Ante-post focus: Etihad Airways Falmouth Stakes

Final declarations for this year’s Falmouth Stakes are obviously not through yet, but will be tomorrow morning. The likelihood is that the remaining fives entries will run, but there is a small chance another one or possibly two horses will come out. Duntle, Elusive Kate, Giofra, Purr Along and Sky Lantern are the remaining quintet. I’d expect all five to run, but until final decisions are made you can never be sure. Things can change overnight in this game and with that in mind I think it’s time to act before the final field is announced.

I think this is the first Group One of the season for fillies where the Classic generation meet their peers. These clashes are always ones to savour as it gives you an accurate picture of how the three-year-olds stack up against their more experienced rivals.

All eyes will of course be on this year’s 1000 Guineas heroine, Sky Lantern as she steps up in class. Over a mile she’s clearly the best of her generation, in what we have seen thus far this season. Visually she didn’t impress as much in the Classic win as she did in the Coronation Stakes, but she deserves great credit for that victory. She did everything right, broke smartly, listened to her jockey, travelled well and showed a nice attitude to get up late. It looked like she needed every yard of it to get on top. At Royal Ascot the visual impression she left was simply stunning, but such margins in winning competitive Group races usually flatter. I feel that’s the case here. Now I’m not saying she didn’t deserve the win, she did – 100% so. That said, she was flattered by coming late and hard off a decent early gallop. While her rivals ran their races in the early and middle stages she ran hers in the last quarter of the race. This strong gallop and test of stamina played right into her hands (she also received a fine ride). She now returns to a much speedier track in Newmarket’s July course in a significantly smaller field than her last five races. This will be much more of a speed test in all likelihood and I’m not sure that will suit. This coupled  with her stepping up in class to take on older and strong fillies means I’m willing to take her on, at the price.

Four now remain, Duntle, Elusive Kate, Giofra and Purr Along. The latter mentioned is the complete outsider of the field and in my opinion easily passed over. The remaining three are clearly smart fillies, all older fillies and warrant respect in taking on the younger gun in Sky Lantern who leads them in the betting.

Duntle is a filly I like. She was robbed of a Group One last season in Ireland when she was thrown out by the stewards. She got some kind of reprisal when scoring at Royal Ascot in the Duke of Cambridge Stakes (formerly the Windsor Forest Stakes). She looked far the better filly that day going through the race, she travelled so well, but wasn’t as convincing in final victory. In the end she scored by half-a-length with two heads back to the fourth in the Group Two race. The second horse is not a genuine Group One horse, maybe not even Group Two while the same can be said about the third, who also doesn’t look a genuine miler. While this speedier track will suit I do feel this is a big step up in class for her. The Group One she ‘won’ last year wasn’t the strongest race in the context of this event either and while conditions will be perfect she may just struggle to win this. Furthermore, she is one horse where a small doubt remains about her participation. Hence why we are trying to act early.

Giofra is another I feel has a small chance of skipping this race, the race she won last year. Since then she has failed to get her head in front. To be fair she has kept top company in all runs and been campaigned over different trips. The main worry with her, and a possibility why she may not run is the ground. She seems best with cut and given the current weather conditions in Great Britain, it may just find her out if she goes.

You’ve obviously guessed the horse I’m plumping for is ELUSIVE KATE, a John Gosden inmate. I’ve no doubt that on all known form she is the best horse in this line-up. She’s a two time Group One winner who has scored in open company, in last year’s Prix Rothschild. She has yet to win since that victory, but was second in this race last season on unfavourable soft ground. After that run she has mixed it with some of the best milers in Europe, taking on the boys in Excelebration and co. All times she acquitted herself with great credit. In her 2013 debut she again took on the boys in the Queen Anne and again while running well I, myself, was a little disappointed with her. I felt she had the required class to beat that field. Maybe it was her first run of the year that found her out. With a run under her belt and this ‘drop in grade’ I’m hoping she will go very close. Class is not in question and I’m sure she’s a stronger filly than Sky Lantern, being that year older. She handles the course, as we’ve seen, but one of the trump cards is, there is every chance she’ll get the run of the race. She likes to front run and has a good record in small fields, as you’d imagine. With all her main rivals loving big field gallops she may be able to steal this from the front.

At the moment the bookies are offering 1, 2 (1/4 odds). At 3-1 I feel she offers a touch of value and at final decs this may well be a ‘win only’ race. I’m prepared to back her each-way, knowing that if she finishes second I’ll only lose 25% of my stake.

Advice

2.5pts each-way Elusive Kate @3-1 (bet365, William Hill)

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