Day 4, Friday, at Royal Ascot offers another six chances for redemption, wagering glory, or simply to watch the finest thoroughbreds in the land do what they do best. That last one is probably not for most readers of this 'ere betting bloggie, as I present the final one of four posts covering Royal Ascot race by race. (Ascot Heath day is a case of 'each to their own', though naturally you may have taken that tack long since!)
Before we start, you might want to check out Andy Newton's Royal Ascot Day 4 Trends.
Friday kicks off with the...
2.30 Albany Stakes (Group 3, 6f, 2yo fillies)
A very big field of unexposed juvenile fillies on ground which should be just the soft side of good. Wes wuns two, having never won this wace before. Wascal wabbit. Sorry, where was I? Yes, Wesley Ward and the Albany: 0 from 8 so far, including beaten fillies at 11/4, 11/2, 6/1, 7/1, and 8/1. Six of them finished ninth or worse.
The reason is probably more about this being a straight six furlongs and his preparation being four-and-a-half around a turn than the fillies' ability; but either way I'm prepared to let Nayibeth and Chili Petin beat me. Both are typically speedy types, both made all in their single runs to date, and both are likely to pull pretty hard without a turn to focus their attentions. Of course, one of them might be smart enough to overcome all of that, but as two of the top three in the market as I write, they're not for me.
The other atop the betting tree is Daahyeh, trained by Roger Varian. This daughter of Bated Breath beat Raffle Prize into second on her debut; that one won the Queen Mary on Wednesday giving the form a rock solid look. It was six furlongs that day so we can be confident she'll see out the trip, and I am surprised she's not outright favourite. In fact, she's 7/1.
Of the rest, who knows? Kemble might be worth a second look: she beat Illusionist five lengths last time and that one ran fifth in the Norfolk on Wednesday having won in between times. By Kodiac out of a Lope De Vega mare, Kemble has an interesting pedigree for this task and is 25/1 in a place.
Charlie Appleby's Silent Wave won well over six on debut, as did Simon Crisford's Last Surprise, and neither would be a shock victor.
Verdict: I'm using the small Wes sample of previous failures to overlook his pair, which might prove daft by 2.40pm. But that leaves a once-raced unbeaten filly whose closest rival that day won at Royal Ascot earlier in the week. And DAAHYEH is 7/1, an each way price. For the windmill tilters, Kemble's form has been franked and her pedigree says six could be better, making 25/1 (or anything north of 16/1) fair each way.
3.05 King Edward VII Stakes (Group 2, 1m4f, 3yo colts & geldings)
A mile and a half for three-year-old colts and geldings. The Ascot Derby, perhaps. And, as has been the case in the Derby itself, battle lines are drawn between Ballydoyle and Clarehaven, the respective yards of Aidan O'Brien and John Gosden.
Here, Derby third Japan is the main hope for the Irish firm while Private Secretary may offer most resistance from the Newmarket handler. Both have less likely second strings engaged.
Japan seems like a horse that Team Coolmore rate: he was given an easy enough race in the Dante, which left plenty of verve for the Blue Riband at Epsom. Just a half length and a nose separated him from becoming the most famous three-year-old colt of the year, which was all the more agonising given that a) his jockey dropped his whip and b) I had backed him (and tipped him in my Saturday email). Sigh.
Nevertheless that was a cracking effort which has been bolstered already this week by Circus Maximus. Japan looks another O'Brien favourite that will be very tough to beat granted normal luck in running.
His main rival could be the Cocked Hat Stakes winner, Private Secretary. Second over inadequate trips twice last term he is unbeaten in three this season, having beaten subsequent London Gold Cup winner, Sinjaari, prior to that Listed Goodwood score. Stamina seems his forte so he'll be hoping they go a good pace. With Pablo Escobarr and Jack Yeats in the field, both habitually prominent, that looks likely.
Four times the price of Private Secretary is his stablemate, Humanitarian, who was a place behind Circus Maximus in the Derby. By Noble Mission out of a Dynaformer mare he was never really going until too late at Epsom; a truly run race on this more conventional track could see him nearly hit the board and at 16/1.
