The late position of Easter in this year’s calendar means that the boundaries between the Flat and jumps seasons feel more blurred than usual, switching between the Aintree and Scottish Grand Nationals, and the Lincoln and the Greenham in recent weeks – with All-Weather Finals Day still to come at Lingfield on Friday.
Before then, Tuesday’s Group 3 Nell Gwyn Stakes is the feature race on the first day of Newmarket’s three day Craven Meeting, which had somewhat fallen out of fashion of late, but is now enjoying a renaissance thanks to its return to terrestrial television on ITV Racing.
The race is traditionally a trial for next month’s 1000 Guineas at Newmarket, last producing a classic winner with the Pam Sly-trained Speciosa back in 2006. However, it is worth noting that each of the last three winners of this has failed to win a race since.
Johnston's filly sets the standard
The filly who sets the standard on Timeform ratings is the Mark Johnston-trained Main Edition, a useful front-runner who won four times as a juvenile last season, including twice at Group 3 level. She has some winning form at Newmarket under her belt, too, landing the Sweet Solera on the July course in good style, and while she suffered defeat in her final two starts last term – both of which came at a higher level – she’s got the physical scope to suggest that she will prove at least as good this season. Her yard is in form, and although there are likely to be several contesting the lead early on, she ought to make a bold bid from the front with Ryan Moore booked to ride.
The Oh So Sharp form looks key
Main Edition would be vulnerable to any potential improver, though, and a filly who ought to pose a big threat is Mot Juste, who showed much improved form to win the Group 3 Oh So Sharp Stakes over course and distance last October (Angel’s Hideaway second, Sunday Star third, Mistress of Love sixth). She will offer more as her stamina is drawn out this term, and arrives here with leading claims with more improvement likely.
Angel’s Hideaway represents John Gosden, who has won two of the last three renewals of this, and she was carrying a penalty when second to Mot Juste on her final start of 2018. She’s another good prospect for this year, and it would be no surprise should she overturn the Oh So Sharp form. Meanwhile, Mistress of Love produced a career best to finish third in a listed contest here back in November, but is a long way short of the standard required on what she’s shown so far.
Best of the Rest
Another trainer with a good recent record in this race is Charlie Appleby, who scored last year with Soliloquy and sends two this time around in the form of Nashirah and Orchid Star, who both have plenty to find on Timeform ratings with Main Edition. The better prospect is seemingly the latter, who built on the promise of her debut second at Leicester last September by winning two fillies’ contests on the all-weather in February. She justified particularly short odds on both of those outings, and it would be no surprise should she improve again now stepped up in class. Nashirah has a couple more starts under her belt, having visited the racecourse five times now, and would need to improve on what she showed at Meydan in January if she is to play a prominent role.
Along with Mot Juste, Roger Varian has another interesting contender in the form of the Scat Daddy filly Qabala, who made a very good impression when winning a fillies’ maiden on her debut at Newmarket last September, deserving extra credit as she didn’t enjoy the run of the race to same degree as the more experienced runner-up. That form has been boosted since, with the second, third and fourth all winning subsequently, and Qabala is a particularly interesting contender pitched straight into Group company on her reappearance.
Two more to consider are Look Around and Sunday Star. The latter gradually progressed in each of her four starts last term, signing off with her best effort yet to finish third in the Oh So Sharp Stakes. She has something to find with Mot Juste and Angel’s Hideaway if she is to overturn that form, but may be open to more improvement, and has solid each-way claims. Look Around is a well-bred filly and represents the in-form Andrew Balding team. She wasn’t seen to best effect when seventh in the Group 3 Prestige Stakes on her most recent start at Goodwood last August, and enters calculations if able to repeat the effort that saw her win a listed contest at Sandown in July.
The field is completed by Mercenary Rose and Come On Leicester. The former was an impressive winner of a novice contest at Lingfield in December, making all, and although she’s open to improvement on the back of that, this is a steep rise in class and she has plenty to find. Come On Leicester has far more experience, with eight outings as a two-year-old last term, and although she signed off with a pleasing success in a Leicester conditions race in October, this requires far more.
In summary, this looks an open renewal of the Nell Gwyn, with several fillies arriving here open to improvement. Preference, though, is for Main Edition, who proved herself to be a useful juvenile last term, twice winning at this level. She has the physical scope to suggest that she ought to prove at least as good as a three-year-old, and, as a front-runner, she ought to prove tough to peg back if granted an easy lead with Ryan Moore booked to ride. The first two from the Oh So Sharp, Mot Juste and Angel’s Hideaway, both have obvious claims, while the well-bred Qabala is a fascinating contender on the back of a course-and-distance debut win which has worked out well.
Back Main Edition at 9/2 in Tuesday’s Nell Gwyn Stakes at Newmarket