Twelve months ago Jamie Spencer guided Maarek to British Champion Sprint Stakes glory and a year on, with conditions to suit, the six-year-old looks set for a big run in his title defence.
A winner of the Prix De L’Abbaye last time out, Barry Lalor’s charge is in scintillating form and comes into this year’s renewal as 9/4 favourite – a price that still looks worthy of an interest.
With the rain coming this week, the ground at Ascot will be perfect for this proven mud-lark. Form figures on ground described as ‘Soft’ or ‘Heavy’ in the last two years read 11212123312, making Maarek’s chances look crystal clear.
He would be the first horse to win this race back-to-back since Jack and Jill recorded victories in 1958 and 1959, when the race was known as the Diadem Stakes.
However, the downpours that the Berkshire track has received will also suit some of the son of Pivotal’s rivals.
Jack Dexter (4/1) has shown a liking for some give in the ground over the years and looks to continue from his Ayr Gold Cup third in style, but whether he is classy enough remains to be seen.
Viztoria (6/1) no doubt possesses the required quality and consistency to land this and has winning form in varying conditions. But a step back to 6f for the filly seems a strange decision after running over 7f and 1m in her last four races.
Edward Lynam’s other intended runner Slade Power (6/1) also has questions hanging over him. With his last two wins coming on good ground, it is likely that he prefers firmer underfoot conditions.
So in conclusion, it would be a surprise if last year’s victor wasn’t contesting the closing stages of this charge down the straight course at Ascot, and he looks a good price to become just the second horse to complete the double.
All odds and markets correct as of the date of publishing