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It’s Royal Ascot this week, and the action is book-ended by quite possibly the two best flat horses in training. At the very least, they are the two highest profile, off the back of some stellar winning streaks.
And so we face the final curtain, or at least the final day, of the five day Royal Ascot meeting. It’s been a marathon already, and whether you’re up or down, there’s still time to reverse your fortunes for the week.
Another very good day for me personally yesterday, and hopefully for some of you if you followed me in, as Thomas Chippendale and Gatewood put me comfortably in front on the week. If Jamesie had won the last, instead of finishing second – winner of the near side group – it would have been a spectacular day. But them’s the breaks…
If you’re in front, caution is advised. If you’re behind, there are six divisions of the Get Out Stakes remaining! Starting with the…
2.30 Chesham Stakes (Listed, 2yo, seven furlongs)
Some decent winners of this, including Maybe last term.
Twelve of the last fifteen winners won last time out, and all fifteen were 1-2-3 last time.
Supporting that is the fact that the Chesham has been won by five favourites, four second favourites and four more horses in the top four in the betting in the last fifteen years.
Twelve of those fifteen were once raced, and the other three had had two runs; and all had last raced between eight and sixty days ago.
So this is clearly a race to focus towards the top end of the market, and it is impossible not to have been impressed by Jim Bolger’s Move To Strike, who sluiced up by nine lengths on soft ground last time he ran. That was over six furlongs and, as he’s bred to be a miler, this ought to be an ideal stepping stone to mile races towards the backend of this season, or early next.
I was hoping he’d run in the Coventry actually, as I wanted a bit of a price about him. In any case, Move To Strike is unquestionably the one to beat here, and I think he’ll win.
Against him and next best in the market is Richard Hannon’s Jalaa. Jalaa is also bred to be a miler in due course, and he was quietly authoritative when winning his maiden on debut on ground which was good to soft. He does have a bit to find with the favourite, but that’s factored into his price – around 11/2 – and is far from unlikely, given connections.
Tha’Ir is next in the market, for Godolphin, and the form of this fellow’s maiden win has been franked by the runner up, Bircham, who won nicely yesterday. His win was on fast ground however, so the rain softened turf is an unknown.
The top quintet in the betting is rounded out by Chilworth Icon and Lovely Pass. The former is two from two on turf, and has won on the soft side of good, but he’s more exposed than most, and I’d be happy to look elsewhere.
The latter has run only once, a win, on firm ground. She’s a daughter of Breeders Cup Classic winner Raven’s Pass, and might be a very nice filly. Whether the underfoot here will suit is another question, but the price does allow for some scope on that point. She’ll have no problem with the trip and I think she’s the best each way bet in the race, assuming she handles a bit of cut.
It does look a race with more quantity than quality about it and, on that basis, I’m siding with the jolly and an unexposed one at a price.
Most likely winner: Move To Strike (7/4, Power, Boyle)
Best each way value: Lovely Pass (11/1 Power)
3.05 Hardwicke Stakes (Group 2, one mile and a half)
A high class race, and plenty of very good winners in recent times. This year’s renewal looks up to par.
Sir Michael Stoute has won three of the last six, and Saeed bin Suroor has won two of the other three in that time. Sir Michael has Sea Moon and Fiorente here, and bin Suroor has Hunter’s Light.
Twelve of the last fifteen winners finished on the podium last time out, and every winner since at least 1980 was aged four to six (sorry Allied Powers!)
All bar one winner had run within sixty days, a pointer which counts against Jakkalberry and ex-French filly Testosterone.
Sea Moon is the highest rated horse in the field, and is trained by Sir Michael Stoute. As such, it’s not a surprise that he’s the early favourite, at around 3/1. Moreover, with four year olds winning the last four renewals, Sea Moon is a perfect profile horse.
And his form’s not bad either. Never out of the frame in seven runs, four of which are wins, including the Great Voltigeur Stakes. He’s also been third in the St Leger, and second in the Breeders Cup Turf.
He looks sure to make the frame again, and has a good chance of winning.
Against him is confirmed mudlark, Aiken, who is unbeaten in six runs since his debut seventh. Those six wins include one over course and distance, and were compiled on ground ranging from good to heavy, so there will be no problems on that score. He’s progressive but does have a bit to find with Sea Moon on what he’s shown so far.
Last year’s Derby fourth and Irish Derby third, Memphis Tennessee, will also relish any give underfoot. He came back to win the Ormonde Stakes at Chester first time up this season, but that would be a little short of what’s required here. There is just a slight reservation about the form of the O’Brien runners this week as well.
Melbourne Cup winner and runner up, Dunaden and Red Cadeaux, re-draw battle lines here and each has something extra to find if they’re to prevail in this company. That said, Dunaden has won the Grade 1 Hong Kong Vase as well as the Melbourne Cup (also a Grade 1), and he might be the pick of the each way value, given his versatility as regards run style and going.
Of the remainder, Hunter’s Light will appreciate the easier ground but whether the step up in trip is in his favour (son of Dubawi, who generally throws milers) is another question.
Selection: Sea Moon (3/1 general)
Best each way: Dunaden (15/2 Stan James)
3.45 Diamond Jubilee Stakes (Group 1, six furlongs)
One of the talking points of the week, as the unbeaten wonder mare, Black Caviar, bids to extend her 21 race winning streak in her first run overseas. A winner of eleven Group 1′s, she may encounter the softest ground of her career here.
Other than that, on all known form, she’s going to be nigh on impossible to beat. Alas, for punters, her price will reflect that. So I’ll be looking for an each way bet, and hopefully a nice enough place return.
And in any case, when you consider that the race has been won by horses at odds of 20/1, 25/1 and 33/1 TWICE since 2006, we just might collect on the win part too!
Only four of the last fifteen winners also won their prep run, testimony to the competitive nature of the sprint division.
Youth has prevailed in recent times, with all bar one of the last fifteen winners aged between three and six.
So what of the form? Well, again, there are foreign raiders to consider and, after Hong Kong’s victory in Tuesday’s King’s Stand Stakes, we ought to begin with Krypton Factor, clear second top rated on official figures, and a very tough sprinter.
He won the Dubai Golden Shaheen and comes here in good heart. But the big issue for him is the ground. Despite being a son of Kyllachy, whose offspring tend to enjoy a bit of dig, Krypton Factor ran quite poorly the only time he encountered soft ground.
If it dries out, 28/1 is too big for a horse with his track record, and this ex-Sir Mark Prescott inmate can go close.
Of the home guard (including France!), Moonlight Cloud must go well. She’s on a big upward trend, having only had ten career starts, and she’s got bags of scope at the six furlong trip. Indeed, her only try at it was over course and distance when severely hampered in her run in last year’s Champion Sprint Stakes.
She’ll go on any ground, and is a very smart filly. Not as smart as Black Caviar perhaps, but at least there are no going reservations with this one.
Society Rock won this last year, and he’s a fantastic chance of making the frame again. His form on ground softer than good is one win and one second, both in Group 1 company, the second being over a furlong further behind Moonlight Cloud. At the prices – he’s around twice the price of the French filly – I think he’s a very sound each way bet.
Three others with outside place squeaks are The Cheka, Bogart and Sirius Prospect.
The Cheka is game and consistent, and in the form of his life. He’ll go any ground, and 40/1 is fair each way value.
Sirius Prospect has been terrible this term in three starts, and a leap of faith is required that he can bounce back to last year’s level of form. If he can, he’s little to find with a number of these.
And Bogart was quietly promising first time out this season when fourth in a strong Group 2. Good to soft would be fine for him, and a fast run race suits too. He’s 100/1, and will surely outrun those odds.
For the good of racing, I’d love to see Black Caviar win. But to avoid that unbearable Aussies, I hope it’s only be a short head!
Obvious selection: Black Caviar (1/4 general)
4.25 Wokingham Stakes (handicap, six furlongs)
From high quality to high quantity, over the same three quarter mile sprint trip. This is historically a good trends contest, so let’s see what portents they proffer.
The draw is always a moot point, but history implies that a top or bottom third stall position is better than a middle draw.
Due to a dead heat in 2003, there are sixteen horses in the profile analysis, and fourteen of them finished 1-2-3-4 last time. The other two finished sixth, so discount the ‘duck eggs’.
Four and five year olds are the strong percentage play with thirteen of those sixteen wins: the other three were aged six (two) and seven (one).
