Sir Michael Stoute has landed four of the last seven renewals of the Hardwicke Stakes so he’s sure to have a fairly good idea as to whether progressive handicapper Sir John Hawkwood (8/1) has the necessary chops to step up to Group level in this year’s contest.
The least exposed runner in the field, Stoute’s four-year-old has come back from his summer holidays brimming with intent and put a handicap field to the sword over 1m2f at the Chester Cup meeting on his seasonal debut.
Next time out he was set a tall order to take another handicap at York’s Dante meeting off a mark of 103, a task made even more arduous by the fact that Ryan Moore – his jockey that day – was 6lbs overweight.
He was joined by the eventual second 1f from home in that contest, but held him off despite giving that rival over 21lb in weight. Given that it was his first run beyond 1m2f and on soft ground to boot, it was one hell of a performance.
Having posted such a performance on soft ground, Sir John Hawkwood might be expected to find it hard to replicate that showing on faster ground at Ascot, but the son of Derby winner Sir Percy has scored two of his three wins on good-to-firm.
Amongst his opponents, Thomas Chippendale (12/1), Noble Mission (12/1) and Universal (9/1) have proved fairly evenly matched across a variety of past contests.
Given Ektihaam (5/2) slammed the former by six lengths last time, he looks Sir John’s chief rival here, but the manner in which Thomas Chippendale pulled early on in that contest, suggests that he could have finished a fair bit closer to Roger Varian’s runner if reproducing the kind of disciplined run he is often capable of.
The classy Mount Athos (5/2) has put in his best performances over longer trips and hasn’t won over a trip as short as this since scoring off a mark of 94 in a Dundalk handicap.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.