Royal Ascot 2013: Day Five Preview, Tips, Trends
It's the final day of Royal Ascot, and a final chance to play up your winnings/scrape parity/smash your way out of a hole* (*delete as applicable)
Highlights are the Golden Jubilee Stakes and the Wokingham Handicap, very different tests over the same piste forty minutes apart.
We start with the only seven furlong juvenile race of the week, the Chesham Stakes.
2.30 CHESHAM STAKES (Listed Race) (2yo)
Not the greatest race at Royal Ascot, and possibly the weakest of the juvenile contests. But winners have been relatively easy to find, which gives us hope of a draw once more.
Chesham Stakes Trends
Odds: Fourteen of the sixteen winners were priced 7/1 or shorter, and twelve came from the first three in the market (five favs, four 2f's, 3 3f's)
Recent Form: Thirteen of the last sixteen winners won last time, and fourteen of them ran over 6f last time. 14/16 had a break of 16+ days
Number of runs: 12/16 had just one prior start
The trends shortlist based on the above comprises just Bunker.
Chesham Stakes Preview
The favourite here is Bunker, from the Richard Hannon stable. Hannon has saddled the winner in this race in two of the last five years, and has also had a second and a fourth in that time. Bunker won over six furlongs on his debut last time, and he took plenty of time to get going there. That's not surprising, as he's a son of Hurricane Run, best known for producing middle distance types. Bunker looks sure to be better over the longer trip and has had a nice mini-break since his debut. He could be hard to beat.
Sharing favouritism with Bunker is Mark Johnston's Somewhat. This fellow is another with a middle distance pedigree, and he won over seven on his debut just eight days ago. That was a seven length verdict and it's hard to know what he beat as the third and fourth there had both been well stuffed in two prior starts. The form is probably only moderate, despite the visually taking display, and that run was a lot closer to this big day than most recent winners.
Ihtimal has run two nice races on fast ground over six furlongs, and finished second twice. Both her conquerors ran in the Albany on Friday, including Kiyoshi, the easy winner of that Group 2.
She's bred for around a mile, maybe a touch more, and was running on again over the July course six the last day. With two runs under her belt already, the once raced group obviously have more scope to improve, and the figures suggest she didn't perform to a much higher level on her second start, which in turn implies she'll run similarly here, unless the extra furlong shows her in a better light.
In fairness to her, she was staying on nicely in both races, so the extra furlong is quite likely to show her in a better light!
Stablemate Autumn Lily looked a bit laboured before stamina kicked in and, in the end, she was doing it well by the time the line came over six furlongs on her sole start. There's probably little between the pair of Godolphin runners, with Lily likely to have greater improvement albeit from a lower established form base.
Friendship looked like a big horse when I watched the replay of his debut race. He also looked like he'd be suited by three miles and fences! It might take him a while to learn the game, and also to fill that frame, and I'd be prepared to overlook him for that reason here. I suspect there will be a few readier than him for a test like this. He is imperiously bred though, by Galileo out of a Lancashire Oaks and latterly dual Grade 1 winning turf mare in the States.
Of the rest, Tinga was a real eye-catcher behind Rasheeda (14th in the Albany), and will gorge herself on this extra 220 yards. She might not be quite good enough but her trainer, Mick Channon, has had a winner and three other placed horses in this race, so she's worth a market check.
Chesham Stakes Tips
Bunker has a clear chance and, with the race generally being won by one of the market principles, and generally by a once-raced winner, that is stepping up in trip, he ticks every box. Ihtimal is entitled to improve for the longer trip, a comment which applies to plenty, in truth; and Tinga might be the best value play in the race.
Each way possible: Tinga
How to play the Chesham Stakes
It's the last day of the meeting, so offers are fairly thin on the ground. Richard Hughes rides the favourite, so if you fancy anything else, BetVictor's 'No Lose Hughes' offer is a no brainer.
3.05 HARDWICKE STAKES (Group 2) (4yo+)
A very good race for older horses over a mile and a half, and it generally goes to a fancied runner, so is another chance for punters to get one back on the bookies!