Interestingly, given that this discounts the top eleven in the field, only one horse has been rated higher than 102 and won this.
So we’re looking for a horse rated 102 or lower, aged four or five, who finished in the first four last time out, and is drawn top or bottom third. The shortlist looks thus: Scarf, King of Jazz and Desert Law.
Given the shortness of that shortlist, I’ll also consider six year olds, which brings in Lui Rei, Waffle, and Mac’s Power.
Scarf is an Australian acquisition for Godolphin, and how ironic it would be should he be the Aussie winner on the day. He’s been racing over further, but has strong six furlong winning form in the bag, and the form of his second behind Tariq Too from last time was advertised by that one’s decent effort in Friday’s closing handicap. He’ll also go on any ground.
King Of Jazz has been knocking on the door in these sort of races for a while now, and his handicap mark reflects that. He’s been placed seven times in twelve starts, but only won once, and there may be others who are more reliable in the run for the line.
Desert Law has a lovely low draw, and comes from a top stable. He too is lightly raced, and the step back up to six furlongs will suit. Whether give in the ground is perfect, I’m not sure, but there are plenty of positives with this boyo.
Of the older trio, Lui Rei has been in great form lately, but is a good bit more exposed than the aforementioned, and wouldn’t have anything up his sleeve with regards to the handicapper. I’ll let him beat me if he’s good enough.
Waffle has run some great races, including when second in this last year, but he just doesn’t win. A solitary victory from 23 races is not going to get me to part with my cash, even though he comes here off a very similar prep to last year. (OK, I probably will have a small each way saver on him!)
Mac’s Power comes from last year’s winning yard, that of James Fanshawe, and he has a chance too. He was eighth last year, but I do wonder if the ground will be quick enough for him.
Plenty of other dangers of course, but my money will be spread across a few of those mentioned.
Three against the field: Scarf (20/1 general), Desert Law (16/1 general), Waffle (18/1 Coral)
5.00 Duke of Edinburgh Stakes (Handicap, one mile and a half)
A big field, and it’s 7/1 your pick, which says much about the competitiveness. But we’ll attempt to whittle it down nevertheless, as we enter the punting home straight. Suffice it to say that I’ll be nominating something at a double figure price, as eleven of the last fifteen winners were.
Ten of the fifteen winners finished 1-2-3 last time, and all bar one were top six. No horse older than five has won in that time, despite 51 giving it a bash.
All fifteen had run in the last sixty days. Messrs Morrison (two), Johnston (three) and Stoute (three) are trainers to look out for. Sir Michael is not represented, but Mark Johnston runs three and Hughie Morrison one.
Horses with four or more runs at the twelve furlong trip have won ten of the last fifteen renewals, and those with a distance win have also won ten of the fifteen.
All except Anatolian should be fine on the ground, so now it’s time for a bit of form study.
Whilst I appreciate that 10/15 stats are a little tenuous in the context of a race like this, I’m not planning on punting heavily and I couldn’t suggest you do either, so I’m fine with that.
It leaves us with four: Anatolian, Harlestone Times, Camborne and Hammerfest. Of those, Anatolian might not like give in the ground as much as the other trio.
All three of those for whom the ground should be right are feared but, despite the age stat, I have a real draw to Hughie Morrison’s Cill Rialaig.
This chap won this race in 2010, and conditions look to be absolutely plum for him. He is seven pounds higher than when winning two years ago, and that might stop him, but then again it might not.
He has course, distance, going, and class in his favour, and his trainer is ‘da man’ when it comes to Royal Ascot handicaps.
5.35 Queen Alexandra Stakes (Class 2, two miles and three quarters)
And so it comes to this. Bringing the curtain down on a spectacular five days of flat racing action, which started with Frankel’s Group 1 demolition job, we’re graced with the most curious race of the meeting.
If you need a result here to get you out of jail, I sincerely hope you’re a religious person.
A couple of runners from the Ascot Stakes reappear: winner Simenon and the strongly fancied that day, Elyaadi. Against them is the tough as teak front runner, Overturn; last year’s winner, Swingkeel; and entries from likes of John Gosden, Alain de Royer-Dupre… and Paul Nicholls!
Yes, good luck indeed if you’re in need of a result here.
In any case, just for fun, let’s consult the trends oracle, and see what assistance – if any – it can offer.
There is a chink of light in the fact that only one of the last fifteen winners was sent off at bigger odds than 12/1. Four to six year olds have won thirteen of those fifteen, and fourteen had run in the previous sixty days (with three having run in the Ascot Stakes earlier in the week).
Enjoy The Moment and Dovedon Star were both spanked on the Tuesday before winning on the Saturday, and Baddam won both. This means we need to take the chances of both Elyaadi (spanked) and Simenon (winner) seriously here.
Overturn is the one I like though, despite him being older than most recent winners (he’s still four years younger than Caracciola, who won this as a 12yo (!) in 2009). He’s just the toughest, most lovable front running machine anyone could ever hope to own. After wins in the Scottish Champion Hurdle, Northumberland Plate, Galway Hurdle, Chester Cup, Summer Champion Hurdle, Coral Hurdle, and the Fighting Fifth Hurdle (amazing!), he warmed up for this with second in THE Champion Hurdle and second in the Chester Cup off top weight.
He gets loads of concessions here due to the conditions of the race, and is at least four pounds well in with all of his rivals. He won’t mind the ground, however it is and, whilst Bruslini (rated 32 pounds inferior on the flat and 47 pounds inferior over hurdles!!!) might take him on for the lead, it’s unlikely that will trouble the old warrior too much.
We know Overturn will stay. We know he’s good enough. We know he’ll be fit and ready. We know he goes on the ground. We know he acts on the track. What else do you need?
Selection: Overturn (7/2 general)
Ah, and then came some winners…
After a tough first two days, confidence was restored and patience / loyalty rewarded, as we managed to get four of the first five winners, and have second and third in the other race. Moldowney ran very well in the last too, but was given waaaay too much to do from the back of the pack and finished a never nearer sixth.
We march into day four with the bank replenished. First up, it’s the kiddies once more, in the…
2.30 Albany Stakes (Group 3, 2yo fillies, six furlongs)
This is the eleventh running of the race, and it’s been won by some big priced horses. Indeed, six of the ten winners to date have been at odds of 10/1 or bigger, with Mick Channon’s Nijoom Dubai scooping it at 50/1 back in 2007. In other words, caution is advised!
Supporting the above is the fact that only two favourites have won, and only one other from the top three in the market has added to that tally. A 10% strike rate for the top three in the market is pretty much unheard of, and it hints at one of two things:
1. the balance will shortly be redressed, or
2. the top of the market is to be avoided
Unfortunately, I’ve no clue which will happen this afternoon, but I do know this: it’s as good an excuse to speculate on a decent priced horse as you’ll find.
So, let’s consider some other profile pointers.
Six last time out winners took this, and nine of the ten winners to date were placed 1-2-3 last time. As you’d expect, that excludes very few, but it does exclude some, mercifully.
Seven of the ten winners had run between two and four weeks prior to the race, and all ten had had either one or two previous starts.
Eight of the ten Albany Stakes winners had yet to score over the six furlong trip.
Newfangled is the worthy favourite, having hacked up in soft ground at Newmarket two weeks ago. She beat a hot favourite in Fleeting Smile that day, and there was no fluke about it. Proven in the ground and at the trip, if she’s over those exertions, she’s going to be mighty tough to beat.
Agent Allison is next in the betting, and she too was very impressive on debut, when winning by seven lengths in a Pontefract maiden. But that turning six furlongs on good ground is like chalk to Ascot’s softish ground straight six’s cheese, and I’m happy to let her beat me, despite the visual impression of the run.
The third favourite is Tassel, and she’s surely a ‘morning glory’ horse. Having won stylishly enough in an early season maiden, she was then found to be lame when finishing last in early May.
Presumably she’s recovered from that, and she’s clearly well regarded, but it’s too much of a leap of faith in a contest like this to be taking single figure odds on a filly like her.
And then we get to the double figure odds… The Gold Cheongsam is trained by Jeremy Noseda, who won this in 2005 and 2006. Since then, he’s entered three fillies: an 80/1 poke who finished nowhere, and two others who both placed third. Clearly, we need to respect this one race maiden. She’ll need to step up on what she’s done thus far, but is expected to run close to the frame.
It’s 16/1 bar those four, and that brings in a quartet of once raced unbeaten young ladies: Amazonas, Kosika, Sendmylovetorose, and Sandreamer.
