York preview: Middleton Stakes (14.40)
The filly progressed throughout last season when winning three times, and rounded of the campaign with an excellent staying on 1/4 length second of 15 to Kiyoshi in the Group 3 Sceptre Stakes over 7f at Doncaster.
That run suggested Bragging may have more to offer when stepped up in trip, and that view was confirmed when the daughter of Exchange Rate put in a career-best performance to land the Group 2 Dahlia Stakes over 1m 1f at Newmarket on seasonal reappearance.
Bragging raced up with the pace before being driven to lead deep inside the final furlong by jockey Ryan Moore to beat Kleo by 3/4 of a length.
It was a most taking performance, especially as Bragging was reported to be in need of the run beforehand.
The four-year-old is sure to come on a bundle for the outing, and the extra furlong in this shouldn’t be a problem.
Bragging looks a typical improver from the Stoute yard who needs keeping firmly onside and, although this represents a further step up in class, I will be surprised if she doesn’t prove up to the task and make up into a Group 1 filly come the end of the year.
Of those in opposition, Ribbons is the highest rated runner in the line-up and commands the utmost respect now eased in grade.
The James Fanshawe-trained mare caused an upset when landing a Group 1 at Deauville last August but confirmed that was no fluke when an excellent neck second to We Are in the Group 1 Prix de l’Opera at Longchamp back in October when last seen in action.
That form sets the standard, and Ribbons has a good record fresh so fitness shouldn’t be an issue following 221 days on the sidelines.
However, the Fanshawe stable is quiet at the moment and the five-year-old may have reached her peak and prove vulnerable to an improver like Bragging.
Madam Chiang is another with winning form in Group 1 company but needs the mud to be flying to seen at her best, whilst 2013 Oaks runner-up Secret Gesture has failed to live up to expectations and become pretty exposed.