Hardwicke Stakes Trends
Trainers: Sir Michael Stoute (4 wins, 6 further places), Mark Johnston (4 wins, 3 further places), Saeed bin Suroor (2 wins 2 further places), and Aiden O'Brien (2 wins, 1 further place) are the most successful in recent years
Odds: All of the last sixteen winners were priced 14/1 or shorter; five favourites have won since 1997
Form: 13/16 placed 1-2-3 last time; 12/16 ran over at least 1m4f last time; 14/16 last ran 11-45 days ago.
Age: Nine four-year-olds (12% wins to runs), three five-year-olds (10% wins to runs) and four six-year-olds (21% wins to runs) have won. No 7yo+ has won from a handful to try
Ratings: In the last fourteen years, the top or joint-top officially rated horse has won eight times (from sixteen total runners), and been second twice, for an SP profit of 25 points!
The trends shortlist comprises all bar Aiken and Dandino. Hmm...
Hardwicke Stakes Preview
This race has been one for the official handicapper with the top or joint top rated nag winning eight of the last fourteen, including some good priced winners. It makes sense, then, to begin with Mount Athos, clear top-rated by two pounds on 117 here.
Mount Athos is a tough staying middle distance type. He's won two Group 3's, and was an excellent fifth in the Grade 1 Melbourne Cup last year. He acts on any ground and, on ratings alone, he must be respected. But he does seem to want a little bit further than this these days. His last four wins have all been over at least a furlong further, and his only wins at this trip were a Class 5 Folkestone handicap and a Class 2 equivalent handicap at Dundalk.
He has been well beaten in three attempts at twelve furlongs since that last win and, while he's undoubtedly improved, sure there will be a horse to pass him in this relatively speedier test.
Ektihaam is second choice in the betting, and in the ratings, and Roger Varian's 4yo ran a stormer over course and distance (and going) last time when slamming Thomas Chippendale and Main Sequence by six and ten-and-a-half lengths respectively. On the face of it, that will make him tough to beat here, if he can reproduce that career top effort.
Next in the ratings is Mark Johnston's Universal, on 114, just three pounds from top. Johnston has a stellar record in the race with four wins, and three places, from just twelve runners, so this chap demands attention. Universal has been quietly progressive in his last three runs, with a Class 2 Lingfield handicap triggering a hat-trick, the latter two legs in Group race company, and taking in the Group 3 John Porter and the Group 2 Jockey Club Stakes, both over this trip.
He acts on fast ground, this is his trip, he's still improving, and his trainer has the best recent record in the race. Definite contender.
Universal was a neck too good for Dandino last time out, and they re-oppose here. The latter is a good horse, and a mile and a half on fast ground is his ideal: he's won his last four races at the trip, and his last four turf races on good to firm. On his last trip to Royal Ascot, back in 2010, Dandino won the ultra-competitive King George V handicap over - you guessed it - a mile and a half, on - you guessed it - good to firm turf. He'll have a clear chance again, but I just wonder if he has the scope to improve on that last run that Universal has.
Aiken is on 112 and he's dropping back half a mile in trip for this seasonal debut. He's a bit of a horse without portfolio to some extent, and he seemed to have no excuses when only fourth in this last year, under what might have been optimal conditions. He'll have needed to improve a good bit over the winter to beat these. Not for me.
Noble Mission comes next, and this fellow is a half-brother to Frankel and to Joyeuse, third in the Albany on Friday. His problem is that he's probably better on softer ground, and has been beaten all three times he's racing on quicker than good. Not this time.
From the same yard of Lady Cecil, on the same mark of 111, and with the same fast ground reservation, is Thomas Chippendale. He was whacked by Ektihaam, as I've mentioned, and there's nothing to imply a turnaround on this quick turf.
That just leaves Songcraft, who is probably not quite good enough to go with the pick of these and is fairly exposed, and the much more interesting Sir John Hawkwood. The latter represents Sir Michael Stoute, and is a typical late maturing middle distance type that the trainer excels with. I have to concede to rose-tinted glasses here, as I backed him to win at Chester two starts ago, and I backed him to win at York last time.