The last named is trained by Mick Channon, who was responsible for the 50/1 bomb mentioned earlier, and she could provide him with another notch here. She’s perhaps been off for a little longer than ideal, but the form of that race is working out well, with the second and fourth winning since. The ground here will be a good bit easier than the fast turf she experienced on debut however.
Amazonas won her maiden by less than a length and none of the four horses to have run since from that race have even made the frame, which leads me pass this one over.
Kosika’s maiden has had one winner, albeit from eleven runners, and that too looks shy of what is probably required here.
And then there’s Sendmylovetorose, an Irish raider, who won by five and a half lengths on soft ground at Navan. She was 16/1 when winning there, and the trainer said he expected her to come on for the run. That being the case, and given her proven predilection for softer ground, it could be argued that 16/1 looks fair each way value. Indeed, I’ve had a sliver of it myself.
Ultimately, this could easily go to the favourite, who ought to run very well. If not, it might be a nice priced winner, and I think Sendmylovetorose has a chance, as to a lesser extent does Sandreamer.
Most likely winner: Newfangled (9/4 general)
Good value each way: Sendmylovetorose, Sandreamer (both 16/1 Ladbrokes)
3.05 King Edward VII Stakes (Group 2, 3yo colts and geldings, one mile and a half)
Some very good winners of this in the recent past, including this year’s Dubai World Cup winner, Monterosso.
Mark Johnston and Johnny G have both won this twice in the last seven years, and Sir Henry has won it three times in the last fourteen years. Johnston doesn’t have a runner this time, but both Gosden and Cecil are doubly represented.
None of the last fifteen winners have been priced bigger than 9/1, and twelve of the fifteen were priced at 9/2 or shorter, so don’t be getting too clever here.
Only two Derby runners have won this since 1997, at odds of 5/4 and 9/2. Derby runners have been beaten at odds of 5/1 or shorter ten times in the same period.
Whilst Derby third, Astrology, could well win this, there are plenty of unexposed horses who may not have had such a hard race last time, and who consequently promise more units in return for each one wagered here.
Noble Mission is second favourite, and his form with Thought Worthy (fourth, six lengths behind Astrology in the Derby) gives him plenty to find. But… that was on much quicker ground than he’d been winning on, and it was over a quarter mile shorter than they’ll travel today.
I fancy Noble Mission to reverse the form with Thought Worthy. Whether that is enough to win here is another question entirely.
In fact, the one I like is Sir Henry’s other runner, Thomas Chippendale. Both he and Shantaram won on the same Newmarket card as Newfangled two weeks ago. It was a horrible day, and the Geegeez Racing Club were there to ‘enjoy’ it.
Thomas Chippendale was a very (very!) well backed favourite, and won turning the proverbial handsprings. Shantaram, by contrast, was an unbackable 1/8 jolly and scrambled home by 3/4 length in an average looking maiden.
He looks the type who has a lot of talent but just wants to follow other horses, and as such I think he’s a precarious proposition from a punting perspective (don’t say that after three Guinnesses).
But TC could be good enough to win this. Certainly, he hardly had a race at Newmarket, whereas Shantaram’s pilot, William Buick, had to get pretty stern with his reluctant leader.
As with the first race, it will be no surprise if the established form horse, Astrology, wins. And, as with the first race, I’m prepared to take my shekels elsewhere, split them in two, and bet win and place on Thomas Chippendale.
Most likely winner: Astrology (5/4 Bet Victor)
Best each way: Thomas Chippendale (8/1 Hills)
3.45 Coronation Stakes (Group 1, 3yo fillies, one mile)
The natural Ascot port of call for 1000 Guineas winners across Europe, and this year is no exception. Newmarket bamboozler, Homecoming Queen, is joined by Irish shocker, Samitar, to defend the Guineas honour, but there are plenty of dangers lurking in a field deep in both numbers and talent.
The first thing to say is that you have to go back to 1999 to find the last winner at longer than 8/1, so again it’s likely that established form will prevail.
Six winners in the last fifteen years also won last time out, and a further seven finished in the first five last time out.
The Prix de Sandringham at Chantilly is a key trial, with both French winners, Banks Hill and Immortal Verse, taking that on their previous start. In fact, the Sandringham is the only non-Classic prep race for the Coronation Stakes, with all winners this decade having previously contested either that, a Guineas, or the Oaks.
The ones who fit the bill this time are the aforementioned Homecoming Queen and Samitar, as well as Laugh Out Loud and Bugie d’Amore (winner and fourth in the Sandringham).
This is a trappy race, and I’m not sure there is a pre-eminent classic filly miler just yet. There likely will be after this contest.
Again, I think Homecoming Queen is a worthy favourite, and any sort of replication of her Newmarket run would see her win this. But if that was a level which she cannot repeat, then any of a number could win.
It’s not a race I’ll be betting in, so no more than a token selection – based on the record of the French here – is Bugie d’Amore each way. There’s a good chance she needed that first run of the season when fourth behind Laugh Out Loud, and the winner (LOL) has had three hard runs in the space of six weeks, which might take its toll.
Samitar is another bidding to prove there was no fluke about her Irish 1000 Guineas win, and whilst I respect her, I’d be surprised if she doubled up here.
Tentative each way: Bugie d’Amore (16/1 Coral)
4.25 Wolferton Handicap (Listed, one mile and a quarter)
This is a race in which I have an opinion on one horse which potentially clouds my judgement on the overall picture. More on that in a moment, but you have been warned!
Six of the ten winners have returned at double figure odds, and the favourite has only won once in that time.
Curiously, and inexplicably perhaps, no last time out winner has won this race from the 28 to have tried. And only one horse who finished second last time has won as well!
A strong trend is that eight of the ten winners were four year olds. In both years when an older horse won, 4yo’s finished second. Indeed, from just 77 runners, they’ve provided eight winners and another 17 placed horses.
Nine of the ten winners did so off a break of between 16 and 60 days.
So now my fancy. He is not double figure odds; he did win last time out; and he is a four year old who ran last 21 days ago. He also has yet to prove he acts on ground any softer than good.
Step forward Gatewood.
I saw this horse win at Epsom. I really fancied him but refused to back him because of the price. In fact, I layed him!
He was in an impossible position, and yet managed to extricate himself from the pickle and storm home like a Group horse against handicappers. I believe this is a Group 2 horse in a Listed handicap at the bottom of the weights.
I have had a good bet at 7/2, which is short enough in a race of this nature, and is not my normal style of bet. But I was extremely taken with that run at Epsom and am prepared to accept being wrong in my visual judgement, if that is how it must be.
There are plenty with place prospects – Qaraaba, Mijhaar and Opera Gal to name but three – but this is the Gatewood Show for me, win, lose or draw.
Selection: Gatewood (7/2 Hills)
Alternative: you choose
5.00 Queen’s Vase (Group 3, 3yo, two miles)
Not a great race in the context of the meeting, and few winners have gone on to be Cup class.
However, it’s a reasonable trends race, with all bar two of the last fifteen winners being priced at 7/1 or shorter, and all bar two also finishing 1-2-3 last time.
Mark Johnston has won the race an incredible six times since 2001. Even more incredible perhaps is that he doesn’t have a runner this year. Sir Michael Stoute, a three time winner since 1998, does have a runner; as does Aiden O’Brien, a dual winner in the last five years.
Stoute has The Queen’s filly, Estimate. Yes, that’s right, he’s going to try to win the Queen’s Vase for The Queen. Estimate is bred for a trip, and for softish conditions too, being a daughter of crack German middle distancer, Monsun, out of a Darshaan mare.
O’Brien runs a son of Dylan Thomas, called Athens. This fellow is stepping up markedly in trip but ought to improve for it, based on his old man’s stamina profile.
The other at the top of the market is Yazdi, in the same ownership as Tuesday winner, Most Improved. He looks like he’ll also appreciate the longer trip, though quite what he achieved when spreadeagling a moderate maiden field at Thirsk last time is anybody’s guess.
One thing about the Queen’s Vase is that it does tend to go to a more experienced horse. Thirteen of the fifteen winners had had three or more starts, which is a slight negative against both Yazdi and Estimate.
I think Athens will be tough to beat here, as I expect him to relish the step up in trip, and he’s already much more proven in a skirmish than his closest market rivals.
And Charles Hills‘ Perennial, a son of Motivator, has a piece of form when a close up third to Michelangelo last time, which gives him a place prospect.
