Previews, tips and trends for major horse racing fixtures across the UK. Detailed day-by-day reports and info on horses, races, courses, events and more.

Glorious Goodwood 2017: Day Four Preview, Tips

Glorious Goodwood 2017: Day Four Preview, Tips

The fourth day of five, and the last for which I will be previewing the action. Saturday's are for superstar punters and 'recreationals', in my opinion, and if you know you're not a superstar punter, well, you know... 😉

Parking the joy hoover and getting back to Friday's action, it doesn't get any easier. The very wet Wednesday, which turned the ground heavy, has been superseded by dry breezy days. These will suck much of the moisture from the turf leaving sticky claggy holding ground. In France, they have a 'holding' going description. Here, we call it soft but it is anybody's guess whether a horse will act on it. I'd very much like to see the introduction of a 'holding' going description. But don't be 'holding' your breath for that to happen.

Be all that as it may, we have race puzzles to solve, and we have that muddy fly in the ointment to keep aforethought, as we begin at...

1.50 Glorious Stakes (1m 4f, 4yo+, Group 3)

Eight declared for what will be a decent test of stamina in the expected conditions. With little science behind the theory, I tend to prefer horses racing close to the pace when the turf is gluey. I believe, rightly or wrongly, that it is more difficult for closers to accelerate, so that will play into these deliberations.

Keep in mind, too, that there are trends for Friday's Glorious Goodwood action here.

The clear form horse in the race is Godolphin's Frontiersman, runner up the last twice in Group 1 and Group 2 company. This then is a drop in class, but he's a quirky chap who races from the back of the field as a rule. He hung quite badly at both Epsom and Newmarket meaning Goodwood's undulations are hardly ideal. Moreover, William Buick's mount has never raced on slower than good to soft, and on that one occasion he was well beaten in a Group 3. Form pick he may be, but there are enough reasons to look elsewhere at the price.

Poet's Word won a handicap at this meeting last year over a furlong shorter, so trip and track should be fine. But that was on firm ground and in Class 3, this is soft and Group 3. He's improved since, finishing second in a Group 3 last time, but all his best form is on a sound surface (beaten five lengths both times on good to soft, though ran all right each time).

One which may lack the class of the above pair but will be suited to the conditions is Lord Yeats. He has progressed from a handicapper into a Pattern class horse this term, winning both starts, the most recent of which was a Listed contest where he beat the re-opposing Second Step. His recent improvement coincides with spins on soft ground and he is the lone pace angle in the race. 6/1 seems worth the risk.

Second Step is also interesting: he gets to run on (presumed at time of writing) soft ground for the first time since a debut neck second 20 runs back. He has been a consistent servant to connections and has been rated as high as 118 in the past. He is a deep closer which may or may not help his cause in the ground but 6/1 probably offers a degree of latitude in that regard.

The rest may not be quite good enough.

*

2.25 Thoroughbred Stakes (1m, 3yo, Group 3)

A sighter ahead of one of the big handicaps of the week over the same trip, one mile. Eleven largely unexposed three-year-olds line up and it requires an element of projection as to which may step forward the most. At least, unlike with the juvenile races, there is some form in the book.

The favourite is the French raider, TRAIS FLUORS, who represents the magnificent Andre Fabre. But while M. Fabre's overall record when hopping across to Blighty is impressive - 11 winners from 50 runners (22%) since 2009 - he has brought but a single horse to Goodwood in recent times, perhaps ever. That was the well fancied Reefscape in 2006, who could only finish seventh behind Yeats in the Goodwood Cup.

Still, it is an interesting entry, and Trais Fluors had a solid string of winning form - four career wins on the bounce - before beating all bar Thunder Snow in the Group 1 Prix Jean Prat last time. That one had previously been third in the St James's Palace Stakes and second in the Irish 2000 Guineas, form which looks smart in the context of this Group 3.

And, whisper it, Vincent Cheminaud (Van-sonn Shem-ee-no) may have given the late, late runner too much to do that last day. He is the clear form choice in the race and will win if he handles the ground and VC gets the fractions right. Regarding soft ground, he's by Dansili out of a Manduro mare, which offers plenty of hope to his backers. [Non-runner]

Of the rest, Andrew Balding's Beat The Bank is three from four including an easy Listed success last time. He needs to find more - perfectly possible - and prove he acts in this mud.

Meanwhile, Mr Goodwood, Andrea Atzeni, legs up on Make Time, one of the few in the race with form on soft. The son of Makfi, out of a Lomitas mare, won his maiden by five lengths on his sole try on slow turf. That race has worked out all right, with ten subsequent winners from 48 starts, and he could be the one to benefit if the favourite falters. He looks fairly assured as an each way/placepot play at 4/1 with some of the, erm, lesser bookies. At least I hope he does...

*

3.00 Betfred Mile Handicap (1m, Class 2)

This big field mile handicap has one of the strongest draw biases in the calendar. Those drawn low and with a prominent run style have a huge edge on their higher drawn counterparts. Indeed, 13 of the last twenty winners were berthed in the inside five stalls, with another two drawn in stall seven. 75% of the winners from 35% of the draw. Moreover, 54 of the 80 place positions (67.5%) came from the bottom 50% of the draw.

The imponderable, to some degree, is the ground; but it remains safest to focus on those low and front rank. Interesting against that brief are Withernsea and Birchwood, both trained by Richard Fahey (won this in 2003 with Lady Bear, drawn five).

Withernsea will exit trap seven, successful in 2015 (So Beloved, later disqualified for a banned substance) and 2010 (Sea Lord). He's a prominent racer rather than right on the speed, and should be able to settle in behind Zhui Feng and the wide drawn pair of G K Chesterton and Masham Star. His soft ground record is 21871, the most recent win coming in a 15-runner handicap at Newbury. The '8' was over seven furlongs here, where he was staying on before running out of piste; and the '7' was when badly interfered with.

Only four pounds higher than that last win and off the same mark as when an excellent third in the International Handicap (27 runners) last weekend he has a lot going for him for a 20/1 chance (Victor).

Birchwood is more speculative, a fact that is accommodated in a quote of 25/1. To date he's race exclusively at up to seven furlongs meaning an immediate doubt about stamina. His pedigree offers only the faintest of hope. And yet... he was a Group 2 winner as a juvenile, has run consistently well on a soft surface, is drawn in stall two and has a prominent racing style. Jamie Spencer takes the reins and he is an excellent judge of pace: hopefully he'll keep this lad in a forward position and ride as though stamina is guaranteed. From there we'll see. As always, the price makes the play.

Zhui Feng has a lot in his favour. What is against him, however, is a rising mark - lines up off a career high rating - and a perception that he doesn't want it on the slow side. That, coupled to a quote of 12/1, means he's not for me this time.

The favourite is Blair House. He's a lightly raced son of Pivotal who has finished first and second in his two runs on good to soft. He's untried on softer but indications are that he will handle it. Stall nine is not insurmountable, though if adopting his usual midfield style, mucho lucko may be required for a clear passage. At 6/1, he's no more than a small saver option.

Henry Candy's Greenside, a five length winner of a soft ground handicap, has been very well backed. He may well be suited by the sodden lawns but he was racing off 76 that day and now competes off 23 pounds north. Though he's doubtless improved in the interim it remains possible that he outclassed his lower grade opposition rather than relished the underfoot.

Still, he seems to have conditions largely to suit, though the combination of his weight and draw (11) mean he's only fairly priced at 9/1, even allowing for the fact he should be able to get a handy sit.

I thought Arcanada was interesting until I saw his draw. He's got stall 21 and that may be too much to overcome. As a generally prominent racer, his jockey - Tom Dascombe - will have a fiendish task getting across near the front without using too much petrol. The alternative is to take back, sit and hope, which is not an especially attractive punting proposition; not for me at least. On the plus side, he likes soft ground and big fields, as he showed when fourth in last year's Britannia Handicap at Royal Ascot; and his prep run was eye-catching. But 12/1 is a rubbish price with the draw.

I'm happy to take my chances with 25/1 Birchwood and, especially, 20/1 Withernsea.

*

3.35 King George Stakes (5f, Group 2)

A classy sprint though one where not all of the principles are sure to be suited by the give in the turf. The one who will, and the one to be on, is PROFITABLE. Clive Cox's sprinter was a Group 1 winner over five furlongs on soft last year, in the King's Stand Stakes at Royal Ascot; and he's twice run second so far this term, including in the same race on good to firm. Back on an easy surface, he'll relish conditions and has a class edge on the more exposed runners in this field. 3/1 is nap material.

There are some less exposed types, however, most notably Battaash. But that one's only unplaced effort in six spins over the minimum was when encountering soft ground (and a big field) in last year's Windsor Castle Stakes. The jury remains out on his effectiveness in the wet, in spite of some terrific efforts on quicker so far this term.

Likewise, the fast filly, Marsha, has yet to race on softer than good in eleven turf starts. She was a very close fifth, beaten less than a length, in this last year, but that was on good to firm. Nevertheless, she is quite a big price - 7/1 - if you're happy to roll the dice on the going concern.

Pick of the outsiders has to be Final Venture. Paul Midgley's flyer loves soft turf, has improved this season, and is drawn close to the rail in stall eleven. 20/1 is too big in a race where plenty are either unproven or probably won't enjoy conditions.

*

4.10 Nursery Handicap (6f, 2yo, Class 2)

This is filed under 'impossible', though the late Dandy Nicholls obviously didn't get the memo: he won it four times on the spin between 2006 and 2009. It might have been nice if they'd named it in his memory this year, his forays to the Glorious meeting rarely fruitless.

My lucky dart has fallen on Holy Tiber, twice a winner from three career starts and both times on soft ground. She is a handicap debutant for George Scott, whose record with 'cap first timers in the last two years is four-from-twelve. That's impressive - well above par with an IV of 3.3 and an A/E of 1.37 implying some value in the prices at which they're sent off. It's a micro sample of course but this ain't a race where there's much to go on. In the land of the blind and all that...

James Given runs Gift In Time, another having its first run in a handicap. Given's figures are also positive for both A/E and IV and this son of Society Rock was second on soft on his debut. A mark of 82 may underestimate his ability a smidge, notwithstanding that there are any number in opposition for which that comment applies.

The Richard Hannon's, father and son, have fared well, albeit from plenty of runners. Surprisingly, they're unrepresented this time. Two trainers who do saddle entries are Mick Channon and Mark Johnston. Although collectively one from 36 since 2003, they've hit the board on twelve further occasions, a 36% place strike rate. If their luck is to change this year it will be courtesy of one of Milton Road (Channon), Branscombe or Rufus King (both Johnston).

Milton Road is an experienced young man with eleven starts to his name already, the most recent of which was when thumped on soft/heavy at Sandown on Wednesday night. Branscombe was also whacked on soft last time which tempers enthusiasm, but stable mate, Rufus King, ran arguably his best race when second to the capable Cardsharp in the Brian Yeardley Two Year Old Trophy. He is two from three at six furlongs, including last time out, and also has fair form with Coventry winner, Rajasinghe.

Very trappy stuff and we'll still have one more leg of the placepot to go if we fluke through this!

*

4.40 Oak Tree Stakes (7f, fillies & mares, Group 3)

A seven furlong big field of fillies and mares, with the three-year-olds getting six pounds in weight for age from their elders. For whatever reason, perhaps coincidence, very low drawn lasses have fared way better than random: indeed those housed in stalls one and two have claimed eleven of the last 20 renewals for a level stakes profit of over 41 points at SP. Crikey. The place percentages back that up with those boxed in traps one to five having much the best of it.

12/1 chance Al Jazi had stall one last year and Frankie made the most of it for trainer, Francois Rohaut. The same team are back to defend their crown but, from stall six and on much slower ground, it will be a different test. I'm not inclined to support her chance.

Stall one this time belongs to another very interesting overseas raider, Wild Approach. This frau comes from the German stable of Dominik Moser. Moser is no mug: he's brought 13 horses to Britain in the last five years, two of them winning (33/1 and 14/1), and another two finishing second. This filly was second on soft last time in a mile Group 3 and acts on any ground. She races prominently and I'm more than happy to take a chance with her at 25/1.

Bletchley has stall two and, though her run style is more midfield, she has some decent form on good to soft. This will be the slowest she's encountered most likely, and she could conceivably improve for it.

It's a really tricky race to weigh up so the German dark horse will do for me.

*

5.15 Handicap (1m 3f, 3yo, Class 3)

I'm at Goodwood socially for this Friday card, and I'll be a few bottles of that very fine Goodwood Ale into proceedings by this point. Wagering then will have been undertaken early and lightly against another fiendish proposition for the nightcap. Fourteen three-year-olds line up with eleven furlongs to cover, and you'll know by now my discomfort with 3yo handicaps.

What is remarkable, to me anyway, is that five of the last six winners have returned 4/1 or shorter, in average fields of 13. So maybe it's not one to overthink.

Sir Michael Stoute has booked Ryan Moore for the Queen's Swiftsure in the trainer's bid for a third win in the race since 2011. The son of Dubawi was second on his debut on soft ground, but beaten a long way under similar conditions ten weeks ago. He'll likely prove better in time but there are reservations about whether he wants to make a print with his hooves.

Charlie Appleby runs two: Cross Step and unbeaten handicap debutant, Walton Street. The latter, a son of Cape Cross, was comfortably the best on his only run so far, in a Pontefract maiden. Since that race three weeks ago, just one horse has raced, and it won giving the form some substance. An opening mark of 84 probably understates Walton Street's ability but he will find this a very different examination from his first racecourse experience.

Cross Step, a Kitten's Joy gelding, found it hard to justify an opening peg of 85 in a Newbury handicap over a mile and a half. That was good to firm and this is soft: the same trainer has another son of Kitten's Joy, the classy Hawkbill, who has run his best races on similarly testing turf, so there is hope in this first try on the deep.

One that will definitely act in conditions, if he lines up, is Wednesday's heavy ground winner, Londinium. He was much the best in that similar handicap over a furlong further and, if not cream crackered, has an obvious chance of doubling up in this slightly weaker race under a six pound penalty.

I'm struggling to make a compelling case for anything especially, so if I'm lucky rather than good, Cross Step may improve for the easier surface and, hopefully, at a nice price.

Yes please, another bottle of Goodwood Ale - thanks!

*

As mentioned at the top of this post, it will be the last of the week from this digital quill. I've alluded as to why above the little asterisk north of this sentence...

I hope the previews have added some interest, and potentially profit, to your week's betting and I wish you all the luck if you're taking on the Saturday card. I will mostly be nursing a hangover, and also heading to the Cotswolds for a week's holiday with my family; but fear not, it will be business as usual at geegeez.co.uk with punting pointers aplenty wherever you're playing.

Good luck, and thanks for reading!

Matt

Glorious Goodwood 2017: Day Three Preview, Tips

Glorious Goodwood 2017: Day Three Preview, Tips

Humpback day at the Qatar Goodwood Festival (there, I've said it), the middle day of three. With the Goodwood Cup and the Sussex Stakes now behind us, it at first glance seems a long way home. But there is much still to tempt, tease and tickle our wagering fancy, not least of which the septet of sodukos set for Thursday. The centrepiece is the Nassau Stakes, a mile and a quarter Group 1 race for fillies and mares, at 3.35. We begin an hour and three quarters beforehand, however, with the...

1.50 Handicap (1m 2f, 3yo, Class 2)

Since I first wrote this preview piece (Tuesday afternoon), the rain has arrived in large quantities, so I've added footnotes regarding soft ground horses.

Eighteen of the Classic generation line up and there is every chance of a messy scrimmage of a race similar to the opening heat of the week over the same range. Luck then may play its part and, in such a context, we ought to demand a premium on the price we take about a fancy, that term used only lightly in this race. With limited form book evidence to throw into the mix, perhaps the trends - from Andy's Day Three Glorious Goodwood Trends post - will shed some light.

All of the last 14 winners had between one and three wins to their names. All bar one in that time raced within four weeks; and all bar two returned at 9/1 or shorter.

