Friday’s Coolmore Nunthorpe Stakes is one of the most competitive sprints of the season. It is one of the limited number of races where two-year-olds can take on their elders and the only Group 1 race in Britain in which juvenile geldings can run.
There has been just one juvenile winner in the last 25 years – Kingsgate Native in 2007 – and that trend will be extended as there are sadly no two-year-old entries for the 2018 renewal.
As well as the carrot of a £198,485 first prize, the winner now earns an automatic invitation to compete in the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint.
We take a look at each of the 16 declared runners for the five-furlong dash, which is part of the British Champions Series of races:
Placed on each of his four runs this season since winning two Class 3 events at Beverley and Musselburgh last autumn – including in the Group 3 Palace House Stakes at Newmarket in May – the seven-year-old is short of the level required, but could be a lively outsider should the ground ease significantly. He will be one of those who help set a furious gallop.
The four-year-old has put up a series of exhilarating performances over 5f in the past 15 months, with a runaway win in the Group 1 Prix de l’Abbaye at Chantilly sandwiched between back-to-back triumphs in the Group 2 Qatar King George Stakes at Goodwood. In the latest renewal last month, he romped to a four-length success underlining his status as the world’s fastest horse.
However, in two Group 1 races in Britain, he has been below his best. He faded to fourth in the Nunthorpe 12 months ago and after being reluctant in the stalls at Royal Ascot, found Blue Point too strong in the King’s Stand.
His jockey, Jim Crowley, said: “He’s still got it to prove, and only got the one Group 1 to his name, but the public have obviously taken to him and hope hopefully we can add a few more, starting on Friday. I think he will.”
He is the GentingBet favourite at 8/11 and would appear to hold all the aces.
Winner of six of his 14 starts, the four-year-old stamped his class when winning the Group 1 King’s Stand Stakes at Royal Ascot in June, but was a seventh as favourite when too keen on his return to 6f and not having the run of the race in the Darley July Cup at Newmarket last time.
The initial plan was to run in the Flying Five at the Curragh before returning to Ascot for Champions Day in October, so this change of tack is notable.
He has winning form here, having landed the Gimcrack as a juvenile, and while better on faster ground, he has shown he can handle ease underfoot. A leading player, as the GentingBet odds of 4/1 attest.
Tough and consistent, the nine-year-old has won 14 of 67 starts and has been placed on 12 other occasions. He has been in fine form this season, winning a valuable Class 2, 16-runner handicap at Musselburgh (5f) and placed twice subsequently at the Curragh, including when runner-up to Havana Grey in a Group 2.
While just short of top class and on the back of a busy campaign, he could be found wanting, but will likely be one of the pace-setters.
Justified favouritism in a well-contested Group 3 at Sandown last time, coming from off the pace to down Muthmir, on the back of a conditions sprint win at Beverley. Winner of nine of 19 turf races, the six-year-old has a bit to find with several of these, but would appear to hold place claims if ridden to attack in the closing stages.
Won the Listed City Walls Stakes at York on his penultimate start, but was four-and-three-quarter lengths behind Battaash at Goodwood last time. He invariably runs well at this track and the five-year-old will likely attract some each-way money, but it is worth nothing that just four of the last 63 winners of this race were priced bigger than 14/1 and his GentingBet odds would mean he would have to buck this trend.
The eight-year-old has won eight of his 33 starts, including the Listed Achilles Stakes at Haydock in June, downing the re-opposing Alpha Delphini by a short-head. He has been wholly consistent since, having been placed in a Sandown Group 3 and here in the City Walls Stakes. The blinkers, used for the first time when third to Battaash at Goodwood, are retained but there is no guarantee they will work a second time.
Now 11, he produced one of the best runs of his career when runner-up to Battaash at Goodwood and is no slouch, as he showed when racking up a hat-trick to sign off last season with two Listed wins and a Group 3 success.
Runner-up in the Group 2 Temple Stakes at Haydock in May, he has something to prove after two lacklustre efforts in the King’s Stand and when last of seven to Havana Grey in the Group 2 Sapphire Stakes at the Curragh.
Proved himself a decent juvenile with three wins and two seconds from five starts, signing off for the winter with a win in the Group 3 Cornwallis Stakes at Newmarket. He has not been in anything like the same form this season and is best watched.
Has looked better as a three-year-old than as a juvenile and was only beaten three-lengths by Havana Grey in the Group 2 Sapphire Stakes at the Curragh last time, having taken a competitive 17-runner handicap at the same track previously. While he is improving and has won on both fast ground and with dig in it, his hold-up style may not be suited to the way this race is usually run.
Won a well-contested firm-ground Listed juvenile event at Del Mar last November but has plenty to find judged on his last-place effort in the King’s Stand. Blinkers appeared to have the desired effect when two lengths behind Havana Grey at the Curragh last time, and they are retained, but with the yard yet to really come out of the doldrums, he would appear to have place claims at best.
Has been a little inconsistent this season, but cannot be ruled out. The three-year-old produced his best when scoring at the Curragh and while he disappointed behind Battaash at Goodwood, that run came only 12 days after the Group 2 success. There may be a bit more to come.
Is held in some regard at home, but after winning a Group 3 at Naas in May, has thrown in a couple of clunkers since, including when beaten nine lengths by Battaash at Goodwood last time. Blinkers are being used for the first time on last season’s Group 1 Phoenix Stakes winner and they may sharpen the three-year-old up, but they need to.
The four-year-old filly finished behind Blue Point at Battaash when third at Royal Ascot, and was not disgraced when beaten in the Sapphire Stakes last time. This bigger field and stronger pace should see her in a better light and she could be doing her best work at the finish. Not without hope as her Genting Bet odds of 14/1 suggest.
Recorded a Group 2 double in the Queen Mary (Royal Ascot) and Flying Childers (Doncaster) as a juvenile last season but she has found life tougher against seasoned sprinters this term, including when beaten over eight lengths by Battash at Goodwood last time.
TRENDS TO NOTE
8 of the last 12 runners contested the King’s Stand Stakes
6 of the last 12 runners contested the July Cup
2 of Aidan O’Brien’s 4 previous runners have won
Fillies/mares have won 4 of the last 16 runnings
Just 1 winner older than six in the race’s history
No winner sent off bigger than 20/1 in the race’s history
Check out the latest odds for the Coolmore Nunthorpe Stakes and all the other meetings on Friday, which include Ffos Las, Newmarket, Goodwood, Salisbury and Chelmsford.