None of the ensuing four days can match the class of racing on display on Royal Ascot Tuesday, but that is akin to damning a prince for not being a king. The racing remains top class, compelling, puzzling entertainment. And, naturally, every race has a winner.
After the Declaration of War established a new pecking order in the Animal Kingdom; and after Sole Powered his way to cut down the 'Saffer', Shea Shea (brilliant from Group One Johnny Murtagh, absolutely brilliant); after Dawn Approach re-established his reign in the miling division in a lung-busting thriller with Toronado, who showed the horse Hannon and Hughes believed him to be... after all that, there was still time for me to nominate 9/1 scorer, Well Sharp.
Winners at 8/1, 9/1 and 5/4 from nine total selections made day one a profitable one for blog followers. Alas, that was the easy day!
We start Day Two with the Jersey Stakes, a race for Guineas non-stayers and other in-between types...
2.30 JERSEY STAKES (Group 3) (3yo)
This is one of those races that, every year, I get wrong. If I go short in the betting, the winner is long. If I go long, the winner is short. It's just one of those things. My yin is out of kilter with the Jersey Stakes' yang. So don't expect the below discourse to lead to a winner...
Jersey Stakes Trends
Odds: Four of the last sixteen renewals went to a horse priced at 20/1 or bigger. Three favourites and five second favourites have prevailed in that time
Ratings: Nine of the last thirteen winners were rated 106+, with one unrated
Recent form: All of the last twelve winners finished first or second in one of their last two starts
The trends shortlist on that basis comprises Gale Force Ten, Pearl Flute, Garswood, Montiridge, Well Acquainted and The Brothers War.
Jersey Stakes Preview
There are two ways to approach the Jersey: one is to look at the established form of Guineas horses, and the other is to project improvement on seven furlong nags upped in grade. Both have been more successful than me in identifying winners of the race in recent times. So let's try to put that right.
The clear Guineas form pick is Gale Force Ten, closest pursuer of Magician in the Irish 2000, and fourth in the French 2000 as well. Both of those runs make him shy of a top class miler, but plum for a task like this. He has juvenile form as well to give him a squeak, and he looks a thoroughly solid market leader. He most certainly could win this, if running up to either of his two most recent performances.
Garswood was the obvious non-stayer in the English Guineas field, and back to seven furlongs, he could go very close. He's talented, and is up to Group 3 level, for sure.
Pearl Flute on the other hand looks like he must have soft ground. With the weather set to bake on Wednesday, it's highly unlikely that will happen, and I think his chance will be irrevocably hindered as a consequence.
Montiridge is the type of horse I just can't gauge. He's been winning - and losing - soft Listed races, and he's pitched up here against the big boys, and back in trip. I'm against him, which probably means he's the one, given my lamentable Jersey record.
Mutin really interests me. He's a progressive unbeaten four-times-raced colt, who seems to have a pedigree for fast ground (or dirt) and has been winning mainly on soft. If he's been winning despite the ground rather than because of it, he's a player here for respected French connections. The drop back to seven ought to be no problem on breeding, and on the evidence of his easy maiden win (third won a Group 2 since, fourth won next time out).
Jean-Christophe Rouget's other runner, The Brothers War, is very hard to weigh up. Bred for middle distances and dirt, he's been winning soft ground sprints! I honestly have no idea about this horse, and therefore will assume it is not good enough. Ahem.
Well Acquainted is an out-and-out seven furlongs horse, and he deserved his Listed win at Epsom last time. That was a career best, but he'd need to improve the same amount again to win here and, after ten career starts, I'm not certain he's capable of that. Again, I might be wrong.
In the 'improving type' camp, Ajraam may be of most interest. He's unbeaten in two, the second of which was a Class 3 Thirsk handicap: hardly traditional prep material for a Royal Ascot pattern race. That's a concern, but he remains a horse of considerable upside potential, and has perhaps the most scope for improvement in the whole field.
Jersey Stakes Tips
It's a tough old race, and I'll not be having a win bet. Rather, I'll be looking to scrape through the placepot intact, and perhaps catch a result in the process. The horses I'll be siding with are Gale Force Ten and Mutin; and perhaps Ajraam as well. Unless Gale Force Ten or Mutin do the bizzo though, I'm not confident of breaking my Jersey Stakes hoodoo.