Mark Johnston has trained the winner six times since 1998. He saddles the 88-rated pair, Monticello and Morning Suit. Typically frequently campaigned for runners from this yard, they've both been rattling the crossbar much of the time.

Monticello had been second twice in small fields before disappointing in a similar race at Newmarket last time, and the big field here is something he's not encountered before. Morning Suit is a little more interesting: he's run consistently well except for the two occasions he's encountered good to firm ground. Removing those efforts from his turf record, at a mile plus, reads 123, though he's yet to race over this far. If he stays, he might outrun odds of 25/1; however, none of his trainer's previous winners were returned bigger than 14/1.

The favourite is ADDEYBB, and William Haggas' Pivotal gelding looks nicely progressive. Indeed he's won his last two of three career starts, both at a mile. Stamina questions are supported on both sides of the pedigree, with mum being a daughter of Kingmambo. Stall 13 should be fine for one who has already shown run style versatility and, while not exactly an inspired pick, he fits the profile well and could easily complete the hat-trick at around the 6/1 mark.

Simon Crisford saddles Archetype, a free going sort who likes to get on with things in his races. He's won two of his last three and, though he needs to get across from stall 15, that is perfectly possible as I intimated in this article on the Goodwood draw bias. Whilst there is a fair bit of pace in the field, two of the most likely trio are drawn inside and, thus, Archetype has his chance to get a prominent early sit. 14/1 is all right each way.

SOFT: The one soft ground winner in the field is David Simcock's Good Omen, a winner of two of his last three. He will be played late by Jamie Spencer. Plenty of others have yet to encounter soft and could improve for it, so it's not a race to be piling into in my view.

*

2.25 Lillie Langtry Stakes (1m 6f, fillies, Group 3)

A staying contest for fillies and mares, this Group 3 was won by a subsequent Group 1 winner, Simple Verse, two years ago. Time will tell whether the class of 2017 has anything of that calibre in its midst but there is some established class and some unexposed improvers.

Principal among the proven lasses is Godolphin's ENDLESS TIME, twice runner up in Group 1 company in France last autumn but a shade below that level so far this term. Back against her own sex and dropped significantly in class, she could run away with this if returning to form: on recent evidence that's a fair sized 'if'.

Ralph 'Raif' Beckett runs FOUR, the pick of which might be Melodic Motion. Unable to win a maiden after three attempts, she has come through the handicap ranks unbeaten in three, the most recent of which was in Class 3 over a mile and a half. She was a winner on this track the time before and, as a three year old, receives a healthy eleven pounds from Endless Time and the other older mares.

Of Beckett's other three entries, I'd slightly favour Alyssa over Diamonds Pour Moi and Rich Legacy. Proven at the trip and a Listed winner last autumn, she may struggle to match Endless Time's class and/or to give the weight to Melodic Motion, but she could pick up the pieces.

One I'd want to be against at the prices is Natural Scenery, another Godolphin runner, but one which has been performing with credit on all weather tracks. Her turf form is weak in the context of a Group 3, the leap of faith required not sufficiently factored into odds of 11/2.

Sir Michael Stoute's Dubka is of mild interest. Her three worst performances have all been on good to firm so, providing it doesn't dry out markedly, she could put her best hoof forward. That would give her a place chance at least.

It's a tricky race, and one where Endless Time holds a clear class edge on what we've seen so far. With further improvement already factored into the progressive fillies' prices, I'm inclined to side with proven ability. Dubka fits that same bill to a lesser extent.

SOFT: The selection has won two from three on soft making the ground a plus for her chance if she's back to form. Dubka also has solid form with cut, so no changes to the above.

*

3.00 Richmond Stakes (6f, 2yo, Group 2)

A juvenile sprint which has been dominated by the favourite in recent years, but which lacks that sort of star quality this time around. Clear form pick is Mark Johnston's Cardsharp, who has danced every dance this season. Having won a Brighton maiden on 3rd May, he's since picked up the Beverley Two-Year-Old Trophy and the Group 2 July Stakes as well as recording fine placed efforts in the Woodcote at Epsom and the Norfolk at Royal Ascot. Chapeau.

That last day triumph was a career best so, though he faces far less exposed rivals, he is tough and game and may not have finished going forwards himself.

In HEADWAY, however, he has a serious foe. Unlucky not to win the Coventry at Royal Ascot - failing by a fast-evaporating head to reel in Rajasinghe - this son of Havana Gold could make the step past Cardsharp if any can. He's progressed takingly from race to race, winning a Chester maiden after running up over five furlongs on debut, and 3/1 seems fair about his chance.

U S Navy Flag is another who has seen a lot of combat already, but he was two lengths behind Cardsharp last time and it is hard to see those placings being reversed in spite of a three pound weight differential this time. Barraquero might be more interesting, though he has a lot to find with the top of the market. A six length winner of an ordinary Chesptow novice last time, he should step forward again. Whether that will be a small pace forward or a large stride - the latter required - is unknown, though a quote of 10/1 offers some insurance against the former.

SOFT: Nebo was an impressive winner on his debut at Newbury on soft ground and enters place calculations off the back of that.

*

3.35 Nassau Stakes (1m 2f, fillies, Group 1)

A classy renewal of the Nassau, moved from its traditional Saturday pitch to the middle of the Festival. It is a race which has been dominated by streaky top tier trainers in recent years: Sir Michael Stoute won it from 2002 to 2004, Aidan O'Brien in 2007 and 2008 (and last year), [Sir] Henry Cecil in 2009, 2010, and 2011 (all with the remarkable Midday), and John Gosden from 2012 to 2014.

With the obvious exception of the late Sir Henry, the remaining three are represented: O'Brien has the favourite, Winter (and Hydrangea); Gosden runs fellow three-year-old, Shutter Speed (and seasonal debutante, So Mi Dar); and Sir Michael asks Queen's Trust to concede the weight as a four-year-old.

Winter deserves to be favoured on the strength of her early season triple Group 1 haul. Having run riot in both the English and Irish 1000 Guineas, she then took dead aim at the Coronation Stakes at Royal Ascot, again putting daylight between herself and her rivals. She is clearly a very good three year old. At a mile, against three-year-olds. This, though, is ten furlongs and for all ages.

Nothing Winter has done so far has suggested she won't see out the trip, though there is a slight niggle on the dam side of her pedigree; and she gets that welcome weight for age allowance of eight pounds to help her cause. Moreover, the filly she's beaten the last twice - Roly Poly - has since won two Group 1 races in her own right, both at a mile.

7/4 is fine and I couldn't put you off her chance, but I'm inclined to have a tilt at one each way here. And that one is Shutter Speed. This beautifully bred daughter of Dansili, out of an Oasis Dream mare, was unbeaten in three UK starts prior to a fair fourth in the Prix de Diane (French Oaks) last time. It is hard to say she didn't stay that day because she'd won the Group 3 Musidora the time before over the same sort of trip. But the tempo of the French Classic was muddling and that may have done for her, as may the trip across La Manche. It is also possible, of course, that she simply was not good enough, an eventuality which gives her too much to do here.

Frankie Dettori has opted for stable mate So Mi Dar, leaving Pat Smullen to do the steering on Prince Khalid Abdullah's filly: he is as able a deputy as there is. So Mi Dar was a progressive three-year-old who signed off last campaign with a close third in the Prix de l'Opera on Arc weekend. She was expected to win that day - odds on - and hasn't been seen since. It is to be assumed that she has trained well given jockey bookings, but this is a warm heat in which to be blowing away any cobwebs. Doubtless hers will be a globe-trotting late season campaign.

Queen's Trust won the Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Turf under an inspired Frankie ride on Santa Anita's firm tight oval last backend, and she ran well in defeat in the Prince Of Wales's Stakes last time. It might not be quite quick enough underfoot for her to show her absolute best in a race where anything shy of that will likely not suffice.

Others to consider in a very, very good race are Nezwaah, winner of the G1 Pretty Polly last time; and the unexposed Wuheida, a juvenile G1 winner from just two starts who should come on for her seasonal reappearance when second in the G1 Falmouth.

SOFT: Plenty yet to face such testing conditions, but the selection, Shutter Speed, is two from two on soft. She won't be beaten by the ground.

*

4.10 Nursery Handicap (7f, 2yo, Class 2)

Well this really is too difficult. Eighteen juveniles, most of them handicap first timers, many of them stretching out to seven panels for the first time. Yikes. Billesdon Brook and Barbarianatthegate are both low drawn fast starters with solid form at the trip. They are probably not good enough, but they are favoured by conditions in a race where luck often plays the major part, the ability spectrum tending to be rather narrow.

Billesdon Brook was a six length winner on the Kempton poly before a neck third in a Listed contest at Sandown, both over seven furlongs. Barbarianatthegate has yet to win in four starts but has been second in his last two and will likely lead the field for as long as he's able. On day one, at time of writing, that's been all the way home for a couple of winners.

Mark Johnston has won two of the last three renewals and this time saddles a trio: Poetic Steps, Poet's Prince and Starlight Mystery. Poetic Steps is another low drawn pace angle who brings an unbeaten record to the table. Her form has worked out pretty well, albeit at an average level, and she looks stable second pick on jockey bookings.

First choice, and the mount of Silvestre de Sousa, is probably Starlight Mystery. Consistent before being predictably outpointed in the Albany at Royal Ascot (she was sent off at 50/1), she missed the break on her first attempt at both handicap company and seven furlongs at Newmarket last time behind the re-opposing Tangled. That form is not good enough but it is noteworthy that champion-elect, SdS, chooses her of the Always Tryumvirate.

Poet's Prince makes up the three, winning at the third time of asking when stepped up to this trip last time. That form is pretty hard to quantify but we can say that the son of Poet's Voice (how did you guess?) relished the additional yardage at Ayr. No prices at time of writing but I'd not be afraid to risk a shekel in his direction.

TANGLED has gone up eleven pounds for winning that Newmarket nursery, and he deserved to. Unexposed and looking a likely sort according to my paddock expert, Hugh Fowler, he fair bolted up by more than three lengths in a dozen-strong field. Ryan Moore takes over from Sean Levey and a robust attempt to double up is expected.

SOFT: Poetic Steps and Jedi Master have both won on soft, while many of the remainder have yet to encounter it.

*

4.45 Fillies' Maiden (7f, 2yo, Class 2)

A remarkably shallow Class 2 maiden for the money - over sixteen grand to the winner - and it will likely be Ballydoyle's MAGICAL who takes it. Well, 'the lads' need every penny they can get, don't they? This daughter of, you guessed it, Galileo is out of Halfway To Heaven, who was a triple Group 1 winner in 2008. That makes her a full sister to the smart Fillies' Mile winner, Rhododendron, and the classiest pedigree in this pack by some margin.

*

5.20 Handicap (5f, 3yo, Class 3)

A really tricky sprint handicap to close with a stack of in-form flyers crossing swords. The eye is drawn to Michael Dods' Intense Romance, for whom it will have been a long trip south from County Durham. This filly has won three of her last five starts, all over five furlongs, most recently at Ascot. She was well on top at the line there and races prominently as a rule.

There is however a ton of pace in the field, with all of Carlton Frankie, Merry Banter, Fethiye Boy, Quench Dolly and Maakaasib habitual trailblazers. That earns this race the rare distinction on our pace tab of 'Possible Pace Collapse', as can be seen:

So. Much. Speed. This could fall apart...

So. Much. Speed. This could fall apart...

It ought to be the case that at least a few of the jockeys decide to take a different approach to avoid the potential melting pot on the front end, but I'll be siding with a deep closer even on this speed-favouring strip. That could be the aforementioned Intense Romance, who is versatile as regards run style, or perhaps EVERGATE, whose form at five furlongs is 221, the most recent brace of runs in higher class. He stays six well meaning no fears about travelling through wilting horses.

Very difficult heat, but there are solid grounds for opposing the speed even if it does somehow hold up.

SOFT: Megan Lily could enter calculations on a soft surface. She's a winner on that turf and is likely to be played later, off the speed.

**

Good luck!

Matt

Glorious Goodwood 2017: Day Two Preview, Tips

Glorious Goodwood 2017: Wednesday Preview and Tips

The second of five days on the Downs is highlighted by arguably the race of the week, the Sussex Stakes, a mile Group 1 that sees the three-year-olds take on their older counterparts.

The action commences with a marathon handicap at ten-to-two...

STOP PRESS: Due to a forecast of torrential rain for most of the day, I've added some horses that might be suited by soft ground to the bottom of the previews.

1.50 Goodwood Stakes (Handicap) (2m4 1/2f, 4yo+, Class 2)

First, a reminder that you can view trends information for the Day 2 card here. A couple of interesting lines from there which could help reduce the eighteen-strong field are that all of the last fifteen winners were aged seven or younger; all bar two winners in that time had three or more seasonal runs; and, all bar three had won over at least 1m6f on the flat.

A good chance we've eliminated the winner from the ten who fail to match those criteria, but if we haven't it's a more manageable octet which remain: Akavit, Aurora Gray, Denmead, Frederic, Hawkerland, October Storm, Percy Veer, and Sunblazer.

Frederic (16/1) looks a likely sort. A 120+ hurdler for Micky Hammond, he's now in the care of Keith Dalgleish, having also seen service for the Cumani (flat) and McCain (jumps) yards. In three spins for his current 'employer', the six-year-old son of Zamindar has won twice at trips just north of two miles and progressed from a flat rating of 72 to 88. He was beaten last time, by the re-opposing Akavit and Aurora Gray, and is now better off at the weights with both, though neither of that pair can be readily discounted. As a hurdle winner over further he should have no problems with the trip, and he may not be done improving on the level just yet.

Mick Channon's October Storm (14/1) sneaks in at the bottom of the weights. He has some solid course form at up to two miles, and has contested decent races since staying on over two miles here three starts back. His regular pilot, Graham Lee, opts for Frederic but, in Nathan Evans, he has a talented deputy.

The favourite, Hawkerland, looks short enough. Although he's won his last two easily, stepping up from eleven furlongs to two miles in the process, he now takes two further hikes - half a mile in trip and three grades in class. That's not to say he cannot overcome them, but rather that he's an unsexy price so to do.

This race is often tricky to fathom - as winners at 33/1, 20/1 and 16/1 since 2011 illustrate - so I'll take those two, Frederic and October Storm, each way against the field.

SOFT: The most interesting pair on soft ground might be Star Rider (10/1) and Cool Sky (25/1)

*

2.25 Handicap (1m 4f, 3yo, Class 2)

Aargh. A three-year-old handicap. Does anyone have a way of fathoming these? If so, please contact me! They are my blind spot in punting terms, and I would most likely be doing you a disservice by attempting to quantify the form.

What I can say is this: the winner here often goes on to better things, as in the case of the last two victors, Dartmouth and Dal Harraild, who both went on to be capable Cup horses. Pether's Moon won this four years ago, and he was a subsequent Coronation Cup (Group 1) winner, albeit in a sub-standard renewal.

So we're looking for a thorough stayer who could be better than demonstrated to date - most likely a later developer. One interesting observation from a cursory glance is that Dartmouth and Dal Harraild both came here off the back of a placed effort in the same Ascot handicap three weeks prior. One who was placed in what I presume to be the same race this year is Galactic Prince. A bit free there, he should settle better in this bigger field and is only two pounds higher. He gets weight from all his rivals, and is a 16/1 chance.

There are lots of more obvious contenders, one of which will probably win. Caveat emptor, as ever!

SOFT: The selection acts well on soft and remains the (very tentative) selection.

*

3.00 Molecomb Stakes (5f, 2yo, Group 3)

A ferociously fast five furlongs contested by juveniles just below top class, as befits its Group 3 status.

Havana Grey, twice a winner on Sandown's straight five but well beaten in between at Ascot, heads up the home team. He is the highest rated on official figures - 109 - and has some margin over Sound And Silence and Invincible Army in a shallow looking renewal.

