts, beating none other than Wichita (by half a length, value for extra) in a listed race at Doncaster on the most recent occasion. The runner-up has clearly improved since, but Molatham is open to further progress in his own right and would add intrigue to a highly-anticipated race, though the current doubts about his participation suggest it could pay to look elsewhere for a bet on the race.

In summary, Pinatubo is already well-established as one of the best juveniles of recent times and rates by far the most likely winner of this year’s Dewhurst, but he too makes little appeal from a betting standpoint given how short he is.

The race does have a nice each-way shape to it, though, with the Godolphin star taking such a large chunk out of the market, and Positive could be the way to go at around 16/1. He has previous with Pinatubo, having finished runner-up to that rival at Goodwood on just his second career start, and his subsequent Solario win identified him as a straightforward juvenile who could pick up some of the pieces here, with his run style the last twice (held up) suggesting that he is unlikely to make the mistake of trying to match strides with the favourite when the taps are turned.

Recommendation:

Back Positive each-way at 16/1 for Saturday's Dewhurst Stakes at Newmarket

 

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