Flat Trainer: Saeed bin Suroor
As the graph below shows, Saeed bin Suroor’s horses have enjoyed a renaissance since a low point in May, their Run To Form (RTF) percentage steadily improving across the likes of Royal Ascot, the July Meeting and, most recently, the Goodwood Festival.
Barring a high point in April, bin Suroor’s horses are in as good form as they have been in 2018, highlighted by a win for a back to form – and well-ridden - Benbatl in the Group 1 Grosser Dallmayr-Preis at Munich last Sunday.
Upcoming prizes may be less prestigious, but Fitzsimmons and Volcanic Sky look to be leading contenders at Ripon on Monday. The former underperformed on his handicap debut at Wolverhampton last time, quite possibly stretched by the longer trip, and he may yet do better granted less of a test here, while the last-named was much improved from debut when a neck second to Heart of Grace in a minor event at Lingfield last time, and remains open to further improvement.
On Tuesday, the well-bred Returning Glory is only 2 lb higher than when a neck second to Knight Errant at Windsor last time. He’s yet to win in six starts, but seemed to appreciate the return to turf last time and he should continue to give a good account.
Jumps Trainer: Neil King
Neil King doesn’t have a yard bulging with big-race winners, but he does pretty well with the tools at his disposal, with a (coincidental) 13% strike-rate with each of his hurdlers/chasers/bumper horses. Though slightly under that figure so far in the 2018/19 season, the table below illustrates that a higher percentage of his horses are running to form this campaign, and the yard have been rewarded with career-best performances by recent winners Mamoo, Little Windmill, Chimes of Dylan, Lil Rockerfeller (Flat) and Commanche Chieftain.
Chimes of Dylan, who improved all of a sudden in first-time blinkers after six weeks off at Worcester on Tuesday, had the benefit of an enterprising ride that day and was seen to maximum effect gifted an uncontested lead. Whilst this column normally highlights horses to back, he looks one to take on if running at Newton Abbot on Monday.
Little Windmill is another who has struggled to follow up good performances, but whilst the recent Worcester winner isn’t an obvious candidate to follow up, he did win three times in the space of four starts in 2016/17. He had dropped to a good mark before his recent win over hurdles, but will be 10 lb higher in the handicap if running back over fences on Monday afternoon.
The handicapper has been slow to react with Third Estate, but the hurdler shaped better than the distance beaten suggests in a first-time tongue strap after seven weeks off at Uttoxeter last time, and is now back down to the same mark as when third at Ludlow in April; he should run well now dropped in trip again.
Under the Radar: Stuart Williams
Though he has only saddled four winners in the last fortnight (at the time of writing), Stuart Williams has his horses in good form, and Don Armado’s win at Goodwood on Friday means that Williams has already matched last year’s total of 32 wins.
As the graph below shows, Williams appears to have been a beneficiary of the good weather that the majority of the UK has enjoyed over the past few months, with his horses generally much more at home on quick ground than in the mud.
It’s a good idea to make hay whilst the sun is shining, then, and the likes of Gregarious Girl and Daschas are of interest at Windsor – currently good to firm - on Monday. Though Lively Lydia may be a tough nut to crack in the fillies’ maiden if she runs, Gregarious Girl certainly shaped with some promise when a very green four lengths last of seven to Fognini in a minor event at Yarmouth, left poorly placed. She was a very cheap purchase but is entitled to progress. Daschas has improved this season, but has only gone up 7 lb since winning at Chelmsford in February, despite adding two more wins since. He ought to remain competitive.
Of his Wednesday entries, Broughton Excels, who was well backed when failing to fire on his final start for Henry Spiller in December, and Watchmyeverymove, who provided the yard with a relatively rare debut winner at Windsor in June, are of most interest. The latter is top rated for a minor event at Pontefract at the five-day stage.