Selection: Athens (4/1 general)
Best each way: Perennial (8/1 general)
5.35 Buckingham Palace Stakes (handicap, seven furlongs)
Most probably the hardest race of the week to win, and to find the winner. It’s a total anti-profile race, with horses winning aged three to eight; from high, middle and low draws; priced from 8/1 to 33/1; and from anywhere in the weights and ratings. Yikes!
Unsurprisingly, they go 9/1 the field and, in truth, this is a race to have twelve in the placepot, and not much else.
In fairness, the majority of winner (7/10) have been aged four to six, and 8/10 have carried 8-05 to nine stone. All ten winners ran within sixty days, with five of them having had sixteen to thirty days off the track.
Those data at least give us a start in this archetypal jelly-nailing exercise…
Indeed, that narrows it down to twelve runners.
Eight of the ten winners, and 26 of the forty placed horses, finished in the first five last time, so I’ll use that to create my shortlist from the dozen above.
Thus we will look further at Hamaat, Jamesie, Directorship and Emilio Largo.
I also like the fact that seven out of the ten winners had already won in fields of fourteen or bigger, and six of them had won in fields of sixteen or bigger. Handling yourself in a big field seems important when there’s thirty runners!
Haamaat is a Wily Willie (Haggas) entry and deserved utmost respect on that basis alone. Although he’s stepping down in class from the Listed race he contested last time, he is also stepping up in trip and considerably in field size (he’s not previously faced more than nine opponents). I’m reluctantly passing over his chance.
Jamesie is REALLY interesting. This Irish raider won over a mile as a two year old and has subsequently been running mainly at sprint distances. But he’s been good enough to finish second and sixth in valuable Galway and Leopardstown big field seven furlong handicaps. He was also second over the trip in a fourteen runner Naas handicap last time out.
He’s drawn 23 and who knows if that’s any good, but on balance I think he’s a nice priced outsider to pin at least a part of my hopes on.
Directorship is also interesting, given that he is saddled by 2007 winning trainer, Patrick Chamings. A very shrewd trainer – indeed he’s one of my 24 Winning Trainers – Chamings knows exactly what it takes to win big pots and this one will be bullet fit.
Whether Directorship is good enough is another question entirely, of course. He’s won in a field of fifteen at Newbury, and is dropping back a furlong (something I like in these big field races where stamina as well as speed comes into play) from when finishing second to the progressive Highland Colori at Sandown the last day.
This is his third run of the season, and I’m expecting Directorship to have a good go at it today, though his middle draw might not be ideal…
Finally on the shortlist, Emilio Largo is a Sir Henry runner. He won his maiden in a field of eighteen, and then won a mile Ripon handicap last time out. Again, he’s dropping back in trip, and he is sure to have further improvement in him. He’s drawn next to Directorship, so I’ll at least be able to track them both from the stalls!
Good luck with your Friday wagers! And don’t forget to get your naps in for the Royal Ascot tipping competition. You can still win the longest odds winner competition even if you haven’t entered yet! Full details are here.
A very tough week for punters so far, and I’m in the majority boat finding it hard to isolate winners. There do seem to be some monster fields this annum, which obviously adds further difficulty to what is already a ferocious puzzle.
Anyway, I gave an honourable mention to Ishvana (won 20/1) yesterday, and had a couple of nice priced places. But my own punting cloth was cut to Nahrain and Electrelane, both of whom disappointed quite badly.
Onwards, for we reach the mid-point of the action today, Ladies Day, and Ascot Gold Cup day. Let’s see if we can find something at a nice price to cheer home in front.
2.30 Norfolk Stakes (Group 2, 2yo, five furlongs)
A five furlong juvenile Group 2 to kick us off on day three, and one which has been eminently ‘gettable’ in recent years (with the possible exception of 16/1 shot Approve in 2010).
All bar one of the last sixteen winners also won last time out, so focus exclusively on that group.
The two I like are Ahern and Reckless Abandon.
Ahern was a bit green on debut, as you might expect, but still managed to beat a field of winners going away. That was a Class 2 event, and he should be ready for this step up in class, especially if breaking more alertly.
Reckless Abandon wandered off a true line and was always holding Annunciation (also in the Norfolk, and a decisive winner since), when bolting up on debut at Doncaster in a big field. Big field experience could count for plenty here, and he gets the tentative nod on that basis.
The favourite, Cay Verde, has already won a course and distance maiden from Hototo (winner of the Windsor Castle on Tuesday) and a Listed contest from Dylanbaru (third behind Hototo in the Windsor Castle). So his form is solid.
The worry about taking short prices on the best form in such races – as perfectly demonstrated on Tuesday by Sir Prancealot – is that other less exposed horses can improve past the established level of form.
It is perfectly feasible that Cay Verde will improve again but, at the price, I’d prefer to look elsewhere.
Down the lists, Gale Force Ten and Morawij might also be good enough to play a part in the finish.
3.05 Ribblesdale Stakes (Group 2, 3yo fillies, one mile and a half)
The next port of call for many Oaks entrants, and so it is again this year, with Oaks second, third, fourth, seventh, ninth and eleventh all re-opposing.
Much was made of the Epsom misfortune of The Fugue, who closed well to take bronze that day, and she is the 2/1 jolly here. But closing equally quickly and from a slightly more advantageous starting position that day was Shirocco Star, who took the silver medal.
Shirocco Star is 6/1 here, though I wouldn’t be certain she can uphold the placings with The Fugue, who had looked progressive.
Interestingly, perhaps, although 26 fillies have lined up here after running in the Oaks, only three have won, at odds of 10/3, 9/2 and, back in 2000, 10/1. Indeed, since 2001, 23 fillies have claimed just those two short priced victories collectively.
So perhaps it is best to swerve the Oaks form entirely, in search of a cleaner line of enquiry. Certainly, the relatively short recovery time between then and now (just twenty days) could count against them, especially after rough runs aplenty.
That being the case, we must look at the chances of Princess Highway, Momentary and Pink Damsel.
This race has always been the plan for Princess Highway, and indeed her dam, Irresistible Jewel won it back in 2002. She had Was 2 3/4 lengths back in third the last day, and that one has since won the Oaks, so on a strict (and slightly dodgy) interpretation of the collateral form, Princess Highway has the beating of The Fugue et al.
Whilst it would be dangerous to take the Epsom form as read, it is certainly fair to say that Princess Highway offers value against The Fugue at around 6/1.
Momentary is a royal runner and, as such, is likely to be shorter than she should be. She beat Shirocco Star by a short head last time, and may well have the right to beat that one again. Whether that form is good enough to win this is the moot point, and I’d bet against it.
Pink Damsel is the possible fly in the ointment. It is nigh on impossible to quantify a single class 5 maiden success in the context of this race. The form looks OK, and the very fact she runs here is something of a clue as to the regard in which she’s held. But, still, it would be something of a surprise if she was good enough to beat all of the more established players.
In summary, it’s perfectly possible that The Fugue will win. But a lot of her last time misfortune is factored into that 2/1 price, and the race looks to have been priced up around the Oaks form, which history suggests is a precarious proposition.
As such, I’m going to have a decent each way bet on Princess Highway, who I think might be good enough to beat all, and should certainly make a very bold bid for the frame.
Selection: Princess Highway (7/1, Boylesports)
Obvious alternative: The Fugue (2/1, general)
3.45 Gold Cup (Group 1, two miles and a half)
Not the Ascot Gold Cup. Oh no, this is simply the Gold Cup. And that, my friends, indicates all of the pomposity and assumptions of superiority that Ascot continues to be keen to exude. I can’t say I’m a fan of its narcissistic management, but I concede to very much enjoy the track, and the spectacular racing it showcases.
Enough of the petty politicking and on with the form analysis.
Fame And Glory, last year’s winner, heads the market, and obviously we know he’ll handle the course and distance just fine. For all that, he does seem to be awfully short in the betting at around even money.
As is often the case, that’s too short to be of interest to me, so I’ll be looking for something to play each way against him.
The next two in the market are Saddler’s Rock, a fellow Irish raider alongside the favourite; and, Colour Vision.
Saddler’s Rock is a progressive and doughty stayer, with only seven career starts, and his four length verdict over Opinion Poll in the 2m2f Doncaster Cup gives him robust claims here. The extra quarter mile of the Gold Cup will be right up his street, and if Fame And Glory hasn’t stolen an unassailable lead, the Rock may well be the one to poop the party.