Pondus was impressive at Sandown last time, scoring by five lengths from a pair of subsequent winners and, with just three tries to date, there should be more to come. It's a big elevation from a Class 5 novice to a Group 2 but this son of Sea The Moon has a most ascendant profile.
The Lingfield Derby Trial form got the ultimate franking, as its winner, Anthony Van Dyck, prevailed in the Derby. Second on trials day was Pablo Escobarr, William Haggas's colt making a bit of a habit of it: he filled the same position in a decent handicap at Bath on his 2019 bow. Although quietly progressive, he doesn't look quite good enough even on a literal interpretation of the Derby Trial form.
The thrice-raced Jack Yeats looked to have found his role in life when stepped up to ten furlongs last time at Naas. He saw off a big field that day and this further trip hike looks appropriate for a son of Galileo out of a Dansili mare. Although a 33/1 shot and a pacemaker first and foremost, I'd be surprised if he didn't beat at least a couple of these.
Andrew Balding's Sandown Classic Trial winner, Bangkok, looked a non-stayer in the Derby and, to my eye at least, he also looked to be running on empty at Sandown over a quarter mile shorter. I have my doubts about this twelve furlong range on that basis, and think he might be dropped in trip subsequently. He's not for me this time.
Verdict: The Derby form is already working out well so, given that on another day JAPAN might have won, he looks the most likely winner. He stays well, has been looked after thus far, and I think he'll prove tough to beat. Of the each way prices, Humanitarian is a tempting price at 16/1 to maybe sneak a place.
3.40 Commonwealth Cup (Group 1, 6f, 3yo)
The fifth running of this excellent new addition, and the smallest field so far with just nine set to face the starter.
They are headed by last year's Middle Park winner, Ten Sovereigns. That half length verdict over Jash (re-opposes) completed an unbeaten juvenile hat-trick and it looked like stamina more than ability that saw him sunk in the 2000 Guineas. There he was four lengths fifth of 19, having led his group at the six furlong range. Back at sprint trips he looks an obvious player, something not lost on the market.
Jash's second in the Middle Park is the sole blemish on a five race record that includes a nine length win in novice company and a Listed triumph last time over seven furlongs. Ability to handle that extra furlong whilst being fully effective at this race distance of six is a good attribute.
Advertise was second in last year's Coventry Stakes before going on to win both the Group 2 July Stakes and the Group 1 Phoenix Stakes. This season started somewhat disappointingly as he was well beaten in the 2000 Guineas. It was one of those 'too bad to be true' runs which, in the Guineas, can also mean 'didn't stay', or 'wasn't fit', or 'hasn't trained on'. Your guess is as good as mine on which particular reason/excuse is applicable, though for what it's worth I'd have a foot in each of the didn't stay and wasn't fit camps. If that's right - or even half right - he should be better equipped to compete this time.
Kevin Ryan's Hello Youmzain won a French Group 2 (soft) last season and was an unequivocal winner of the Group 2 Sandy Lane Stakes last time, beating a heavily odds-on Calyx. A literal reading of that form makes the northern runner the pick of the field; however, if we assume that Calyx wasn't quite right there, as the post-race news of a pastern injury implies, then it may be folly to be too literal. Nevertheless, this chap - who didn't quite see out the Greenham seven - deserves respect.
Khaadem is unbeaten in three since his debut, graduating from a novice through an ungraded conditions event to a Listed win. The well bred son of Dark Angel has shown a liking for good ground and seems to finish his races strongly, hinting at more to come. There will need to be, naturally, given this step up to Group 1 opposition but he deserves to take his chance.
Forever In Dreams cost £430,000 at the Goffs London Sale on Monday, a sum that will take a heck of a lot of recouping. His form is about a stone and a half behind the pick of these and it seems an act of crassness that such a sum was so recklessly 'invested'. Cue facile shock victory...
The rest are probably not good enough.
Verdict: Another very good race for the Commonwealth Cup, though perhaps not as classy as we've come to expect. Ten Sovereigns is an obvious pick at a short price, but this looks a reasonable each way betting heat. In that context, I'll chance Advertise, whose price of 11/1 in places looks generous for a horse with his overall profile.
