Five key questions ahead of the weekend

Raffle Prize is a short-priced favourite for Saturday's Cheveley Park Stakes at Newmarket
Raffle Prize is a short-priced favourite for Saturday's Cheveley Park Stakes at Newmarket

Ahead of another big weekend of Flat racing action, Nick Seddon looks at five key conundrums which need solving, as the two-year-old generation take centre stage at Newmarket...

Another future star for Qatar?

Saturday's curtain-raiser at Newmarket, the Group 1 Royal Lodge Stakes, has been won by some big names in recent years, including the great Frankel, who scorched clear in 2010. More recently, both Elm Park (2014) and Roaring Lion (2017) have taken the spoils for Qatar Racing, and they have another key contender this time around in the form of the Andrew Balding-trained Kameko. Qatar Racing has become one of the powerhouses of British racing since bursting onto the scene in 2012, and Kameko is likely to start as a short-priced favourite after an excellent effort to finish second in the Group 3 Solario Stakes on just his second career start at Sandown last month. Four of the last ten Royal Lodge Stakes winners have gone on to win a Group or Grade 1 contest the following season, including Roaring Lion, and Qatar Racing will be hopeful that they have another exciting two-year-old on their hands. 

A golden oldie at the Curragh?

In sprinting terms, the eleven-year-old Gordon Lord Byron is beyond the veteran stage and heading towards being geriatric, and although his last win was now two and a half years ago, he's still got plenty of enthusiasm for the game, as he showed when producing an excellent effort to finish fourth in a competitive handicap at the Curragh earlier this month, off a mark of 105.

Gordon Lord Byron has been around for so long that he contested a race named in his honour at Haydock Park earlier this month, and the return to group company should hold no fears for a horse that was triumphant in Haydock's Sprint Cup all the way back in 2013. A legend of the sprinting scene for the Tom Hogan yard, there won't be a more popular winner than Gordon Lord Byron at the Curragh on Saturday, as he bids to become the oldest winner of the race this century - by just the five years.

Second time's the charm for Raffle?

Raffle Prize has been one of the stars of the two-year-old generation so far for the Mark Johnston team, winning at both the July Festival and Royal Ascot, and although she was defeated on her first try in Group 1 company in the Prix Morny at Deauville last month, she ran a cracker, going down fighting to the Godolphin colt Earthlight. Raffle Prize gets a second bite of the cherry in the Cheveley Park Stakes on Saturday, and kept against her own sex this time around, it will be fascinating to see if she can continue her progress by sealing a maiden Group 1 success. 

Will the Middle Park live up to the hype?

This year's renewal of the Middle Park Stakes is a sizzling one, and looks the strongest for a number of years. Nine runners are due to head to post, and three of them arrive here still unbeaten; Siskin, Earthlight and Mums Tipple. Both Earthlight and Siskin arrive here on the back of impressive wins in Group 1 company last time out, while Mums Tipple couldn't have been more impressive when demolishing the field in a valuable two-year-old race at York last time, and we look set for one of the races of the year. 

Will O'Brien strike yet again in the Beresford?

Aidan O'Brien has nothing short of dominated Sunday's Group 2 Beresford Stakes at the Curragh, winning eight of the last renewals and on an eye-watering 18 occasions since 1996. The race is well-known for producing a future star - it's recent roll of honour features Japan, Capri, Saxon Warrior and Sea The Stars - and Innisfree looks to be Ballydoyle's best chance as they aim to seal a ninth Beresford success on the trot.  

Today's Racing Tips
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