Colour Vision is another tough scrapper with a hint of class, and his third in the Cesarewitch last year was a great effort. Since then, he was third at Ascot in the two mile Champions Long Distance Cup, a race won by Fame And Glory.
His form with FaG and the fact he was stopping close home in the 2m2f Cesarewitch suggest to me that he’ll find it mightily tough to get past the market leader here, and I’m passing him over, despite Frankie’s express request to ride the horse in favour of Opinion Poll.
In truth, that’s hardly a commendation for the last named, as we look to assess his chances here. But my own view is different from Frankie’s.
In my mind, Opinion Poll is a brilliant horse, and I wish I owned him. He’s raced 25 times and been in the first three on 21 of those occasions, including when staying on well last year in this race to be second at 16/1.
I’m pretty sure he’ll make the frame again. Given that we know he stays, and we know he acts on the track, and that he’s won his last two races in good style, I’m surprised that a) Frankie has jumped ship, and b) he’s not a shorter price.
I think there are two good chances in this race to get the favourite beaten, and I’ll be playing them both, and in a reverse forecast.
Selection: Saddler’s Rock (9/2 general)
Alternative: Opinion Poll (6/1 Ladbrokes)
Reverse forecast – Saddler’s Rock/Opinion Poll
4.25 Britannia Stakes (heritage handicap, 3yo colts/geldings, one mile)
If you haven’t got a few quid in the kitty by now, it’s going to be pretty tough to come out in front on the middle day!
This handicap, featuring thirty (!) progressive horses, has a few trends which help to narrow the field down… which is just as well given that eight of the last fifteen runnings have gone to a horse with a double figure price!
The draw looks interesting, though not conclusive, with five winners drawn six or lower, and nine drawn 18 or higher. As such, I would favour high, but also look to speed on the far side (low). As it happens, there do seem to be a number of pace setters in the low stalls so I’m probably just going to ignore the draw completely… ahem.
Only three last time out winners have followed up in this, against nine horses who finished second or third last time. I’ll favour the unpenalised horse over the last out winners.
Only four of the last fifteen winners were rated lower than 91, so look to the top end of the weights here… and all bar one of the last fifteen winners (as well as all bar six of the sixty win or placed horses) ran between eight and sixty days ago. Alas, that’s not as helpful as it sounds, with most of the entries having had a recent run.
More notable perhaps is that thirteen of those fifteen winners had had between four and seven runs in the previous year.
Putting all of that together gives a shortlist of Leqqaa, Prince Alzain, Trader Jack and – pushing the rating envelope a little – Frog Hollow, Lucky Henry, and Fast Or Free.
Of those, Leqqaa is a very big price, and marginally interesting for it. Never out of the first three in six starts, he’s been second to Coup De Ville (fifth in the 2000 Guineas), and third to Fencing (third in the Racing Post Trophy and the Dante). He ought to be ridden close to the pace, and might bag a place again. At 40/1, he’s worthy of a small speculative.
Prince Alzain has been messed around with, in terms of trip, surface and so on, and he’s probably still a tad unexposed after seven starts. He too has run close to pattern class horses, and has a squeak in an obviously open race at around 16/1.
Trader Jack is one who will definitely improve after just four starts, and barring his seasonal debut on heavy ground, he’s another yet to be out of the frame.
Frog Hollow was well backed last time, suggesting more was expected than his eventual fourth of thirteen in a hot handicap. If he did slightly under-perform there, then he’d have a fine chance here. However, 11/1 doesn’t leave us much latitude for the possibility that he is ‘only’ as good as his last race.
Lucky Henry might have been of interest if it wasn’t for the lamentable form of his stable (just eight winners from 125 runners this year), and, while this chap has twice gone close this term, I wouldn’t bet that he has much more to come.
Fast Or Free is progressive, from the Wily Willie (Haggas, if you didn’t know) yard, and because he doesn’t win by far, it’s very difficult for the assessor to elevate his rating too swingeingly. Although he has had only three previous runs, he might be ready for this step up in class and field size. 8/1 reflects all of the positives, and yet still enables us to get some jam on our bread if he can prevail.
Trappy. In the extreme.
Tentative selection: Fast Or Free, Trader Jack
Possible each way: Leqqaa (40/1, Skybet, paying five places)
5.00 Tercentenary Stakes (Group 3, 3yo, one mile and a quarter)
Previously known as the Hampton Court Stakes, this ten furlong Group 3 has generally gone with the favoured horses, although their pre-eminence has been punctuated by winners at 20/1 (twice) and 33/1 in the last fifteen years.
Highest rated in the race is the German raider, Energizer, and 14/1 suggests his chance has been overlooked somewhat. The winner of a Listed race, he was then second in a Group 3 before finishing fourth, less than three lengths behind Caspar Netscher in the German 2000 Guineas.
If the predicted heavy rain arrives, especially on the round course where most of this race will be run, Energizer has place prospects.
Of the home defence, Starboard looks likely to run well. A son of Zamindar out of the aptly named Summer Shower, Johnny G’s colt has won half of his four starts, including his first run over this trip last time. Another who likes to race close to the pace, he could get things go his way here.
Tales Of Grimm and Wrotham Heath are another two of note here. The former is trained by the quiet-as-a-mouse Sir Michael Stoute, and could give him something to cheer for the first time in what seems like ages. Although Sir Michael has had just eighteen winners this year, three of those have come in the last five days from just eight runners, so there may yet be light at the end of the tunnel for him.
His third to Cogito last time gives him something to find with the second horse that day, the re-opposing Stipulate, but Tales Of Grimm is bound to improve again and, with the Stoute yard now firing, he has a fair chance.
Wrotham Heath is Sir Henry’s other representative (alongside Stipulate), and he looks like a ten furlong specialist in the making. He was getting six pounds from Grandeur (re-opposes off level weights) and, on that form, one would expect Grandeur to reverse placings.
The worry with Grandeur, though, is that he might just need it on the fast side, and I suspect that will not be the case tomorrow afternoon.
Finally, Mukhadram steps up in trip after winning a mile Newmarket maiden in decent style. Indeed, he was odds on that day, and won pushed out without recourse to the whip. So there is plenty more to come, as of course there will need to be in the context of this much better race.
The truth of it is this race is a nightmare, and I don’t have anything even remotely resembling a solid view.
If it rains and the ground softens up, I might have a small each way bet on Energizer, who has a reasonable level of established form. But there are six credible challengers depending on who finds the most improvement.
Not a race to get stuck into.
Selection: none (that’s a rarity)
Token each way if heavy rainfall: Energizer
5.35 King George V Stakes (Class 2 handicap, 3yo, one mile and a half)
From the impossible to the… even more impossible! A nineteen runner mile and a half handicap for unexposed three year olds. Pass the pin!
All bar one of the last fifteen winners finished on the podium last time out, so I’ll scratch any non-last time 1-2-3 finishers. That does remove six of the nineteen, which is at least some help.
Moreover, all bar two of those fifteen winners lugged less than nine stone. Unfortunately for us, that only excludes the previously eliminated Rougemont.
All bar three had had between three and five races in their careers. Taking those factors into account, the serial box-tickers are Anomaly, Cameron Highland, Ghost Protocol, Moldowney, Niceofyoutotellme, and Gabrial The Great.
In fact, I’ve found a little mini-system for this race, which may not even be worth the virtual ink it’s printed with. Nevertheless, faint heart never won fair maiden, or something like that, so here goes:
Horses who ran over greater than a mile and a quarter and up to a mile and a half and finished in the first three in a non-handicap last time have won five of the last fifteen King George V’s for a 33.5 unit profit at SP. Further, they’ve placed on thirteen occasions from their 32 representatives (41%) for a 62.5 unit profit.
There is but one qualifier on this score and he is Moldowney. Tommy Stack’s horses are in great form, and this one had a very troubled passage in his last time out win, but was also cutely ridden to score by the narrow handicapper-dodging distance of a neck. He was value for a good bit more.
Stack has already hit the board this week with Dylanbaru in the closer on Tuesday, and he can do the same again in the closer on Thursday. 16/1 looks worth a play, each way natch!
One day down, four to go in the greatest Flat racing festival of them all. I was lucky enough to be there yesterday, and it was a fantastic day.
Frankel destroyed a high class field of Group 1 horses in a way that is very rarely seen and surely put an end to the who is better, Frankel or Black Caviar debate.
