10/10/2013 2:28PM

Newmarket: War Command the class of Dewhurst field


The Group 1 Dewhurst Stakes headlines a big day of racing on Saturday at Newmarket in England. The $559,055 Dewhurst is the richest of four group races for 2-year-olds on a program that also includes the $400,000 Cambridgeshire Handicap, which drew a mind-numbing field of 36.

The Dewhurst offers far fewer options, with a mere six juveniles entered to race seven furlongs down a straight course. The favorite is War Command, trained by Aidan O’Brien and owned by the Coolmore group as well as the American Joe Allen.

War Command, a son of the hot stallion War Front, has won three of his four starts – and bettors were shocked and disappointed that his record isn’t perfect. War Command narrowly won his career debut at Leopardstown on June 7, and he romped to a six-length victory in the Group 2 Coventry Stakes 11 days later at Royal Ascot. War Command, though, finished third as the 3-5 favorite in the Group 1 Phoenix Stakes at the Curragh on Aug.  11, but quickly made amends for that defeat with a comfortable victory 13 days later in the Group 2 Futurity Stakes.

That’s twice War Command has made a significant forward move when running back on fairly short rest after a less impressive race, and now War Command is racing after a break of seven weeks. Perhaps victory is not a foregone conclusion after all.

O’Brien’s second horse in the race, Friendship, does not look especially dangerous. He’s a minor winner of two races from eight starts, and was nowhere close to War Command in the Futurity. Stormardal will be severely tested for class, as, to a lesser extent, will be Cable Bay. That leaves Outstrip and Anjaal as the potential upsetters.

Outstrip, a Godolphin colt, has won two of his three starts, including a course and distance score in his debut in June and the Group 2 Champagne Stakes last month at Doncaster. Anjaal, trained for Sheikh Hamdan al-Maktoum by Richard Hannon, makes his first start since a neck win in the Group 2 July Stakes going six furlongs at Newmarket a little more than three months ago.

If Hannon didn’t think Anjaal would stretch to seven furlongs, he might have run him the race before the Dewhurst in the Group 1 Middle Park over six furlongs. That race attracted a larger field of 13, headed, perhaps, by Sudirman, second last out in the Group 1 National Stakes at the Curragh.