Token Suggestion: Gale Force Ten
How to play the Jersey Stakes
Hughesie's on 11/2 shot, Montiridge. I have to say I don't especially fancy him, but he's never been out of the frame in five starts, so the No Lose Hughes offer might be the one to roll with here, at BetVictor.
Back Gale Force Ten (4/1, 5/1 available elsewhere) and / or Mutin (7/1, 8/1 elsewhere) with BetVictor, and if Richard Hughes places and you lose, you'll get your money back as a free bet.
3.05 DUKE OF CAMBRIDGE STAKES (Group 2) (4yo+)
Formerly the Windsor Forest Stakes, this is for fillies and mares over a trip of a mile. It's a new race with just nine previous runnings to review...
Duke Of Cambridge Stakes Trends
Odds: No winner has returned bigger than 14/1
Ratings: One winner was unrated, but seven of the other eight were rated 107+
Trainers: Sir Michael Stoute has won this three times and had three further horses placed, from ten runners
Age: Seven of the nine winners were four-year-olds
The trends shortlist on that basis comprises Chigun, Duntle, Dank, and Sarkiyla.
Duke Of Cambridge Stakes Preview
The key horse here is Dank for me, given Sir Michael Stoute's record in the race, and the fact that she adores fast ground. Beaten on her last start in 2012 by Chigun, she bounced back on seasonal debut to reverse the form with (then) Sir Henry's mare and, in my opinion, she'll improve more for that run than (now) Lady Cecil's charge.
The drop back in trip seems in Dank's favour too, as she was all out to hold on over the ninth furlong, with stamina and fitness collapsing. A dual Group 3 winner, she's obviously entitled to this step up in class.
Chigun for her part has gone on to record a Group 3 win over a good to firm mile in Ireland last time, and comes here off that career best. There won't be much between them, but the bigger price and scope to improve from first to second run, leads me to SMS's door.
Irish mare, Duntle, winner of the Sandringham Handicap here last term, returns for a tilt at this, and she's the jolly. First past the post in a Group 1, but subsequently disqualified, she must have a rock solid form chance here. Indeed, she made up for that DQ by comfortably collecting a Group 3 last time, though it might have been a soft enough race for the class. Nevertheless, she's 'won' four on the spin now, and will be hard to beat here with her proven track form.
The French raider, Sarkiyla, is respected, being trained by Alain de Royer-Dupre, and ridden by Christophe Lemaire. She'll get every yard of this and should be fine on the ground too. She narrowly failed to win a Saint-Cloud Group 2 last time, and Antoine Hamelin is replaced by the main man, CP, today.
Duke Of Cambridge Stakes Tips
I like Dank. She's progressive, will improve for first run of the year and the drop back in trip, and is trained by the top honcho in this contest, Sir Michael Stoute. Duntle is an obvious threat, and Sarkiyla may be value to at least make the frame.
Best Bet: Dank
Each Way Alternative: Sarkiyla (Duntle clear chance too)
How to play the Duke Of Cambridge Stakes
Hughesie's on a rag here and, as I fancy Dank but fear Duntle, the best play may be to back Dank with Ladbrokes, with a money back chance if she's second to anything else.
Back Dank (4/1) with Ladbrokes, and if she's second, you'll get your money back as a free bet.
3.45 PRINCE OF WALES´S STAKES (Group 1) (4yo+)
A top class ten furlong race, featuring last year's foiled Triple Crown bidder, Camelot, and his recent vanquisher, Al Kazeem. Depth is added by the likes of Maxios, The Fugue and Red Cadeaux amongst others, in what should be a great battle.
Prince Of Wales's Stakes Trends
Odds: The longest priced winner this century was 8/1
Ratings: All winners this century were either unrated, or rated 117+
Trainers: Godolphin trainers have won this five times since 1998, while Aiden O'Brien and Andre Fabre have two each.
Age: So You Think last year was the first horse older than five to win since Muhtarram's repeat victory in 1995
The trends shortlist on that basis comprises Al Kazeem, Camelot and Maxios.