Winners were hard to find for yours truly, and a number of pro tipsters too (Pricewise drew a blank).
But history is no place for a man with a wallet full of betting vouchers, so it’s eyes front, eyes down, and look in, as we hurtle licketty-split into Day Two of the Royal Ascot jamboree.
With the ground drying after a lovely day yesterday, we’re probably looking for genuine good ground sorts this afternoon. It all starts at 2.30pm, with the…
2.30 Jersey Stakes (Group 3, 3yo, seven furlongs)
A lower key start than Tuesday’s bombastic Queen Anne, but an interesting conundrum nevertheless. The seven furlong distance is something of a specialist trip, so it’s little surprise to see that five of the last six winners had already won over the trip.
A middle draw seems favourable with no horse having won from the bottom three stalls, or the top three stalls in big fields, in the last fifteen years.
Although ten of the last fifteen winners were first or second last time out, you’d have lost a fair sum following them blindly. All bar two of the last fifteen winners had run between two weeks ago and two months ago.
Somewhat uninspiringly, perhaps, the three on my shortlist are Reply, Aljamaaheer, and Sentaril, also known as the first three in the betting.
Two of those three are progressive last time out winners – Aljamaaheer and Sentaril – and the other, Reply, is the form choice, judged on his third to Power in the Irish 2000 Guineas. Given that he may not have truly stayed that day, a return to seven furlongs might be perfect.
This is a race to be getting through the placepot with, as much as anything else, so I’ll be playing all of those three, along with a couple of ‘randomizer’ pokes in Telwaar and Ishvana.
The former had a shocking trip in the French 2000 Guineas but had previously won a Listed race over seven furlongs. The latter ran a game second in the Irish 1000 Guineas.
Selection: Reply / Aljamaaheer (takes your pick)
Best Outsiders: Ishvana / Telwaar (takes your pick again)
3.05 Windsor Forest Stakes (Group 2, fillies and mares, one mile)
One of the newer races, and a good one too. Only two of the eight winners to date prevailed on their previous start (though in truth that’s a curious, and probably misleading stat!)
All bar Peeress had previously won a Group race, though only a couple had won at Group 1 or 2 level.
Four-year-olds have won six of the eight renewals.
Emulous is too short for me here, despite having won her last four, including a three runner Group 1, the merit of which has to be questioned.
Against her is the tough and progressive Nahrain, who probably improved when her four race career win streak was halted in the Breeders Cup Filly and Mare Turf. Her second place there was a fine effort. Although I have a slight doubt about the drop back in trip, there’s no doubting this lass’ class, and her trainer is in superb form just now.
Chachamaidee from the Sir Henry yard will have plenty of fans. She’s super consistent, but tends to find one too good, as she has done the last twice she’s run at Ascot, including in this race last year.
One at a price who might run well is Lay Time. She was plunged on at Epsom last time out as though that Group 3 was a penalty kick, but clearly despised the track. I know connections rate this filly highly, and it would be no surprise to see her hit the board here, back on a more straightforward strip.
Best Outsider: Lay Time
3.45, Prince Of Wales’ Stakes (Group 1, one mile and two furlongs)
The 150th running of this excellent race, and a strong field attempt to claim it, including last year’s runner up, So You Think, and the royal runner (and 2011 Derby third), Carlton House.
Further depth is added by the presence of a true ‘could be anything’ type in Farhh, who hosed up by six lengths in an ultra-competitive handicap last time to maintain his own unbeaten run; and, the formerly top class Frenchies, Planteur and Reliable Man.
There is also an American raider, Big Blue Kitten, but that one looks bound to fare better when paint-scraping around Santa Anita’s tight oval in the Breeders Cup Mile back on home soil.
So what of the trends?
The first thing to note is that the French have won three of the last five, and French or Irish trainers have won five of the last seven.
All bar two of the last fifteen winners had finished first or second last time out, a fact which points strongly to the top of the market.
Nine of the last ten winners had already won a Group 1 race.
Four and five year olds have won all of the last sixteen renewals. However, the last six year old to win was Muhtarram, who doubled up as a five year old and then a year later in 1994/5.
So You Think will attempt to win after being narrowly denied by that brilliant/awful* (delete as applicable, depending on where you stand on the whip debate) ride by Frankie on Rewilding last year.
So we’re looking for a fancied horse with a Group 1 win already in the bag, and probably aged four or five. On those principles, you’d not look further than Planteur, the ex-Frenchie, now trained by Marco Botti.
This chap won the G1 Prix Ganay around this time last year, but has been a little quieter since. He was fourth here behind So You Think last year, and has since been third in the Dubai World Cup. It is quite difficult to envisage him reversing placings with the favourite (SYT), despite him being an attractive price to do so.
The Queen’s Carlton House, who would surely raise the roof if winning, has to find a bit more. He ticks a lot of boxes, but has never won at Group 1 level, though he was third in the Derby (beaten a length) and fourth in the Irish Derby (beaten two lengths) over a trip that seems too far.
He’s won both times he’s run over today’s ten furlongs trip, and he’ll love the ground. I think HRH has a very good chance this afternoon.
Farhh is the other I need to mention. Three runs, three wins: a maiden by six lengths, and two handicaps by two and a half lengths and six lengths (the latter off top weight and a mark of 100). Clearly, we don’t yet know how good he is, but we do know he’s very good.
He has Frankie on board this afternoon, and could it be that So You Think sees Dettori’s blue silks in his wing mirrors for the second year running? Possible.
Of the rest, Reliable Man was another good French horse last season who has something to prove this time around. The trip looks right, and I’ve had a decent bet on this horse more than once in the past. I’m not sure the drying ground will be in his favour however and, for now at least, I’ll risk him beating (and frustrating the hell out of) me.
Selection: Carlton House
Best each way: Farhh
4.25 Royal Hunt Cup (heritage handicap, Class 2, one mile)
One of the best handicaps of the season, and often won by a Group horse wolf in handicap company sheep’s clothing. I’m going to use trends to narrow the field down and then form to try to find a horse with a chance… So…
Four and five year olds have won fourteen of the last fifteen. Eleven older horses down, nineteen 4/5yo’s still in.
Eight have been drawn 23+, three were drawn in the middle ten and four were drawn low, in what is almost always a full field of thirty. It’s far from a knockout blow, but I’m favouring high drawn in the final reckoning (though will likely dutch a low draw as well).
Ten of the last fifteen were first to fourth last time out, and the other five were anywhere down to twelfth. Again, I’ll favour a decent placing last time, but it’s certainly not a killer blow.
Although Mr Aviator and Mine won this carrying 9-05, all of the other thirteen winners have shouldered no more than a pound above nine stone. I’ll make that my cut off here, which removes a further nine, leaving ten low weighted four and five year olds still in contention.
The one which stands out for me is Dimension. He’s won at Ascot, was second on his seasonal debut last time (surely a pipe opener for this), comes from the excellent James Fanshawe yard (five winners from fifteen runners, and a 32 point profit in recent seasons at the Royal meeting).
It remains to be seen whether the draw will be a hindrance, but there are plenty of other fancied runners drawn low. He’ll be my low pick.
On the high side, Belgian Bill looks ‘jobbed up’ with Kieren Fallon on board. Fourth in the equally competitive Britannia Handicap over the same straight mile last year, Bill has been running well in Meydan prior to a head second in a Wolverhampton Listed race last time.
He’s got form in big fields, will go on the ground, has a racing weight (just about), is drawn nice and high, and the trainer (George Baker) is in excellent form.
Two others drawn high and worthy of mention (and possibly each way support) are Trade Storm and Fair Trade.
Trade Storm was fifth when Belgian Bill was fourth in the Britannia last year, and ticks all other boxes aside from a top four finish (a secondary consideration in any case). He’s dropping down in class here, and looks to have a good each way chance with conditions perfect.
Fair Trade comes from the equally shrewd Hughie Morrison yard, and is also dropping down in class, as well as in trip. Conditions look much more acceptable here, and this could be another Morrison Royal Ascot handicap plot (three winners from fourteen runners and 25 points profit in last five years). However, he does have a lot of weight…
Selection: Dimension / Belgian Bill (takes your pick)
Best each way: Trade Storm / Fair Trade (takes your pick)
5.00 Queen Mary Stakes (Group 2, 2yo, five furlongs)
A race won from all parts of the draw and of the market, this is a trappy old punting contest.