Sir John Hawkwood has seven pounds to find with the best of these - Mount Athos - but his lightly raced, improving profile gives him a shot at doing just that. The stable had a similar type progress from being beaten in a handicap to winning a Group 2 (Hillstar), and I feel sure there's more to come from Sir John. With two wins on soft and two on good to firm, he seems somewhat ground agnostic, and in a race where the trainer has such a fine record, he's worth chancing each way.
Hardwicke Stakes Tips
Ektihaam is the most appealing on recent form and ratings, but I'm prepared to take a chance with the top trainer pair of Johnston and Stoute, in the forms of Universal and Sir John Hawkwood, both of which are decent prices.
Two each way against the field: Universal, Sir John Hawkwood
How to play the Hardwicke Stakes
No ride for Hughesie, but Hills and Ladbrokes will give you a free bet to the same stake if your pick is second, and if your fancy is away from the favourites, you can get a free bet to the same stake on the next race if you win at 4/1 or bigger.
3.45 DIAMOND JUBILEE STAKES (Group 1) (3yo+)
One of the races of the week, a six furlong dash for high class speedballs, and a big field to boot.
Diamond Jubilee Stakes Trends
Odds: Half of the last fourteen winners have returned 16/1 or bigger; six winners came from the top two in the market since 1997. 36 of the 48 placed horses were bigger than 6/1
Form: Just four of the last sixteen winners also won last time, and only two more were placed second or third last time. Four winners were running within seven days of a previous race, and all bar one were backing up within sixty days.
Age: Thirteen of the last sixteen winners were aged four to six.
Ratings: All of the last sixteen winners were rated 108+ or unrated. Half of them were rated 108-112.
It's fairly difficult to formulate a shortlist on that basis, but Maarek stands out of the bigger prices.
Diamond Jubilee Stakes Preview
This is a really difficult race to quantify. Going with the recent form has rarely been a good idea in the past few years: even Black Caviar scraped home by the skin of her teeth at odds of 1-6 last year!
Although I'm a fan of Society Rock, and I think that if he traps with the field (he has had a tendency to get left, which connections believe they've rectified) he has a sound chance, I'm going to wager with something at a bigger price.
That excludes the talented but beatable Gordon Lord Byron; the ex-Aussie Coolmore acquisition, Sea Siren; the disappointing so far this season, Mince; and the probably not quite good enough, Lethal Force.
Dandy Boy has won both the Wokingham and the Victoria Cup at Ascot, both on good ground, but he's done little in two starts to far this term. Clearly capable of better, whether he's quite up to winning a Group 1 is another question, having yet to prevail outside of handicap company
A similar comment applies to Hawkeyethenoo, though he was second in the Sprint here on Qipco Champions Day last year. He's also seemingly not ground dependant, which is a plus as the rain lashes down as I write on Friday afternoon.
He was second that day to Maarek, and I like this one a fair bit in here. Best with cut, he's going to need that rain. If he gets it, with a 'sharpener' under his belt last Sunday (something a couple of recent winners have had), I'd think he'll go close at a good price.
And finally, one which has lost its way somewhat but has bits and pieces of form to give a place chance is Sirius Prospect. He was third behind Maarek and Hawkeyethenoo in that Group 2 Champion Sprint, and should be ready to fire on his third run of the season (won for the first time after two prior starts in 2010 and 2011). He was seventh in this race last year - beaten just two and a half lengths - and, at 50/1, he might be worth tuppence each way.
Diamond Jubilee Stakes Tips
Society Rock is respected as the clear pick of the fancied horses. But I'm going to chance an upset here, and take a couple of bigger prices. Maarek, Hawkeyethenoo and Sirius Prospect finished 1-2-3 here in the QIPCO Champions Sprint, a Group 2, last backend, and that gives them chances here. They've all got at least one other strong Ascot run to back that up, and they'll do for me in a wide open race.
Two against the field: Maarek, Hawkeyethenoo
Big priced each way: Sirius Prospect
How to play the Diamond Jubilee Stakes
SkyBet are paying four places, but they're only top price on Mince and Rosdhu Queen as I write. Worth a market check, in case what you like is top price. Otherwise, chance the aforementioned 4/1+ or second free bet offers.
4.25 WOKINGHAM STAKES (CLASS 2) (3yo+ 0-110)
Another big field six furlong sprint, this time a handicap, and it's been kind enough to punters over the years... though not exclusively!