Karl Burke's grey son of Havana Gold is bound to run well, but he'll probably have to improve to catch the flying HAPPY LIKE A FOOL. Wesley Ward's filly was expected to be his banker of the whole Royal Ascot meeting, but had no answer to Heartache's persistent fleet-footedness. On this easier track, where most of the last half mile is downhill, her stamina ought to come under less scrutiny than at Ascot and, if in the same mood, she'll take the beating, though 11/4 tempers enthusiasm somewhat. I expected her to be a point shorter, so perhaps not all has gone to plan in her preparation.

Invincible Army is dropped back to five furlongs for the first time after a two and a half length beating by Cardsharp in the Group 2 July Stakes. It's possible he was just not good enough there rather than that he didn't quite see out the trip, and he may struggle to go the pace across this fast five.

Sound And Silence however probably did fail to see out the sixth furlong on his first try at the longer range last time, in the same race as Invincible Army. Previously he'd looked very good in winning twice over the minimum either side of a poor run at Sandown when found to be 'wrong' afterwards. Charlie Appleby's Exceed And Excel colt was a good winner of the 22 runner Windsor Castle Stakes at Royal Ascot on his previous five furlong start, and 10/1 each way seems pretty fair.

Ryan Moore was due to ride Battle Of Jericho for 'the lads' and that alone would have ensured this chap went off far shorter than his current 16/1 quote. But Mike Smith is not now traveling for the favourite, so Ryan gets the plum spare. Nevertheless, BoJ was a winner over six furlongs last time at Leopardstown, though he was fading towards the finish; he could improve for a first try at the minimum. He's certainly got plenty of early dash and may reward each way support.

But I think the favourite will probably win if she's trained okay.

SOFT: Only Denaar (16/1) has won on a soft surface to date, most of the others not having tried it yet.

*

3.35 Sussex Stakes (1m, Group 1)

Nine go to post, but this looks like the latest incarnation of the 'Duel On The Downs', this time between dual Guineas winner, Churchill, and the highest rated horse in Britain (at least until Enable's King George figure of 126 was published), Ribchester.

Typically in this race, it is the three-year-old - getting seven pounds weight for age - who usurps the older horse(s), but there are reasons to believe that will not be the case this time.

RIBCHESTER (11/10) is obviously very, very good, as he proved when completing the Lockinge/Queen Anne Group 1 double. Nicely rested since, he comes here a fresh horse and one which may still be marginally on the upgrade. He was only third in this last year but has improved eight pounds according to official figures since then. And, whisper it, he probably should have won that day anyway, given plenty to do and failing by a half length to do it.

Conversely, Churchill comes here off the back of an inexplicably poor effort in the St James's Palace Stakes. Having won seven in a row up to that point, including four straight Group 1's, he could only manage fourth behind Barney Roy at Royal Ascot. He had appeared to still be improving prior to the poor effort at Ascot, but has questions to answer now. It may have been the extreme heat that day; indeed connections will be hoping it was because nothing else came to light to excuse him. Though I respect his level of form, especially with the weight allowance, there is not much in his quote to reflect that last day doubt.

Of the rest, French raider Zelzal is next in the betting, the only other runner at single figure odds. He's pretty good, as he showed when winning the G1 Prix Jean Prat last summer; but he has done all of his racing to date at Deauville (two runs) and Chantilly (five). This maiden voyage outside of France, to a notably quirky track, could see him out of his comfort zone. At least it is easy enough to overlook his prep race last time, when he might have won in any case but for a Benoist clanger.

Lancaster Bomber might be a more interesting each way play if not doing too much in the pace-pressing stakes early on. He showed courage and no little class when hanging tough to take silver behind Barney Roy at Ascot, and may again prove difficult to budge from his prominent placement in the closing yards. 28/1 in a place understates his merit.

It is difficult to make a case for the remainder, all older horses, none convincing as Group 1 class.

SOFT: Ribchester is two from two on soft. At huge prices, Lightning Spear (22/1) and Here Comes When (80/1) both have form with the mud flying.

*

4.10 Fillies' Maiden (6f, 2yo, Class 2)

Tea break.

I've nothing to add here, with the possible exception of noting that Ryan Moore rides Lamya (9/2) for Richard Hannon. She did best of the trio engaged here that raced behind Spring Cosmos in a similar heat at Newmarket's July meeting, and she ought to be sharper for that run.

SOFT: Mushahadaat (11/4 fav), Pullitzer (16/1) and Naqaawa (25/1) are by sires whose progeny typically fair all right on soft ground at two.

*

4.45 Fillies' Handicap (1m2f, Class 2)

A very competitive race and one which is too difficult for me. But the top weight, Skiffle, could be interesting. She's been beaten far enough recently, albeit in Pattern class, but was good enough to win the Listed Height Of Fashion Stakes over course and distance last May. So, no fears about race conditions - weight to be carried aside - but she does have to step back to something like her best. No odds are available at time of writing, and the price would justify the play: 12/1 or better would make her of mild interest.

In truth, this is a bugger of a placepot final leg, and my wagering involvement will be limited to that assuming I've been good/lucky enough to get this far.

SOFT: Indulged (7/1) won on heavy last time and has form on soft as well.

*

5.50 Handicap (7f, Class 3)

65 minutes after the fillies' handicap is a seven furlong handicap for all-comers. Why so long? Because, of course, the sponsors want an Arab race in the proceedings. Sigh. Anyhoo... high draws have struggled in the really big fields over seven furlongs, and my two against the field are Medburn Dream and Sun Lover.

Medburn Dream (11/1) has been a fine servant for Paul Henderson, winning five of his 21 career starts all on the soft side of good prior to a blitzing of his field on good to firm two starts back. He won by a heavily eased nine lengths there before running better than his finishing position implied at Windsor in a better race than this most recently. Trap nine is not ideal to make the pace, but with only Ifwecan (13) and Easy Tiger (15) expected to challenge for that honour, he should be able to race in his favoured prominent position and will be close enough if good enough, as they say.

Roger Varian saddles 5/1 chance, SUN LOVER, and gets the inside draw to boot. Andrea Atzeni will be able to choose his position atop his versatile conveyance, and will most likely sit handy ready to pounce. The danger of such an approach in a big field is getting boxed in so the wily Italian will need to keep an eye on the wing mirrors as they turn into the straight and quicken down the hill. Sun Lover has proved a touch tricky to win with, finishing second in three of his last four starts, but he's a strong traveller who should hopefully get the run of the race.

Of the rest, Cenotaph is an interesting Aidan O'Brien handicap runner, in the less familiar colours of Mrs Doreen Tabor. How happy she must be to have a 90-rated 'capper while hubby drowns in Group 1 stock! Anyway, be that as it may, Cenotaph has won no more than an apprentice maiden from nine starts to date, and has a tough post in stall 18 to overcome, too. 10/1 fails to raise the pulse, all things considered. (Cue easy victory...)

SOFT: Medburn Dream acts well on soft as mentioned, and Sinfonietta is a fancied runner who likes some cut.

**

And that's Day Two. Should be some excellent racing, though winners may be hard to come by.

Glorious Goodwood 2017: Day One Preview, Tips

Glorious Goodwood is upon us once more and, in spite of it now being officially called the Qatar Goodwood Festival, that's the last you'll hear of the Emirati empire-builder's monicker here. So yes, Glorious Goodwood. And, oh boy is this a glorious week of racing.

The setting, betwixt rolling downs and the sea, is spectacular: perhaps the best in the land. The racing is generally high class and competitive. Winners are unsurprisingly to be cherished, by punters almost as much as owners. Over five days, we will be offered 35 wagering puzzles, starting with a septet of head-scratchers on Tuesday, day one.

Some trends for Day One of Glorious Goodwood can be found here. Current expectation for day one is that the ground will be drying out from good to soft towards good.

1.50 Handicap (1m2f, Class 2)

The customary big-field opener - eighteen runners scheduled to face the starter - and incredibly Mark Johnston, winner of this six times this century, does not saddle any of them. Struggling as I am to acknowledge the new sponsor, it would be remiss not to think that horses running in Qatari silks this week will be expected to perform well.

In that context, Abdon, whose last run was a sighter over course and distance in higher grade, should be considered. Dropping down into handicap company for the first time since a class and distance victory on fast ground at Haydock, he's trained by Sir Michael Stoute and ridden by Frankie Dettori.

Trip and ground look ideal for Roger Varian's Uae Prince, too, with this son of Sea The Stars racing off the same mark from which he was a length fourth in the John Smith's Cup at York a fortnight ago. As a prominent racer generally, a draw in 15 is not ideal, but no doubt Andrea Atzeni will do what is needed to either tack across or take back.

Garcia was only just behing Uae Prince in that York contest and was running on eye-catchingly. But this easier track may not be what Richard Fahey's fellow wants so he may again be finishing too late. Ryan Moore keeps the ride.

A place and a length behind Garcia was Eddystone Rock. John Best's five-year-old got a little tight for room at one point and has racked up a consistent string of efforts in competitive handicaps. He's a bit of value at around 16/1 (bet365), and UAE PRINCE (7/1) looks quite likely to run well.

Skybet are MONEY BACK AS A FREE BET IF YOU LOSE on the 1.50 (max stake £20). Click here for this offer.

Paddy are 1/5 FIVE places.

*

2.25 Vintage Stakes Preview, Tips (7f, 2yo, Group 2)

The first Group race of the week is a test of speed and stamina for two-year-olds. Having not had much to crow about from nine runners up to 2008, Aidan O'Brien began to patronise this heat again in 2014. His two runners in the last three years have both won, and included the tough and smart Highland Reel. The bid for a recent hat-trick rests with Seahenge for 'the lads'.

One of just three (from 39) Ballydoyle juveniles to win on debut this year - the other pair included Chesham Stakes winner, September - that offers a clue as to Seahenge's precocity. He was, like most of his peers, held up and given something of an education that day, yet still had enough to come through under hands and heels. It's likely he didn't beat a whole lot but he will improve plenty for that experience and should relish the extra furlong.

That quiet opening run approach has long been the modus operandi of Sir Michael Stoute, and he saddles his only juvenile debut winner of 2017 - from just nine juvies to race this year - in the shape of Expert Eye. The well beaten third and fourth from that seven furlong Newmarket maiden have both won their only starts since, giving the form a solid look.

Mark Johnston runs two-from-two Mildenberger, who won his most recent start by five lengths. But Johnston has saddled eleven losers since his back-to-back victories with the smart pair, Lucky Story and Shamardal.

French raider, Cold Stare, was a Listed winner over this trip last time out, and is an interesting runner; but I expect SEAHENGE (5/2) to take a lot of beating.

bet365 are paying A QUARTER THE ODDS 1-2-3

*

3.00 Lennox Stakes Preview, Tips (7f, Group 2)

The same grade and trip, this time for older horses, and a field of fifteen which includes four Godolphin runners for four different trainers.

The market is co-headed by LIMATO, a dual Group 1 winner, including over seven furlongs. Although still searching for a first win of the campaign, Henry Candy's five-year-old has made the frame in his last two starts, both in Group 1's at the shorter six furlong range. He has looked like the step up might be what he needs now, and Limato appeals as a win bet at 4/1 (bet365), looking very likely be on the premises. [NB Now top priced 10/3, which is about right in my view.]

Librisa Breeze is the other joint-favourite: he is a dual winner over seven furlongs, both at Ascot, and has also won over further. This lesser test of stamina is not expected to suit and he will probably be running on late - too late - at the finish.

From the Godolphin quartet, the most interesting pair may be Home Of The Brave and Dutch Connection. The former is unbeaten in two starts this term, and steps up again after wins in Listed and Group 3 company. Stall one will aid his front-running style, but he's never won above G3 level, however, and this looks a hot contest for a Group 2.

Dutch Connection is a seven furlong specialist. His record at the distance reads 1131216, a string which includes a win and a second in this in the last years. He was below par at the Curragh last time but that mooted as a prep for his Lennox defence, and I like his chance, each way, especially at a tasty 12/1 (Ladbrokes).

Skybet, Betfred, Paddy, tote, Ladbrokes, Coral, Betfair are all paying AFIFTH THE ODDS 1-2-3-4

*

3.35 Goodwood Cup Preview, Tips (2m, Group 1)

A big field of sixteen for the Group 1 centre piece of day one, the Goodwood Cup, run over the marathon trip of two miles. Despite the large field, BIG ORANGE is a shade of odds on in the absence of recent foe, Order Of St George. Michael Bell's six-year-old son of Duke Of Marmalade has continued to blossom this term winning both the Group 3 Henry II Stakes at Sandown and the Group 1 Gold Cup at Royal Ascot in an epic tussle.

He is also the reigning champion in this event, having won it for the last two years, thus he attempts to match the record of the great Double Trigger in winning a third Goodwood Cup.

While I'm unexcited by his price, it is not the wrong price. He has elevated to a career high perch of 121 with the official handicapper, comes here in terrific form, and is known to relish conditions. If there is a fly in the ointment, and a reason not to pile in at 10/11, it is the prospect of a contested pace. Big Orange likes to lead. In this field, so too do High Jinx, and Oriental Fox. It probably won't stop Frankie Dettori, back from injury and reacquainting himself after James Doyle deputised the last day, from controlling the fractions, nor from winning the race.

Nearer the time there may be 'without the favourite' betting and here I'd be somewhat interested in the price of US Army Ranger. He was waited with to get the trip in the 2m6f Queen Alexandra Stakes at the Royal meeting, and stayed on well to take third there. He's been a hard horse with which to win - losing run stretches to eight races now - but the first of those was when runner up in last year's Derby: he clearly has class.

In truth, it's a shallow looking affair. Apart from the above pair, perhaps the most interesting of the remainder may be the three-year-old Stradivarius. Andrea Atzeni got a great tune out of him (groan) in the Queen's Vase at Royal Ascot and he looks nicely progressive. With the near stone in weight for age he receives from all bar fellow 3yo Desert Skyline and the mare Sweet Selection, he could continue his upward trajectory and demonstrate he stays this far by making the frame.

bet365 are paying A QUARTER THE ODDS 1-2-3

*

4.10 Maiden (6f, 2yo, Class 2)

Tea break.

More helpfully, perhaps, I can tell you that in the last five years, Richard Hannon Jr. has saddled five two-year-old maiden winners here in July and August from 43 starters. He's notched a 30% place rate which is reasonable, though as you see he does fire a lot of bullets: in this race his gun is loaded with three.

For the sponsors, Frankie rides Algam, who was second on his only start in an Epsom maiden over seven furlongs. He steps back an eighth here and will probably encounter slightly quicker ground. The similarities of Epsom's chaotic camber to Goodwood's own helter-skelter mean that initial outing will have clued the son of Kodiac up to what he'll encounter on the Downs. Nothing from the Epsom race has run since so it's tricky to peg the form.

But the one I'm betting is REBEL STREAK, under geegeez-sponsored jockey, David Probert. He was murdered in a Class 3 Ascot novice last time out, coming between converging horses and would surely have won if not for taking back alarmingly as a result of the incident. That form looks good with both the fifth and seventh winning their sole starts since, from only three horses to run again. He's 11/2 on the opening show with Paddy and Betfair Sports, if you can get on with them. Sadly I can't so will have to see what else manifests.

bet365 are paying A QUARTER THE ODDS 1-2-3

*

4.45 Handicap (5f, 4yo+, Class 2)

The first cavarly charge of the week. Exposed handicappers comprise the field - no runners younger than four - and there could be a bias towards low drawn waited with types in a field this size. That would bring in last year's winner, Boom The Groom, who has slipped back to a mark of 102. He won off 98 twelve months ago and followed up in a similar race at York from the same figure as he contests this. Conditions clearly suit and he is tempting at odds of 9/1.

The one they will probably have to catch is Amomentofmadness. Charlie Hills' runner is consistent and should lead into the final furlong before perhaps giving best. He ought at least to offer a run for your money.

And what of the remarkable Pettochside? Ten runs at Goodwood have yielded nine placed finishes, three of them wins. That trio of triumphs were all recorded on soft turf, however, making the drying ground a concern; and they were all over six furlongs. John Bridger's season ticker holder should again trouble the judge.