4.20 Coronation Stakes (Group 1, 1m, 3yo fillies)
A fascinating and high class renewal of the Coronation, for three-year-old fillies over a mile. As with the St James's Palace for the boys, this represents the first opportunity to converge the respective European 1000 Guineas races.
From the English and Irish races we have Hermosa, who so brilliantly doubled up. From France comes the unbeaten Castle Lady, and from Germany via Middleham is Main Edition. Four 1000 Guineas wins between them in this unification scrap.
The only place to start is with Hermosa, who beat the sadly ill-fated Lady Kaya a length at Newmarket and re-opposing Pretty Pollyanna by four lengths at the Curragh. None of her vanquished have a chance to turn the tables on form, though it might be argued that Pretty Pollyanna was caught out wide the whole way in the Irish 1000. The counter to that is that Hermosa did it the hard way, from the front, and still pulled clear at the finish. The winner was the best filly and also the strongest stayer.
Meanwhile, at Newmarket, Just Wonderful and Mot Juste were in the ruck, the former also finishing far back in the Irish equivalent. She does have bits of good form and might be suited by rain, but it's a stretch to see her reversing with an on-form Hermosa.
It is unlike Sir Michael Stoute to pitch his younger horses in at the deep end early in their careers, so that must be a pointer to the regard in which Jubiloso is held. She bucked the Sir Michael trend by winning first time out, and then followed that up with a resounding seven length verdict in a novice stakes (second has won since). It's a metaphorical million miles from there to here but trainer intent suggests she's a very capable filly.
The French have a good record in the Coronation Stakes, winning it three times since 2011, so Castle Lady has to be respected. Owned by Godolphin and trained by Henri-Alex Pantall, the Shamardal filly is unbeaten in three. The margin was a mere nose in the Pouliches (French 1000 Guineas), but she was arguably value for a little more, Barzalona doing a, well, a Barzalona and trying to win snugly. It would have been an expensive mistake had he got beaten but she brings hitherto invincibility to Ascot in what promises to be a terrific tactical battle.
That battle will quite possibly see Hermosa bid to again make all, and Castle Lady plus others sit handy. Castle Lady stays a mile and can quicken, two tests that many of Hermosa's rivals this season have failed.
Of the rest, Twist'N'Shake is worth of a quick second glance. Ostensibly not good enough in a Listed race at York last time, she was previously seven lengths too good for a field of maidens from which winners have emerged. That was on soft so, if it rained, she might enter place calculations.
But this is probably best left to the top of the market.
Verdict: The only thing likely to beat HERMOSA is a third top class race in seven weeks. True she has to race around a turn here, but with her catch-me-if-you-can style that should enable her to control things all the better. It is tough to envisage beaten rivals from either the English or Irish Guineas trading places, so the main danger - and the best each way play - might be the unbeaten French Guineas winner, Castle Lady. Possessed of a turn of foot and requisite stamina, the general 15/2 (8/1 in a place) at time of writing looks worth taking.
5.00 Sandringham Handicap (Class 2, 1m, 3yo fillies)
In spite of the big field, this fillies' mile handicap normally goes to a fancied runner: just one of the last eleven winners was returned bigger than 11/1, and that was Con Te Partiro in 2017 (tipped in this preview two years ago - whoop!). Moreover, nine of the last fourteen winners were 13/2 or shorter.
Slight favourite is Nonchalance, a John Gosden entry running in the traditional maroon of Sheikh Mohamed but these days associated with his wife. Victorious in her last two of three starts, she has a super pedigree - by Dubawi out of a Street Cry mare with, among others, Nathaniel close up in the family tree - and she is an obvious contender on this handicap bow, 91 potentially significantly understating her ability.
Ed Walker's Hotsy Totsy has won her last two of three also, and some of that form - the Salisbury run notably - is working out really well. She was a facile winner in each of that brace, by five lengths and six lengths, and she'd be two-thirds of her current price if trained by John Gosden I suspect. She's yet to race beyond seven furlongs but is hardly stopping at the end of her races and may improve for the extra eighth.
Ralph 'Raif' Beckett's Desirous has had more tries and took a little while to get the hang of things. She's won her last two, but her overall profile doesn't offer quite the upside of Nonchalance and others.
