Hermosa's recent improvement puts her front and centre in Friday's bet365 Fillies' Mile at Newmarket. The Group One highlight at HQ is a tricky contest to weigh up at first glance, but a safe bet on the back of current events is to side with Aidan O'Brien unless there is a very good reason not to.
Ireland’s champion trainer was pretty much unstoppable here with his two-year-olds two weeks ago, and that service is likely to be resumed. The only remaining question then is to decide which of his two contenders, in the same high-profile ownership, should get the nod.
The early market struggled to split Hermosa and Zagitova, with significant opposition from unbeaten hat-trick seekers Antonia De Vega and Shambolic – as well as Prix Morny winner Pretty Pollyanna.
However, it is Hermosa who has emerged from whatever was ailing some in the yard in mid to late summer to state the strongest case. She improved past her better-fancied stablemate when finishing third to Skitter Scatter in the Moyglare Stud Stakes at the Curragh – and both there, and as a decisive Group Three winner at Naas since, Hermosa has appeared ready for this step up to a mile.
In the Newmarket Academy Godolphin Beacon Project Cornwallis Stakes, which opens the card, True Mason will have conditions much more in his favour than for his latest attempt.
Karl Burke’s colt looked all over the winner of Newbury’s Mill Reef Stakes until late in the piece when ever-softening ground and the extra furlong caught him out last month. He was soundly beaten into second in the end by Kessaar, but still finished clear of the rest.
Back to the minimum trip, and on a much sounder surface, True Mason can demonstrate that his Prix Morny form behind Pretty Pollyanna and Signora Cabello puts him bang in the frame.
In the Godolphin Lifetime Care Oh So Sharp Stakes, another Group Three, Hidden Message fits the bill. William Haggas’ filly was very free at Yarmouth last month, but far too good as well for a novice field. She has acquired a hood for this much more exacting assignment, and may well be up to it.
Limato had to sit out last weekend’s Bengough Stakes when a last-minute absentee as the deluge set in at Ascot. But Henry Candy’s evergreen six-year-old will surely get his ground this time in the Godolphin Stud And Stable Staff Awards Challenge Stakes. He has a favourite’s chance to take this Group Two prize for a second successive year, probably at a backable price.
There are some tough handicaps to decipher at York, and it may be safer to stick with the British EBF Supporting Racing To School Novice Stakes.
Burke’s Exalted Angel enters the equation as the likeliest contender with an encouraging third in the book from his one attempt in a Nottingham maiden.
Another Angel, by the same sire, carries a penalty after his emphatic success at Newcastle last week, but looks primed to bring up a quick Tapeta hat-trick on his Wolverhampton debut in the attheraces.com Handicap.
The jumps season, they say, starts in earnest at Chepstow this weekend. But that is wrong, because there is a cracking card a day early at Newton Abbot, where several potential rising stars are engaged.
There is none more promising than Gary Moore’s second-season chaser Benatar, who can kick off another successful campaign in the valuable Weatherbys Racing Bank Intermediate Chase.
The six-year-old won three out of four as a novice, and signed off by finishing third at the Cheltenham Festival. Decent ground was no problem for Benatar first time out at Ascot last year, and two miles and five furlongs is his perfect trip at this stage.