Earl Of Sefton Stakes Guide

1. Mustashry

T - Sir Michael Stoute

J - Dane O'Neill

His best season to date last term as a five-year-old, winning three of his five outings, including bagging a couple of smart Group Twos.

It took a long time to see him back, but it was worth it after his victory in Sandown in a Listed event in July got the legs going again.

He finished second to the impressive Lord Glitters at York in August, but responded with those two victories (including one here), before coming unstuck in the Group One Breeders Cup Mile behind Expert Eye.

Can be let off that one, and for a horse that loves a variation in trip, this could be right up his street here.

2. Chilean

T - Martyn Meade

J - Rob Hornby

There was always a hefty reputation on the Martyn Meade-trained Chilean's shoulders after his promising juvenile campaign, but he did not offer much last term in five appearances on the racetrack.

Despite winning a Group Three at Longchamp ahead of Study Of Man at the start of the season, he failed to really figure in any of his next four starts, ending with a below-par effort in France once again; albeit behind an excellent winner in Ghaiyyath.

Last to finish at Royal Ascot in the St James Palace - likewise at York in a Group Three, so a great deal to recover from.

3. Circus Couture

T - Jane Chapple-Hyam

J - David Egan

Best draw from the pack, but that's just about as good as it gets for this seven-year-old - who is yet to be gelded.

Has been competing in high-end handicaps now for a while, and has yet to win in Britain for his new connections.

Seen twice this season - most recently halfway down the field in the Spring Cup at Newbury at the weekend just gone, and hard to see him playing a factor in this contest.

4. Elarqam

T - Mark Johnston

J - Jim Crowley

Another individual in the field who arrives here looking to start a new chapter and forgetting the last one, Elarqam - a son of Frankel was prolific as a juvenile - striking here and at York in the space of a fortnight in September 2017.

He lost his unbeaten record in last season's 2,000 Guineas behind Saxon Warrior, but finished a creditable fourth, before it all seemed to go downhill from there.

Elarqam finished sixth in the Irish equivalent when sent off a strong 2/1 favourite, before failing to justify short odds at York and Salisbury when dropped in grade.

This looks a sensible starting place, but he has plenty to improve on.

5. Fajjaj

T - Hugo Palmer

J - Frankie Dettori

Frankie Dettori rides relatively lightly-raced Fajjaj for old mate Hugo Palmer.

Decent third to Emotionless at Newbury in Listed company two starts ago, but ended the year a disappointing last at Haydock so will need to bounce back.

Finished second in the German 2,000 Guineas earlier in his career, so useful form angle and definitely in with a shout of this.

6. First Contact

T - Charlie Appleby

J - William Buick

All of his last three efforts have come at Meydan, and he has not raced on the turf in Britain in the last nine months.

When he was last here, he scored nicely in the bet365 Mile Handicap on the July Course at HQ under jockey James Doyle - who prefers First Nation in this.

He was third to Dream Castle in a Group One in the UAE on his latest start, and will need to use that to good effect when heading to post for this.

Potential player under William Buick today.

7. First Nation

T - Charlie Appleby

J - James Doyle

First Nation has also been seen running in Dubai of late, applying his trade in a couple of high-end handicaps, which saw him merit a first and third finish.

Has been racing over slightly further in Britain in the last twelve months, so drops back to just nine furlongs - the first time he is competing over under ten furlongs since just his second racecourse appearance sometime ago.

A fear that he is quicker than the mile-and-quarter suggests, and will need to handle Newmarket's tricky bumps and slopes.

8. Forest Ranger

T - Richard Fahey

J - Tony Hamilton

The highly-versatile Forest Ranger, who always seems to pop up on the scene when he is least fancied.

Twice a runner-up at this venue in four starts, he did get his head in front when racing as one of the realistic outsiders in this contest twelve months, when getting the better of Aidan O'Brien's Deauville, who is now a regular in Meydan for a different trainer.

This 5yo's trip to Dubai did fail a month ago, but was just touched off by Euginio when last seen on home soil back in October.

The defending champ.

9. Robin Of Navan

T - Harry Dunlop

J - Ryan Moore

Harry Dunlop has thoroughly enjoyed the campaigns this six-year-old chestnut has provided him in recent years, and will be looking to fire once again.

Although his trips internationally have not merited any victories in almost two years now, he has gone almighty close in top end affairs in France at various tracks and in Italy.

He finished third in the Listed Ben Marshall Stakes here back in November, and that could stand in him good stead, but needs to recover from a poor return on the all-weather.

10. Vintager

T - Charlie Appleby

J - Adam Kirby

Vintager - another useful son of Mastercraftsman on show this week, will look to add to his two successes at Newmarket to date.

He scored in fashionable style over a mile back in July ahead of Ascot specialist Ripp Orf, having previously recorded victory over seven on his debut - incredible at odds of 33/1.

Purchased by Godolphin since, and recent run in Meydan can be ignored.

Fourth in the Hampton Court stakes makes for good reading too, and Charlie Appleby clearly sees good life in him.

11. Zabeel Prince

T - Roger Varian

J - Andrea Atzeni

Zabeel Prince completes them at the bottom of the list, and certainly holds a useful form angle that will help play out the outcome to this competitive affair.

He was second to Mustashry in the Group Two Shadwell Joel Stakes in September - for which the latter carries a penalty for, and was a comfortable winner of the Listed Doncaster Mile Stakes on Lincoln day.

Between that was a poor effort in the Lockinge, and connections have certainly waited patiently with this horse to bring him back to his best in his own time.

Now is the time, and a big effort is expected from a certain group performer.

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