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Craven Stakes Preview – Newmarket Tips for 2000 Guineas Trial

| Indestructible | | Craven Stakes |

The Craven Stakes is the most respected and historic 2000 Guineas Trial in the build-up to the Classic season on the flat. We have run the rule over all of the seven runners below and provided our midweek big race verdict.

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NATIVE APPROACH

(Charlie Appleby/William Buick)

Charlie Appleby has sent out three of the last five winners of this race, with all of Masar, Master Of The Seas and Native Trail winning Group 1s further down the line. He relies on just one runner this season, which means Native Approach has to be respected as market leader despite having only made his debut this calendar year.

His two runs have come at Kempton, firstly when narrowly beaten on debut, but recently when scoring comfortably on his second start. It is unsurprising that he came on bundles for racecourse experience, but there are nagging doubts that headgear was turned to so early in his career, while his half relatives were both winless on turf (only wins on dirt or all weather). We will learn a lot about his aptitude for this surface in this race.

ALCANTOR

(Andre Fabre/Alexis Pouchin)

A rare runner in this race for France, Alcantor is a second Godolphin entrant alongside the favourite. Andre Fabre is evidently keen to get his eye in on the British flat season early on, as Alcantor is one of three different runners he is set to have at Newmarket this week, with Narkez’s run in Wednesday’s Listed Feilden Stakes likely to provide a decent pointer towards this three-year-old’s effort.

The son of former French Derby winner New Bay had a good juvenile record, winning three of five races and improving as the season went on. That bodes well for his progress at three, so although it is notable that his best efforts in Group races (Group 3 win and Group 1 second) came on softer surfaces, which he may prefer, he has easily the best form in the race.

EBEN SHADDAD

(John & Thady Gosden/Kieran Shoemark)

A son of John Gosden’s very useful sprinter Calyx, Eben Shaddad concluded his season by finishing placed in the Dewhurst, albeit remotely behind City Of Troy. He could do the runaway 2000 Guineas favourite an enormous form favour here if successful, and he did progress at two as time went on.

He has now been third twice on the Rowley Mile, seeing out 7f well on good to firm and soft ground. It is possible the slower surface helped him, although not certain, but his is a sire who never got to show his true colours at three or older. There are greater unknowns with him in this respect than others, but the ability shown to date suggests he can be very much involved.

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CAMBRIDGE

(Aidan O’Brien/Ryan Moore)

Few races elude Aidan O’Brien, but the Craven remains one of them. It is, however, unusual for him to send the very best of his troops, so what that says about the ability of Cambridge may not be positive. That said, judging him on his racecourse merits to date would encourage slightly more respect.

He is already a winner on these shores, claiming a 1m novice at Salisbury, and was placed in Group 3 company behind stablemate Grosvenor Square at Leopardstown when last seen at two. That was over 1m1f on heavy and he already shaped like he needed further, so it may just be that this happens a bit fast for him.

HAATEM

(Richard Hannon/Sean Levey)

Comfortably the most prolific of these at two, Haatem ran nine times, the last six of which came at Group 2 or Group 1 level. Bar one blip at York, he acquitted himself with significant credit, filling the frame behind City Of Troy in the Superlative Stakes on the July Course, winning Goodwood’s Vintage Stakes, and ending his season fifth in the Dewhurst.

Overall, there were plenty of positives, but a juvenile raced so often can sometimes be tricky to follow early on as a three-year-old. He only recorded RPRs higher than 100 on two occasions as well, so for all he is generally consistent, he is also avoidable even at an each-way price here.

SONS OF LOVERS

(Jane Chapple-Hyam/Luke Morris)

He may be once-raced and boast a less flashy pedigree than others in this field but Sons And Lovers may prove no back number in this line up. When winning on debut at this venue over 7f, he was the only scorer on the day who raced “in rear” based on in-running comments, which can take some doing as a juvenile on the Rowley Mile.

That effort entitles him to take his chance in a higher grade to test the waters and he may well outrun his odds and reputation in the face of these.

CHAMPAGNE PRINCE

(Jane Chapple-Hyam/David Egan)

Another of the outsiders who possesses potential to upset. Both of his RPRs recorded in wins on the all-weather have been higher than those of favourite Native Approach here, so the price discrepancy appears particularly wild, and based purely on connections and reputations rather than form lines.

He also has a better pedigree in terms of transferring his form across to turf, so this son of Lope De Vega is another to consider at fancy prices.

VERDICT

Both Sons And Lovers and Champagne Prince make appeal at the foot of the market and it is very plausible that at least one of the pair will outrun their odds. They are not passed over lightly, but Andre Fabre may well have a plan mapped out for ALCANTOR. His best form in Group races in France is probably the strongest in this field, so while there is a slight doubt about his preference for the ground, that may not ultimately matter.

  1. Alcantor
  2. Champagne Prince
  3. Sons And Lovers
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