Thursday 24th May, 7:35pm, Sandown, 2m (2m 50y) Matchbook VIP Henry II Stakes (Group 3) (Class 1) (4yo+)
The Henry II Stakes was first run in 1963 and is named after King Henry II who founded a priory on the site of Sandown Park racecourse in the 12th Century. The race was run as a Group 3 event between 1971 and 2001. The following year it was upgraded to Group 2 and was relegated back to its current Group 3 status in 2012.
The race is often used as a prep race for the Gold Cup at Royal Ascot and a number of horses have won the Henry II Stakes before going on the triumph in the Gold Cup. The most recent dual winner was Big Orange in 2017.
Profiling the age range of winners since 1978 shows that four year olds have won on 16 occasions and five year olds seven times which is a 59% win rate in the event. Over the last 12 years horses aged between three and six have won the event nine times. It is interesting to note that Blue Bajan’s win in 2011 is the only occasion a nine year old runner has won the race.
Only four favourites have won the race in the last 12 renewals but nine of the winners could be found in the first three in the betting.
Horses who have run in the current season are worth considering as nine of the last 12 winners had at least one previous run before winning the Henry II Stakes. Having experience of Sandown’s uphill finish is not a major factor as only five of the last 12 winners had run at the course before. However, experience over the trip is important with 10 of the last 12 winners having run over the distance before, seven of which had previous winning form. Ten of the last 12 winners had also won at least three times on the Flat, although not necessarily over the race distance.
An Official Rating of at least 109 has been needed to win the race in nine of the last 12 seasons and seven winners also had previous wins at Group level.
The Ian Williams-trained Magic Circle does not have the benefit of having a Group level win, but is very strong on many of the other statistical trends which have been required to win the race. The six year old Bay Gelding won on his seasonal reappearance at Chester 13 days ago taking the Class 2 Chester Cup by 6 lengths. He has run over 2 miles on three previous occasions, winning twice including a very competitive Class 2 handicap at last season’s Ebor Meeting at York.
His Chester win was his first run since joining Ian Williams and the change of scenery appears to be to his liking. He does not appear to being campaigned with Group level cup races in mind as his only other current entry is in the Northumberland Plate Heritage Handicap at Newcastle at the end of June which makes his first try at Group level potentially interesting.
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