Jockey Club Rose Bowl Stakes (Listed Race) | 2m | 3yo+ | ITV4/RUK
The Roger Charlton-trained Withhold defends not only his Rose Bowl title, but an unbeaten Newmarket record.
Having landed a massive gamble for owner Tony Bloom in the 2017 Cesarewitch, Withhold didn't rock up again on the Rowley Mile until he won this race by six lengths as an odds-on shot 12 months ago, but he once again confirmed his liking for this particular part of Britain with a three-length success on the July course last month.
However, that Listed victory is going to make things difficult for the seven-year-old, who now must shoulder a 3lb penalty.
He beat the Mark Johnston-trained Austrian School last year and the same trainer provides the main danger this time around in the shape of Mildenberger.
Indeed, it is Mildenberger who is set to go off favourite as he is officially the superior horse by 4lb even before you take into account the 3lb he will receive.
If only it was that simple. Mildenberger has potential doubts to his name as he hasn't run on turf since May 2019 when a distant third to Stradivarius in the Yorkshire Cup, and hasn't run at all since the Sagaro Stakes in June, an absence of 110 days.
The five-year-old scored first time up at two, and again at three, but after missing the summer of 2018 he badly needed his return and it was a similar story the following year.
Still, he progressed well on the all-weather last year and matched his career-best Racing Post Rating of 113 when second to Nayef Road in the Sagaro after a break. If he can perform to that level again, he ought to be beyond reach.
His best turf form came when he was third to stablemate Communique and Defoe in the 2019 Jockey Club Stakes at this track and it's not far off his best on artificial surfaces (RPR 111), so the return to turf should not be an issue.
Ghostwatch is the other one who deserves to be taken seriously on his best form, but a gamble in the Ebor went astray when he finished well down the field and he has something to prove now.
Ranch Hand has always shaped as though he'd get a marathon trip, but he needs to improve a fair bit and probably wants softer ground, while Sleeping Lion is up against it on form.
Mildenberger makes long-awaited turf reappearance
Mildenberger, who has been invigorated by a productive all-weather campaign since December last year, switches to turf for the first time in 16 months.
The Mark Johnston-trained five-year-old has endured an interrupted career and returns after his latest setback forced him to miss the Gold Cup at Royal Ascot, following his second in the Sagaro Stakes at Newcastle in June.
He holds an entry for the Long Distance Cup on Qipco British Champions Day and this could be seen as a potential springboard to that Group 2 contest next month.
Franny Norton, who has ridden Mildenberger on his last five starts, said: "He was in a rich vein of form on the all-weather and returns here after a bit of time off. I love this horse – he's really come to the fore and there should be a lot more to come."
What they say
Roger Charlton, trainer of Withhold
He seems in good form after battling well at Salisbury to finish second, when he was beaten by a better horse. It's a stronger race this year, he's got a penalty and it will be tough giving weight to Mildenberger.
Oisin Murphy, rider of Ranch Hand
He's a tough and consistent horse. This is a little bit of a step up in grade as he's been running in handicaps, but he looks bright and well at home. He's a staying type who's bred to get this sort of distance.
James Fanshawe, trainer of Sleeping Lion
He disappointed in the Mallard last time but he never got into it. He's in good form, it's a small field so we're giving it a go. He has a bit to find but he'll enjoy the trip and hopefully there isn't too much rain for him.