One trainer who loves getting winners at this meeting is Amanda Perrett. Based locally at Pulborough, she runs the ex-Johnny Murtagh-trained Kasbah, narrowly denied at Sandown last time out and now five pounds below his last winning mark. He'd prefer to hear his hooves rattle, however, and may have to wait a tad longer before returning to the winners' enclosure.

Vibrant Chords, who beat Amomentofmadness over course and distance two starts back, and Dark Shot, third in that race, are others to consider in a typically open sprint handicap.

Skybet, Betfred, Paddy, tote, Ladbrokes, Coral, Betfair are all paying AFIFTH THE ODDS 1-2-3-4

*

5.15 Fillies' Handicap (1m, 3yo+, Class 3)

A low draw and a prominent run style usually gets you in the mix in big field handicaps over a mile and that's the approach I'm taking with this one. Two fillies fit the bill, Lincoln Rocks and Darkroom Angel.

The former, as the only four-year-old on the field gets to carry plenty of weight. But she's fast from the stalls, is drawn in trap three, and had held her form very well including when claiming a Listed contest two runs back. Although vulnerable to a more lightly-weighted, less exposed filly, she will give backers a run at least at around 16/1.

Darkroom Angel, meanwhile, has the inside post and has won over these undulations earlier in the year. That was over ten furlongs on quicker turf, but if she can travel off the slighter faster tempo she won't want for stamina at the business end. She's 40/1 which suggests she's probably out of her depth.

Roger Varian's Shenanigans (12/1) splits the trailblazers in stall two. Her prominent running style should mean she can slipstream the above pair and challenge in the closing stages if good enough. Unexposed on turf - just two placed runs to date - she can continue Varian's excellent recent form (24% winners, 57% placed, in July).

Skybet are paying AFIFTH THE ODDS 1-2-3-4

**

And that's Tuesday. A tricky card, but a few playable at the prices. Good luck whatever you fancy. Even if you're winner-free on day one, there will be 28 further chances to put that right before the week is out!

Matt

Glorious Goodwood Trends: DAY TWO (Weds 2nd Aug 2017)

It's panama hats, pimms, plus strawberries and cream galore at the start of August with the 5-day Glorious Goodwood Meeting (Tues 1st to Sat 5th Aug). As always, the West Sussex track can expect monster crowds throughout the week with a whole host of top-notch contests each day for punters to get stuck into.

So, we'll be on-hand throughout the whole meeting to take you through the key trends for each day’s LIVE ITV races.

We get going on Day TWO with four LIVE ITV races, including the Molecomb Stakes, plus the Group One Sussex Stakes which is set-up to be a fascinating clash between recent Queen Anne Stakes winner - Ribchester and this season's 2,000 Guineas winner - Churchill.

 

DAY TWO - Wednesday 2nd August 2017

 

1.50 – Matchbook Betting Exchange Goodwood Stakes (Handicap) Cl2 2m5f ITV

15/15 – Aged 7 or younger
13/15 – Had 3+ runs already that season
12/15 – Had won over at least 1m6f on the flat
10/15 – Aged 4 or 5 years-old
10/15 – Had won over at least 2m on the flat
9/15 – Had run at Goodwood before
8/15 – Returned 8/1 or shorter in the betting
8/15 – Placed favourites
7/15 – Carried 9-0 or more
5/15 – Won last time out
4/15 – Ran at Royal Ascot last time out
4/15 – Winning favourites
2/15 – Trained by Nicky Henderson
2/15 – Ridden by Paul Hanagan
2/15 – Trained by Mark Johnston
Star Rider (11/1) won the race 12 months ago
3 of the last 6 winners came from stall 20
8 of the last 11 winners came from a double-figure stall
The average winning SP in the last 10 runnings is 14/1

2.25 – The Better Odds with Matchbook Betting Exchange Handicap Stakes Cl2 1m4f ITV

13/13 – Had raced within the last 5 weeks
11/13 – Placed in the top 3 in their last race
10/13 – Winning favourites
9/13 – Rated between 85-93
8/13 – Carried 8-13 or less in weight
8/13 – Won over 1m4f previously
6/13 – Came from outside the top 3 in the market
5/13 – Won their last race
4/13 – Ran at Newmarket last time out
3/13 – Trained by Sir Michael Stoute
2/13 – Ridden by Ryan Moore
2/13– Trained by Mark Johnston
1/13 – Favourites
Dal Harraild (5/1) won the race 12 months ago
8 of the last 11 winners came from stall 10 or lower
Horses from stall 10 have won 2 of the last 11 runnings
The average winning SP in the last 10 running is 8/1

 

3.00 – The Bombay Sapphire Molecomb Stakes (Group 3) Cl1 5f ITV

13/15 – Had won over 5f before
12/15 – Had won between 1-2 times before
12/15 – Had run within the last 4 weeks
12/15 – Returned 8/1 or shorter in the betting
10/15 – Finished in the top 2 last time out
10/15 – Winning distance – 1 lengths or less
10/15 – Foaled in either Feb or March
10/15 – Favourites that finished in the top 4
8/15 – Came from the top 3 in the betting
7/15 – Won last time out
4/15 – Winning favourites
3/15 – Trained by Richard Hannon
2/15 – Trained by Mick Channon
2/15 – Trained by William Haggas
Horse from stall 1 has finished in the top 3 in 6 of the last 8 runnings
Yalta (8/1) won the race 12 months ago
The average winning SP in the last 10 runnings is 11/2

 

3.35 – Qatar Sussex Stakes (British Champions Series) (Group 1) Cl1 1m ITV

16/16 – Finished 1st or 2nd last time out
14/16 – Returned 9/2 or shorter in the betting
14/16 – Won over 1m before
13/16 – Had won 4 or more times during their career
12/16 – Ran at Royal Ascot last time out
11/16 – Had 4 or more previous runs that season
11/16 – Has Won a Group One previously
10/16 – Winning favourites
9/16 – Aged 3 years-old
4/16 – Trained by Aidan O’Brien
3/16 – Aged 4 years-old
3/16 – Trained by Richard Hannon
Just 1 winner from stall 1 in the last 11 runnings
7 of the last 11 winners came from stalls 3-5 (inc)
The Gurkha (1st 11/8 fav) won the race 12 months ago
The average winning SP in the last 10 runnings is 15/8

 

 

 Follow Andy Newton Here - @NewtsDailyLays

Trainers Quotes

TRAINERS-QUOTES.COM: GET THE BEST INFO FROM 20 TOP STABLES EACH DAY - Sent direct to your in-box!

GET INVOLVED

Royal Ascot – A Stunning Success

Royal Ascot delivered on so many levels, with thrilling finishes, heroic performances, and a few shock defeats along the way. Ballydoyle and Godolphin flexed their muscles and again proved dominant, whilst Wes Ward, James Fanshawe and Michael Bell landed their own outstanding victories during a truly glorious Royal meeting.

Richard Fahey and Team Godolphin, got the ball rolling, with success for Ribchester in the opening Queen Anne Stakes. He’d comfortably taken the Lockinge in May, and was duly sent-off favourite to confirm his status as top-miler. Mutakayyef came with a promising challenge late-on, but when asked for maximum effort by pilot William Buick, Ribchester found plenty to finish more than a length to the good. “He’s an exceptional miler,” proclaimed the thrilled jockey.

Another useful Godolphin miler is three-year-old Barney Roy, trained by Richard Hannon. He was tasked with reversing Guineas placings with Ballydoyle’s latest sensation Churchill. O’Brien’s dual Guineas winner was a short-priced favourite to add the St James’s Palace Stakes, though Barney was also well-backed, and a thrilling duel was anticipated. Unfortunately, an expectant crowd were to be disappointed, as Churchill put in a below-par performance, leaving Hannon’s colt to take the spoils. A hard-fought victory left connections considering a step-up in trip for the talented three-year-old, with the Eclipse a likely target.

One horse that did put-in a dazzling opening day performance, was American filly Lady Aurelia. A year earlier she had romped to victory in the Queen Mary, and Wes Ward was hoping for more of the same. She certainly didn’t disappoint, quickening clear approaching the final furlong for a three-length success. Last year’s winner Profitable, along with the Abbaye winner Marsha, were both put firmly in their place.

Another filly with a look of invincibility is Aidan O’Brien’s Winter. The dual-Guineas winner added the Coronation Stakes with the minimum of fuss, and though she’s been busy, her trainer hinted that the Falmouth in just a few weeks, could be the next target. She appears to be thriving for racing, and is a relaxed and powerful performer. The team will hope to get Churchill back on track, but his demise in the St James’s may have an impact on future targets for this filly. She has the potential to hold her own against the boys, should O’Brien take that route.

Ballydoyle had further major success along with a high-profile defeat, in a trio of wonderfully thrilling Royal Ascot renewals.

Highland Reel has become a phenomenon in recent years, and his globetrotting success has taken earnings towards the six-million mark. His gutsy victory in the Prince Of Wales’s typified his qualities. Ridden prominently throughout, he forged ahead in the latter stages and fought off all-comers before stretching clear late-on. This trip looked on the short-side to me, but Highland Reel was not for passing. “He's an incredible horse. He has pace, courage, tactical speed,” said a thoroughly satisfied trainer.

With the yard’s senior citizen doing the business, it was the turn of one of the youngster stars to shine. Caravaggio did exactly that in winning a thrilling Commonwealth Cup. Godolphin provided the main challenge with the lightning quick Harry Angel, and powerful travelling Blue Point forming a dual-assault. For much of the six-furlongs O’Brien’s charge appeared to have plenty to do, and indeed approaching the two-furlong pole he looked in a spot of bother. However, his finishing burst was exceptional, and the Godolphin pair were unable to hold on.

Caravaggio is an exceptional horse, but I remain convinced that he is vulnerable at this trip, especially on a flat track. Nevertheless, it will take an exceptional performance to end his current unblemished record.

Caravaggio was the Royal meeting banker for many, but Ballydoyle had another near-certainty running in the Gold Cup. Order Of St George was defending his crown, and sent-off a short-priced favourite to do so. Turning for home, Ryan Moore had plenty of ground to make up, but would undoubtedly be confident that the favourite had time to get on top. Unfortunately for Moore and his team, Big Orange was on the front end, and with James Doyle kicking-on at the two-furlong pole, Moore and his charge were suddenly on the back-foot. Order Of St George closed to within a nose, but Big Orange refused to fold. In a stunning finish, Michael Bell’s popular stayer held on for a famous victory.

It was arguably the highlight of a terrific week, which saw so many wonderful performances at one of the World’s most famous sporting events.

Flash Harry can dash to Commonwealth Glory

Short on history, but huge on impact, the Commonwealth Cup has proved a major success at the Royal Meeting.

The Group One was introduced in 2015, and aimed at those classy three-year-olds that possessed plenty of speed, but perhaps not quite the stamina to see out a mile and thereby challenge for the St James’s Palace. It also ensured that these relatively inexperienced youngsters were not thrown in at the deep end, and forced into taking on their seniors in the Diamond Jubilee. Some argue that this has diminished the quality of the latter, though few three-year-olds had managed to capture the race in recent times, with Kingsgate Native and Art Connoisseur the only winners since the turn of the century.

Muhaarar won the inaugural running of the Commonwealth Cup for trainer Charlie Hills and owner Hamdan Al Maktoum. He’d finished down the field in the French Guineas, but back at six-furlongs proved a revelation. Limato and Profitable were left in his wake at Ascot in a stunning performance. He then went to Newmarket, and in a thrilling finish got up late to win the Darley July Cup. Next came a trip to France, and a stunning success in the Prix Maurice de Gheest, defeating Andre Fabre’s Esoterique. He completed a scintillating campaign with victory back at Ascot on Champions Day.

Last year’s Commonwealth winner, Quiet Reflection, also came from the top-drawer. She had proved far too good for a strong field in the Sandy Lane at Haydock, romping home by more than three lengths. Sent off favourite at Royal Ascot, she swept to the front inside the final furlong to defeat Kachy and Washington DC. She then ran with great credit in the Darley July Cup, finishing third to Limato on ground that was undoubtedly too quick for her. But arguably her finest performance came back at Haydock, when thumping a strong field in the Group One Sprint Cup. Over the top by the time Champions Day came around, she remains a top-class sprinter, especially with conditions to suit.

And so to this year’s renewal, and what looks to be a thrilling clash between the ‘usual suspects’ of Godolphin and Ballydoyle.

Aidan O’Brien trains market leader, and thus far the undefeated Caravaggio. An outstanding juvenile, and impressive on seasonal debut at three, he looks to have all the attributes to become a top-class sprinter. He’s by American stallion Scat Daddy, which suggests ground conditions will prove ideal. His pedigree does hint at him being effective over further, though the team had Churchill pencilled in for the Classics at a mile. He’s a powerfully built colt, and was impressive in winning the Coventry Stakes last year, when forging clear late-on. He’ll be putting in his best work in the latter stages, and if close enough will take some holding.

Godolphin have a dynamic duo in opposition, in the shape of Blue Point and Harry Angel. The former was also a high-class juvenile, capturing the Group Two Gimcrack Stakes, and runner-up in both the Richmond and the Middle Park. He lost out to Churchill and Lancaster Bomber on his final start last year, when looking a non-stayer at seven furlongs. His return to action in May at Ascot was impressive, when staying on strongly to beat the Clive Cox trained Harry Angel. He was in receipt of 4lbs from the runner-up that day, and I fancy those placings will be reversed.

Harry Angel then went to Haydock, and like Quiet Reflection a year earlier, scorched his way to victory in the Sandy Lane in a lightning quick time. Purchased by Godolphin, he is likely to be the biggest danger to Caravaggio, and is quite possibly a speedier colt. He’s by Dark Angel, a source of numerous top-class sprinters including Mecca’s Angel, and Lethal Force. There’s no doubting his liking of fast ground, as proved at Haydock. I fancy he’ll be streaking ahead at some point, and it will then be a case of holding off a fast finishing Caravaggio.

Bound For Nowhere is Wes Ward’s representative, and it’s impossible to dismiss anything the American runs at Royal Ascot. He’s already sent-out a pair of winners this week, though this fella is a very inexperienced racehorse, and this looks a huge ask at this stage of his career. He has just two runs under his belt, his last coming in a three-runner affair at Keeneland. He’s clearly showing enough at home to warrant an entry, but his odds of 8/1 are based on the trainer’s name rather than on-course evidence.

One that could out-run his odds is Aidan O’Brien’s second-string Intelligence Cross. On all known form, he’ll probably come-up just short. But he’s a War Front colt, and as such will likely love the track, trip and ground. He ran well in the Middle Park as a juvenile, and was staying on strongly at Navan last time, proving his well-being. He’s been outpaced at times in the past, but I’d expect him to be finishing with a rattle, and he’s currently available at 33s.

It’s a cracking renewal, and I’ll be siding with Godolphin’s Harry Angel to hold off the fast finishing Ballydoyle pair for victory. Intelligence Cross has to be the each-way punt at 33/1. Best of luck to those having a punt.

A need for Speed – Cox youngsters Shine

Clive Cox unveiled another classy sprinter yesterday at Royal Ascot, with juvenile filly Heartache scorching the turf to take the Queen Mary Stakes.

Lady Aurelia romped to victory in this race 12 months ago, and Wes Ward had the short-priced favourite once again. But Happy Like A Fool could not withstand the finishing burst from the Cox youngster, and went down by a little over two lengths.

Cox enthused: “That was very good and it means a lot to me. She's very special and she did it really well at Bath and I could not believe the time when they announced it. She's no different from the rest of mine in that they improve with their racing. We won a Listed race with her mum (Place In My Heart), so this is very special, watching it with the owners as there's all manner of people here. It's a proper achievement.”

The trainer went on: “She's easy to train, she's got a good temperament but we're not quite sure how good she is. I was a bit worried when I saw the American filly as she looked pretty awesome walking around the paddock. Adam rode her with complete confidence and he's a pretty good fellow in the saddle. These are the stars of the future and she certainly is. We'll enjoy today as she could be that good and go for the Nunthorpe.”

