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Key questions as Guineas hopefuls clash in Craven Stakes

bet365 Craven Stakes (Group 3) | 1m | 3yo colts and geldings  ITV4/RUK

It is 14 years since the winner of Newmarket's Classic trial went on to win the 2,000 Guineas, when Haafhd obliged, but that statistic could soon need updating if Roaring Lion lives up to his name on the Rowley Mile.

Roaring Lion is challenging for Qipco 2,000 Guineas favouritism at a best-priced 6-1, with only Gustav Klimt and his Racing Post Trophy conqueror Saxon Warrior more popular in the market.

Trainer John Gosden would be doubling his Craven score after a 25-year gap since Emperor Jones won in 1993.

There feels like something is missing from the contest, however with Richard Hannon without a runner in spite of the stable having won seven Cravens this century.

Roaring Lion leapt into the Classic consciousness with his win in the Group 2 Royal Lodge before his Group 1 near-miss at Doncaster.

Little did punters know his form would get ringing endorsements at the start of this season with Newmarket runner-up Nelson winning the Group 3 Ballysax Stakes last weekend and the third Mildenberger landing the Listed Feilden Stakes on Tuesday.

Oisin Murphy, setting a fierce pace in the jockeys’ table for 2018, reported earlier in the week after riding Qatar Racing’s grey that he would be sharpened up by this seasonal return as he builds up for the Guineas.

Trainer John Gosden said: “He’s wintered well and has had a trouble-free prep. We know he handles the track and easy ground, and it made sense to come here as he doesn’t carry a penalty.”

Amazingly Godolphin's blue colours have not been carried to a Craven success although the likes of past winners Delegator and Toormore ended up in their colours.

Benbatl, recent winner of the Group 1 Dubai Turf on World Cup night, was third to Eminent in last year's Craven.

Solario Stakes winner Masar picks up the Godolphin challenge for trainer Charlie Appleby, who also saddles Glorious Journey in the old Sheikh Mohammed colours now belonging to his daughter Sheikha Al Jalila.

Appleby said: "Masar is going to be suited by the return to turf and we are putting a line through his run on dirt at Meydan. 

"He has a lovely pedigree and did nothing wrong as a juvenile. His only really disappointing race came on dirt in the Al Bastakiya and it was a bit of a non-event at Del Mar because it turned into a messy race.

“He travelled back from Dubai recently looking fit and well and, if he reproduces the form of his Solario Stakes victory or third in the Prix Jean-Luc Lagardere, then he should be a big player."

Glorious Journey, a 2.6m guineas buy at the Tattersalls October sales in 2016, is unbeaten in his two starts, culminating in the Group 3 Prix la Rochette.

Appleby, who has added cheekpieces to Glorious Journey, added: “Glorious Journey also has a great pedigree and was unbeaten in two starts last season. While Masar comes into this race ready to roll, I expect Glorious Journey to improve on whatever he does this week. 

“He wintered very well out in Dubai and has physically done very well from two to three. We hope to see him run a nice race with the future in mind.”

It is nearly 40 years since the likes of Henbit and Shergar won the Haynes, Hanson and Clark conditions stakes, closely followed by Rainbow Quest, but the mile contest has languished somewhat in recent years.

White Mocha scrambled home when favourite in last year’s Newbury race but returns to action with trainer Hugo Palmer hoping the son of Lope De Vega can hit the heights of those former winners.

The Newmarket trainer said: "He’s bred to stay but shows so much speed at home that I wouldn’t be confident – maybe that makes him more exciting.

"We’ll start at a mile for now and, if everything went well in the Craven, he could line up in the Guineas.

"My hope is he’ll stay 1m4f and we’ve added him to the Derby. If he can show his turn of foot at the end of a middle-distance race, it could be very exciting. He will come on for his first run but I’ve been pleased with his work and think he will run with credit."

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