Wokingham Handicap Trends
Odds: Six of the last seventeen (including dead-heaters) were priced at 16/1 or bigger.
Form: Fifteen of the seventeen finished top four last time, all of them were top six last time. Fifteen of the seventeen either ran over 6f (ten) or 7f (five) last time. Fifteen of the seventeen either won or were beaten less than two lengths last time. Those that didn't win and were beaten less than two lengths show a massive level stakes profit of 81.5 units!
Age: Sixteen of the seventeen were aged four to six.
Ratings: Nothing especially material.
Really interesting stats, and the shortlist (looking at horses beaten, but by less than two lengths) comprises Prodigality, Rex Imperator, Poole Harbour.
Wokingham Handicap Preview
Look, I'll be frank with you. I found, tipped and backed the 25/1 winner of the Buck House handicap yesterday, and the chances of me doubling up here are slim. So I'm not going to waste too much time writing - and your time reading this - when the odds are against us. I will say that I think those stats about trip last time, distance beaten, finishing position and age are material, and that's my lot right there.
Rex Imperator is the shortest in the betting, around 10/1, and he won a big field fast ground handicap off 98 this time last year; he's been managed back to a mark of just 101 now, and is perfectly capable off that mark.
Poole Harbour is a place I've been drunk many times, being just up the road from my native Bournemouth (used to frequent the Portsmouth Hoy and the Flying Boat, for those with long memories and local knowledge), and the horse of the same name is a 25/1 shot here. Ultra-consistent, he's been beaten a nose twice in his four runs this season, all on fast ground and all over six furlongs. His rating has nudged up seven pounds as a consequence, but he's likely to give his running again here though is probably not the best handicapped in the race.
And Prodigality has been thereabouts in lots of these big field sprints. He might prefer a bit of give, but he has won on good to firm, and he's feasibly weighted on his last two runs.
Whether they're drawn in the right place, or if there are last time out winners with similar/better credentials is neither here not there to me. This trio have strong profiles and will do me just fine (small stakes, caveat emptor!)
Wokingham Handicap Tips
I've said it above. Rex Imperator has an obvious chance as, at three times the prices, does Prodigality. Poole Harbour
remains a good place to get drunk may still have a sniff too.
Three against the field: Rex Imperator, Poole Harbour, Prodigality
How to play the Wokingham Handicap
Plenty of five places action here, including BetVictor, where No Lose Hughes comes into play about 12/1 shot, Ladyship. Again, check the prices and bet with the best price five place bookie.
5.00 DUKE OF EDINBURGH HANDICAP (CLASS 2) (3yo+ 0-105)
Another massive field handicap and there's no respite for punters looking for easier challenges (should have gone to Lingfield!)
Duke of Edinburgh Handicap Trends
Odds: Ten of the last sixteen winners were priced at 10/1 or bigger, though thirteen of the winners were 14/1 or shorter.
Form: 11/16 finished 1-2-3 last time. 13/16 top five. 14/16 ran 6-45 days ago. 14/16 ran over between ten and twelve furlongs last time. 11/16 won (seven) or were beaten two lengths or less (four), 14/16 had previously at least placed at the distance
Age: Eleven four years olds and four five year olds have won in the last sixteen years (collectively 15/16)
Ratings: Nothing of import in the context of this year's runners
Shortlist is Highland Castle, Rye House, Opinion, and Ustura.
Duke of Edinburgh Handicap Preview
Same comments apply here as to the Wokingham in that I'm happy to take a profile horse rather than (Sir Graham) wade through the form on the off chance of hitting the winner.
The quartet above have a lot in their favour and picking between them is not that easy. Sir Michael Stoute has won this three times and enjoyed another four placed runners from thirteen saddled in total. Rye House commands even closer scrutiny as a consequence. He seemed to have improved from last term when bolting up first time this season at York and, while that was ten soft furlongs and this is twelve firm ones, a rise of nine pounds might be on the accommodating side for connections. Obvious player.