The victory followed on from a terrific opening day performance from Profitable in the King’s Stand, and an eye-catching run from Prince Of The Dark in the Coventry. The latter is by Lethal Force, a mighty grey, who became arguably Cox’s supreme stable inmate. He too was beaten in the Coventry Stakes as a juvenile, when finishing fourth in 2011. In 2012 he filled the same spot in the Jersey Stakes at the Royal Meeting, but as a four-year-old in 2013 Lethal Force found his niche, as a high-class sprinter.

When dropped back to six furlongs, the grey put in several stunning performances, including victory in the Diamond Jubilee at Royal Ascot. He followed up with another power-packed performance to win the Darley July Cup at Newmarket, before losing out to the French heroine Moonlight Cloud in the Prix Maurice de Gheest. Whether Prince Of The Dark can make such a progression over time remains to be seen, and is probably unlikely, but I for one was taken by his performance on the opening day.

Cox certainly excels in handling such speedsters, and has another interesting contender in today’s Norfolk Stakes, with Koditime. He looked the likely winner last time at Newbury, before finding soft ground sapping his energy late-on. He’s a beautiful mover, and I fancy the fast ground and stiff Ascot five-furlong will prove ideal. He’s by Kodiac, who’s often a source of lightning fast juveniles.

On Friday attention turns to another flying machine, in Godolphin’s new-recruit, Harry Angel. Simply scintillating when storming to success in the Sandy Lane at Haydock last time, he’d previously been unable to give 4lbs to Godolphin owned Blue Point at Ascot on his seasonal return. Both are tasked with defeating Ballydoyle’s Caravaggio in the Commonwealth Cup. And it’s Cox that may well hold the Ace.

Aidan O’Brien’s colt remains undefeated, and was impressive in his return at Naas. He’s by Scat Daddy, and ought to appreciate the quicker ground at Ascot. But it was hard not to be mightily impressed by Harry Angel at Haydock. He has such raw speed, there’ll likely be a stage when he gets away from the pack. Whether he can keep Caravaggio at bay is the question. O’Brien’s colt is likely to be charging late-on.

It’s an intriguing renewal, and another opportunity for Clive Cox to feast at the top-table. The likes of Harry Angel, Profitable and Heartache should ensure the summer remains a sunny one for Cox and his team.

Royal Ascot 2017: Day 4 Preview, Tips

Royal Ascot 2017: Day 4 Preview, Tips

Friday at Royal Ascot is where the party really starts. London weekenders will hit the new Village Enclosure, and hit it hard. Meanwhile, on the track, there's the small matter of the Commonwealth Cup and Coronation Stakes, a pair of tasty three-year-old only Group 1's to unravel. But first, the juniors, in the...

2.30 Albany Stakes (Group 3, 6f)

21 fleet fillies will face the starter, with Jessica Harrington's Alpha Centauri a deserving favourite. She is two from two, a debut maiden on good to firm and a Listed race last time, both over six furlongs. Her trainer had a really good run from Brother Bear on Tuesday and this filly will go close granted normal luck. But she's an unexciting price so I'd rather play one each way, my dart falling on William Haggas's Ertiyad.

Haggas rattled the crossbar on Tuesday, when Headway was, well, a head away from victory in the Coventry; and he tries again here over the same trip. This filly was beaten a nose by Mrs Gallagher over the track (five furlongs, good to firm) before stepping up in trip and placing in a Haydock maiden. That was soft ground but she showed on debut that she handles faster, a run that has been franked with the third, Out Of The Flames, running the same position in the Queen Mary on Wednesday. It's a big class rise, as it is for most of her rivals, and 20/1 is a very fair each way price.

Wes and Aidan have contenders, as you'd expect: WW runs both Fairyland and Princess Peggy; Aidan saddles Clemmie, Actress and Snowflakes. The mob handed approach generally puts me off, and this case is no different, especially when I don't know much about the American fillies. The maiden, Clemmie, Ryan Moore's pick, ran a taking race on debut when third, having been in rear in a big field early. She's bred for further and it might happen a bit quick for her, but she could just be a wildcard for the 1000 Guineas (for which she currently has a 25/1 quote, that might get bigger if she's outpaced here).

Bookie specials on this race

Bet365: 1/4 1-2-3-4 plus risk-free bet to same stake if you back 4/1+ winner (max £50)

Skybet: Money back as a free bet if 2nd or 3rd in this race (max £20)

Paddy: Money back as a free bet if 2nd, 3rd or 4th to SP favourite (max £25)

Betfair sports: Free bet to same stake as any 3/1+ winner you back (max £25)

**

3.05 King Edward VII Stakes Stakes (Group 2, 1m4f)

The Ascot Derby, so some say, and always a decent race for later maturing types, in spite of only being three weeks later than Epsom. Crystal Ocean was a plunge horse for the Derby even though his trainer said before and after a creditable defeat in the Dante that he wouldn't run there. Sure enough, he didn't, but he rocks up as jolly this time. Bred to love both the trip and the ground, he looks a real contender, and a typical Sir Michael improver.

The opposition looks untypically weak, with both Permian and Sir John Lavery with much to prove after last day flops, as have the more exposed Best Solution and Khalidi. One who had a horror trip at Epsom is Salouen, and his best juvenile form - second in the G1 Prix Jean-Luc Lagardere and third in the G1 Racing Post Trophy - gives him a squeak. He's 10/1 generally and that may be the best each way play in a shallow-looking heat, where most are bidding to repair damaged reputations and/or prove that they are contenders rather than pretenders for top honours during the rest of the season.

Bookie specials on this race

Bet365: 1/4 1-2-3 plus risk-free bet to same stake if you back 4/1+ winner (max £50)

Betfair sports: Free bet to same stake as any 3/1+ winner you back (max £25)

Skybet, Hills & Paddy 1/5 1-2-3-4

**

3.40 Commonwealth Cup (Group 1, 6f)

This. Is. A. Cracker. In its short history, the Commonwealth Cup has delivered spellbinding performances from first Muhaarar and then Quiet Reflection. This season the stage is set for a proper dukefest between Caravaggio and Harry Angel, and it's a tough one to call.

The market seems to think it's Caravaggio's to lose: he's even money favourite to add to his unbeaten quintet of races to date. That nap hand includes the Coventry and Phoenix Stakes last term, and the Group 3 Lacken Stakes earlier this season. Caravaggio has been winning by wide margins and seems unconcerned by the state of the ground, having won on soft, good to firm, and even the all weather at Dundalk.

But in Clive Cox's Harry Angel he has a worthy adversary. Cox, lest we forget, is a brilliant trainer of sprinters, and added to his CV in that sphere on Wednesday when Heartache took down Happy Like A Fool in the Queen Mary. Fast ground is spot on for Harry, who will be very hard to keep out of the frame and looks a banker each way multiple leg, if that's your thing.

Harry Angel was beaten on his seasonal reappearance however, by a re-opposing colt called Blue Point, also representing Godolphin. That was over this track and trip, and on this ground, so he has no questions to answer about conditions. It is simply whether he's good enough and, again, he looks solid place material in a race where the top of the market may well have the podium to themselves.

Wesley's Bound For Nowhere deserves a mention, but perhaps no more than that. He's two from two, most recently a five and a half furlong allowance race on firm turf. But that was around a turn and I just don't see him living with some very smart domestic sprinting colts.

Bookie specials on this race

Bet365: 1/4 1-2-3 plus risk-free bet to same stake if you back 4/1+ winner (max £50)

Betfair sports: Free bet to same stake as any 3/1+ winner you back (max £25)

**

4.20 Coronation Stakes (Group 1, 1m)

The smallest field of the week in all likelihood as just six fillies line up to take a swing at Winter, the impressive double 1000 Guineas winner. It was good to firm when she won at Newmarket so we know she'll handle the ground, and there's very little chance of any beaten horse from either Guineas reversing form; but perhaps one of the raiders can make things interesting.

Precieuse is well named having won the French 1000 Guineas, but she probably wants the ground slower. She is classier than most of these, at least.

And, as a sucker for Stateside action, I can't fail to mention La Coronel, who is my each way play. She loves rattling turf, is used to racing around a turn - albeit the other way as they uniformly do in America, and she too has class. Mark Casse is probably the best turf trainer in the States: he brought the filly Tepin over to win the Queen Anne Stakes last year, has won three Breeders' Cup grass races in the last two editions, and it is doubtful he has popped over for the air miles. She's 20/1 generally, which makes her attractive in the 'without' and exacta markets when those appear.

Bookie specials on this race

Bet365: Risk-free bet to same stake if you back 4/1+ winner (max £50)

Betfair sports: Free bet to same stake as any 3/1+ winner you back (max £25)

**

5.00 Queen's Vase (Group 2, 1m 6f)

Reduced from two miles to a mile and three quarters this year, it will be a slightly different test, and perhaps in time develop into a key St Leger trial. The distance change should make no difference to Time To Study, as Mark Johnston bids to improve his tremendous record in the race. He bids for a remarkable eighth success in 2017, and his Edinburgh Cup scorer is considered one of the Middleham trainer's best prospects of the week. The booking of Silvestre de Sousa is hardly a negative for this most progressive son of Motivator.

Not too far behind 'Always Trying', and catching up fast with three wins in the last four years, is Aidan O'Brien. Like Johnston, he saddles two, the pick of Ryan Moore being Belgravia. His form looks nothing special, but one has to respect connections: he'll not be a shock winner but nor will he carry my two pound fifty.

This is one of the few races where Ryan Moore has sat on the wrong one, Colm O'Donoghue winning last year aboard Sword Fighter. Seamie Heffernan takes the understudy role this time, on Wisconsin, a twice raced son of Japanese super star, Deep Impact. It's probably a mug play, but he looks to have more scope to improve, should love the ground, and could be a bit of each way value at 10/1.

The highest rated in the field is Count Octave, on 103. He's 8/1 after just three runs, the most recent of which was five lengths behind Venice Beach in the Chester Vase. He stayed on similarly to another in the race, Wings Of Eagles, and wouldn't have to have his ability to land the spoils here. 8/1 is also playable each way.

There are many who can improve for a longer trip and natural progression and I quite like Time To Study.

Bookie specials on this race

Bet365: 1/4 1-2-3 plus risk-free bet to same stake if you back 4/1+ winner (max £50)

Paddy: Money back as a free bet if 2nd, 3rd or 4th to SP favourite (max £25)

Betfair sports: Free bet to same stake as any 3/1+ winner you back (max £25)

**

5.35 Duke Of Edinburgh Stakes (Class 2 Handicap, 1m 4f)

Borderline impossible closing placepot leg, where Wadigor - unbeaten in three - could be some way better than his current mark of 104. He's been unextended to win his three starts to date and is only eight pounds higher than when thumping an ordinary bunch (in the context of this race) on the Kempton poly. His trainer, Roger Varian, is in fine form and it often pays not to delve too deeply into the betting markets in this (last five winners 8/1 or shorter).

Around the same price, 7/1, is Sixties Groove, who Tony Stafford assures me is the bet of the week. Racing Post comment for its most recent run was, "going on finish but never threatening leaders". Hmm... Who am I to argue with the three-times newspaper naps champion tipster?

Too many more to mention in a race where I'll have the scattergun set to 'liberal smattering' on the placepot!

Bookie specials on this race

Bet365: 1/4 1-2-3-4 plus risk-free bet to same stake if you back 4/1+ winner (max £50)

Paddy: Money back as a free bet if 2nd, 3rd or 4th to SP favourite (max £25)

Betfair sports: 1/5 1-2-3-4-5 plus free bet to same stake as any 3/1+ winner you back (max £25)

Skybet 1/5 1-2-3-4-5-6

**

There will be no Saturday Royal Ascot preview, so I hope you've enjoyed these daily thoughts, and I wish you the very best of luck with both Friday's and Saturday's Ascot puzzles.

Matt

p.s. we've also got placepot pointers and big race trends for today's and tomorrow's action. Here are the Friday posts:

Placepot Pointers for Friday

Friday Royal Ascot Big Race Trends

Click here for our free Royal Ascot stat pack

Click here to join Geegeez Gold

Royal Ascot 2017: Day 3 Preview, Tips

Royal Ascot 2017: Day 3 Preview, Tips

The middle day of five already, Ladies' Day, and the historical highlight, the Gold Cup. In truth, it's a less thrilling card in terms of quality, but a single winner should leave a surplus for anyone lucky/smart enough to locate such a rare find. That's the task of this post, so let's get on with it, beginning with the...

2.30 Norfolk Stakes (Group 2, 5f)

A fast five furlong dash for two-year-olds, there is the prospect of another juvenile track record after Rajasinghe's lightning Coventry victory on the opening day. The micro-system flagged here throws up McErin and Sioux Nation.

Wesley Ward runs McErin, a twice raced colt who has yet to be seen publicly on turf. Not obviously a wagering proposition. But WW is a master with five furlong speedballs, as already demonstrated by Lady Aurelia on Day One (Happy Like A Fool yet to race at time of writing). This son of Trappe Shot is reportedly a much better work horse on turf and it is a long way to come if you don't believe your horse can act on the surface. The leap of faith required makes the price - around 4/1 and expected to be available at 9/2, perhaps even 5's on Thursday morning - so there may be some value there given the trainer's record: he won this in 2013 with the powerhouse, No Nay Never.

Aidan O'Brien brings Sioux Nation to the party, a chap who took three attempts to break his maiden and was then whacked when raised in grade. Again, not obviously a contender for a Group 2 at the Royal meeting. But APOB has had a 12/1 winner, Waterloo Bridge, and two seconds, at 8/1 and 9/4, from six Norfolk starters since 2009. His son of Scat Daddy should act much better on the Ascot road so, while the form is not there yet, there is every reason to believe, especially as he has a similar late-maturing profile to 2015 winner, Waterloo Bridge, who was also one from four when arriving here. With Ryan Moore riding, the standout 25/1 is not going to last, and the general 20's will be under some pressure too.

The Brocklesby winner, Santry, is two from two now, having supplemented his opening day success with a smooth effort in a conditions race. Both runs so far were on a soft surface, however, which leaves a question mark now.

There are lots of unexposed sorts in here, and perhaps the National Stakes form will take a further boost after Sound And Silence's win in the Windsor Castle on Tuesday. The winner and second from the Sandown race line up here, with Frozen Angel perhaps the value to reverse form with Havana Grey. In another juvenile guessers' race, though, I'll stick with my Wes and Aidan angle.

Bookie specials on this race

Bet365: 1/4 1-2-3-4 plus risk-free bet to same stake if you back 4/1+ winner (max £50)

Ladbrokes: Bet £20 on this race and get £10 free bet on 3.05

Skybet: Money back as a free bet if 2nd or 3rd in this race (max £20)

Paddy: Money back as a free bet if 2nd, 3rd or 4th to SP favourite (max £25)

Betfair sports: Free bet to same stake as any 3/1+ winner you back (max £25)

**

3.05 Hampton Court Stakes (Group 3, 1m2f)

A big field of three-year-olds comprising the usual proven class droppers and unexposed aspirants. Mirage Dancer heads the market and is a solid option. In two runs to date he's won a maiden (quite rare for Sir Michael Stoute horses to win on debut) and was then an eye-catching fourth to Cliffs Of Moher in the Dee Stakes. There, he was all at sea around the very tight turning circuit, whereas here he can put that additional experience to good use on the slightly more galloping plains of Ascot.

Bay Of Poets was in front of Mirage Dancer at Chester, and has since run all right in the Prix du Jockey Club. This trip and ground should be ideal, but I believe Mirage Dancer has the scope to progress past him. Godolphin have a second and third string to their bow in Benbatl and Tamleek. Benbatl brings the best form to the race, his second in the Dante and fifth in the Derby surpassing what his rivals have achieved thus far. But it is also form which screams 'beatable' (almost an anagram of Benbatl!), and I'll be disappointed if he's good enough.

Tamleek is in a similar boat to Mirage Dancer in some respects whilst lacking the optical appeal in his Chester run (behind Venice Beach and Derby winner, Wings Of Eagles, in the Vase). He could be the each way play.