Prince Of Wales's Stakes Preview
An interesting, if unspectacular, renewal of this great race. On the face of it, it's a match between the improving and lightly raced Al Kazeem, and the proven level of form demonstrated by Camelot. But there might just be a third actor to steal the show. Let's consider the guys who share top billing first.
Camelot was the best three year old last year by a country mile. He won the English 2000 Guineas, the Derby, the Irish Derby, and then he was second to the subsequently doped Encke in the St Leger. Yes, the best three year old last year by a country mile. The problem is that last year's three year olds were a terrible lot. Not average, but terrible.
Camelot took on his elders for the first time in the Arc and ran respectably in seventh, but behind two French 3yo's). He then won a soft race against his own age group (and a 66/1 5yo), and then took on elders again in the Tattersalls Gold Cup... and got beaten again. It's not really Camelot's fault but the British and Irish 4yo's (last year's three year olds) are no good.
Al Kazeem is a five year old now, but has only had ten races. He was having his first run in Group 1 company when winning the aforementioned Tattersalls Gold Cup, and this step back to ten furlongs will be fine for him. He's not been out of the first two since his debut, and that run may well continue here. But...
But I think there might be one to beat them both in the shape of smooth, charming Gallic interloper, Maxios. Maxios, a five year old son of Monsun, has been making hay in France, where he's already won the Group 2 Prix d'Harcourt and the Group 1 Prix d'Ispahan. In between those two pattern race triumphs, he was bested by a length by German superstar, Pastorius.
That was over a furlong further, and all of Maxios' seven wins have been between a mile and ten furlongs. He may steal the scene from the headline pair.
There is also a leading lady in this intriguing menage a quatre: the sultry temptress, The Fugue. She's tough and consistent, and ten fast furlongs is definitely how she's been typecast. Indeed, in such plays she's won the Group 3 Musidora Stakes and the Group 1 Nassau Stakes. But those were against lasses, and this is the first time she's ever taken on the boys. She gets a three pound sex allowance to help, but that is a serious concern in this rarefied company.
No, despite the presence of what might be billed as a head-to-head, I think the French horse has every chance at an enticing price.
Prince Of Wales's Stakes Tips
I'd definitely be against Camelot here, and whilst I respect Al Kazeem, Maxios is value at almost three times his price. The Fugue has a bit to do up against the chaps for the first time.
Best Bet: Maxios
Alternative: Al Kazeem
How to play the Prince Of Wales's Stakes
Two offers here. Firstly, Hughes is on another rag, so he's no use to us probably. Ladbrokes will give us that money back free bet if we're second, which is tempting when I fancy Maxios, but fear Al Kazeem. Only problem is Laddies are shortest price on Maxios! If they become more competitive on price, it's worth considering. Otherwise, bet365's 4/1+ winner offer, where you get a free bet to the same stake on the next race is better.
Secondly, for new customers only (sorry), Paddy Power are offering 4/1 Al Kazeem up to a max stake of £50. You could back it and lay it at around 3/1 to make an instant profit, or just let it ride.
Back Maxios (11/2 BOG) with Coral. If you open a Paddy Power account (just click that link), you can have up to £50 on Al Kazeem at 4/1 (pretty fair about a 5/2 chance).
4.25 ROYAL HUNT CUP (CLASS 2) (3yo+)
And then it got harder. If you've not found a winner yet, there's good news and bad news. The good news is that if you nail this one you could easily be in front on the week. The bad news is that it's fiendishly tough!
Royal Hunt Cup Trends
Odds: All rates from 4/1 favourite to 28/1 have nabbed this, so no real angle
Ratings / Weight: Fifteen of the last sixteen winners were weighted between 8-06 and 9-05, while all of the last fourteen have been rated 91 to 105
Recent form: Ten of the last sixteen winners finished 1-2-3 last time out; 41 of the 64 placed horses in that time finished 1-2-3-4
Age: Every winner back to 1980 was aged four to six, with 21 4yos, eight 5yos, and just four 6yos. (Only four of the 62 horses aged 7+ have placed in the last sixteen years)
The trends shortlist on that basis comprises Spa's Dancer, Navajo Chief, Excellent Guest, Captain Bertie, Burke's Rock and Educate (among others).
