Thursday, May 6, 2010

Harbinger to take Ormonde Stakes

Harbinger to take Ormonde Stakes

The £75,000 Group 3 Boodles Diamond Ormonde Stakes is the highlight of today’s competitive Chester card. In the race, Sir Michael Stoutes Harbinger will be looking for his second win of this seasons campaign following an impressive display last time out at Newbury. He won the Group 3 John Porter Stakes that day. That race panned out perfectly, he made steady headway through the large field of runners and led from a furlong out when he ran on strongly for Ryan Moore. He went on to win by a margin of three lengths and the imposing son of Champion Sire Dansli will be very hard to beat today despite a three pound penalty for his last run.

Chester is the both the oldest and smallest racecourse in Britain, it is a natural amphitheatre and not every horse takes to its tight brandy bowl shape. Known also as “the Roodee” course form at Chester is important. Harbinger has won at Chester before, a year ago he won his maiden at the track over 1 mile 2 furlongs. He was 6/4 favourite that day and scored by three lengths from Aidan O’ Brien’s Changingoftheguard who subsequently went on to win the Ulster Derby.

Harbinger heads a field of six today in the Boodles Diamond Ormonde Stakes, the two main dangers are Age Of Aquarius and Munsef. However both go into the race without the benefit of a run this season. Munsef, trained by Ian Williams is a previous course and distance winner and also won at the course over a shorter 1 mile 2 furlongs. Now a veteran at eight, he was last seen out in England 240 days ago but has since ran was in Australia where he finished down the pack at the Melbourne Cup. His owner, Kuwaiti-born Dr Marwan Koukash expects a good run from Munsef, a horse with a chequered background. He was a two-time cast-off and is currently trained by a stable still in its infancy, he is also owned by a man who who until two years ago had never had a racehorse and who fully expects a fairytale run today.

Harbinger, the chief protagonist was bought for 180,000 guineas, he is a half-brother to Penang Cinta, a multiple 7-12 furlong winner . His dam, Penang Pearl is a dual 1 mile-9 furlong winner so there is no question marks over today’s extended trip of 1 mile 5 furlongs.

He did disappoint connections last summer when sent off the well backed favourite for the Group 2 Great Voltigeur Stakes at York. He finished last of the seven runners that day, eased down and beaten 27 lengths. Trainer Sir Michael Stoute still admits to being mystified about that run but now that he has matured into an impressive four year old who is the improving type, he will take all the beating today.

Age Of Aquarius and Harbinger were meant to clash in last year’s St. Leger. This failed to materialise however and it will be interesting to see how O’ Briens colt has matured over the winter. At current rating, the Age Of Aquarius is rated at 117, one ahead of Harbinger.

Aidan O’ Briens runners first time out this season have a poor strike rate, fancied runners Mikhail Glinka (11/10 favourite in the Ballysax stakes) Devoted To You (2/1 favourite in The Lodge Park Stakes), Fame And Glory (2/5 favourite, in a listed race at the Curragh) and of course lest we forget the 2000 Guineas even money favourite, St Nicholas Abbey were all beaten first time out. Classier colts than Age Of Aquarius were, it has to be said, beaten convincingly.

Age Of Aquarius, a Galileo colt may, like Munsef will most likely improve for the run but is vulnerable today. There is no doubt Age Of Aquarius is a high class horse, second last time out in Longchamp in the Group 1 Juddmonte Grand Prix De Paris, he may suffer from the long layoff but he may go close.

Harbinger is highly thought of, he may indeed be better than a Group 3 horse and should he win today do not rule out a tilt at the Coronation Cup. He has a bright, positive attitude and is a good galloper, on the ground, over the trip, against the opposition he faces, today should be a pedestal onto better things.

I fully expect him not to be beaten.

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