Ustura is more lightly raced, and has a progressive feel about him. Godolphin have been a bit unlucky so far this week, notably with Albasharah, and this chap might bring an end to the misfortune, as jockey Silvestre de Sousa performed a bit of a Houdini act to get him out of a pocket and up to win the last day. He's a lot better than the bare form of that win, and I'd imagine he too is well handicapped with just a four pound rise.
Opinion might have just needed the run - his first of the season - last time but he's quite short based on some in and out form, and horses owned by the Highclere syndicates are generally overbet. I'll overlook on him on that basis.
David Elsworth's Highland Castle completes my rectangle of possibles, and he's lightly raced for a five-year-old and formerly useful. Indeed, he was rated 106 as recently as four starts back. Since then, he's had time off but three of his four runs have offered at least some hope, most recently when seeing off Handsome Man over a fast mile and a half at HQ.
Although the winning margins that day were just a neck and a neck, he gave a fair bit of ground to both of the other podium finishers, and can be marked up for his last to first run. Regular readers will know I don't especially like hold up horses, and I'd love for him to be ridden more prominently; but there's no denying he'll be finishing with the proverbial soggy sail, and I like him at a bit of a price. The key to him might just be a good pace, as he's been stuffed in fields of five and seven lately, but won in herds of ten and fifteen. He's likely to get the pace here, so no excuses.
Duke of Edinburgh Handicap Tips
The best value play is probably Highland Castle, but I can't help thinking that Rye House might be in a different league. He's worth playing at the 6/1 or so currently available - BOG if you can - and I'm taking Ustura at 8's and the Castle at 14's as well.
Three more against the field: Rye House, Ustura, Highland Castle
How to play the Duke of Edinburgh Handicap
Hughesie on another place prospect here, so give BetVictor a market check. Otherwise, nothing much doing as the meeting closes out.
5.35 QUEEN ALEXANDRA STAKES (CLASS 2) (4yo+)
It's a weird old race to finish with. The six mile conditions race for horses aged fourteen and up. OK, not quite but it is a long race, and it has had some aged victors (well, one at least).
Queen Alexandra Stakes Trends
Odds: Fourteen of the last sixteen winners were priced at 10/1 or shorter.
Form: Four won last time, eleven were out of the frame last time!
Age: Fourteen of the last sixteen winners were aged four to six
Ratings: Those horses rated 103+ have secured five winners and 19 places from forty runners (12.5% win rate, 47.5% place rate)
Shortlist is Shahwardi.
Queen Alexandra Stakes Preview
If you need a winner here, I wish you all the best. It's a bad race for me, and I'll be drinking with friends by this point. Frankie has been gifted a great opportunity to win a Royal Ascot race if he's still waiting by this point, as Shahwardi is top-rated by seven pounds and was second to Simenon in this race last year.
There's no Simenon in here this time, and he has everything in his favour. He stays, wants fast ground, has proven track/trip form, and is the class horse in the race. Five favourites have won this in the last twelve years, and this French raider has every chance of making it six.
Value hunters might like to tickle the belly of Luke Dace's American Spin, a 66/1 poke. He may have a hopeless flat rating of 69 in the context of this race, but he's 137 over obstacles and he'd be rated a lot higher on the level if they had many races over this sort of trip. He jumps, he stays, and at least one of those is relevant!
Seriously, this is a poor race and my advice is to back Frankie or go to the bar. Or both. I'll be doing both.
Queen Alexandra Stakes Tips
Good luck if you need to wager here. My advice, such as it is, is to...
Selection: Back Frankie!
Each way prayer mat job: American Spin
How to play the Queen Alexandra Stakes
Bet very small stakes or not at all. This is the last race of the meeting so nobody is offering a concession, except Hills and Ladbrokes with their money back as a free bet if you're second. Shahwardi was second last year. If it happens again, at least you'll be able to bet something else another time.
And that's that. Thirty races, 24,000 words in previews (apologies for verbosity, must do something about that), and a fair number of winners. If none of the selections today win, we'll record a very small loss on the week. One victory from that group, and it will be a positive return. Yesterday's placepot was worth plenty to me, and hopefully at least a bit to a few of you, and capped an amazing week.
I'll be there again this afternoon (Saturday) and, with no writing to do, will enjoy a glass of something chilled and mildly alcoholic. Cheers!