Royal Hunt Cup Preview
The probability is that the pace will be high here, with any or all of Spa's Dancer, Navajo Chief, Balducci, and Moran Gra keen to go on. This could suit prominent racers who can sit just off the pace, and perhaps that will play into the hands of Burke's Rock, ridden by Frankie Dettori. This lass has been getting better with age, and won the Listed Conqueror Stakes last time out over an undulating mile at Goodwood on good ground. Behind her that day was the favourite for this, Stirring Ballad, and I'm struggling to understand the price differential given they're off level weights here, and were off level weights last time.
Excellent Guest should arguably have won last year, with Tom Queally sitting serenely atop this boyo while most were agitating. In the end, he got done half a length by the gallant Prince Of Johanne. Only four pounds higher now after some astute handicapping by his astute trainer, George Margarson, Excellent Guest has a chance to go one better this time, though his draw in one might be a curse.
I'm against Stirring Ballad (price compared to Burke's Rock) and Prince Of Johanne (age, draw), but mildly interested in Educate. Ismail Mohammed's Echo Of Light gelding doesn't seem to be ground dependant, having won on good to firm at Sandown last backend. Most of his subsequent gold has been plundered on soggier turf, but that's just the way it's been, I suspect, rather than a knock.
There may have only been three runners the last day - which is somewhat in contrast to the ten-fold increase in field size here - but the second has come out and won a competitive handicap at Epsom since, and this chap may not be done with winning just yet. That said, he was well enough beaten in a similar contest two starts back at Newbury.
It's a while since a first time out runner took this - at least sixteen years - and for that reason alone I'm against Trade Commissioner, despite his trainer, Johnny G, being something of a guv'nor here. Not this time, John.
David Livingstone was a smart juvenile for Ballydoyle, winning at Group 2 level on heavy ground. He's been tried at all sorts of trips, but his best form remains at around a mile, and he's dropped a long way in the weights now, rated 102 here compared with a career high of 114. The issue is that he's been tonked each time he's raced on quicker, and he's drawn a bit in no man's land here in stall twelve.
One by one I discount them (rightly or wrongly!), and I'll mention just one more, at a big price. Redact was good enough to run in the 2000 Guineas last year... or maybe he wasn't because he was thumped at 150/1. He's been racing over trips shy of a mile since then, but giving the distinct impression that the mile is his optimal. He's in here off a mark of 97, with a nice high draw, and a top helmsman in Jim Crowley. Fast ground is ideal and, as a throwaway interest, you could do worse than this 33/1 poke.
But Burke's Rock is the right age (four), has the right profile (a place and a win coming into this), has an ostensibly good draw (middle-high with pace high), and has a shrewd trainer (Jeremy Noseda) and hungry jockey (Frankie). Obviously, there's as many horses with chances as there are horses, but she'll do for me.
Royal Hunt Cup Tips
You don't need me to tell you this is hard. And you may be as well to take your own counsel than mine in such a cavalry charge. But, if you want my opinion, I'm going to have a little bet on Burke's Rock. And I might just tickle Redact and/or Excellent Guest as well.
Suggestion: Burke's Rock
Alternative: Excellent Guest
Big priced each way play: Redact
How to play the Royal Hunt Cup
Quarter the odds five places with bet365, and best price on Burke's Rock. Plus the 4/1+ winner, free bet on the next race offer too.
Back Burke's Rock (16/1) each way with bet365, and get five places and a free bet to the same stake if she wins.
5.00 QUEEN MARY STAKES (Group 2) (Fillies) (2yo)
Ah, that's more like it. Just the twenty-two juvenile fillies hurtling headlong down the five furlong piste. Hmm.
Queen Mary Stakes Trends
Odds: Five of the last sixteen winners were between 16/1 and 25/1
Runs: Nine of the last thirteen winners were unbeaten
The trends shortlist on that basis comprises a lot of horses.
Queen Mary Stakes Preview
A very tough race, and not one in which I'll be betting. The favourite, Beldale Memory, did me a favour the last day, but I couldn't back her here. She has looked like she wants it on the slow side, and it will not be that tomorrow, unless the thunderstorms come and wash the dust away. That said, because she's only won on softish turf doesn't mean she can't win on quicker. I just feel she's short enough to do that.
