Spark Plug Electric On Saturday Of Shocks

All eyes were on HQ on Saturday as Newmarket played host to the final day of its excellent Cambridgeshire meeting. The feature race of the meeting went to Wiltshire-based handler Brian Meehan, as his Spark Plug hit peak form at just the right time for this big prize. The son of Dylan Thomas had flattered to deceive since landing the Planteur Handicap at Newbury in May of last year, but his 11 race losing run came to an end in emphatic style as he pulled right away in the closing stages for a 2 ¼l success. This was by some way a career best effort and the gelding will no doubt be rewarded with a career high mark when reassessed by the handicapper. Team Godolphin once again fared well in a big handicap with Carry On Deryck taking second and Very Talented filling the third spot.

The Cambridgeshire Handicap is always a pretty tough race to solve but the supporting Group 1 contests of the Cheveley Park Stakes and Middle Park Stakes looked easier, at least on paper. Wesley Ward’s unbeaten speedster Lady Aurelia was all the rage in the Cheveley Park, whilst Blue Point was widely expected to continue his ascent in the Middle Park having impressively landed the Gimcrack Stakes last time out.

A Day for the Outsiders

Ahead of Spark Plug’s victory later in the day, favourite backers were forced to endure a jolt or two of their own as both Lady Aurelia and Blue Point failed to land the odds. It was the Aidan O’Brien pair of Brave Anna and Roly Poly who fought out the finish in the Cheveley Park, with the Albany Stakes winner, Brave Anna bouncing right back to form to cause a big shock at 25/1. Lady Aurelia seemingly failed to see out the 6f trip but did reportedly bleed in the race and may be worth another chance. There were no such excuses for Blue Point however as the Mark Johnston trained The Last Lion showed the heart of one to fend off the favourite and prevail at that price again, 25/1.

The Week Ahead

Looking ahead to the coming weekend and it is the totescoop6 Challenge Cup which is the pick of the domestic action. John Gosden’s, Castle Harbour and Roger Varian’s progressive performer Morando look two of the more interesting contenders in what is always a fiercely contested 7f event.

Intriguing as the Challenge Cup is, in terms of quality and spectacle it is put in the shadows by events at Chantilly on Sunday. Taking a brief holiday from its traditional Longchamp home – as the Paris track undergoes renovations – the Qatar Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe takes its place at the centre of the global racing stage once again.

The best 1m4f contest of the year has been robbed of a small amount of sheen due to the withdrawal of Jean Calude-Rouget’s unbeaten wonder filly La Cressonniere, but such is the strength in depth here that it only detracts minimally from what is a star studded contest.

Dual Derby champion Harzand, Oaks and Guineas heroine, Minding, Japanese superstar Makahiki, not to mention the winners of the King George, Irish Oaks and even the Ascot Gold Cup all look set to go to post in what is a real cracker. The one they all have to beat though is the Roger Varian-trained five year old, Postponed, who has been brutally impressive this season and arrives seeking a seventh win on the spin.

Postponed heads the betting at odds of 2/1 with Bet365, whilst Makahiki is second favourite at 6/1 with BetVictor.