The market for Royal Ascot’s St James’s Palace Stakes has been grabbed by the lapels and given an almighty shake-up with news that, contrary to expectations, wide-margin 2000 Guineas winner Dawn Approach will after all take his place in the starting blocks providing he completes a satisfactory piece of work ahead of the contest.
Since news broke, Jim Bolger’s colt has understandably shortened considerably in the betting and now sits at 6/4 joint-favourite with Aidan O’Brien’s Irish 2000 Guineas winner Magician, who drifted out from odds-on when it emerged Dawn Approach would be taking his chance.
With the two star three-year-olds poised – for the moment – on equal prices, the question that presents itself is which one offers better value?
Dawn Approach’s career went from one extreme to the other in the Derby when, in attempting to score his eighth win in as many races, he came home last. However, the fact remains that he is unbeaten in seven outings over 1m or shorter, including that ultra-impressive five-length Newmarket success on his seasonal debut.
Magician on the other hand has won just half his six career outings, although two of those wins were notched in commanding fashion on his latest two starts.
The son of Galileo’s Chester win came over 1m2f, marking him out as a potential Derby contender, yet his trainer then shocked many by stepping him down in trip to take in the Irish 2000 Guineas, which he won in fine style.
Whilst it may seem punting folly to take on such a prolific beast as Dawn Approach, the form of the duo’s respective Guineas wins suggests there is some scope to believe that Magician is not a million miles away from his adversary.
Richard Hannon’s Van Der Neer finished seven-and-half lengths behind Dawn Approach in the English race, but was almost twice as far behind Magician when contesting the Irish equivalent.
Given the Hannon first-string Toronado finished fourth despite underperforming at Newmarket and the second home was a 150/1 shot, the form of the English 2000 Guineas is far from rock solid.
Gale Force Ten – second behind Magician at the Curragh – may have seemed like the traditional O’Brien pacemaker, but he’d finished less than a length fourth in the French Guineas on ground he’d not have appreciated in his previous race. He was easily overhauled by the winner, as was Jim Bolger’s Dante-second Trading Leather, who – as a colt who stays 1m4f – was duty-bound to set a stamina-testing gallop.
It could be suggested that, as a colt still unbeaten over the St James’s Palace trip, Dawn Approach may be the value call at level prices, but provided he gets good ground or faster over a strongly run mile Magician – unbeaten in three races between 1m and 1m2f – may be the one to prevail at Royal Ascot.