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With Air Vice Marshal being a non-runner this looks to be a match-up between the Godolphin pair of Birchwood and STRONG CHALLENGE.
Birchwood has the obvious form claims after winning a Group Two last time out, in which he had Beaverbrook four lengths behind, despite hanging left. That run confirmed his superiority over Beaverbrook who he also beat at Newbury back in May. On a line through Hayadh he should also have the beating of Galileo Gold.
My concern with Birchwood is that his run on ground with some cut in it, at Naas wasn’t very impressive and he also doesn’t appear to be the easiest ride. Goodwood is a track where quirks will be shown up, so I don’t want to be backing a horse that has hung left on two of his four starts. I think he should be favourite but believe it may pay to look elsewhere.
Strong Challenge missed the break on debut, but finished strongly behind Riflescope. Riflescope then finished seven lengths behind Birchwood at Newbury, however he was eased down when his chance had gone. Since then he went on to finish fourth at Royal Ascot, in a race where the well regarded pair of Log Out Island and King of Rooks finished half a length in front of him.
However the key piece of form that gives him a chance here comes in the shape of his victory over Gutaifan at this track last time out. He showed excellent early speed that day and never looked like being caught. Gutaifan has since gone on to run up a hat-trick, culminating in winning the Group Two Prix Robert Papin on Sunday.
Another reason for my confidence in Strong Challenge is that he’s the choice of James Doyle, who has ridden the pair of these, therefore he should be in the best position to judge their potential capabilities. Strong Challenge is a course winner, won impressively last time out, looks open to more improvement than Birchwood and also receives 3lbs, I’ll be surprised if he isn’t involved in the finish.
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DUTCH CONNECTION is one of my bets of the week, it would appear that he has everything in his favour;
- Has won over course and distance.
- Receives weight from his main rival, Toormore.
- Won a Group Three at Royal Ascot, with the fourth that day coming out and winning since.
- Finished second in a Group One last time out behind Territories, who is a consistent yardstick.
Toormore, was beaten at odds-on in this race last year and is currently on a seven race losing streak stretching back to April last year. Despite him running at the highest level, I don’t think he’s good enough to concede weight to a good three-year old over a trip that appears to be too short for him these days.
Tupi has been in great from this year, but I’m expecting the Ascot form to hold up as he had no excuses that day with Dutch Connection just looking the better horse. Code Red is held on the form of this years 2000 Guineas and also isn’t an easy ride, he has raced keenly so far which will get exposed if he does it again.
Safety Check rattled up a hat-trick whilst racing in Dubai and this is his first outing since February, that doesn’t inspire confidence along with the fact his best form comes on a sounder surface. On a line through Cable Bay, Ascription and Absolutely So look well held by Toormore, so I have no interest in backing either of them.
Dutch Connection should be the favourite here and should be sub 3.00 (2/1).