The one route in is that most winners (and specifically twelve of the last fifteen) came here off a win, and the same number had run either once (three winners) or twice (nine winners).
That gives a shortlist of eight, notwithstanding that we may have thrown out the winning baby with the trend-pruning bath water!
The octet are Belle Intrigue, Jadanna, Madam Mojito, Mironica, Miss Diva, Projectisle, Sharaarah and Upward Spiral.
Eleven of the last fifteen winners had had a break of at least sixteen days, which counts against Belle Intrigue and Projectisle (stable mate to Tuesday’s winning two year old, Hototo).
Whilst clearly it’s difficult to be confident in such a race, I have a soft spot for James Given’s Jadanna here. She’s got Frankie Dettori in the plate today, is two from two, has won on soft and firm (!), including in one of the best two year old races prior to Royal Ascot (the Hilary Needler at Beverley).
She’s unlikely to be far off the pace, and 12/1 looks fair enough.
Upward Spiral won nicely in a Sandown five furlong maiden, though nothing has come out of the race to frank the form especially. Likewise, Mironica’s maiden form has yet to be seconded.
Of the outsiders, Projectisle won by a short head from a horse which won next time. There were five lengths back to the rest that day and, as I’ve said, the trainer – Kevin Ryan – won the Windsor Castle Stakes last night. She might outrun her 28/1 odds.
Best outsider: Projectisle
5.35 Sandringham Handicap (Listed, 3yo fillies, one mile)
A tough handicap conundrum to close day two, and we’ll need more than a bit of luck to find the winner here.
Eight last time out winners have taken this, and eleven fillies placed 1-2-3 last time won here in the last fifteen years.
All bar one of the last fifteen winners came from the top six in the betting, so it’s not a race to get too cute with.
Horses rated up to 96 have won twelve of the fifteen, but note that two fillies rated 105 have also won! (The percentage play is the lower rated, and therefore lower weighted, lasses however).
The one I’m going to focus on then, is Ladys First. She is lightly raced, has good ground form, will appreciate the mile, and will certainly come on for her seasonal debut.
The other who matched the profile of recent winners is Hello Glory, but she does seem to have to prove she stays the trip, and there will be no hiding places in this straight mile scrap. In her defence, she has won a six furlong race here comprehensively, and Ascot is a track where previous form should be marked up.
Of the top weights, I love Ralph Beckett’s Electralane. She’s got the most weight here because she’s the best filly here… but it might stop her from winning.
She won a Group 2 on soft in Germany last time (German 1000 Guineas, no less) and, whilst she’s not certain to appreciate this sounder surface, she’s surely the class pick of the race.
Selection: Ladys First
Next best: Electralane
And that’s how I see day two of Royal Ascot.
Now then, if you’re not already entered in our Royal Ascot tipping competition, it’s not too late.
There are two prizes, one for the most cumulative points profit, and one for the highest winning odds pick. So, in theory, you could still win a prize if a 50/1 shot wins the last race on Saturday (has happened before!).
You make two choices each day, one point win on your nap, and half a point win on your next best… and that’s it!
Most profit from the week wins £100
Biggest odds winner wins £50 (or a share of it)
Here’s where to enter your two selections: http://forum.geegeez.co.uk/viewforum.php?f=10&sid=7bb05f04839db03736726e212918e596
2.30 Queen Anne Stakes (Group 1, a mile)
It all kicks off tomorrow at 2.30pm with the Group 1 Queen Anne Stakes. The white hot favourite is Frankel, and it’s very hard to see him getting beaten, such is his superiority over all-comers at this one mile trip.
Frankel has won all ten of his races to date, including seven in Group 1 company, and seven over a mile trip. He’s won on all surfaces from soft to good to firm, and he’s won in fields of three to thirteen.
His least impressive wins, in terms of winning distance at least, have been on soft on his racecourse debut (though the second horse that day, Nathaniel, proved to be Group 1 class himself!); and here at Royal Ascot last year, where he scrambled home from Zoffany.
In truth, the form of the maiden is unimpeachable with a subsequent Group 1 winner in second, and a subsequent Group 3 winner in third. And he was given a fairly moderate ride by Tom Queally in the St James Palace Stakes last year, which might also have come soon enough after that explosive Guineas run, from which mere mortal equines would surely have bounced from here to the moon.
Since then, he sauntered home on Champions Day over the same straight mile as the Queen Anne (the St James Palace being run on the round course mile), and anything which has previously run against him is extremely unlikely to get past him this time.
If we’re in the business of trying to make a case for a horse each way and, if you want to bet on this race, then we surely are… the horse which appeals most to me is Worthadd.
It’s fair to say that I’ve been following this horse over a cliff in recent times, but his form over a mile at Newbury last season, when beating all bar Canford Cliffs, is high class.
Since then, he won a soft Group 2 in Italy, was beaten in a couple of strong Group 1′s, then won a German Group 3, before patently failing to act on the track at Epsom last time when sent off the 5/6 favourite.
Red Jazz, Bullet Train and Windsor Palace will likely set this up to be a ferocious gallop, and if Worthadd can track that speed, he can pick up some of the pieces behind Frankel and possibly Excelebration.
As a final point, they may not pay fortunes on it, but the Frankel-Excelebration forecast has paid off in three of their four meetings, with only Zoffany’s late rattle here last year preventing that being four from four. The exactas have paid £9.30, £3.90 and £1.80, so if the 1/6 on Frankel isn’t your cup of tea, then maybe 4/5 or bigger the one-two with Excelebration is a way to play.
Selection: Frankel (duh!)
Best outsider: Worthadd
Exacta option: Frankel to beat Excelebration (3-2)
3.05 King’s Stand Stakes (Group 1, five furlongs)
The second of three Group 1′s to start the meeting, and this is always a fiercely contested event. There are some trend elements here which might give a clue or two.
Although it wouldn’t be a knockout blow, it’s interesting to note that only one horse has won this in the last fifteen years from a draw higher than 16, from 49 who have tried. Fancied Sole Power is drawn 22 of the 23 runners.
No fewer than eight of the last fifteen renewals have been ‘burgled’ by an overseas raider, including four from Australia. The Aussies are represented this time by Ortensia, who is on a four-timer and was impressive when winning the Al Quoz sprint in Dubai, from Sole Power.
Age hasn’t been much of a barrier in recent times, with the breakdown of ages, wins and runs as follows:
3 – 3 – 60
4 – 2 – 69
5 – 5 – 53
6 – 3 – 49
7 – 2 – 25
8+ – 0 – 20
Three to seven year olds look to be the area in which to focus.
Seven of the last eight winners were 8/1 or shorter, but six of the last fifteen winners were 16/1 or bigger. As such, I’m going to side with a profile horse at a shorter price, and an older horse at a bigger price.
Bated Breath had previously looked like a six furlong specialist, but then bolted up in the Group 2 Temple Stakes over five last time. He must have a strong chance if replicating that.
Wizz Kid is unlikely to be beaten far, but he does tend to have hard luck stories in his form diary, and might again get going too late here. There are doubts about both the ground and the draw for Sole Power, so I’m happy to let him beat me if he can overcome both.
Ortensia then is the short-ish pick to add to the Australian’s already impressive race record here. She looks versatile as regards running style, and should get a strong ride from regular pilot Craig Williams.
At a more speculative price is Tangerine Trees. This chap may have needed his seasonal debut, when seventh behind Bated Breath and a number of others in this field, last time. The ground was also plenty firm enough there.
This easier surface, allied to a middle draw, and a relative lack of pace challengers mean TT should be able to make a bold bid from the front. Last season, he was good enough to win the Group 3 Palace House Stakes, the Listed Beverley Bullet (!), and – notably – the Group 1 Prix de l’Abbaye at Longchamp on Arc day.
That last run, where he was all out at the line, gives him a better chance than his current 25/1 odds imply, and he has a good wins to runs ratio (12 wins from 35 races). 25/1 looks too big to me.
Best Outsider: Tangerine Trees
3.45 St James Palace Stakes (Group 1, 3yo, one mile)
The St James Palace Stakes is invariably a very good race, and was won last year by Frankel himself. This term it actually looks a tad sub-par, which is hinted at by the bumper sixteen runner field.
The market also looks most lop-sided with Power 3/1 favourite, and then they bet 10/1 bar one.
Let’s start with the trends…
Aidan O’Brien has won this six times this century, and saddles Power and Wrote here.
