Royal Ascot Day Three Preview, Trends, Tips
We reach the middle day - Ladies' Day - of Royal Ascot 2013, and below is a full preview, featuring trends and tips, of the six races headlined by the Ascot Gold Cup 2013.
2.30 NORFOLK STAKES (Group 2) (2yo)
A flying five furlong dash to begin, featuring a Wesley Ward speedball as a curve ball... as it were.
Norfolk Stakes Trends
Odds: All of the last sixteen renewals went to a horse priced at 16/1 or shorter. All sixteen came from the top six in the betting, with four favourites, and five second favourites winning
Runs: Eleven of the sixteen winners had had one (seven) or two (four) previous starts, three had three prior runs, and two had four prior runs
Recent form: All bar one of the last sixteen winners finished first last time
The trends shortlist on that basis comprises half the field.
Norfolk Stakes Preview
Although it's hard to project which animals will improve the most, and be good enough, to win this, the market has been a very good guide in recent years. Nine of the last sixteen winners were first or second favourites, which demands inspection of Coach House and No Nay Never, two polarically different types in form book terms.
Coach House is the joint most exposed runner in the race with three starts, and he sets the form standard on his Listed win over early Irish yardstick, Club Wexford. He ran a fast time there and did it on fast ground, which he can expect to encounter again tomorrow. With three runs to his name, he has less scope than plenty of these, but many will struggle to run to his existing level.
No Nay Never is a US speedball from the Wesley Ward team. The thing is, Ward has had two runners in this, priced at 10/3 and 8/1, and both have been thumped. I cannot quantify his form in a Keeneland Maiden Special Weight, and on the basis of history, I'm prepared to let him beat me if he's good enough. I'd imagine he'll drift in the betting tomorrow, as it's hard for me to see the British public going for him over more established runners, in UK form terms at least. I'd also imagine he'll make the pace down the middle.
Coulsty is actually a far more likely second favourite, come post time, after his five length smash up job on debut. The second and fourth have already come out and won since, giving the form the robust look the time implied it should have. He's the pick of Richard Hughes from the Hannon pair, and he should run well, despite the trainer's moderate record in the race (one win, five places, from 25 runners since 1997).
Saayerr took a long time to get the better of Lilbourne Lass the last day, but his debut win at Salisbury looks strong form with runner up, Sacha Park, banking prize money in Listed contests both sides of the Irish Sea since. Lilbourne Lass has also come out and won easily since that defeat in Saayerr's second start, and he should progress again. He's from the Willie Haggas stable, successful in 2000 and 2010, and he's got a nice middle draw, next the (presumably) trail-blazing No Nay Never.
The second, third and fifth have all won since being beaten by Eccleston on that one's debut on good to soft at Donny. It's hard to know whether the Acclamation colt will be better suited by a faster surface and, in any case, as a Richard Fahey inmate, he may not improve as much as some. Not for me.
Emirates Flyer is another winner of a race which is working out: this time a Bath maiden where the second and fourth have both won since. He'll have come on a lot for that and the Godolphin horses have been going well but largely unbacked in recent weeks (27% strike rate in the last month, and a profit at SP to level stakes). His draw in two is not perfect, but this isn't the biggest field of the week and SdS should be able to get some cover with any luck.
Olly Stevens is a name to note in the training ranks. He emphasised his epithet as a trainer going places by winning the Windsor Castle on Tuesday with Extortionist, and it's an open secret that Green Door was the horse they had highest hopes for at the Royal meeting. Green Door came on a bundle from first to second run, as many Stevens runners do, and he'll be bullet fit for this big gig.
The first four (himself included), seventh, eighth, tenth and twelfth have all won from his debut race; and the second, fourth, seventh and eighth have won from his maiden victory last time. He'll need to improve markedly on the bare time figures, but the collateral level of form is good, and he is sure to be cherry ripe for this.
Norfolk Stakes Tips
Coach House might be good enough but I'll be chancing something to improve past him, and the pair I like are Green Door and Saayerr. I've already backed the former with 'No Lose Hughes' BetVictor. Unfortunately, they obviously fear Hughes placing in this one as they're horribly short on most of the runners. Might be
Best Bet: Green Door
How to play the Norfolk Stakes
Hughesie's on 13/2 shot, Coulsty, so the No Lose Hughes offer might be the one to roll with here, at BetVictor. That's only if you're happy with SP because they're embarrassingly short on some runners in their overnight market.
