Peter Niven believes Clever Cookie has plenty on his plate as he bids to give weight and a beating to some smart stayers in the Stowe Family Law LLP Grand Cup at York today.
A dead-heat success in this Listed prize 12 months ago was one of three triumphs during an excellent first season on the Flat for the seven-year-old, who looked better than ever when claiming the notable scalp of Tac De Boistron in the Ormonde Stakes at Chester last time.
That triumph left Niven dreaming of a tilt at the Gold Cup at Royal Ascot next month, but he must first come through another test on Knavesmire and the trainer says: “It will be a bit tougher for him with his Group Three penalty, but he’s in very good form.”
“I would have liked to run him at Sandown on Thursday (Henry II Stakes), but the ground wasn’t right for him and I’m hoping they get a bit of rain at York.
“The timing of it is good if we’re going to go to Ascot. We’ll definitely look at the Gold Cup, but he wouldn’t go down there if it was quick ground, obviously.
“Everything is stacked against him on Saturday really, but, hopefully, he’ll run a nice race.”
Clever Cookie is re-opposed by the Michael Bell-trained Big Orange, who finished a distant fourth in the Ormonde Stakes.
Bell admits Niven’s stable star will be a tough nut to crack, but is hopeful of closing the gap.
He said: “Big Orange is a lovely horse. I think that Clever Cookie will be hard to beat if he is on song but Big Orange has come on from Chester and will strip fitter.
“A galloping track at York should play more to his strengths, as should faster ground.
“He is very genuine and consistent. I see no reason why he won’t run his usual solid race and he should be there or thereabouts.”
Other contenders for the £40,000 contest include dual Doncaster Cup and one-time Lonsdale Cup winner Times Up and Mick Channon’s recent Newmarket scorer Elidor.
The in-form Luca Cumani is always a trainer to follow at York and Dreamlike is of particular interest for the Newmarket-based Italian.
The daughter of Oasis Dream is a half-sister to last year’s Park Hill heroine Silk Sari, and improved with every run as a juvenile.
Having acquitted herself well in races won by subsequent Classic trial winners Toujours L’Amour and Star Of Seville, Dreamlike got off the mark at the expense of Cheshire Oaks third Zamoura at Lingfield, and an initial mark of 80 could seriously under-estimate her ahead of her comeback in the Infinity Tyres Breeders Backing Racing EBF Fillies’ Handicap.
Cumani also has major claims in the LAR Asbestos Removal Handicap courtesy of Comedy King.
The four-year-old gelding only has five previous runs under his belt but the most recent of those, when second on his return at Doncaster, suggested he is a handicapper to keep on side this summer.
The Godolphin team are looking to a possible run at Doncaster’s St Leger meeting for Charming Thought, who has been a notable absentee from the first part of the Flat season and who will also miss the St James’s Palace Stakes and/or the Commonwealth Cup at Royal Ascot.