GROCER Jack is a worthy favourite for the Group 3 Betfred Rose of Lancaster Stakes at Haydock this afternoon. A dual Group 3 winner over 10 furlongs for Waldemar Hickst, in Germany and in Italy, and third past the post behind subsequent Arc de Triomphe runner-up In Swoop and subsequent Arc de Triomphe winner Torquator Tasso in the 2020 German Derby, he was impressive in winning the Listed Steventon Stakes at Newbury last month on his third run for William Haggas.
He was well backed for that race, and there was a lot to like about the manner in which he kept on all the way to the line, given that he was free and keen through the early stages of the race. In the end, he won by nine lengths.
The handicapper raised him by 8lb for that run to a mark of 118, which was a significant hike and which leaves him 6lb clear of his next best rivals today according to official ratings.
However, while he looked very good at Newbury, there is a chance that his main rivals under-performed quite considerably, Cadillac and Finest Sound, and that, consequently, Grocer Jack was flattered a little.
He may still be good enough to win today, but his price is obviously influenced by the visual impression of the performance that he put up last time on his British debut, and the handicap rating that he has been awarded on the back of it. It may be that he shouldn’t be as far clear of his rivals in the market for today’s race as he is.
By contrast, and partly by consequence, it may be that Passion And Glory’s chance has been under-rated by the market. Winner of the Group 3 Glorious Stakes at Goodwood last year, the Godolphin gelding returned from his travels at Sandown on Eclipse weekend, and put up an impressive performance to win a listed race there over 10 furlongs.
Settled in second place early on that day behind the front-running Victory Chime, he moved to the front on the run to the two-furlong marker, and he kept on well from there to run out a good winner, leaving the impression that he had a fair bit more in hand than the one-and-a-half-length winning margin.
That was his first run since he had run in the Dubai Gold Cup at Meydan in March, and rider Hollie Doyle said that he had a good blow afterwards, so there is every chance that he will progress from that.
He should be happier too on the easier ground that he should get at Haydock this afternoon.
Saeed Bin Suroor’s horse is six now, but he is a relatively lightly-raced six-year-old, he didn’t race as a juvenile, and he missed his entire four-year-old year.
He goes into the race in good form and, the second highest-rated horse in the race on official ratings, he shouldn’t be as far behind Grocer Jack in the market as he is.
It’s Shergar Cup day at Ascot, and all the razzamatazz that goes with that, as well as horses racing in unfamiliar colours, ridden by unfamiliar jockeys who are unfamiliar with the nuances of Ascot.
That said, some of the ‘unfamiliar’ jockeys are actually not unfamiliar at all, like Kerrin McEvoy, who rides Adjourn in the first race, the appropriately-named Dubai Duty Free Shergar Cup Curtain Raiser, which is new to the party and which should surely have a hyphen.
McEvoy is, also appropriately, a member of the Rest of the World team, but the fact that he has ridden at Ascot 144 times, more times than he has at any other British track with the exception of Newmarket, is a positive for Adjourn, as is the fact that the gelding goes into today’s race on a nice upward trajectory.
David Simcock’s horse shaped encouragingly in both runs last season as a juvenile, both over a mile, leaving the impression on both occasions that he would appreciate a step up in trip.
All three runs this season have been over 10 furlongs, he has progressed with each run and he was impressive in winning a handicap at Doncaster three weeks ago. Ridden patiently that day by Joey Haynes, settled in fourth of the five runners early on behind a decent pace that was set, coincidentally, by Victory Chime, he dropped back to fifth early in the straight, but he always travelled well, and he picked up impressively when asked.
He joined the leaders inside the two-furlong marker and kept on well through the final furlong to win nicely.
The handicapper raised him by 6lb for that win to a mark of 89, but he is progressive enough to take that type of hike in his stride. He has raced just six times, and that latest run was a career best. The Doncaster race was a 0-100 handicap, he is theoretically dropping in grade today in a 0-90 contest, and today’s stiff 10 furlongs should be ideal.
He has never run at Ascot, but his two best runs have been at Doncaster, and Doncaster form often transfers well to Ascot. His hold-up style of racing is well suited to the track, and Kerrin McEvoy is a top-class rider with whom those tactics are in safe hands.
Adjourn, 1 point win, 1.00 Ascot, 100/30 (generally)
Passion And Glory, 1 point win, 3.00 Haydock, 13/2 (generally)