An alternative play would be Ladbrokes or Hills' money back as a free bet if second.
Back Green Door and / or Saayerr with BetVictor, and if Richard Hughes places and you lose, you'll get your money back as a free bet. Or back them with Hills/Ladbrokes and get a free bet to the same stake if your bet finishes second.
3.05 RIBBLESDALE STAKES (Group 2) (Fillies) (3yo)
Often a hole for Oaks also-rans, just The Lark and Gertrude Versed bid to repair tarnished Classic aspirant reputations this time.
Ribblesdale Stakes Trends
Odds: Fourteen of the last sixteen winners were priced at 14/1 or shorter. Back-to-back 22/1 and 25/1 winners in 2005/6 (the former the year it was run at York)
Recent form: Twelve of the last sixteen winners ran in a pattern race last time (six G1, six G3/Listed), and eight of the last sixteen winners won last time out, with another five second, third or fourth
The trends shortlist on that basis comprises Alive Alive Oh, The Lark, Winsili, Just Pretending, and Elik.
Ribblesdale Stakes Preview
Crikey, this is hard. The form pick is The Lark on her Oaks third and a replication of that might make her hard to pass, as she's proven to get the trip and takes a drop in class. Next best of the form fillies is Irish 1000 Guineas third, Just Pretending. The question with her is whether she'll see out this extra half a mile. She was staying on in a Dundalk maiden, but that's a world away from a Group 2 at Royal Ascot and doesn't really tell us much. Of the pair, The Lark looks a lot more solid, though she may just want a bit of mud to show her best.
On balance, I'm looking to the improvers again here, and they're headed - in market terms at least - by Alive Alive Oh. Tommy Stack's filly has won her last two, the latter a Listed race by six lengths. She's officially rated the equal of the aforementioned pair of Classic bronzes, and she probably has more scope to improve than them.
Fast ground is a slight question mark, as she's won at up to yielding so far, but she's been more impressive the quicker the ground has got in her three runs to date. She'll take a heck of a lot of beating.
Winsili is the first of the Johnny G pair, and is respected on that basis alone. Add in that she was a strong staying winner over a quarter mile shorter last time - on fast ground, in a Listed affair - and she has sound prospects. Indeed, the third that day was The Lark, who filled the same position in the Oaks; and the second was Cruck Realta, who won the Listed Ballymacoll Stakes next time. Rock solid form.
Elik runs for Sir Michael Stoute, and whilst she's from the right stable and can improve a bit, she's had more tries and run to a lower level than both Winsili and Alive Alive Oh. Probably not quite good enough.
Riposte would be an emotional winner for Lady Cecil and Khalid Abdullah, Sir Henry's two strongest supporters through the final years. She has plenty to do on form though. An easy winner of a Class 5 Newmarket maiden implied bags more to come, but she'll probably have to produce a performance more than a stone better than she has shown to date. It's not impossible, but there are better percentage plays here.
Waila and Fersah look like they're searching for black type in this, as their last time out wins are a long way shy of what's needed to reach the frame here.
No, I think the fast improving duo of Alive Alive Oh and Winsili might have it between them.
Ribblesdale Stakes Tips
With the possibility that Alive Alive Oh will be even better on fast ground than her six length duffing up of Listed rivals last time on yielding, she's the pick. Winsili is well respected and I may save on her.
Best Bet: Alive Alive Oh
How to play the Ribblesdale Stakes
Back Alive Alive Oh with Hills and if she's second, get a free bet to the same stake.
Back Alive Alive Oh (5/2) with William Hill, and if she's second you'll get your money back as a free bet.
3.45 GOLD CUP (Group 1) (4yo+)
The feature race of the week for many, and certainly the feature race of the day, the Gold Cup (not the Ascot Gold Cup, tsk tsk) is a two and a half mile Group 1 for older stayers. It does look low on quality this time around though, yet all the more competitive for it.
