The Shergar Cup isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, admittedly, but there is no doubt that it brings something different to the sport, and there will be a bumper crowd at Ascot on Saturday to enjoy the action.
As you’d expect, the 10-runner handicaps (each with at least one reserve) are both compact and competitive, designed in principle to be a level playing field for the four teams of three jockeys – comprising of sides from Great Britain and Ireland, Europe, the Rest of the World, and a Girls’ team.
Great Britain and Ireland won the event last year, and are represented this time around by Pat Cosgrave, Adam Kirby and Fran Berry, last year’s Silver Saddle winner.
Shergar Cup Dash
This race is likely to be extremely fast and frenetic, and as such, the eye is immediately drawn to El Astronaute, who sits 2 lb clear on Timeform’s weight-adjusted ratings, and arrives here in wonderful nick having finished second at Goodwood last week. Whilst he found Under The Covers too good that day, who produced a huge effort out of the blue, El Astronaute ploughed a lone furrow against the stand-side rail, and the fact he finished three lengths clear of the field speaks volumes for the form he is in.
Drawn in stall 12, this is likely to be another tear up early on, and it will be interesting to see how he fares against fellow front-runner Just Glamorous, who is drawn on the opposite side in stall two. With such a strong pace likely, hold-up performer Sir Robert Cheval –who was second in this race last year - is an interesting alternative to potentially pick up the pieces in the closing stages.
Shergar Cup Stayers
A seriously competitive heat, in which several have something to prove at the moment. One runner who is in good heart, however, is Saunter, one of three runners for the in-form Ian Williams yard. He attempts this two-mile trip for the first time, but everything points to stamina being his game, having taken the November Handicap on testing ground last season. He made a successful raid to France last time, winning over 1m6f at Compiegne, and it would be no surprise should he make a bold bid at this new trip.
A strong early pace once again looks highly likely, thanks to pacemakers Jukebox Jive and Soldier In Action. The former would be the more interesting if allowed to dominate, having put in a bold bid when third under similar tactics at listed level at Sandown last time. Lord George was below form in the Northumberland Plate after a 92-day absence, but would have leading form claims if able to translate the best of his all-weather form onto the turf.
Shergar Cup Challenge
Nicholas T was second in this race last year, and returns off the same mark. He has generally been in good form this term, doing the majority of his racing at Ayr, though would need to bounce back from a poor there last time. Considering the weak pace forecast, Twin Star is an interesting proposition if ridden as positively as last time. He has been running creditably of late, shaping better than the bare result at Windsor in June, having been badly hampered that day.
Maori Bob is another in good heart at the moment, and was only denied a hat-trick at Newmarket last time by a pair of progressive three-year-olds, but first reserve Theglasgowwarrior could well be the best option if getting a run. He’s something of an ongoing tale of woe, having been luckless in-running on each of his last two starts, but would have leading claims should things fall right for him.
Shergar Cup Mile
Mark Johnston’s bid to become Britain’s winning-most trainer is getting plenty of attention, as it should, and in Poet’s Society he has a runner who is the epitome of horses from his yard, in that he is both extremely genuine, and has a busy schedule. He’s raced twice this month alone, producing a lifetime best at Goodwood just two days after appearing to finish tired over a furlong shorter. He’s sure to give it a good go from the front, though would have competition for the lead should reserve runner Majestic Moon take his chance.
The one who makes the most appeal is Fire Brigade, who shaped well after wind surgery and a 61-day break when eighth at Newcastle in June, having no chance from his position having been forced to switch at a crucial time and not knocked about after. He had a fine 2017, clocking up four wins, and has shown enough so far this term to suggest that his next win isn’t too far away.
Shergar Cup Classic
The age-old conundrum of sticking with form or going with potential comes into play here, with a range of experience on show. The standard in form terms is set by Sergio Leone, whose record stands at two wins from nine starts. He will likely run his race, as he’s been shaping as if he’s on a good mark at the moment, but could be vulnerable to an improver. The same can be said for both Jazeel and the red hot Gossip Column, who is likely to prove popular having won four of his six starts this term. As such, it is the less-experienced Corelli who looks the best option. He caught the eye in all of his first three starts, before more than holding his own in the Lingfield Derby Trial, finishing third when perhaps needing a stronger pace. He’s open to plenty of improvement yet, and could well prove to be the class act in this field.
Shergar Cup Sprint
A race stacked full of useful three-year-olds, but none look more promising than Shaheen. He has progressed throughout his career, and produced his best effort yet when taking a soundly-run handicap at Windsor on Monday. He’s quickly turned out for this, but that shouldn’t be a problem considering he has won off a seven-day break before, and a 3 lb penalty looks very workable indeed. George of Hearts has been shaping well in big fields here over six furlongs in his last two starts, not disgracing himself in either run, and has claims in a wide open heat, whilst the front-running Bungee Jump – another who ran at Windsor on Monday – could be tough to peg back if allowed his own way upfront.