Ryan Moore chooses Orderofthegarter over Taj Mahal, but his lad has been racing on soft surfaces since a debut second on good to firm six runs ago. This is a drop in class from his last two G1 spins but, again, it would be somewhat disappointing if there was nothing progressive enough to beat him.

Bookie specials on this race

Bet365: 1/4 1-2-3 plus risk-free bet to same stake if you back 4/1+ winner (max £50)

Betfair sports: Free bet to same stake as any 3/1+ winner you back (max £25)

**

3.40 Ribblesdale Stakes (Group 2, 1m4f)

The Ascot Oaks, sort of, this is a mile and a half G2 for three-year-old fillies. Alluringly, twice beaten - the second time heavily - by Oaks winner, Enable, is favoured. But the daughter of Fastnet Rock has stamina to prove to my eye. After all, she was bested by fully eleven lengths when third at Epsom.

Sir Michael runs Mori, winner of the Listed Height Of Fashion Stakes at Goodwood last time. Unraced as a juvenile, she won her maiden at the second request over course and going. That was ten furlongs, as was the Goodwood run, so she too has to demonstrate staying power. But with her imperious breeding - by Frankel out of multiple Group 1-winning mare, Midday - she ought to see the trip out. Her mum did, and her dad's brother (Noble Mission) did too. I'd take her as the class riser over Alluringly dropping down a level.

The Irish have won this five times in the last six years, and only twice with an Aidan O'Brien runner, which makes John Oxx's Naughty Or Nice of mild interest. Oxx saddled the winner of this, Sahara Slew, back in 2001, and has since overseen the career of the peerless (for some, including me) Sea The Stars. Oxx is not the force he was, sadly, but he has a respectable record at Royal Ascot, four of his eight runners since 2009 making the first four.

This filly is unbeaten in two, the latter a 1m5f Listed contest; not for her stamina reservations then. Whether she's quite quick enough could be a more pertinent question, the answer to which lies in a quote of 12/1 generally, which is worth a nibble each way to find out.

John Gosden runs four, and that reads like an attempt to snaffle black type for one or two of them rather than a robust bid for Ribblesdale glory.

Bookie specials on this race

Bet365: 1/4 1-2-3 plus risk-free bet to same stake if you back 4/1+ winner (max £50)

Betfair sports: Free bet to same stake as any 3/1+ winner you back (max £25)

**

4.20 Gold Cup (Group 1, 2m 4f)

The feature race of the week, the Gold Cup. A thorough test of stamina always, but it may be the horse which can best quicken after two and a quarter miles that gets the plaudits.

On the face of it, Order Of St George looks fairly bombproof. The defending champion, he was three lengths too good for the best of the rest a year ago. Although that was on soft turf, his record on good to firm at staying trips reads 111. With at least two confirmed front runners in the field, Ryan Moore should be able to bide his time and quicken through tired horses. I think he'll win.

So it may be that a forecast and/or exacta is a more appealing play for those that fail to get excited by an even money shot that should be 4/6.

Big Orange is not in my thoughts, as he looks sure to be locked into a compromising pace battle and will be forgiven for wilting late on. Similar comments probably apply to Torcedor, Nearly Caught and 2015 winner, Trip To Paris. No, it's late runners I'm looking for, and I'm hopeful that Martin Harley will take back aboard Sheikhzayedroad and play his hand on the reliable old boy towards the end of the show. If he does, I reckon he might be both the each way play and the exacta 'underneath'.

Sheikhy was a winner over two and a quarter in the Doncaster Cup, and over two miles here in the Long Distance Cup on Champions' Day, last year. He's won in Britain, Dubai and Canada and, although he might prefer a spit more juice in the ground, he's got plenty of very good form on fast.

If Jamie Spencer reverts to type atop Quest For More, delaying his effort, that one could also outrun his odds of 16/1.

Bookie specials on this race

Bet365: 1/4 1-2-3 plus risk-free bet to same stake if you back 4/1+ winner (max £50)

Betfair sports: Free bet to same stake as any 3/1+ winner you back (max £25)

Paddy: Money back as a free bet if 2nd, 3rd or 4th to SP favourite (max £25)

**

5.00 Britannia Stakes (Class 2 Handicap, 1m)

This is not really my thing. Too difficult. That said, five of the last seven winners were 10/1 or shorter, and only four of the last twenty winners were outside the top ten in the betting, so maybe I'm overthinking it...

The strong-travelling Son Of The Stars should settle better if buried mid-pack and, with just three runs under his belt, he's got plenty of improvement in him off a mark of 95. Trainer Richard Hannon is 0 from 8, one place, so far; and his dad, Richard Hannon, Sr., was 0 from 45 (six places) since 1997, which is a little off-putting, even if we shouldn't necessarily visit the sins of the fathers upon the sons. Hannon also runs The Grape Escape and Medahim.

Sir Michael Stoute has a winner at least, when the race was run at York, and another five places, from a fairly profligate 23 attempts. City Of Joy, on a hat-trick, is his entry. Off a mark of 94 and drawn in the middle, Ryan Moore's presence in the saddle suggests the current 10/1 about his chance will truncate before the stalls open. He'll be held up for a late run in a race that doesn't look overly blessed with early toe.

I've already said too much about a race where I don't have any edge, so I'll throw a lucky dip pick from the top end of the market, exclusively in hope rather than expectation: Maths Prize has had just the one run this term, when fifth to Shutter Speed at Newbury over a mile and a quarter. Presumed to strip fitter for the outing, and dropping back in trip, his juvenile form was solid and included two wins and a close up third to Derby runner, Khalidi. Drawn in the middle, where I think the race may unfold, and with a prominent racing style, this lad could give The Queen a winner on Gold Cup day. And at 20/1 as I write!

Naval Warfare, whose first two races were the same pair as Maths Prize's, made all to win on his first three year old start last time. He looks more of a man this term so, with little early pace predicted, he could carry the field deep into the final furlong. Joshua Bryan's seven pound claim means geegeez.co.uk sponsored jockey, David Probert, misses the gig, but also means Naval Warfare is only four pounds higher than the last day. He too is a 20/1 poke with a squeak.

Bookie specials on this race

Bet365: 1/4 1-2-3-4-5 plus risk-free bet to same stake if you back 4/1+ winner (max £50)

Paddy: Money back as a free bet if 2nd, 3rd or 4th to SP favourite (max £25)

Betfair sports: 1/4 1-2-3-4-5 plus free bet to same stake as any 3/1+ winner you back (max £25)

Victor, Ladbrokes, Coral 1/4 1-2-3-4-5

Skybet, Paddy 1/5 1-2-3-4-5-6

**

5.35 King George V Stakes (Class 2 Handicap, 1m 4f)

Another huge field handicap where the pin is a better guide than my digi-quill. I've learned one thing, however, and it is this. Of those horses making their handicap bow in the race, seven won - from 98 to try - and 30 were placed. That works out at 35% winners, 37.5% places, from 27.37% of the runners. Not a massive edge, but an edge nonetheless.

It's a race that has thrown up plenty of bigger priced winners, too, so I'll throw a blind dart (tuppence each way) on Sheila Lavery's Twin Star at around 33/1 (expect bigger nearer the time, especially on the exchanges). Handled by an under-rated Irish  trainer, this lad looks to have been well placed in here: he won a ten furlong maiden on good to firm at Navan before running a two length fourth to the re-opposing Homesman, trained by Aidan O'Brien. Twin Star gets a five pound pull for two lengths, having been the horse running on best of all at the finish. The extra quarter mile and the return to a quick surface are positives, and the price makes it close to a free go.

Elsewhere, and more obviously, Mark Johnston, whose record is a winner and a place from just two runners in this race, saddles Sofia's Rock and considers him one of his better chances of the week. A winner three times in small fields he has second top weight, but the trainer's conviction will need to be more than robust if this one is to get the lead - his normal style - from box 20.

Atty Persse was considered a Derby candidate at one point, but has since lost his unbeaten record over ten furlongs. Nevertheless, he steps up to a mile and a half now, which I expect to suit. He looks a legit jolly, if you're unconcerned by the widest pitch of all in 22. High draws have done pretty well in this race, including four of the last five winners.

Good luck wherever your pin lands in this one, and indeed all afternoon. It's trappy-looking fare, but great fun!

Bookie specials on this race

Bet365: 1/4 1-2-3-4 plus risk-free bet to same stake if you back 4/1+ winner (max £50)

Betfair sports: Free bet to same stake as any 3/1+ winner you back (max £25)

Skybet, Paddy 1/5 1-2-3-4-5

Matt

Click here for our free Royal Ascot stat pack

Click here to join Geegeez Gold

A Right Royal Day for the Boys In Blue

Ribchester and Lady Aurelia reinforced their star status, but it proved to be an off-day for Aidan O’Brien’s Churchill.

On a baking opening day at Ascot, the Royal Meeting provided a plethora of dazzling performances fit for a Queen. Track records were tumbling left, right and centre, with Ribchester setting the tone thanks to a classy performance in the Queen Anne Stakes.

Team Godolphin had a day to remember, and it was Ribchester that settled the nerves with a professional display. Taking over the running a furlong from home, he battled on bravely to see off Mutakayyef by just over a length. The runner-up had travelled powerfully into contention but was unable to peg-back Fahey’s fella. And though he wandered off a straight path in the closing stages, the winner never looked likely to be caught. Deauville put in an eye-catching performance for Ballydoyle to finish third.

Of the winner, jockey William Buick said: “I said after the Lockinge he's very versatile. He's an exceptional miler, of course he's got lots of quality but he travels so well and sees it out so well. You've got to hand it to the horse, he's an absolute jockey's dream. It doesn't get much better than this, it's the biggest week in our sport, and to wear the Royal Blue for Sheikh Mohammed here is absolutely fantastic.”

With the course-record broken, an exceedingly proud Richard Fahey said: “I'm delighted he won, William said he's got huge gears and said that he was never in trouble. He gets the trip well and that makes him a good horse. He's got to be the best I've trained, especially breaking the track record here today, and that is not being disrespectful to the other horses. I'm in a happy place at the minute.”

Ribchester’s thoroughly professional performance was arguably overshadowed by the dazzling display from America’s Lady Aurelia. Wes Ward’s flying filly had sparkled 12 months earlier, when storming to victory in the Queen Mary. That success came on soft ground, but she found the fast ground yesterday equally to her liking. Moving to the front beyond the furlong mark, she quickly put distance between herself and the rest. Last year’s winner Profitable, now a Godolphin blue, proved best of the rest despite the ground being plenty quick enough for him. Marsha ran another cracker to finish a head further back in third.

An injury to Frankie Dettori meant that American jock John Velazquez became the lucky pilot. He said of the victory: “It's unfortunate for Frankie and a bad situation for him, but she was spectacular. I gave her a little break in the first half of the race and then when I asked her to run she responded, that doesn't always happen. Wes does a great job and he has a great team.”

For Ward, the flying filly made it eight Royal Ascot winners, and the ecstatic trainer added: “She's a very special filly. This is a Group One against the fastest sprinters in the world and to duplicate what she did last year and come back and do it again - she's a once in a lifetime horse. She's amazing and she loves it over here. We can look forward to a really big summer, the Breeders' Cup - her owners are so excited, it's wonderful for American racing.”

With mission accomplished for two leading lights, it was the turn of Ballydoyle’s latest star to shine. Churchill had won the Guineas on both sides of the Irish Sea, and was sent off a short-priced favourite to add the St James’s Palace Stakes. Held up in midfield, Ryan Moore looked to track chief danger Barney Roy as they approached the two-furlong mark. But as Godolphin’s fella responded for pressure, so O’Brien’s star faltered. Barney battled bravely to head Lancaster Bomber and Thunder Snow inside the final furlong, whilst Churchill could only manage fourth.

Many had thought him unfortunate not to have won the 2000 Guineas at Newmarket, though Churchill’s below-par performance here, still leaves doubts over the identity of the best three-year-old miler. Nevertheless, this was Godolphin’s day, and trainer Richard Hannon was clearly delighted: “I was confident he'd run his race, not confident he'd win - I just wanted to give him the chance to prove that, as I don't think he got that chance in the Guineas. There isn't another Guineas to go at, but that is a good pot and Sean Levey, who rides him at home, has done a good job.”

Of future plans, a step up in trip appears likely when he added: “He's in the Eclipse, he's in the Arc. He takes time to get there but he picked up well, he's a very relaxed horse and was only having his fourth run, so to beat the Guineas winner is great.”

Hopefully Churchill will bounce back at some point during the Summer. He undoubtedly ran flat, maybe feeling the exertions of those two Guineas victories. O’Brien, as ever philosophical, said of the loss: “He ran well. His form with Lancaster Bomber changed a bit from what it usually is. He should like fast ground really. It is a very hot day and maybe the heat and change didn't help. He just didn't pick up for some reason. We don't know the reason but we will hopefully know sometime.”

Godolphin completed a stunning opening day, with a one-two in the Windsor Castle Stakes. The Charlie Appleby pair of Sound And Silence and Roussel, dominated the finish, with the former getting home by a neck. The juveniles look to have a bright future, as do the ‘Boys in Blue’. It’s been a turbulent period for Sheikh Mohammed and his team, yet they have roared into the Royal Meeting, and look sure to have further success during Flat racing’s most celebrated event.

Royal Ascot 2017: Day 2 Preview, Tips

Royal Ascot 2017: Day 2 Preview, Tips

Day 2 at Royal Ascot features another Group 1 contest and probably the most fiendish handicap puzzle of the week; but it all begins - minus Her Majesty, required for chores at Westminster - with the...

2.30 Jersey Stakes (Group 3, 7f)

As ever, this is a difficult script to follow. As usual, the cast comprises non-stayers and class-droppers from the various Guineas races as well as class-risers and trip-stretchers from the sprint division. It is more often than not a new venture for the winner, so some degree of conjecture is required, a bit like a thriller where the culprit is oh so obvious after the fact.

Prime suspect in this particular Hitchcock drama is the mysterious Frenchman, Le Brivido, trained by the not-so-mysterious Andre Fabre. Monsieur F. was once untouchable when sending a raider across to Britain, but in recent years that aura of ultimate respect has dissipated a tad. Indeed, he's had just one winner (Usherette, last year), from just six runners, at the Royal meeting in the last five years.

Le Brivido brings excellent credentials, on the numbers at least: he's clear top rated by the official handicapper, and by Topspeed and by Racing Post Ratings. He was second in the French 2000 Guineas, beaten a short head and with three lengths back to the third. It is the best form in this race by a little way. But...

He has never raced over seven furlongs, and he has never raced on a straight track, and he has never raced on ground as fast as this, and he'll have never raced off a pace as rapid as this. Back in the good old days, when things were a lot more straightforward, we would simply trust in M. F to know what was right. In 2017, and at the price, I'm not so sure. This lad was 16/1 and a bit of a surprise when nearly landing the Poulains, and why is he not contesting the St James's Palace Stakes? Third there would read better than winning this.

Le Brivido can win, naturellement, but I'm trying to find one to beat him.

That one is almost as unimaginative, Dream Castle. Trading at a similar quote of 7/2, he's not hard to find, but he does have a more proven if marginally less compelling profile. Fifth was his position in our Guineas, a placing that tells little of the tale of his run. He was badly checked in his stride having started a step slow, and ran on very well. Only beaten three lengths there - and value for at least a length closer proximity, he wouldn't need to improve much to contest in an average Jersey. The step back in trip is not obviously a plus, but the almost guaranteed overly fast pace here is.

Pick of the unexposed class elevators may be Andrew Balding's Beat The Bank, two from two at the trip and in his career. He's proven over a straight seven on fast ground, and he has every right to move forward from what he's shown so far. 25/1 with Skybet is worth the speculative play.

