Sweet Solera Stakes Preview: Cloak In High Spirits

The Sweet Solera Stakes at Newmarket’s July Course on Saturday is a seven-furlong race restricted to two-year-old fillies.

CLOAK OF SPIRITS  Picture: Alan Crowhurst/Getty Images

It has often proved a good stepping stone to even bigger targets later in the season, including the Fillies' Mile – which takes place on the Rowley Mile in October – with the likes of Soviet Song, Rainbow View, White Moonstone and Certify all going on to success in that Group 1 having won this race.

The last two named horses were both Godolphin-owned, and that operation had a real stranglehold on the race earlier this century, winning five consecutive renewals between 2009 and 2013. Charlie Appleby has since saddled the runner-up on two occasions – with Grecian Light in 2016 and subsequent Grade 1 winner La Pelosa 12 months ago – and he is currently responsible for two entries as he attempts to go one better in this year's renewal, namely Light Blush  and Theory Of Time .

The latter was very strong in the market when making a winning debut over six furlongs at Windsor in May, looking a class above her rivals, going well on the bridle for a long way, before quickening clear in the final furlong under a hands-and-heels ride. She was again prominent in the betting on her latest start in the Queen Mary Stakes at Royal Ascot, but she failed to progress from her debut up in grade, seemingly finding the drop to five furlongs against her. Her pedigree suggests that the step up to seven furlongs here will suit (by Dubawi and out of a two-year-old seven-furlong winner), and she is well worth another chance to confirm her debut promise.

Light Blush was yet another first-time-out juvenile winner for Appleby, when landing a good-looking maiden over this C&D in July. She seemed to know her job, always close up with the leaders and produced to lead well inside the final furlong. That form doesn't look too shabby, and she acquitted herself well up in grade when finishing half a length second to the more experienced Walk In Marrakesh in a listed race at Sandown last time, hanging right inside the final furlong. That experience won't be lost on Light Blush, who wasn't as well positioned as the winner, and it would be no surprise if she were to reverse the form, for all that she will be suited by even further in time (plenty of stamina on dam's side of the pedigree).

Walk In Marrakesh's trainer, Mark Johnston, has a good recent record in the race, winning two of the last four renewals, including with Main Edition 12 months ago. Walk In Marrakesh has been a typical Johnston improver this season, winning a couple of minor events at Beverley and Ayr before completing the hat-trick at Sandown last time. However, she didn't have to improve to make her mark up in grade, arguably putting her experience to good use and very much having the run of the race. That said, she did confirm herself a straightforward and likeable filly, and seems sure to make another bold bid, though further progress is needed now moving into pattern company.

Johnston has also entered West End Girl, who overcame inexperience to make a winning start at Haydock in July, in turn becoming the first winner for freshman sire Golden Horn from just a handful of runners on these shores. Admittedly, that wasn't the strongest race of its type, but she did take a step forward when finishing one and three quarter lengths fifth to stablemate Walk In Marrakesh at Sandown last time. She looked unlucky not to finish closer, too, not settling fully in the early stages but keeping on well when badly hampered inside the final 100 yards and unable to recover thereafter. West End Girl would have likely finished placed with a clear run and, with further progress on the cards, she can't be ruled out.

Another trainer with a good recent record in the race is Richard Hannon, and he is set to be represented by the exciting Cloak of Spirits. She made plenty of appeal on paper – dam closely related to the high-class Dubawi – and landed a gamble in a seven-furlong minor event at Ascot on debut in July, awkward leaving the stalls but knowing her job well, travelling fluently before being shaken up over a furlong out and putting the race to bed in a matter of strides. There should be plenty more to come from her now, a rare first-time-out winning juvenile for the Hannon yard nowadays, and this looks the next logical step. Hannon also has Dark Lady, who tops Timeform's weight-adjusted ratings following her respectable two and a quarter lengths fourth to Under The Stars in Princess Margaret Stakes at Ascot last time. That was on the softest ground she has encountered, and she could have more to offer returned to faster ground, but she doesn't have as much scope as some of these.

The Ed Vaughan-trained Ultra Violet was another who made a big impression on her debut over six furlongs at this course in July. She was backed at long odds and duly ran out a wide-margin winner (eight lengths) with something to spare, going with zest in the rear before making headway two furlongs out and forging clear in the closing stages on the stands-side rail. Quite what she achieved that day will only become clearer in time – the timefigure wasn't great, and those in behind haven't done much for the form – but there is no denying the visual impression she created, and she is well worth a try at this level.

Boomer shaped well on her debut in a red-hot minor event at Haydock in July and confirmed that promise in no uncertain terms when powering away to win a seven-furlong maiden at Newbury three weeks later. That was a commanding success, and the third shaped well when finishing runner-up to a promising newcomer in a similar event at Kempton on Monday, so the form has some substance to it. Connections are entitled to be aiming for a race of this nature now and it would be folly to ignore Boomer's claims.

One Voice and Unforgetable are a couple of potential Irish challengers for Jessica Harrington and Joseph O'Brien, respectively. The first-named opened her account at the second time of asking at Leopardstown in July, and that form received a big boost when the runner-up Auxilia bolted up at Naas on Monday. One Voice looks a smart filly in the making, and will command plenty of respect if taking her chance, though she does also hold an entry at the Curragh on Friday.

Unforgetable broke her maiden at Fairyhouse in July and coped well with the step up in trip and grade when finishing second to the promising Love in the Silver Flash Stakes at Leopardstown last time. Unforgetable also holds an entry in the Debutante Stakes at the Curragh later this month, but O'Brien has already shown this season that he isn't afraid of sending his horses across the Irish Sea, and she will be another to consider if lining up.

Lastly, Soffika also needs mentioning. A well-related filly, she made a promising start to her career for top connections when winning a six-furlong minor event at Pontefract in June, overcoming greenness and going away at the finish. Her pedigree strongly suggests that this extra furlong will bring about significant improvement – she is from a smart middle-distance family – and the fact that she won first time up for a yard that bring their juveniles on slowly also bodes well.

In summary, this looks a potentially hot renewal, with plenty of unexposed and exciting fillies among the entries. It is Cloak of Spirits who catches the eye the most, though, having created a deep impression on debut at Ascot. Richard Hannon knows what it takes to win this race and it would be no surprise if Cloak of Spirits becomes another filly to use this race as a springboard to the Fillies' Mile later this year.


Back Cloak Of Spirits  at 4/1 in the Sweet Solera Stakes at Newmarket on Saturday

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