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Hackwood Stakes Preview: Hills' Charge Is Equil To The Task

The Hackwood Stakes at Newbury was dominated by three-year-olds around the turn of the century, with that age group winning seven of the nine renewals between 1997 and 2005.

Hackwood Stakes Preview: Hills' Charge Is Equil To The Task

The Hackwood Stakes at Newbury was dominated by three-year-olds around the turn of the century, with that age group winning seven of the nine renewals between 1997 and 2005.

Invincible Army
Invincible Army Picture:Pat Healy Photography

However, the tables have turned somewhat in recent years – 2015 winner Strath Burn is the only member of the classic generation to have won the race since it was promoted to Group 3 status in 2006 – and it will be interesting to see how the three-year-olds measure up again here, with U S Navy Flag Horseform having struck an early blow for this year’s crop when beating his elders to Group 1 sprint honours in last week’s July Cup.

In total, there are nine three-year-olds entered at the five-day stage, five of which contested the Commonwealth Cup at Royal Ascot on their previous start. The form of that race is only mixed at this stage – the one-two, Eqtidaar Horseform and Sands of Mali Horseform, were both well held in the July Cup – but there are still plenty of reasons to be positive about the three-year-old challenge here, with members of that age group filling three of the first five places in the betting.


The John Gosden-trained Emblazoned did the best of these at the Royal meeting, taking the step up in class in his stride in third, leading after two furlongs and keeping on well once headed to be beaten just one and a half lengths. That represented a fine effort on just his fifth career start, a career that began less than three months previously, and he remains open to more improvement for top connections, already well up to winning at pattern level on what he has achieved so far.

Hey Jonesy was just a neck further back in fifth, belatedly confirming the promise he showed in four starts at two for Kevin Ryan, including when fourth behind U S Navy Flag in the Middle Park. Despite his SP of 40/1, it wasn’t the biggest surprise to see him run so well at Ascot given his physique, always looking the type to make a better three-year-old, and he looks sure to give another good account provided he does not get involved in an early battle for the lead.

Following on from Strath Burn, Charlie Hills recorded a second win in this race with Magical Memory 12 months ago, and he looks set to be represented this time round by Equilateral Horseformwho, along with Invincible Army Horseform, was one of the major disappointments of the Commonwealth Cup.

However, it is easy enough to forgive Equilateral’s below-par effort at Ascot (scoped dirty afterwards), and he shouldn’t be underestimated if bouncing back here, such was the impression he created when winning a minor event at Doncaster (by eight lengths from Foxtrot Lady) the time before. The time of that race was more than half a second faster than some useful older handicappers managed later on the card, and the runner-up gave the form a boost when winning one of the most competitive three-year-old sprint handicaps of the season at Newmarket last week.

Invincible Army also failed to meet market expectations when only ninth at Ascot, but his form was franked in no uncertain terms on the day – he had beaten the winner when landing the Pavilion Stakes in May, also at Ascot, and split the second and third when filling the runner-up spot in the Sandy Lane Stakes at Haydock later that month. He certainly has the form to be competitive in these good sprints, but would preferably want some rain to fall at Newbury in the coming days, having been withdrawn from the July Cup on account of the very quick ground.

Others to note amongst the three-year-old challenge include the Sheikh Hamdan-owned pair Enjazaat and Yafta. The former completes the quintet to have run in the Commonwealth Cup last time, but he beat just two rivals home on that occasion and has plenty to find with the principals on form, while Yafta probably needs to improve on the form of his second in last month’s Chipchase Stakes at Newcastle (one and a half lengths behind Above The Rest) to figure here, too.

Meanwhile, the pick of the older horses appears to be Projection, who again ran creditably when fifth (beaten just two lengths) in the Diamond Jubilee Stakes at Royal Ascot last time. That form sets the standard on weight-adjusted ratings here, but the concern is that he has been unable to take advantage of better opportunities than this during a losing run that stretches back to September 2015.

Also worthy of a mention are Wokingham winner Bacchus and Dream of Dreams. The former was conceding 2 lb to subsequent July Cup sixth Dreamfield when winning at the Royal meeting, proving better than ever after nine months off, and is well worth another try in pattern company on that evidence, while the form of Dream of Dreams’ listed win at Doncaster last November is amongst the best on offer here; he took a step back in the right direction when fifth in a Group 3 at Sandown last time.

Conclusion:

The three-year-old challenge here looks much stronger than in recent years, and while Projection has the edge on ratings, it would be no surprise to see a member of the younger generation improve past him. Emblazoned Horseform is respected following a good third in the Commonwealth Cup, but Equilateral is clearly much better than he could show on that occasion and looks worth another chance, an exciting prospect who could yet make his mark if taking up his Group 1 entries later in the year.

Recommendation:

Back Equilateral Horseform at 4/1 in the Hackwood Stakes at Newbury on Saturday
Timeform




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