Bookie specials

Ladbrokes: Bet £20 on this race and get £10 free bet on 3.05

Skybet: Money back as a free bet if 2nd or 3rd in this race (max £20)

Paddy: Money back as a free bet if 2nd, 3rd or 4th to SP favourite (max £25)

Betfair sports: Free bet to same stake as any 3/1+ winner you back (max £25)

3.05 Queen Mary Stakes (Group 2, 5f)

This is Wes territory. In the eight renewals since 2009, Wesley Ward has won three of them, including the last two. He produces two-year-old sprint fillies like Britain produces four-year-old sprint colts... Of all the squad he's brought over this year, he is said to be most thrilled and excited by Happy Like A Fool. She's a short enough price at 7/4 ish but in a year where the domestic challenge looks notably weak, she's a very likely victor.

WW knows exactly what is needed to win this race, and he couldn't have been more ebullient about this filly. Indeed, after training her on the track last week he reported,

"She is great - doing super. She had a big work yesterday with Jamie Spencer and came out of that great. It is exciting."

We've not exactly gone off piste so far - more nursery slopes - but we should have at least one winner from the first two races. If any bookie offers 2/1 as a concession, I'd suggest she'll be nearer to 5/4 come post time.

For those who would rather play an each way loser - that's generally my idea of the game! - Heartache is the one at 6/1 in places. Clive Cox is an eminent trainer of sprinters - think Profitable, Priceless, Reckless Abandon in recent years - and this daughter of Kyllachy won her only start to date by six lengths on firm ground. Sure, that was Bath and this is Royal Ascot, but she's rapid and most of these are not especially. She's drawn highest of all, in 20, with Happy Like A Fool in 18 and likely to attempt to blitz her field from gate to wire.

Of the bigger prices, Out Of The Flames has improved since beating Mrs Gallagher, though the latter has the chance to step forward herself on a sole victory from a single racecourse visit. Both are 16's with a chance of going 20's between now and race time.

Bookie specials on this race

Bet365: 1/4 1-2-3-4 plus risk-free bet to same stake if you back 4/1+ winner (max £50)

Betfair sports: Free bet to same stake as any 3/1+ winner you back (max £25)

3.40 Duke Of cambridge Stakes (Group 2, 1m)

Not a race I have a handle on especially, if indeed I'm close to the mark elsewhere. It was very difficult not to be taken with Laugh Aloud's performance at Epsom, where not everything went right for her. She looked a Group 1 filly in the making, and with no concerns about conditions - she ought also to be able to adopt her favoured unchallenged position in front - the only question is whether she can step up to this class. James Doyle will be keen to prevail in the Godolphin blue on this John Gosden-trained 'outside ride'.

Last year's winner, Usherette, also wears the Godolphin silks. It was soft when she won twelve months ago, and it'll be borderline firm this time around. She's been beaten in both prep runs this term and has form on good or quicker of 7163 in an overall string of 1171111633. Not for me the repeater.

Qemah is really interesting. On class, she's the winner. She triumphed in the Group 1 Coronation Stakes, for three year olds over a mile, at the Royal meeting last year. But she was beaten in a weak Group 3 on her seasonal bow five weeks ago. The French do love a prep race so there's every likelihood that no tears were shed after that even money reversal, and Jean-Claude Rouget is fast becoming the new Andre Fabre such is his knack for taking down the big pots.

Rouget is two from eight in recent seasons at Royal Ascot, both wins coming in the Coronation Stakes. His other Coronation winner was Ervedya, who was turned over last year when taking in the Queen Anne against older colts. Once bitten twice shy, perhaps, and the savvy man from the provinces (he trains down in beautiful Pau) has lowered his sights a year later.

Of the rest, Greta G is becoming the wise guy mare. A winner of the Argentinian 1000 Guineas, she gets weight for age as she's still considered a three-year-old until July 1st (I think!). But before you lump on, it's only one pound WFA, and her Classic win was on heavy ground. Frankie Dettori, international horseman if ever there was, takes the ride. I love a dark horse, but am seriously struggling to see how this filly isn't 33/1. She's 12's.

Bookie specials on this race

Bet365: 1/4 1-2-3 plus risk-free bet to same stake if you back 4/1+ winner (max £50)

Skybet: Enhanced place odds 1/5 1-2-3-4

Paddy: Money back as a free bet if 2nd, 3rd or 4th to SP favourite (max £25)

Betfair sports: Free bet to same stake as any 3/1+ winner you back (max £25)

 

4.20 Prince Of Wales's Stakes (Group 1, 1m 2f)

A really good looking renewal of the PoW Stakes. Two horses, Highland Reel and Jack Hobbs, are rated 123, with seven of the nine strong field rated 115 or higher. Highland Reel, a terrific mile and a half horse is just not at the same level over ten furlongs. Indeed, his record at this trip reads 2153827, compared with a twelve furlong record of 51142121271. As much as I love him, and as little of a shock as it would be if he is first past the post, I have to oppose him at this range.

Moreover, it looks as though Godolphin are playing the ol' team tactics tit for tat by deploying a pacemaker in Scottish for their main hope, Jack Hobbs. Jack has been an infrequent visitor to the track in the last two seasons, his three runs yielding a commendable third to Almanzor in the Champion Stakes over this course and distance, and a win in the Dubai Sheema Classic over a quarter mile further.

The worry is his fragility. Two three-year-old runs on good to firm were excellent - runner up in Golden Horn's Derby and then a facile victory in the Irish Derby - but he's not encountered terra as firmer since, and has been pulled out on account of the ground more than once.

We then come to Ulysses, for whom it is very difficult to make a case solely on the evidence of the form book. Thought good enough to run in both the Derby and the Breeders' Cup Turf last season, the fact remains he's never bettered a brace of Group 3 victories in his career thus far. But... is Sir Michael Stoute, his trainer, not the master with improving horses as they get older? And does not his very presence in those races last term imply a higher level of ability in his home work? With question marks against the first two in the betting, I put my trust in Sir Michael to deliver this chap ready to run big on Wednesday. 4/1 is fair enough if you're happy to roll with trainer patterns.

Perhaps the best bet in the race, though, is Decorated Knight each way. Roger Charlton's son of Galileo has won two of his last three races, both in Group 1 company, and has a record at ten furlongs of 2111. He's won four of his last five and acts on very fast turf, he's joint third top rated, is versatile as regards pace, and he's 10/1 in a place. He'll do.

Bookie specials on this race

Bet365: 1/4 1-2-3 plus risk-free bet to same stake if you back 4/1+ winner (max £50)

Betfair sports: Free bet to same stake as any 3/1+ winner you back (max £25)

5.00 Royal Hunt Cup (Class 2 Handicap, 1m)

A thirty strong field line up to blaze down the straight mile in this inscrutable weight-for-ability guess up. This is a vanity heat from a punting perspective, and it takes a big man to walk away. I'm walking away. Probably.

For what it's worth (very little, I'll have been lucky not good if it cops), these are a few things that may - or may not - be relevant:

- Pace looks to be exclusively middle to high

- Horses dropping back in trip from nine or ten furlongs, and 20/1 or shorter are 4/30 (11 placed) +29 in last twenty years

- Four and five year olds have won 17/20 (85%) from 71% of the runners. They've also had 80% of the places from that same 71% population.

So, just for fun, high drawn four or five year old dropping back in trip... gives two Godolphin runners, G K Chesterton and Blair House. The former wants to be on the speed: that's not really a recipe for success in a race where the last four good to firm winners came from way off the pace. The latter hasn't run for almost a year, and may race closer to the pace than ideal, but he's 25/1 and capable.

Fastnet Tempest is my idea of the most likely winner, but not sufficiently likely for me to invest at 10/1; while 40/1 Cote d'Azur would be landing a notable Hunt Cup double having bagged the Thirsk version two starts back on good to firm, and could be the one for a penny win/place given his price.

Bookie specials on this race

Bet365: 1/4 1-2-3-4-5 plus risk-free bet to same stake if you back 4/1+ winner (max £50)

Skybet: Enhanced place odds 1/5 1-2-3-4-5-6

Betfair sports: Free bet to same stake as any 3/1+ winner you back (max £25)

5.35 Sandringham Handicap (Listed, 1m)

In spite of perennial twenty filly fields, this has been a top of the market race in recent times. Indeed since Ascot reopened in 2006 after the Royal Ascot at York sojourn, only one winner has returned longer than 11/1. Nevertheless, John Gosden's ante post favourite, Gymnaste, is bidding to become the first winner since 2001 to be rated lower than 90 - and only two in that time have been lower than 94. That doesn't mean she can't win, of course, but rather that she maybe hasn't demonstrated the class to best this type of field.

Wesley's Con Te Partiro (9/1) is a very interesting runner. She's by a sprinter out of a sprinter, but in her most recent three runs - including on the Breeders' Cup undercard - she's shaped like she's crying out for a mile. She's a rare closer for Ward and, if settling, she'll relish conditions. I'm not certain she'll see the trip out - it's a stiff mile at Ascot after all, and she's been racing over shorter around tight turns in the States - but she may be mis-handicapped off 102. Spencer is the perfect pilot for her.

Rain Goddess is the other I want in my corner. Although Aidan O'Brien's three-year-old handicap record is unspectacular (1/10 since 2009, his only runner in this last of 17 in 2009), this daughter of Galileo - who else? - was never at the races over seven furlongs in the G3 Fred Darling two starts back, but she'll be far more at home with this drop in grade and rise in distance.

More pertinently, perhaps, she has since run fifth in the French 1000 Guineas where she may have been unsuited by the slow pace. As an Aidan O'Brien/Ryan Moore contender, she's very unlikely to be sent off at her current quote of 12/1. She merits each way support.

Bookie specials on this race

Bet365: 1/4 1-2-3-4-5 plus risk-free bet to same stake if you back 4/1+ winner (max £50)

Betfair sports: Free bet to same stake as any 3/1+ winner you back (max £25)

And that rounds out the opening dozen races. Good luck with your Day Two wagers!

Matt

Click here for our free Royal Ascot stat pack

Click here to join Geegeez Gold

Royal Ascot 2017: Day 1 Preview, Tips

Royal Ascot 2017: Day 1 Preview, Tips

The greatest summer meeting of them all, Royal Ascot 2017, is a feast of top class racing spanning five sumptuous days. In what looks set to be scorching weather conditions, fast ground specialists ought to be an exclusive play all week, a week that starts with a sextet of fiercely combative heats, among them three Group 1's.

The first of six on the day, and thirty across the week, is the...

2.30 Queen Anne Stakes (Group 1, 1m)

On figures, this is Ribchester's to lose. Godolphin's progressive last day Lockinge winner has the best form, and is lightly raced; if there is a niggle it's whether he wants lightning fast ground. The son of Iffraaj was beaten on his sole good to firm start last term, albeit shaping like he's improved since then. He's a worthy favourite and will make plenty of multiples as the week kicks off.

For small money, I'd rather tentatively take my chances, each way, with Lightning Spear. This fellow does enjoy rattling turf and has little to find with the favourite on a couple of pieces of form. Drawn high - Ribchester is in stall one, the early speed probably low to middle - he has made the frame without winning in all three course and distance spins, including last year's renewal of the Queen Anne. 5/1 is probably fair enough.

As with all races all week, there are plenty of others with chances, including the ultra-consistent Mutakayyef (in the first three in 14 of his 15 career starts). Todd Pletcher's US raider, American Patriot, who loves lightning fast ground may be the most interesting outsider in the field at around 25/1.

3.05 Coventry Stakes (Group 2, 6f)

The Coventry is a six furlong dash for two-year-olds only, and tends to shape the very early 2000 Guineas betting. The caveat, which applies seemingly to all of the juvenile heats at Royal Ascot this year, is that a certain American gentleman - Mr Wesley A Ward, Esq. - may have a hand, or a hoof, in the finish.

He tests the water here with a colt owned by Coolmore, called Arawak. Arawak is very difficult to quantify off a single run, and win, in a dirt maiden special weight over five furlongs. What I can relate is that Wesley's best record comes at the minimum distance, and he has only twice had runners in the Coventry, both big prices, both well beaten.

Looking to Peter May's excellent ratings, he was kind enough to share the winning performances with me from previous renewals, and they make for some interesting observations. Firstly, all winners since 2009 had won their prior start. The longest price of any of those Coventry-winning horses when winning their prior start was 5/2, and five of the eight winners since 2009 came from the first four in the ratings (20/1 War Command did not have a rating).

This year, De Bruyne Horse tops the May ratings - featured on the geegeez Gold cards - and he's followed in by Brother Bear. It is Jessica Harrington's colt I like, and have backed. Unbeaten in two starts to date, the latter a facile victory in the Listed Marble Hill Stakes, he's drawn in the middle from where I'd imagine he will stalk the pace and pounce if he's good enough. He's offered at 9/2 currently.

I've also backed Romanised, who was an impressive winner of his maiden and comes here directly off the back of that effort; and I think another once raced colt, Nebo, might be smart. Both of that pair are around 16/1.

3.40 King's Stand Stakes (Group 1, 5f)

A second G1, this time for speedballs over the minimum trip. The Palace House Stakes winner has an exceptional record in the King's Stand in recent years with five winners from the Newmarket contest prevailing in this, including the last four, since 2010.

The very speedy Marsha represents that form line in 2017, having been a taking winner at HQ six weeks ago. Her run style is to be waited with, which may be viewed as both a positive and a negative in the context of this year's race. It is a positive because there is a ton of early speed and she'll not get caught up in what will quite likely be a meltdown ; and it is a negative because Luke Morris will need to thread a passage through a potential wall of fatigued horses from a draw in stall nine. I backed her at 8/1 straight after the Palace House Stakes, and implied readers might do likewise in this post. She is still 4/1 in a place and I think she'll be a point shorter on the day.

That is better than main market rival, the trailblazing Lady Aurelia, who has to do something like a solo from the widest gate of all, stall 18. She has a little bit to prove for me, and though she's a perfectly credible winner, and may be 'the speed of the speed', I don't want to get involved at around 3/1.

I'm not much of a fan of Signs Of Blessing in the context of this race - cue easy win - a horse whose form is pretty much all on soft ground over six furlongs. This ain't that.

One of the better big prices is Goldream, winner here three years ago, and patently not at the races last term. Now eight, his best days could be behind him, but he's got very close to both Marsha and Profitable this season, that pair the last two winners of the King's Stand. But his age puts me off a little.

Profitable has the opposite draw to Lady Aurelia, in stall one, and he may just find himself away from the main action. That's about the only downside for him and he should again run his race. I slightly prefer his former owner's Priceless, however, and backed that one prior to the Palace House in the hope she would prevail there. She didn't, running a solid fifth, but she did win next/last time out, at Haydock in the Group 2 Temple Stakes on firm ground. 14/1 is still an attractive price, and ostensibly a bit on the big side.

4.20 St James's Palace Stakes (Group 1, 1m)

A mile round the turn for three-year-olds only, with dual 2000 Guineas winner, Churchill, bidding to win a second battle with Barney Roy, runner up at Newmarket. It's a compelling match up, with Churchill bringing a higher level of form and Barney Roy presumed capable of greater improvement after just three runs to date.

Much was made of the Ballydoyle team tactics in the 2000 Guineas, with Aidan O'Brien fielding a squad and controlling the race. He saddles three this time, including the guaranteed pacemaker, Lancaster Bomber: it certainly won't be the first time a lancaster bomber has set the scene for a Churchill victory. (sigh, it needed writing!) Godolphin also run Thunder Snow, second to Churchill in the Irish 2000 Guineas, and now racing on a notably different surface - it was yielding when they last met.

In truth, this makes little appeal as a wagering proposition. I expect the favourite to confirm superiority over his Curragh conquest, and more than likely over his Newmarket underling too. The prices offer little appeal for anything except perhaps a really dull straight forecast.

Nevertheless, it remains a race to savour between an established high class horse and potential top notcher.

5.00 Ascot Stakes (Class 2 Handicap, 2m4f)

Twenty runners in a handicap and a 3/1 favourite trained by Willie Mullins. You'd be forgiven for thinking we were at Punchestown, but no, this is Royal Ascot. Mullins had a battalion entered at the five day stage, but relies on Thomas Hobson - ridden by Ryan Moore - to get the job done. Mullins has run eight in the race, and won it twice, down the years, so odds of 3/1 about this year's challenger are accurate on the representation front at least.

