07/31/2014 3:47PM

Nassau Stakes at Goodwood appears wide open


There are seven older fillies and mares entered in the Nassau Stakes on Saturday, closing day of the Glorious Goodwood meet in England, and whichever one comes out on top will be winning for the first time at the Group 1 level. That says a lot about this year’s edition of the Nassau.

The roster of recent Nassau winners is star-studded: The Fugue won in 2012, Midday three years running (2009-2011) and Ouija Board scored in 2006. But the race this year lacks anything like that sort of quality, and even the moderate Group 1 performer Thistle Bird, who failed to make the list of final declarations, would have been a welcome participant.

Venus de Milo, from the Aidan O’Brien yard in Ireland, is the tepid 5-2 morning-line favorite, but she does not appear to have any real edge – except proven form over the good-to-firm going expected for the Nassau – on French shipper Narniyn. Trained by Alain de Royer-Dupre for owner-breeder The Aga Khan, Narniyn had won four straight races, two at the Group 3 level, before finishing fourth June 29 in the Group 1 Grand Prix de Saint-Cloud. That race, against males, came over 1 1/2 miles, and Narniyn might prove better suited to the Nassau distance, just less than 1 1/4 miles, if she can run to form on firmer going than she has ever encountered in a race.

Venus de Milo is a good-ground horse, and has not been tried on soft turf since she flopped in France last September. Her form is decent if hardly dazzling, with Venus de Milo most recently second to Thistle Bird in the Group 1 Pretty Polly at The Curragh, and she might never find a better spot to skim a Group 1 victory.

Trainer John Gosden is on a Group 1 hot streak and won the last two editions of the Nassau, with The Fugue in 2012 and last year with Winsili, and he has lightly raced Sultanina for the Nassau. Sultanina won her career debut in May at Salisbury, scored in the Group 3 Pinnacle at Haydock in her second start, and most recently ran second in the Lancashire Oaks, also at Haydock. The 3-year-old Sultanina’s last two starts came at 1 1/2 miles, and she turns back Saturday to a distance closer to her debut victory.

Also with a chance is Mango Diva, a Michael Stoute-trained filly who appears to be an improved horse this year at age 4. In her most recent start she ran out a narrow winner of the Group 2 Kilboy Estate Stakes over nine furlongs at The Curragh.