The Lockinge Stakes has largely been dominated by four-year-olds in recent years with 14 wins this century, and that generation look set to dominate this year’s renewal also.
When looking through the entries it is hard not to be drawn to the progressive Addeybb, who has won both of his starts this season in the Lincoln at Doncaster and the Mile at Sandown, respectively. The manner of his win on Town Moor marked him down as a pattern-class performer, and he duly proved himself a fast-developing force at Sandown last time. He was understandably a little slower on the uptake up in grade, taking a while to hit top gear, but really powered away from his rivals over a furlong out to win by two and three quarter lengths. The slight concern here is the ground, as Addeybb has shown all of his best form with cut in the ground, but he is still a leading contender regardless.
Another four-year-old Beat The Bank is closely matched with Addeybb on form, having enjoyed a terrific 2017, winning five of his seven starts, including the Thoroughbred Stakes at Goodwood and the Joel Stakes at Newmarket. He was sent off at odds of 4/1 for the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes at Ascot on his final start and, though he ultimately disappointed, he didn’t look at ease from quite an early stage in the race. Given what he had already achieved last season, it is perhaps best to forgive him that effort, and he is one of the leading form contenders. He won first time out last season and has been aimed at this, so has to be high on the shortlist.
Aidan O’Brien hasn’t won the Lockinge since Hawk Wing trounced his rivals in 2003, but the master of Ballydoyle is reportedly set to run Rhododendron and Lancaster Bomber. The former was a beaten favourite in both the 1000 Guineas and Oaks last year, but finished the season in style, winning the Prix de l'Opera at Chantilly before a good second behind Wuheida at the Breeders’ Cup. She was given a considerate reappearance when beaten over five lengths in fourth behind Cracksman in the Prix Ganay at Longchamp last time, but will likely come on plenty for that run – as many of O’Brien’s runners have so far this season – and the drop back to a mile could suit, too. Lancaster Bomber was last seen finishing down the field in the Dubai Turf at Meydan in March, but he thrived on racing last year, and should strip fitter here.
Limato endured a slightly disappointing campaign in 2017, but signed off in style by winning the Challenge Stakes at Newmarket. He was campaigned over six and seven furlongs last season, but he did finish fourth in this race in 2016. Limato does stay a mile, but he is more effective at shorter and could prove vulnerable to stronger stayers at this trip; he would be an unlikely runner if the ground was any worse than good.
Librisa Breeze is of a similar ilk, having added a first Group 1 to his CV in the Champions Sprint at Ascot last season. He had plenty in his favour that day, a strong pace on soft ground at a track he goes particularly well at all playing to his strengths, getting the better of some high-class sprinters. His latest run in the Al Quoz Sprint at Meydan was disappointing, but he was drawn away from the action that day. However, he is another who could prove vulnerable up against out-and-out milers.
The Roger Varian-trained Zabeel Prince made rapid strides through the handicap ranks last season, bar an excusable blip on his final start, and barely had to improve to make a winning return in a listed race at Doncaster in March. Connections suggested this could be his next target after and, though he will need to improve to mix it with the principals, he is in excellent hands and has plenty about him physically, so it isn’t out of the question.
The likes of Suedois and Accidental Agent also need mentioning. The former found a new lease of life when stepped up to a mile last year, winning the Shadwell Turf Mile Stakes at Keeneland before finishing fourth in the Breeders’ Cup Mile on his final start. That form doesn’t leave him with much to find here, and he has gone well fresh in the past. Accidental Agent, on the other hand, progressed into a very smart handicapper last season, winning the Challenge Cup at Ascot. He was below form on his return in a listed race at Ascot earlier this month, though, and will need to improve for that run to figure here.
This looks a potentially open renewal of this Group 1, but it could pay to focus on the pair of four-year-olds Beat The Bank and Addeybb. The latter is most progressive and commands maximum respect, but Beat The Bank looked every inch a Group 1 performer when smashing up a selection of smart performers in the Joel Stakes at Newmarket last season, and it’s easy to forgive him his effort in the Queen Elizabeth II at the end of a long season. The Lockinge has been his early-season target all along and, for a horse that was unraced as a juvenile, it would hardly be surprising if he progressed still further this season.
Back Beat The Bank at 7/1 in the Lockinge Stakes at Newbury on Saturday