Thomas Hobson was a 100-rated handicapper when trained by John Gosden, but he did his winning on soft ground. Indeed, he's won nothing more than a Class 4 handicap and a maiden hurdle on good ground, and has been well beaten on his only try on good to firm. He certainly won't be a shock winner, and there's a fair chance he'll make his own running in a race that can involve more hard luck stories than a shift at The Samaritans, but he's not lugging my cash at that price.

One that has the right credentials to be involved is Alan King's Oceane. For a trainer who has a lot of runners on the flat, I was surprised that he's only had two previous entries in this race; this year, he saddles three.

Oceane is the outsider of the trio - Who Dares Wins and Rainbow Dreamer his better-fancied stablemates - but he loves fast ground, has very good form at the track, is within hailing distance of his last winning rating, and handles a big field well. I do have a slight reservation about whether he'll see the trip out on the level, but he's a sporting price at 16/1.

5.35 Windsor Castle Stakes (Listed, 5f)

A big field of sub-top class but largely unexposed juveniles over the minimum trip. Tricky territory. Six of the last eight winners also won last time out, including scorers at 14/1 and 20/1, and two Wesley winners, one of them at 33/1 (those days are long gone!). That trims 24 down to eleven, which is a fair start.

Only the Wes winners scored off a solitary previous run, which may (or may not) count against Roussel and Marchingontogether. Interestingly, perhaps, three of the last six winners had already run thrice, and this may be a race where experience counts. Or, more likely, it's just coincidence. Certainly the longer term trends point to twice raced animals as being the prime movers.

Declarationofpeace is an obvious starting point. He was deemed by bookmakers good enough to be outright ante post favourite for the Group 2 Coventry, and yet here he is, two rungs lower down and he's not even the jolly. That hardly screams confidence. It may be that owners, Coolmore, wanted to separate Arawak and this guy, in which case he could see solid support in the run up to the race. That would be significant, all the more so because the others vying for market leadership are both trained by Wesley Ward, who also handles Arawak for 'the lads'.

Reading the soundbites from Wes, he may slightly prefer Nootka Sound to Elizabeth Darcy. Both are fillies taking on the boys, and both figure at the top of the betting. Importantly, perhaps, Nootka Sound has a middle draw while ED is marooned in the two box. Frankie Dettori rides Nootka Sound and this will be point and shoot territory: if she sees the trip out, it will take a fast one to gun her down.

Of the speculative bigger prices, Tom Dascombe's Dragons Tail is fast and his form is working out well. He won on second start, by four and a half lengths, the third and fourth (re-opposing Dahik) having won since. He's 20/1.

Good luck with your Day One wagers, and remember, we have oodles of top stuff for the Royal meeting, whether you're a free or Gold subscriber (more top stuff if you're Gold, natch! 😉 )

Matt

Click here for our free Royal Ascot stat pack

Click here to join Geegeez Gold

Monday Musings: Defending the Royal Castle

It is unusual in my experience for Michael Bell, the long-serving and usually affable Royal trainer, to stick his head above any particular parapet, writes Tony Stafford. Last week, though, he saw fit to take Ascot to task for allowing Wesley Ward to work his Royal meeting candidates on the course.

Bell, who has ten horses in the Queen’s ownership – only Sir Michael Stoute and William Haggas (11 each) have more – reckoned it gave the American an unfair advantage. This theme was followed up by Sheiklh Fahad Al Thani, the boss of Qatar Racing and David Redvers, the Sheikh’s senior advisor who runs Tweenhills Stud.

Nick Smith, the Royal meeting’s main overseas talent-sourcer for many years, replied that Ascot have always allowed overseas challengers to get to know the track. He says this mirrors the situation for British and other overseas challengers on US tracks who have the opportunity to work their horses on turf, whereas the home team cannot.

Maybe the Qatar Racing gripe stems from the fact that a recent acquisition, the Ivor Furtado-trained Marchingontogether will line up in tomorrow’s Windsor Castle Stakes against not just one, but two of Ward’s flying juveniles.

I stopped off at Leicester one night last month, before continuing on to Chester, and while taking advantage of the new owner food facility – well done Nick Lees! – had a minute bet on said Furtado horse, who duly won on debut at 14-1. The fact that Silvestre De Sousa was her jockey assisted my pin on its way down the card.

Until that day, Marchingontogether had been a financial flop for her breeder Whatcote Farm Stud. From the first crop of Havana Gold, one of Qatar Racing’s stallions at Tweenhills, she would have cost her breeders a fee of £8,500 to be covered, but went through the ring as a foal around 18 months later for just 1,000gns.

Her temporary new owner re-presented her almost a year later at Doncaster’s Goffs sale and her price dropped again to £800. Early indications are that Havana Gold has a future and Marchingontogether is one of six individual winners from the stallion, headed by Havana Grey, winner of Sandown’s Listed National Stakes last month for the Karl Burke stable.

When Michael Bell (and his brother Rupert on TalkSport, and possibly Rupert’s son Olly, on the telly), speak of unfairness, they might think of Whatcote Farm Stud and the interim temporary custodian of the filly and what they think is fair as they watch their former property line up in the Sheikh’s maroon. At the same time, the lucky recipients of Marchingontogether once Furtado had added her to his string – she is one of just two juveniles listed for him in Horses in Training 2017 – namely Bgc Racing & Partner, will be laughing all the way to the bank.

The two Wesley Ward adversaries to Marchingontogether, both owned by Hat Creek Racing, have single wins on their record and coincidentally both beat the filly CJS Suzie Byu. Nootka Sound, a daughter of Australian-born stallion Lonhro, was first in to bat, winning by more than five lengths over four and a half furlongs at Keeneland in late April.

Four weeks later, the Goffs Ireland recruit Elizabeth Darcy, by Camacho, started out at Indiana Grand. She was the even-money favourite and had almost eight lengths to spare over CJS Suzie Byu, despite that filly’s connections’ hopes for better as the 7-5 starting price suggested.

As ever the Windsor Castle will take plenty of winning with representatives of Charlie Appleby’s almost invincible juvenile team and one-time Coolmore Coventry Stakes contender Declarationofpeace (by War Front) aiming to add to last year’s win by Washington DC in the same race.

Rather than Hat Creek Racing, there is a better known ownership group on what is probably Wesley Ward’s best juvenile contender of the day, Arawak, a son of Uncle Mo, and winner by seven lengths on his Belmont debut last month.

Arawak is due to wear blinkers and carry the colours of Derrick Smith, while Aidan O’Brien’s pair, first-choice Murillo and US Navy Flag will be similarly attired. It will be interesting to see which of the three is entrusted with the first-choice cap.

Wesley’s biggest fish of the entire week, though, will almost certainly be Lady Aurelia, the dominating Queen Mary Stakes winner from last year and later on more workmanlike at Deauville before her third place behind Brave Anna in the Cheveley Park Stakes. She returned with an emphatic victory at Keeneland last month and is the favourite for tomorrow’s King’s Stand Stakes ahead of Marsha and French-trained Signs of Blessing.

Lady Aurelia gets a 6lb allowance from her older filly rivals, including Marsha and Temple Stakes heroine Priceless, whom Alan Spence will be half shouting for, seeing he will get another big chunk from Godolphin if their acquisition Profitable follows last year’s success when in his red, white and blue livery.

The re-match between Churchill and Barney Roy from the 2,000 Guineas, and for that matter Churchill and Thunder Snow from the Irish 2,000, will go a long way towards whether Aidan O’Brien and “the Lads” dominate another Royal meeting.

Churchill starts off in the St James’s Palace in a week when Order of St George (Thursday’s Gold Cup) and the Friday pair of Caravaggio (Commonwealth Cup) and Winter (Coronation Stakes) are all overwhelming favourites. No doubt there will be considerable liabilities for ante-post bookmakers linking the quartet and the layers will be hoping for an Annie Power-type reprieve from at least one of them.

Today’ Racing Post was embellished by news of a gamble on the Jeremy Noseda-trained Abe Lincoln, out of action on the track since a possibly unlucky second place in the Britannia Stakes 12 months ago. Most of the principals in that race find a home immediately afterwards, often for massive money in Hong Kong, but Paul Roy has stayed faithful to the now four-year-old and will be hoping for another win in the race he and Noseda took with Forgotten Voice in 2009.

The Post also tried to link the Abe Lincoln challenge with the background to the Wokingham Stakes success of Jeremy with Laddies Poker Two the following year, in her case after two years off the track. Noseda said the two situations were different. He is correct on one score, Abe Lincoln will certainly not be responsible for producing a dual Classic winner, unlike Laddies Poker Two, dam of Winter.

As to my idea of the handicap bet of the week, it’s another from the Noseda/Roy team, Sixties Groove, who can win Friday’s finale, the Duke of Edinburgh Stakes, after a nice run round on his comeback at Epsom the other day.

- Tony Stafford

The Irish at Royal Ascot 2017

Aidan O'Brien spearheads the Irish challenge at Royal Ascot

Aidan O'Brien spearheads the Irish challenge at Royal Ascot

Irish indifference, be it from the general public or the mainstream sporting media, is given when it comes to Royal Ascot, writes Tony Keenan. Whereas the Royal meeting is a central cog in the social and sporting calendar in the UK, commanding column inches describing the who’s who of attendees and being the only meeting of the year where every race is on terrestrial TV, the attention it gets in Ireland is minimal; Galway remains the highpoint of the racing summer.

Perhaps this is due to the coverage given to other sports. The US Open has just finished, we’re in the middle of a Lions Tour and both the football and hurling championships have proved surprisingly competitive. Others will say that for all Aidan O’Brien’s achievements at the meeting and in flat racing generally, his record-breaking has become blasé; brilliance is diminished when it is expected. But most of all it is not Cheltenham despite being a fixture that is obviously more important in a global racing sense than any jumps event, the horses that run making their mark in the history of the sport through their own actions across the five days and in breeding sheds later.

None of this will stop flat racing people in Ireland going hell for leather at the meeting. Irish runners at Royal Ascot have been gradually rising since 2010 and it’s a surprise there aren’t even more Irish horses entered. Not only do our horses consistently overachieve here – a general rule is that betting Irish runners at the fixture comes with a positive expected value – but for owners it must be a fantastic experience, unique among racetracks around the world. As seen below, it is a long time since there were only 24 Irish runners and one winner back in 2003.

 

Irish Runners at Royal Ascot by Year
Year Winners Runners Strikerate Level-Stakes Actual/Expected
2010 4 46 8.7% -10.00 0.81
2011 6 35 17.1% -6.45 1.04
2012 8 47 17.0% +41.55 1.19
2013 8 62 12.9% +11.83 1.15
2014 8 63 12.7% -14.09 1.14
2015 8 50 16.0% +0.03 1.01
2016 10 69 14.5% +30.15 1.10

 

Apart from the flashy winner totals, Irish participation at the meeting has been consistently increasing; from 2010 to 2016 the percentage of Irish runners at Royal Ascot has gone: 9.6%, 7.4%, 9.3%, 11.9%, 12.9%, 11.3%, and 14.6%. 15% of all runners might even be in play this year as the record for Irish-trained winners at the meeting was set last year after four years of plateauing at eight winners, and William Hill rate Irish trainers to have 10 or more winners nmo more than a 13/8 shot.

The week before last the Racing Post headlined with ‘Green Army’ in an article about how Ireland’s jumps trainers like Jessica Harrington and Willie Mullins would also be sending multiple runners to add depth to the panel. As with this past Cheltenham, the record total for Irish winners at the meeting again seems possible with short-priced ‘bankers’ like Churchill, Order Of St George, Caravaggio and Winter helpful in that regard.

 

Aidan O’Brien

The recent story of Irish runners at Ascot necessarily begins with Aidan O’Brien. Consider his record here since 2010 [and unless otherwise mentioned all numbers in this article refer to the meetings since 2010].

 

Trainer Winners Runners Strikerate Level-Stakes Actual/Expected
Aidan O’Brien 27 153 17.7% +50.69 1.03

 

In the period referenced, O’Brien is well clear of the next best, which is John Gosden on 17 winners, with Michael Stoute third on 14 winners. No other trainer has reached double figures. With O’Brien not having had fewer than two winners at any Royal Ascot meeting this decade, he is understandably no bigger than 2/7 to be top trainer in 2017.

When breaking down his runners in search of a betting angle, there seems to be a lot more noise than signal. His record with short-priced horses is decent – of the 22 horses sent off 2/1 or shorter, 11 won for a level-stakes profit of 1.69 points and an actual over expected of 1.03 – but we are not talking Willie Mullins at Cheltenham levels.

23 of his 27 winners were the first string or only runner in the race, ridden by the main jockey at the time, be it Johnny Murtagh, Joseph O’Brien or Ryan Moore; the exceptions were Ishvana (2012 Jersey), War Command (2013 Coventry), Brave Anna (2016 Albany) and Sword Fighter (2016 Queen’s Vase). Letting O’Brien do some of the work for you makes sense.

It was a little surprising to note how few fillies he ran relative to colts and a very small number of geldings.

 

Gender Winners Runners Strikerate Level-Stakes Actual/Expected
Male 21 122 17.2% +21.81 0.95
Female 6 31 19,4% +28.88 1.41

 

A niche angle here – though one that could just be a fluke – is looking for fillies and mares than ran against the males; there were just four qualifiers here with two winners (Ishvana and Maybe) and two seconds (Found and Ballydoyle). I suspect this was the plan with the likes of Minding, Seventh Heaven and Alice Springs at the meeting but all three appear to be on the sidelines just now though Clemmie and/or September are possibles for the Chesham.

The other potential approach here was looking at his horses in the lower-profile races rather than the Group 1s and 2s. There are a couple of things that could be going on here. Firstly, the Ballydoyle horses look overbet in the very best races as O’Brien is a recognised Group 1 trainer; he was not far away from the record of top-level wins in a single year for much of last season. Furthermore, he seems inclined to have more runners in those better races to increase the chance of a winner despite those races being more competitive.

 

Race Type Winners Runners Strikerate Level-Stakes Actual/Expected
Group 1/2 15 94 16.0% -6.79 0.86
Group 3/Listed 11 46 23.9% +59,48 1.47

 

Distance/Age

In a similar article last year, I covered the records of all Irish horses at Royal Ascot by age and distance and it is worth reprising them now as they again proved profitable last year [again, table is since 2010].

 

Age Winners Runners Strikerate Level-Stakes Actual/Expected
2yo 10 77 13.0% +0.61 0.87
3yo 18 151 11.9% +1.91 0.93
4yo+ 24 144 16.7% +50.50 1.37

 

The juveniles and three-year-olds are doing fine but it’s the older horses that are excelling and it is not as if the winners were impossible to find; 18 of the 24 were returned 10/1 or shorter. This is supported by the records of Irish horses in races of different distances with the stayers coming out particularly well; these races are generally for the older horses.

 

Distance Winners Runners Strikerate Level-Stakes Actual/Expected
5-6f 13 98 13.3% +35.38 1.08
7-8f 15 136 11.0% -17.66 0.97
10-12f 9 61 14.8% -13.15 0.86
16f+ 15 77 19.5% +48.45 1.42

 

Irish sprinters return a decent number of winners but that is more to do with two-year-olds than horses running in the King’s Stand and Diamond Jubilee by now; there was a brief golden age of Irish sprinting a few seasons back with Eddie Lynam’s 'Power' horses, and Gordon Lord Byron, but outside of Caravaggio there are no top-class Irish sprinters and indeed Gordon Lord Byron remains the second-highest rated sprinter trained in Ireland.

The stayers are a different story and last year the Irish horses swept the board in races over two miles and further; Jennies Jewel won the Ascot Stakes, Order Of St George the Gold Cup, and Sword Fighter the Queen’s Vase before Commissioned took the last race of the meeting, the Queen Alexandra Stakes. Aidan O’Brien has played a major role in this dominance with seven winners in staying races but he has been aided by a number of national hunt trainers like Willie Mullins, Gordon Elliott, Charles Byrnes and Jarlath Fahey. That at least might get the normally indifferent jumps boys to tune in this week!

- Tony Keenan