Dubai: Top Godolphin jockeys William Buick and James Doyle go head-to-head in Wednesday’s Group 3 Nell Gwyn Stakes, one of the highlights of Newmarket’s three-day Craven meeting, the first major festival of the 2018 British Flat racing season.
Run over seven furlongs, the race traditionally acts as a notable trial for the fillies’ Classics in the UK and Europe.
Both riders are looking for their first success in the contest which was won in 1993 by the superstar, Pebbles, who would go on to land the 1,000 Guineas for joint owner His Highness Shaikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai.
She was regarded as one of the greatest fillies of the modern era, following emphatic victories in the Eclipse Stakes (1985), Champion Stakes (1985) and Breeders’ Cup Turf (1985).
Buick partners Soliloquy, who is prepared by Charlie Appleby at Moulton Paddocks in Newmarket for Godolphin, while Doyle rides the Mark Johnston-trained Threading who represents Shaikh Hamdan Bin Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai.
Threading, a highly-regarded son of Darley stallion Exceed And Excel, is the highest-rated runner in the field having won her first two starts as a juvenile — including the Group 2 Lowther Stakes at York in August,
However, on her subsequent start in the Group 1 Cheveley Park Stakes at Newmarket the following month she failed to find the acceleration to worry the likes of Irish raider Clemmie and French hope Different League, to finish seventh.
Assessing her chances, Mark Johnston told racingandsports.com: “Threading has not run since the Cheveley Park in September but she should be pretty straight for this reappearance.
“The big question marks with her are the disappointment of her last run and this new trip. She is very well but I am not sure how she will go over this seven furlongs or the mile of the 1000 Guineas so that’s why we are running her in a trial rather than going straight for the big one.”
“All her three juvenile races were on soft ground and it looks like we are going to get some cut in the ground again on Wednesday, but I have no idea if such conditions are important to her,” he added.
“I don’t think that a horse should be pigeon-holed as a soft ground horse after 30 starts, never mind after three, but I have always thought that she would be better on a faster surface as her pedigree suggests.”
Three other horses with UAE connections are among the 12 runners, including course and distance winner Nawassi, who races in the colours of Shaikh Hamdan Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Deputy Ruler of Dubai and Minister of Finance.
Nawassi is trained by the legendary John Gosden who is looking for a third victory in the Nell Gwyn following Nathr and Daban, the last two years.
Shaikh Juma Dalmook Al Maktoum’s Ertiyad and the Asaad Al Banwan-owned Zain Hana, who made a winning debut at Yarmouth in August, are the other UAE representatives.
Oh So Sharp Stakes’ heroine Altyn Orda looks to have strong claims for Roger Varian going by her performance over course-and-distance last season.
Another noteworthy hopeful in the race is Dean Ivory’s Eirene.
The Nell Gwyn is one of two Group 3 races on day two of the Craven meeting, the other being the Earl Of Sefton Stakes, a 1,800 metre contest for horses four and over.
The nine runners are led by the Aidan O’Brien ante-post favourite Deauville.
His rivals include Harry Dunlop’s stable star Robin Of Navan, Mark Johnston’s Frankuus, David Elsworth’s Winter Derby winner Master The World and the Eve Johnson Houghton-trained What About Carlo.