Gold Cup Trends
Odds: Six winning favourites, and all at 3/1 or shorter, but also three winners at 16/1+ in the last sixteen years
Recent form: Eight of the last sixteen winners won last time out, and another four were 2nd or 3rd
Ratings: All bar one of the last sixteen winners were either unrated (eight) or rated 115+
Age: All bar two repeat winners (Drum Taps and Yeats) were aged four to six, stretching all the way back to 1929!
The trends shortlist on that basis comprises Earl Of Tinsdal and Vadamar.
Gold Cup Preview
There could be some value here, especially if the trends are to be believed, as the two strongest profile horses are priced 16/1 and 25/1! Let's take a look at them, starting with the top-rated Earl Of Tinsdal (EOT hereafter).
Trained in Germany by Andreas Wohler, and ridden by William Buick, EOT probably didn't get the best help from the saddle last time, when scooting clear before being caught close home, eventually finishing third in that two mile Group 3. That was his first start of the season, and he's entitled to come on for it, given that he's a dual Group 1 winner at a mile and a half; and breeding gives hope that he'll stay this marathon trip.
Germany had a winner at the meeting last year with Energizer, and this fellow is no forlorn hope if he stays. The ground might be quick enough for him, mind, as most of his winning - including his two Group 1's - has been on soft. It's my suspicion that Buick will try to make all, setting steady fractions, then ratcheting it up a notch from the turn in. If that's right, you'd at least get a run for your marks on this Teutonic titan.
Vadamar is the other Euro raider, this time from France, and he's classy too, as his official rating dictates. Indeed, he was good enough to beat subsequent Arc winner, Solemia, a year earlier in a Group 2. He's another who likes to race prominently, and faded very late in the Group 1 Prix du Cadran (Gold Cup distance) when trying to make all. He wasn't beaten far and the final finishing position masks a very good effort: one which gives him a squeak here.
A winner on his pipe opener for the year, in a little conditions race, the question is whether he truly handles fast ground. He won that Group 2 on good, but most of his best form is on softer. Jamie Spencer rides, and 25/1 might again give a run for the euros.
A measure of the weakness of this year's race is that nine-year-old Rite of Passage is a 6/1 shot. I know he's lightly raced and has won this in the past. But he's NINE. Didn't you read that stat about no horse winning older than six except repeaters, Drum Taps and Yeats? OK, I also know that RoP has won this before. But he's NINE. Even Yeats gave up after winning aged eight.
The absence isn't a worry with this fellow as he goes well fresh - he's had to given his limited trips to the track - but he's NINE. Not for me. Never.
The Queen's Estimate, winner of the Queen's Vase here last year, and subsequent winner of the Sagaro Stakes, both over two miles here, is the favourite and she's likely to be shorter than the 9/2 at time of writing. She's bred to stay, she's shown she goes on good ground, she's trained by Sir Michael Stoute, and she won here by five lengths last year.
That Sagaro Stakes win will have her A1 for this, and I think she's a favourite's chance in a poor Gold Cup. Ryan Moore will certainly give her every chance, as he loves having a chat with HRH (probably).
Simenon also won at Royal Ascot last year - twice - and we know he stays. We also know he's tough. But can an Ascot/Queen Alexandra Stakes winner win a Gold Cup? No previous winner of either Ascot Stakes or Queen Alexandra Stakes has managed to win this, at least in the last sixteen years and, even in a poor year, Simenon ought not to be good enough.
Saddler's Rock is interesting. I think he has a chance on ground which will be nice and fast for him, and with the probability of a bit of pace on to help him settle. He was third last year on ground too soft, and has excuses pretty much ever since. I don't really like 'sick note' horses, but in a weak race, this chap stacks up.
Since being third here last year, he won the Goodwood Cup on fast ground off a fast pace (over the shorter trip of two miles); he then failed when trying to make the pace at York; pulled way too hard at Donny; ran a blinder on heavy at Longchamp; ran well in defeat on soft at Ascot on Champions Day; needed the run first time at Meydan; and suffered from a slipping saddle on World Cup night.
Yes, that is a whole book of excuses. But still, in a race like this year's Gold Cup, he has a more robust chance than most, because - on his day - he is a better horse than most. On his day.
High Jinx is hard to win with but he's got a consistent level of decent form, including when second in the Prix du Cadran at the end of last year. It's easy to overlook his fourth in the Henry VII Stakes at Sandown last time, as he's needed the run in each of his four seasons racing. Indeed, first time out figures of 4344 compare with subsequent run figures of 1312222.