The previous biggest field in the last fifteen years was eleven, and there has been a winner from every stall position between one and eleven. However, in this bigger field, it might be that a draw bias emerges. Unfortunately, there’s no historical evidence to help identify it!
Ten of the last fifteen winners of the St James Palace Stakes won last time out, and four more finished in the first four last time out, so favour a win or high placing.
Although no horse has won at bigger than 8/1, this has normally been due to an overwhelming favourite and/or strong Guineas form coming into the race. Whilst Power did win the Irish 2000 Guineas, there are reasons to believe the merit of that race is limited.
Now let’s deal with the form. And, straight away, let me say that I’m against Power. I opposed him in the Newmarket Guineas, I opposed him in the Irish 2000 Guineas (wrongly, as it turned out), and I’m opposing him here. 3/1 or so is simply far too short in a very competitive race.
There are bound to be hard luck stories in this sixteen runner turning mile event, and Power is a hold up horse these days, which means he’ll not only need to be the best horse, but he’ll also need luck in running. Like I say, I’d be a layer at 3/1.
The form of the next few in the betting is open to question. 8/1 Most Improved was disappointing last time, and has plenty to prove to justify that sort of a price; 10/1 Hermival didn’t seem to have many excuses behind Power last time; ditto 10/1 Born To Sea.
So who will win? Well, one who fits all the trends and has robust form is Lucayan. This Gallic raider is yet to finish outside the first two in five starts, the most recent of which was a thrilling win in the French 2000 Guineas, beating Dabirsim et al.
This form is almost certainly stronger than the Irish equivalent, and he’ll love the ground. His acceleration that day was stylish and whilst he probably got the luck to win (first nine home separated by less than two and a half lengths!), he wasn’t a lucky winner… if that makes sense.
[What I mean is that he was given the best ride and won as a result, but he would have been good enough for a top four finish in any case. I'm not sure if that's any clearer!!]
Stephane Pasquier rides again, and 11/1 is too big.
Of the unexposed improvers, Lydia Hislop likes The Nile (and now, so do I, having been pointed to his chance by her). This fellow is actually a turf maiden, but that tells but a part of the story.
Third in a Newbury maiden last Summer, he wasn’t seen again until winning a Lingfield maiden by… eleven lengths! That race has worked out ok with a couple of well beaten horses winning since.
On his third and final start, The Nile was stepped up to Listed company and dropped back in trip to seven furlongs. The reduced trip was all against The Nile and he was finishing best but too late.
Johnny G doesn’t overface his horses too often, so the fact he’s stepping The Nile up so markedly in class is testament to a) what he thinks of the horse, and b) what he thinks of the three year old mile brigade. We should get a run for the each way money at 16/1.
Best Outsider: The Nile
4.25 Coventry Stakes (Group 2, 2yo, six furlongs)
The Coventry Stakes is the first juvenile race of the week and bundles of winners come out of it. We’re looking for a last time out winner (fourteen of last fifteen) which has had one or two previous runs (14/15), and who has had a break of at least sixteen days (15/15).
There are plenty who fit this bill, including Sir Prancealot, Cristoforo Colombo, Lines Of Battle, Englishman and Artigiano. Interestingly, the favourite, Dawn Approach has run three times and his last run was just fifteen days ago.
Obviously, three wins from three runs says he can win. But I’d rather look elsewhere for my idea of the winner.
Again, the draw may be material, with just four winners being drawn in double digits, from 117 starters.
Aiden O’Brien (six) and Richard Hannon (two) have won eight of the last fifteen runnings of the Coventry Stakes, and I’m siding with Aiden’s Cristoforo Colombo, who won well on debut, is ostensibly well drawn, has had a nice little break since his debut win, and has the extremely competent Joseph O’Brien up top.
His odds of 6/1 look fair rather than stunning value, and he should run a nice race.
At bigger prices, Artigiano looks value at around 16/1 to give Frankie Dettori a popular win, and the horse has a great form chance on his six length routing of a Leicester maiden field. The ground might be a bit too easy for him, but at 16/1 he’s worth an each way dig.
Sir Prancealot has strong claims on his National Stakes win, and again, 9/2 looks fair enough without being spectacular.
Selection: Cristoforo Colombo / Sir Prancealot (take your pick)
Best Outsider: Artigiano
5.00 Ascot Stakes (Class 2 handicap, two and a half miles)
A marathon handicap though not the longest race of the week, and only the joint second longest. Bizarrely, there is a draw bias here, which tends to favour those drawn lower. Indeed, the last fourteen renewals have seen nine fall to a horse drawn ten or lower.
In a race where the field is almost always the full twenty (used to be as big as 29!), it pays to be low.
Four and five year olds have dominated, with eleven wins from fourteen races. Eleven of those fourteen winners finished in the first four last time, with seven (50%) winning last time out.
A horse rated 70 won this once (Sindapour for that old rogue, Martin Pipe, in 2003), but generally speaking horses rated in the 80′s are those to focus on, as are those running within two months of their previous start.
All of which helps to narrow things down somewhat to a shortlist of Private Story and Twin Soul.
There are plenty of National Hunt trainers with possible plot horses in here, including five of the first eight in the betting. Obviously, these horses can (and do) win, but I can’t begin to unravel the respective merits of their chances.
In such circumstances, I will acknowledge that Simenon has a favourite’s chance on his NH form, and that David Pipe has inherited the wile gene from his father (he runs Ashbrittle and Fiulin).
I actually backed the winner last year (the Tuesday being great for me before it all went bad), Veiled, and she runs again here. Obviously she has her chance, and just seven pounds higher than when putting nigh on three lengths between herself and the rest this time last year, she is of interest once more.
In a race with many chances, the last word goes to Private Story. What do you make of a horse who has only won two races – his first race and his last race – with the latter being a lowly seller?!
Trained by David O’Meara, who knows what to do with a stayer (witness Blue Bajan), and any price you like (as long as you like a price no bigger than 33/1), Private Story could run somewhere or nowhere.
He’s well drawn in three, has the excellent Silvestre de Sousa riding, likes to stalk the pace which he’ll be able to do, and is rated in the right part of the handicap. He might not stay, and he might very well not be good enough to avail himself of all those positives… but at ‘double carpet’ there are worse pokes than he.
Best Outsider: Private Story
5.35 Windsor Castle Stakes (Listed, 2yo, five furlongs)
A race that can throw up a big priced winner, and not one to be going mad in (how many times will I advise that this week?!), the Windsor Castle Stakes hasn’t thrown up too many future champions.
Instead, raw early speed is the order of the hour. Nine last time out winners prevailed, and they were joined by another four who finished second or third.
All fifteen winners had one to three runs under their belts, and all had last run within eight to sixty days.
Despite his wealth of juvie talent, Richard Hannon has failed to win this in the last fifteen years despite saddling plenty of runners. He doesn’t send his best here, and his ‘third team’ aren’t generally good enough. As such, I’ll swerve the fancied (in the market at least) Lyric Ace.
In what is an absolute ‘crap shoot’ of a race, I’ll throw the dice at Smoothtalkinrascal and Pay Freeze.
The former ran second to a horse who is close to favourite in the (much better than this) Coventry, and then beat a field of maidens hands down.
He’s got plenty of tactical speed and his stalking style ought to be ideal here, with front runners likely to get burnt out.
The latter, Pay Freeze, is dropping back from six furlongs, but was clear at the furlong pole last time and went on to win by five lengths.
With no confidence whatsoever, I’ll nominate those two as token plays.
Selection: Pay Freeze
Each way: Smoothtalkinrascal
And that’s day one, the Tuesday of Royal Ascot. It’s the best day’s racing and maybe the best chance of winning a few quid, so it might be a long week if we draw an early blank.
Below are the best bookmaker offers for the week ahead, so do avail yourself of anything which works in conjunction with the horses you fancy.
1. Risk free £10 bet. Open an account, bet £10 on a horse at evens or bigger. If the horse loses, email Setanta support to get a free bet to the same stake.
2. Skybet are offering a free £10 bet (no deposit required) to all new customers. They are also promising a number of ‘enhanced odds’ races throughout the week.
p.s. we’re also running a cash prize Royal Ascot tipping competition on the blog. Starting tomorrow, you could win £100 if you’re the best picker, and £50 if you pick the longest priced winner.
It’s free to enter, you get two picks a day (one point win on your nap, half a point win on your next best), and – of course, the judge’s decision is final. (That’s me, by the way)
You can enter here: ROYAL ASCOT NAPS COMPETITION