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Hungerford Stakes Preview: Space Blues is in another world

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Alex Stearn previews Saturday’s Hungerford Stakes at Newbury, and picks out his best bet - an unexposed colt who looks capable of gaining success in Group 1 company before the season is out.

The Hungerford Stakes is a Group 2 contest at Newbury that headlines the racing on Saturday. It is run over seven furlongs and allows the classic generation to take on their older rivals, with the roll of honour making for even reading between the age groups. The last 10 renewals have seen three-year-olds take the prize on four of those occasions, with the likes of Paco Boy, Excelebration and Lethal Force on the list, suggesting that a win for the younger generation is a springboard to the highest level.

This year's line-up features recent Glorious Goodwood winner Sir Dancealot, who will be bidding to take this for the second year in a row. He has been kept fresher this year - with an attempt at the Prix de la Foret his probable end of season target - and put a slow start to the campaign behind him with a smooth success in the Lennox Stakes (for the second consecutive year, by a length from Hey Gaman) last time. David Elsworth's charge recorded a higher rating this year when winning at Goodwood, and he looks to have an excellent chance of defying a penalty once again and becoming the first horse to retain his crown.

Hey Gaman chased him home at Goodwood and continues to knock at the door of a first Group 2 success. The drop back to seven furlongs in 2019 has coincided with an upturn in form, winning his first pattern race at Longchamp in May, and his second in the Minstrel Stakes at the Curragh on his penultimate start took a timely boost with Romanised winning a Group 1 in Deauville last weekend. He doesn't look to have anything of that calibre to face here, and, 3 lb better off at the weights with Sir Dancealot, there is a fair chance that he can reverse those placings.

John Quinn will saddle the progressive Safe Voyage in his attempt to add more Group success to his season. He showed his liking for Haydock when winning his first three starts with give underfoot this year, including a ready victory in the Group 3 John of Gaunt Stakes. He also contested the Minstrel Stakes on his most recent outing, and despite finishing behind Hey Gaman on that occasion, he pulled clear of the rest on ground that wouldn't have played to his strengths; he may be able to turn the half a length defeat around if the forecast rain materialises.

Space Blues heads the three-year-olds in the market and looks well worth his place there on recent form. The drop to this trip has been the making of this colt, seeing him take a handicap at York and a listed race at Epsom before tackling group company. Royal Ascot saw him line up in the Jersey, where he was beaten a head by Space Traveller, and he has progressed further to finish placed at the highest level on his last two starts in France, when second behind Too Darn Hot in the Prix Jean Prat and third behind Advertise in the Prix Maurice de Gheest. In receipt of weight from his older counterparts here, he sets the standard on weight-adjusted ratings and looks sure to take all the beating if reproducing the pick of his form.

Charlie Appleby has also entered Glorious Journey, who was last seen finishing eighth in the six-furlong July Cup at Newmarket, when he simply did too much too soon. The step back up to seven furlongs here is expected to see him in a better light, just as it did when chasing home Limato on his penultimate start, but he still has work to do to challenge the principals on that form alone.

Richard Fahey's Space Traveller disappointed in the Lennox, when looking in need of a stiffer test. He is well worth his place at this level on the evidence of his Jersey win, but might need quick ground and an extra furlong to prove himself of this quality.

Of more interest in receipt of weight for age and a fillies' allowance is Tapisserie for William Haggas. Unraced at two, she remains lightly raced after only four starts this season, starting out with two good seconds in minor company, before breaking her maiden at Salisbury and subsequently handling a step up to listed company with ease at Carlisle. She missed her engagement at Goodwood, so comes here fresher than most, and the booking of Ryan Moore at this stage suggests that connections are favouring this race over her listed entry at Pontefract on Sunday.

Haggas could also be represented by Pretty Baby, who has so far failed to build on the promise of her winning reappearance in Group 3 company at Lingfield, following that success with two below-par runs at Ascot and Goodwood. Before those, she was a filly of high interest, having never been out the first two in her career, and if getting back on track here, she could take a hand in the finish.

Dean Ivory has two chances of taking the prize for owner Tony Bloom, with both bringing different profiles into the race. Librisa Breeze was a Group 1 winner in 2017, but has been badly out of sorts since then and would be returning from a 280-day layoff if taking his chance. Flaming Spear, on the other hand, has a recent outing under his belt, having returned from a similar-length absence with a creditable fifth in the Lennox, when shaping as if the run would bring him on fitness-wise. He could well could close the gap with those finished ahead of him if taking his chance, and, as is the case with plenty of runners for the owner, market clues will be informative on what is expected here.

King Power Racing also have the choice of two potential runners, with the ground likely to be a major influence on that decision. Andrew Balding has Donjuan Triumphant in his care and his chances of being involved at the business end of the race will increase with every drop of rain that falls at the track. Richard Hannon has German 2000 Guineas winner Fox Champion, who ties in with Space Blues on his Prix Jean Prat form. He was two lengths behind him that day but will have plenty to do to close the gap here, being 3 lb worse off in the weights now shouldering a penalty for his Guineas success dropped in class.

Lastly, John Gosden has won this contest three times since 2005, and he has Angel's Hideaway entered in his attempt to increase that tally. She posted her best performance of the year when finishing a close fourth in the 1000 Guineas at Newmarket, before not matching that level in her subsequent starts dropped to this trip. A reproduction of her Guineas run would give her a chance but she looks to be vulnerable judged on the balance of her form.

In summary, the older generation all look much of a muchness, having generally taken it in turns to beat each other, and that paves the way for the comparatively unexposed three-year-olds to improve past them. Chief amongst them is Space Blues, who has looked a Group winner in waiting since scoring in listed company at Epsom in May and has the strongest form to his name by virtue of his second to Too Darn Hot in last month's Prix Jean Prat. He looks to have an excellent chance of taking this before returning to competition at the highest level. Tapisserie is of definite interest, too, with the potential to be competitive at this level on just her fifth career start.

Recommendation:

Back Space Blues at 7/2 to win Saturday's Hungerford Stakes at Newbury

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RIPON 15:55

Monday 26 August
2. PLATINUM STAR (IRE) 118
Callum Shepherd silk Callum Shepherd
Saeed bin Suroor hot trainer
1. OH PURPLE REIGN (IRE) 110
Sean Levey silk Sean Levey
Richard Hannon
4. BETTYS HOPE 109
David Egan silk David Egan
Rod Millman
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1st David Allan silk 5. ARCHIMEDES (IRE) 6/17
2nd Graham Lee silk 4. BURTONWOOD 7/18
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J: David Allan  
10 ran. NRs: 12  13  15  16  17  6  8 
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17:50 GOODWOOD

1st Miss Becky Smith silk 5. BLUE MEDICI 5/23.5jf
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