He stayed just fine in the Cadran and has a very good place chance at least here.
Colour Vision was an emotional winner for Frankie in Godolphin blue in this race last year, and on that basis alone must have a chance again this time around. His form did tail off after though, and he showed next to nothing behind High Jinx at Sandown. It's a leap of faith to side with Colour Vision right now, and I can't make excuses for him in the same way I can with Saddler's Rock.
The European contingent is deeper than just the first two mentioned, though. After Gloomy Sunday snatched the cash at Sandown in the Henry VII Stakes, they've clearly decided this is up for grabs. Altano joins EOT from Wohler's yard; and Francois Doumen's Top Trip and Andre Fabre's Last Train join Vadamar to represent France.
Altano doesn't look good enough, despite an impressive ten wins and six places from twenty runs, but the French pair are worth noting. Top Trip was very narrowly denied in the Yorkshire Cup last time, over three-quarters of a mile shorter, and he might well improve for this longer race. The fact that Doumen brings him back over suggests he will be better this time: whether he's good enough is another issue.
Last Train could be the answer. He's seemingly best suited by good ground, has maintained a good level of middle distance form since being stepped up to two miles, and he's still got progression to come most likely. There might be a question mark about him over this additional half mile, but he's classier than most here and in better form.
Gold Cup Tips
Hmm, I'm not sure where that leaves us, except with a race which is likely deeper than the betting suggests, and which is poor in quality for the stature of the title. Though I think Estimate can win, she's short enough in an open race. At the prices I'm siding with Saddler's Rock - yes, I know, there will probably be another excuse - and Vadamar, both of which should be suited by the pace set up, and both of which have close to optimal conditions.
Other members of the French raiding party, notably Last Train, may also make their presence felt, and High Jinx is probably the safest place bet. That's not saying a lot in a precarious punting proposition!
Token choices: Saddler's Rock, Vadamar
Alternative: High Jinx
How to play the Gold Cup
Hills and bet365 are quarter the odds the first four (yes, it's that sort of race this year). Bet with them and get either money back as a free bet if you're second (Hills), or a free bet to the same stake on the next race if you win (bet365)
Back Saddler's Rock (9/1) and / or High Jinx (12/1) and / or Vadamar (33/1) with bet365, and four places plus one of the concessions mentioned above.
4.25 BRITANNIA STAKES (3yo 0-105)
If the last race was tough, then this thirty runner three year old equivalent of the Royal Hunt Cup is nigh on impossible. The only thing that is certain is - like the Hunt Cup, where 33/1 Belgian Bill prevailed - that you'll get a nice multiple of your 'investment' returned if you're smart enough to locate the winner. Let's look at the trends...
Britannia Stakes Trends
Odds: Seven of last sixteen winners priced 14/1 or above, but five winning favourites netting a nice level stakes profit
Recent form: Thirteen of the last sixteen winners finished 1-2-3 last time out
Ratings / Weight: The last nine winners have carried 8-10 or more, with eight of them carrying 8-10 to 9-01. Seven of the last eleven were rated 91-93
Previous Runs: Twelve of the last sixteen winners had between four and eight previous career starts, and all sixteen had won or placed second within three starts.
The trends shortlist on that basis comprises EbnArab, Rocatumu, Maputo, Jalaa, Won Diamond, and Wentworth.
Britannia Stakes Preview
The favourite is Wentworth, a horse which meets the profile of previous winners, and was a borderline non-trier last time over six furlongs. The fact that he ran over six was strange in itself, and it looked like a racecourse gallop in an attempt to get the horse fit and protect his handicap mark. That, of course, is precisely what it was, and he must have every chance here. Top weight, Law Enforcement, is trained by Wentworth's handler, Richard Hannon, and is presumably in to take another five pounds off the jolly's back.
A draw in thirty - against the near side rail - might be all right, though there's plenty of pace far side. Again, Law Enforcement might be expected to force it from his berth in 22. Otherwise, the pace is pretty much all low, which would be a bit of a worry. But, he does have a lot in his favour and is some way in front of the handicapper.
Of the other fancied runners, Maputo has been winning well from the front, and he's highly progressive. But he's done all his winning in single figure fields and will find is much tougher to boss a herd of thirty. For that reason alone, I'm looking elsewhere.
