By Candice Hare
Perhaps the classiest of the European contingent — Hawkbill — takes on a stout North American team in this year’s edition of the G1 Northern Dancer. Formerly known as the Niagara Handicap when inaugurated at Fort Erie, it’s since been named after Canada’s most famous racehorse: champion and Hall of Famer Northern Dancer.
#2 MARKITOFF (Giant’s Causeway – Myriad, by Ghostzapper)
Running Style: Stalker
Trainer: Mike Maker
Jockey: Javier Castellano
Owner: Three Diamonds Farm
I doubt he’ll go off anywhere near the 30-1 morning line price, but if he does, that is a massive overlay on the son of Giant’s Causeway. Of the horses in this field, he’s the true stayer Back in March, his close up fifth behind Sadler’s Joy at 46-1 looked an aberration, but he’s since confirmed that performance. He hasn’t been beaten by more than 2.5 lengths in his last three starts and this race from top to bottom is no tougher than the allowance company he met last out at Saratoga.
TOO HARD TO TOSS OUT
#3 UTMOST (Giant’s Causeway – Fugitive Angel, by Alphabet Soup)
Running Style: Leader
Trainer: Graham Motion
Jockey: Alan Garcia
Owner: Augustin Stable
Stakes-placed in Europe, recent import Utmost finally got his graded stakes victory last out in the G2 Sky Classic. His speed figures aren’t quite up to the level of some of his fellow competitors but in what will be his third start on this side of the pond, one can reasonably expect him to put forward his best effort of this form cycle in a race he’s undoubtedly been pointed for all along.
#1 MEKHTAAL (GB) (Sea The Stars (IRE) – Aiglonne, by Silver Hawk)
Running Style: Closer
Trainer: Graham Motion
Jockey: Jose Ortiz
Owner: Al Shaqab Racing
A group 1 performer in France, Mekhtaal simply hasn’t found that same level since arriving in North America. After two very disappointing runs in G1 company, he was tried last out in the G2 Nijinsky and he still wasn’t able to beat local runner Tiz A Slam. Historically he’s always done his best running over rain affected ground, which he won’t get here either.
#5 HAWKBILL (Kitten’s Joy – Trensa, by Giant’s Causeway)
Running Style: Leader / Stalker
Trainer: Charlie Appleby
Jockey: Jamie Spencer
Multiple G1 winner Hawkbill is likely to be sent off as one of the shortest priced favorites on the entire card. His career best performances have all came when he was able to dominate from the front end, however and the chances of him taking this field from gate to wire are slim. He’s honest, he’ll run his race and I’m sure he’ll go close, but at a very short price and knowing he’s unlikely to get suitable pace conditions, I’ll pass.
#7 VEXATIOUS (Giant’s Causeway – Dream of Summer, by Siberian Summer)
Running Style: Mid-pack
Trainer: Neil Drysdale
Jockey: Rafael Bejarano
Owner: Calumet Farm
Fourth in last year’s G1 Kentucky Oaks behind Able Tasman, Vexatious has been tried on the turf three times since and has yet to run a poor effort. Her victory in the CTT and TOC Stakes in particular was fantastic. On pedigree, she should love this distance and if allowed to lead at a steady tempo she’ll take a world of catching.
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