Invitational, a daughter of Poet's Voice out of a Shamardal mare, has yet to race on the turf in three starts. The last pair were wins, with the second and third from her most recent score both winning twice since. Obviously this is a different type of test, but plenty of all-weather winners have scored on the straight mile at Royal Ascot in recent times.
Her Majesty The Queen has a runner: Magnetic Charm will carry top weight as a result of winning a Listed race at York last time, and we'll know more about that form after second placed Twist'N'Shake has run in the previous race. Three fillies have carried top weight to victory in the Sandringham since 2002 so it won't be that which beats her.
Plenty of other lovely fillies to conjure with, but I'm fancying it'll be the top of the market once more.
Verdict: A few with good form and who might be some way better than their current marks. I'm mostly drawn to the prospects of Nonchalance (7/1) and especially HOTSY TOTSY. Both could easily be Group performers by the end of the season, the former having that 'now' quality after a win less than two weeks ago. The latter has the 'could be anything' tag following two races where she's simply laughed at opposition that has subsequently come out and won races. She's 9/1 generally.
5.35 Duke Of Edinburgh Stakes (Class 2 handicap, 1m4f, 3yo+)
This is another of those weird mile and a half races where high draws have it. Indeed, the last single figure-winning draw was in 2008 when Sugar Ray emerged from trap six. Stalls ten and eleven have won since then, but it does seem to pay to be middle to high with hard luck stories aplenty inside.
None of the 79 horses aged six or older has won, and they have a poor place rate too, so will be ignored. Also overlooking those off the track for more than two months (all bar one of the 21 domestic winners had raced within that time frame) and those bigger than 20/1 leaves a shortlist of just four: Baghdad, Fujaira Prince, Lucius Tiberius and Aquarium.
Baghdad won the three-year-old equivalent race, the King George V Stakes, last year and comes here in very similar form. Last year he ran third on the all weather before winning a mile and a half handicap; and this year he ran third on the all weather before winning a mile and a half handicap. Talk about repeating the dose! Ryan Moore gets the leg up and he has an obvious chance off just a four pound higher mark than his most recent win.
Fujaira Prince is favourite in many lists. Roger Varian's five-year-old had completed a hat-trick prior to bumping into First Eleven at York last time. He was in front soon enough there and got picked off in the final 100 yards. Ascot's shorter straight requires greater timing by jockeys but it also ensures horses are generally not in front too long. Andrea Atzeni's mount is four pounds lower than that narrow defeat and he was on Baghdad when that one won at the meeting last year.
Charlie Appleby won this two years ago with a 20/1 shot drawn 19 and this time saddles 20/1 chance Lucius Tiberius, drawn 20. The son of Camelot steps up to a mile and a half for the first time, which could eke out improvement. It will need to as his overall CV is less appealing than others, notwithstanding that he's a bigger price to sweeten the pill.
Aquarium is a horse I backed at Epsom last time. Trained, like Baghdad, by Mark Johnston he could never land a blow on Derby day as the combination of a speed-favouring track, fast ground and exaggerated waiting tactics did for him. Off quicker fractions, on a more testing strip and with a better timed ride, he could outrun odds of 20/1.
Loads more with chances, including hat-trick-seeking Arthurian Fame, drawn low, who will probably be the winning JPOB horse in the week - me having backed all the others - and would be a counter-punch for the single figure boxes.
Verdict: Another big field race where history is a good way to whittle the possibles, but may also remove the winner. Baghdad has an obvious chance, as does Fujaira Prince, with slight preference for the former. At bigger prices, Lucius Tiberius has a similar profile to Charlie Appleby's previous winner of the race, Rare Rhythm, and might be worth a small each way coincidence swipe at 20/1.
p.s. it is traditional for there to be no Saturday Ascot preview. You may very well be glad of that by 5.45 or so on Friday afternoon! Hopefully these posts have provided some insights and entertainment, if nothing else. Of course, with luck they've assisted in the nailing of a good winner or two as well, but you don't need me to tell you that this is a meeting where it is generally way better to be lucky than good. At least, that's how I've come to view it...