Cape Peron is very lightly raced, with just three starts to his name, and he's made a big leap forward with each run. He can be expected to go forward again here, and has twice coped with big fields already. But he might not want lightning fast ground, and that's a concern. Despite that, he's a player.
Secret Talent steps up from seven furlongs, where he was beaten by a horse called Professor the last day. That nag has won both his starts since, both of them in Listed company, so the form is bombproof in this context. Trained by Hughie Morrison, who loves a Royal Ascot handicap winner (five wins, five places, from 33 runners since 2003, 32 points profit win at SP), he she just about get the extra furlong and, if so, is respected.
There are no worries about trip, ground or field size with So Beloved. No, the concern here is whether he's quite good enough. In a field of generally less exposed runners, I'll wager that he isn't quite good enough, and wear it if I'm wrong.
Irish raider, Roca Tumu, improved markedly for fast ground last time, and could step up again here. He's got a perfect middle draw to track pace either side - probably low - but he made all the last day, which will be tougher here.
Arguably the one to take from that Curragh race was Won Diamond, who was caught flat-footed and ran on much the best to just miss second. Off a much faster gallop, and with conditions to suit, he might well outrun 33/1 odds.
Jalaa made the mistake of beating a 99 rated horse off levels, when previously rated 84, in a muddling four-runner conditions stakes. His reward for this was an eleven pound hike to 95. Despite a good trends profile, and the booking of Lanfranco to ride, there must surely be better handicapped beasts in this midst.
Some sort of a case can be made for a number of others, notably Queensberry Rules, who patently failed to stay last time, in what is a horrific conundrum.
Britannia Stakes Tips
Uninspired possible: Wentworth
Stab in the dark #1: Won Diamond
Stab in the dark #2: Secret Talent
How to play the Britannia Stakes
Paddy is paying six places here, but it also means he's taking no chances with his early prices. If you're prepared to let your bet run to SP (you've got Best Odds Guaranteed in case), then it might be worth accepting the sixth place. But there are plenty of more generous bookies in odds terms, paying five places, namely bet365, BetFred, Boyle, BetVictor and Stan James (all BOG).
Richard Hughes is on the shortish favourite, which gives further options with BetVictor if he's placed in the first five.
Back Wentworth (9/2 BetVictor, BetFred) and / or Won Diamond (33/1 Ladbrokes, four places, money back free bet if second) and / or Secret Talent (16/1 BetVictor, No Lose Hughes).
5.00 TERCENTENARY STAKES (Group 3) (3yo)
We drift back towards some semblance of plausibility in terms of winner-finding, with the Group 3 Tercentenary Stakes, over a mile and a quarter for three-year-olds.
Tercentenary Stakes Trends
Odds: Twelve of the last sixteen winners were priced 8/1 or shorter, figures which include four favourites and three second favourites
Recent form: Eleven of the last sixteen winners finished 1-2-3 last time out
Ratings: Five of the last six winners were rated 100+, with the last four all rated 107+
The trends shortlist on that basis comprises Remote, Indian Chief, and Elkaayed.
Tercentenary Stakes Preview
The one horse not beaten out of sight last time, and rated 107+, is Indian Chief. He was third in what looked an awful Dante last month. With the second, Trading Leather, subsequently running third in the Irish 2000 Guineas (form franked by second, Gale Force Ten, in the Jersey) and then winning a Listed contest; and the winner, Libertarian, going on to run a mighty race to be third in the Derby, it may not have been such a bad race after all! Especially when you consider the only other horse to run since from the race was last placed Dashing Star, which hacked up in a competitive Class 2 handicap.
Indian Chief was actually dropped three pounds to 107 for that Dante run, and he is a strong fancy on a line through Libertarian to turn over Chopin. However, Chopin didn't stay in the Derby and may be much better suited by this ten furlong trip.
The jolly is Remote, an unexposed Gosden horse who murdered Baltic Knight by six lengths last time. That one went on to win a Listed contest on his next start, and this fellow has a good bit more to come. That last run was over a mile, the extra two furlongs are no problem, based on a surprise (25/1) win in a Newbury maiden over today's trip. Sure to go close.
