Formerly known as a very smart miler—he also finished a close third in the Hong Kong Derby over a mile and a quarter— Gold-Fun has been campaigned as a sprinter since early-2015 and has taken his form to a high-class level, with his wins last year including a defeat of the former British-trained Peniaphobia in the Group 2 Jockey Club Sprint at Sha Tin.
After initial reports stated that Gold-Fun would head straight back to Hong Kong after the Royal meeting, it looks significant that he’s taking his chance on Sunday and he should prove hard to beat provided the ground dries over the weekend (currently ‘soft’ but the forecast is dry). Gold-Fun did win a maiden on good to soft going at Naas when known as Strada Colorato for Ger Lyons in 2011 but, naturally, has not faced similar conditions in the Far East since.
Signs of Blessing and Suedois finished third and fifth respectively in what was a very tight finish to the Diamond Jubilee, and the latter has since shown even better form when second of eighteen to Limato in the July Cup at Newmarket. Suedois is thriving on racing for his new yard (David O’Meara, having formerly been trained in France) and ran his best race yet in the July Cup, albeit seen to maximum advantage from a prominent position the way things unfolded, just as the French-trained Signs of Blessing was in the Diamond Jubilee when he made the running at just an ordinary pace for a six-furlong Group 1.
The biggest form danger to Gold-Fun is Dutch Connection who produced a career-best performance under his under optimum conditions when winning the Group 2 Lennox Stakes on good to firm ground at Goodwood last time. A well-run seven furlongs at a course he handles well saw Dutch Connection to something like maximum effect there, and he was given the perfect ride too (by James McDonald in William Buick’s absence), but he’s sure to go well again dropped back slightly in trip (strong traveller) provided the ground dries out.
The other British raiders all need to step up plenty, including Donjuan Triumphant who made a creditable return when chasing home Quiet Reflection in the Group 2 Sandy Lane Stakes at Haydock, but ran no sort of race behind the same filly in the Commonwealth Cup at Royal Ascot. He could do with the ground staying soft.
Gordon Lord Byron finished third in this race in both 2013 and 2015 (didn’t run in it last year) and, after a slow start to the current campaign, has got back in the groove with wins in a minor event at Tipperary and the Group 2 Minstrel Stakes at the Curragh (for the second year running). Gordon Lord Byron deserved some extra credit for his latest win given he was carried left by a wayward rival in the final furlong and should be on the premises again, though it’s probably worth pointing that his last 12 races at Group/Grade 1 level have all ended in defeat.
Attendu is lightly raced and showed improved form meeting older horses for the first time when winning a seven-furlong Group 3 at Deauville last time, but the second (Esoterique) and third (Territories) were clearly not at their best on their first outings of the year and they have also both run poorly since.
To sum up, with the ground expected to dry out to close to good, this could be fought out by Gold-Fun and Dutch Connection, with the narrow vote going to the former who ran to a rating of 120 at Royal Ascot and has no fewer than 12 even higher-rated performances on his CV (admittedly in Hong Kong). Should the ground stay soft then preference would just go to Signs of Blessing, who was seen to best effect in the Diamond Jubilee, but has form figures on soft ground of 1101 and who proved he stays this far when winning on his return.
Back Gold-Fun in the Prix Maurice de Gheest
Timeform weight-adjusted ratings:
135 Dutch Connection
132 Gordon Lord Byron
132 Signs of Blessing
Grade B - Ballymore Eustace Handicap Hurdle
Grade B - Three.ie H'cap Steeplechase
G1 - Ryanair Nov Chase
G1 - Ladbrokes Champion Stayers Hurdle
G1 - Nz Oaks