30 September 2022

Dods mounts dual challenge on Bengough honours

30 September 2022

Michael Dods is double-handed as he searches for further success in the John Guest Racing Bengough Stakes at Ascot on Saturday.

The Darlington-based handler landed the spoils with Dakota Gold in 2020 and this time relies on his half-brother Commanche Falls and the thriving mare Gale Force Maya.

The former landed the Stewards’ Cup at Goodwood in July before being mugged late on by Summerghand the last twice – most recently when attempting to carry top weight to success in the Ayr Gold Cup.

Gale Force Maya has won five times this term and has relished the fast ground the dry summer has provided. She now steps up to Group Three level following back-to-back triumphs in Listed company.

“They’re both in good form,” said Dods. “It’s a big step up in class for both of them and they are taking on some good horses like Rohaan, who is a proper Group horse, but they are both in good form.

“We wouldn’t want any more rain for Gale Force Maya, while it wouldn’t really bother Commanche Falls. It’s interesting to see them stepping up to Group class and seeing how they go, because they both seem very well in themselves.

“Commanche Falls is Dakota Gold’s half-brother, but they are different types of horses. Dakota Gold does it all from the front, while Commanche Falls is ridden differently. I think he deserves his chance at this level. He’s been giving weight away in handicaps and struggling with Summerghand, but now we meet on better terms, so it will be interesting. Hopefully they both run well.”

One horse who has beaten Gale Force Maya this term is Sean Woods’ Princess Shabnam, who made all in good style at Pontefract when claiming Listed honours in August.

“She’s done nothing but improve and she won her Listed race so well at Pontefract,” said Woods.

“We’ve been waiting to give her an opportunity in a Group race and this is it. It’s a very tough race on paper, but she remains in good order and she is a filly that is improving in the autumn.

“We’ve kept Nicola (Currie) on her, she seems to get on with her very well and there was no reason to take her off.”

Rohaan is the proven class in the race and the Royal Ascot scorer has run with real credit in a couple of Group One assignments since his secured a second successive Wokingham at the summer showpiece in June.

Last year’s winner Vadream has a point to prove, with Clive Cox’s Diligent Harry also having plenty of questions to answer at present.

Cox said: “He ran really well at Royal Ascot following a lengthy absence. Things didn’t really go well for him at Newbury last time. I’m pleased we’re back over six furlongs and I hope there isn’t too much rain for him.”

The other Group three on the card sees nine go to post for the Peroni Nastro Azzurro Cumberland Lodge Stakes.

William Haggas’ Hamish heads the field and he will be looking to add to a select but solid CV for the current campaign, which has seen him land the Ormonde Stakes at Chester’s May Festival and finish second in the Irish St Leger most recently.

“He ran a great race in Ireland, it was really terrific,” said Maureen Haggas, wife and assistant to trainer William.

“The ground really suited him there and I hope we’re going to get a bit of rain at Ascot that will soften the ground for him.

“It’s quite a quick turnaround, only three weeks and he hadn’t run since the Ormonde, so that’s the only thing, but you’ve got to take advantage of the ground when you can really. You never know when you’re going to get this ground again.”

The Somerville Lodge handler is also represented by Duke of Edinburgh Stakes winner Candleford, with David O’Meara’s Get Shirty the other Royal Ascot winner in the field.

We were really pleased with the way he won at Windsor

Aidan O’Brien’s one-time Derby hope High Definition is an interesting raider for the all-conquering Coolmore, while Cresta arrives on the back of an impressive six-and-a-half-length victory in the Royal Windsor August Stakes.

“We were really pleased with the way he won at Windsor and the main plan is to go to Doha in February,” said joint-trainer Freddie Meade.

“So it is sort of one last run here, then prep over the winter for that.

“We’ll be watching the weather to see if we get lots and lots of rain. I think if it goes to extreme ground, we might look after him.”

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