Shikarpour is another Gallic raider, and he ran a nice race in fifth in the Prix du Jockey Club on just his second start. He must be highly thought of to get such a gig so early in his career, and this represents a significant drop in grade. He's the second highest officially rated, behind Chopin by a pound, and - on that basis alone - must have a squeak. The fact that he's here implies connections are not concerned about the drop back in trip or the fast turf and, in such circumstances, he's another who is well respected.
I can't see anything else winning (which is not to say that nothing else can win!)
Tercentenary Stakes Tips
Selection: Indian Chief
How to play the Tercentenary Stakes
I really like Indian Chief here, and it's good of William Hill to give me a free bet if he finishes second. I think he'll win.
Back Indian Chief (11/2) with William Hill and if he's second, you'll get your money back as a free bet.
5.35 KING GEORGE V STAKES (Handicap) (CLASS 2) (3yo 0-105)
Tough stuff. Winners here have had some success when trying the St Leger later in the year (placed rather than winning), so it's a decent enough contest. And it presents a third possible opportunity for a 'hats off for The Queen' moment as she has another live contender.
King George V Stakes Trends
Odds: Cosmic Sun (66/1) was the second longest shock in recent years in this in 2009, but otherwise the other fifteen winners were 20/1 or shorter (14 were 14/1 or shorter)
Recent form: Eight of the last sixteen winners won last time out, and fifteen finished 1-2-3 last time out
Ratings Weight: Fourteen of the last sixteen winners were weighted 8-13 or less.
The trends shortlist on that basis comprises Salutation and Number One London.
King George V Stakes Preview
A shortlist of two, largely because the guts of the field were eliminated on weight grounds. That might be tenuous due to the compact nature of the handicap here (limited range between highest and lowest rated horses).
Then again, it might not be, as in 2011, there was a similar range of fourteen pounds; and in 2009, there were just eleven pounds between top and bottom rated - and weighted - in the race. In the latter race, of course, we witnessed the 66/1 bomb. Could that happen again? Almost certainly not.
Let's look at Salutation and Number One London first, then. The former is a Mark Johnston inmate, and typically tough. As the trainer has won this four times, and placed another four times, in the past sixteen years, he can't be written off. But his form doesn't give hope that he'll stay on this first attempt at twelve furlongs, or that he'll be good enough.
The latter is trained by Brian Meehan, one of the trainers of the season so far. He's been unlucky to bump into some smart sorts, but his handicap debut last time was a promising run when second to Maputo (runs in the Britannia earlier in the afternoon). This step up in trip might help as he was staying on well over Newmarket's ten furlongs that last day, and the ground will be fine. There are worse 12/1 shots.
Brian Meehan has a strong hand here, as his other runner, Eshtiaal, vies for favouritism with The Queen's Bold Sniper. Although Eshtiaal won easily at Yarmouth last time, I'm wary of form there, and he's high enough in the weights as a result of that facile verdict.
Bold Sniper, like Eshtiaal, is on the hat-trick. He's bolted up the last twice under varying conditions, and his trainer, Sir Michael Stoute, is the other four-time winner in the survey period. He just trumps Mark Johnston, though, by recording nine places to the Scot's eight, and from less runners (21). Seriously unexposed, Bold Sniper could cap what might be a fine day for favourite backers, and give Messrs Moore, Stoute and HRH a happy ending to Day Three.
Royal Skies looks the one from the Johnston battalion. A winner of his last two, he's improved a lot in recent runs, and that can be put down to trip, in part at least. He's up a fair bit in the handicap for that brace of bloodless scalps, but that's merited and he might have more to come. Certainly, he'll be a tough nut to crack, as will trip-upstepping (yes, I do make some of my words up!) Greeleys Love, who might have been screaming for a mile and a half.
There are others with prospects too, but this is too hard to be looking too far down the list...
King George V Stakes Tips
Selection: Number One London
Alternatives: Royal Skies, Greeleys Love (Bold Sniper too)
How to play the King George V Stakes
Very little on offer here. Check the prices with Victor in the morning, as Hughesie has another live one here. They're a bit tight as I write (21:30 Wednesday night) but might relax a little on the day.
Back your fancy with BetVictor if they're top or joint-top price, and if Richard Hughes places and you lose, you'll get your money back as a free bet.