EVERY racehorse trainer in the country was screaming for rain during the prolonged heatwave, but nobody cheered louder than Andrew Balding when the heavens opened on Sunday and dumped more than 18mm of the wet stuff on Goodwood.
Even though there isn’t much more forecast between now and the start of this afternoon’s £1 million Qatar Sussex Stakes (3.35pm), enough has fallen to take the sting out of the ground allowing Balding to grow in confidence over the chances of his improving four-year-old BEAT THE BANK.
The stats are against Beat The Bank with the younger Classic generation holding the upper hand in seven of the last 10 seasons, including with the mighty Frankel and another of Juddmonte’s superstars in Kingman.
WITHOUT PAROLE is therefore a worthy favourite to emulate his dad having stretched his winning sequence to four in the St James’s Palace Stakes at Royal Ascot.
Andrea Atzeni is the lucky jockey to wear the deputy badge in replacing suspended Frankie Dettori on Without Parole, whose owner, John Gunther, bred this year’s American Triple Crown winner Justify.
The colt has been brought along steadily by Gosden, who feels that the best is yet to come and he will be hard to keep out of the frame.
However, Goodwood is very much a specialist track and unlike Beat The Bank, who won a Group Three at this meeting 12 months ago, Without Parole has no previous experience of this or any undulating other course.
All three of his turf wins have also been on rattling fast ground, whereas Beat The Bank has shown he can cope with all types of underfoot conditions.
If Beat The Bank had enjoyed any sort of run at the Royal meeting, he would have won the Queen Anne instead of finishing on top of the placed horses in sixth, and the colt gained compensation when beating Lord Glitters by a neck in the Group Two Summer Mile at Ascot next time.
David O’Meara’s colt has now finished runner-up in all three starts this season and the more rain that falls the better his chances.
You can never rule out Aidan O’Brien, but his Gustav Klimt has been a bookies’ favourite in the Classics, being beaten in both the English and Irish 2000 Guineas.
Granted, he was only pipped a neck by Without Parole at Ascot, but Gosden points out that his colt found himself in front earlier than planned when US Navy Flag fell in a hole half-way up the straight, and the trainer is adamant that he’ll be more effective when he can get a longer tow into the race.
LIGHTNING SPEAR comes alive around Goodwood and boasts two course wins in the Group Two Celebration Mile, plus a close third in this race last year.
Although the flame looked to be burning as brightly as ever in the Queen Anne, the fact is this veteran is 0-10 at the top table, and I’d be surprised if he could win.
However, I prefer his chances to the much-hyped Expert Eye who ran out as impressive a winner as we saw at the entire five-day Festival last year.
He looked to bounce back in the Jersey Stakes at Royal Ascot last time, but that was over seven furlongs and this one-mile trip remains a huge concern.
Don’t forget he is by sprinting sire Acclamation and you could not find him with radar on his only previous attempt at a mile in the 2000 Guineas back in May.
Orban, the sole French raider, takes a huge step up in class here but remains one of the more interesting outsiders.
He has been brought along slowly by his masterful trainer Andre Fabre, but this may come too soon in his career.
I’ll stick with Beat The Bank at 7/1 with Coral, as he looks a rock-solid each-way bet with the race likely to be run to suit, and it would be a surprise if he failed to make the frame.
BILL ESDAILE’S SUSSEX STAKES 1-2-3
1 BEAT THE BANK
2 WITHOUT PAROLE
3 LIGHTNING SPEAR