Fire Blaze could be interesting. Nine individual winners have come out of the maiden she won on debut at Newmarket, and there can't be another race in the past performances here which can boast such a precocious group. It's a stab-in-the-dark sort of race, and she'll do as a token selection, at around 10/1.
It might be interesting that Richard Hughes rides the maiden, Oriel, rather than the unbeaten-in-one Fast. But if Oriel is the pick, and she's already been beaten by Rizeena and Alutiq, then she ought not to be able to win this. The fact that she was odds on for both defeats probably points more to wealthy connections who know little about racing (Highclere horses are almost always shorter than they should be) than anything else. Not for me, not on your nelly.
Baytown Kestrel absolutely lagged up on her debut at Lingfield, and this lass is the story horse here. She was bought for four hundred quid (!), and the trainer, whose wife owns the nag, must have turned down offers close to a thousand-fold that. If she wins here, he'll struggle to turn down the re-raise. I'd love to see it, but there will probably be one or two too good for her.
Aiden O'Brien is 0 from 8 in the last sixteen years, though four of that octet at least made the frame, the last way back in 2001. He's had three stuffed lassies since then, though only one runner since 2003. It's not a race he targets, and for that reason I overlook Bye Bye Birdie.
Kaiulani won well on debut from Excel's Beauty (reopposes here), and hails from last year's winning stable, that of Mick Channon. She'll have to improve - as will they all - and she might be able to do that. And if you want one at a price, Ventura Mist did brilliantly to win the Hilary Needler at Beverley last time, needing every inch of the five there. The certainty of a robust pace plays to her strengths, and there will be worse 25/1 shots this week.
Queen Mary Stakes Tips
Not a race for me to wager, but I think Fire Blaze and Ventura Mist probably deserve to be shorter than their current odds. As such, I'll nominate them in the 'token' category.
Token Selection: Fire Blaze
Alternative: Ventura Mist
How to play the Queen Mary Stakes
I like Fire Blaze. Hughesie is on a strange third favourite I don't fancy, and Victor are not best price. Just back her with Coral BOG. Ditto Ventura Mist.
bet365 are paying four places, so if they're top price your fancy, bet with them. You'll get a free bet to the same stake if you back the winner here (and she's 4/1 or more).
Back Fire Blaze (12/1) and / or Ventura Mist (28/1) with Coral, Best Odds Guaranteed.
5.35 SANDRINGHAM HANDICAP (Listed Race) (Fillies) (3yo)
We close with a 6/1 the field Listed handicap for 3yo fillies, run over a mile. Some pretty good young ladies have won this in recent years, with Timepiece in 2010 and Duntle last year going on to Group 1 glory (though the latter lost hers in the stewards' room).
Sandringham Handicap Trends
Odds: All of the last sixteen winners were 16/1 or shorter. Only one winner was bigger than 12/1
Runs: Eight of those sixteen won last time (50% of the winners, from just 20% of the runners). Thirteen of the last sixteen winners had had between three and six runs in the past year.
Weight/rating: It seems to be getting classier, with nine of the last eleven winners carrying 8-11 or more, and ten of eleven rating 94+. Perhaps coincidentally, six of the last eight winners were in the tight ratings band of 94-96
The trends shortlist on that basis comprises Fleeting Smile.
Sandringham Handicap Preview
The trends shortlist consists of just Fleeting Smile, so that's a good place to start before widening the search. I think I'm right in saying that Fleeting Smile was Richard Hannon's first horse to run owned by Sheikh Hamdan, when she was second to the late Newfangled in a hot maiden at HQ this time last year.
That was on soft ground and over six furlongs but it was probably a Group contest masquerading as a maiden. Her problem is that she just doesn't seem to stay the mile trip. She was last on her only try at a mile, though the slow pace which led to her pulling may have contributed to her undoing too.
Although she ticks a lot of boxes, I'm worried about the trip and will look elsewhere for now.
Zurigha might be the top weight here but she caught me eye. A cursory glance at the two bold 1's in her four race form string might lead you to believe she's a better filly on the all weather. But closer inspection reveals that her two turf runs were in Group 2 and Group 1 company, the latter an excellent fourth in the French 1000 Guineas. So she deserves to be top weight, and this is probably her trip and ground. Two top weights have won in the last sixteen runnings so it's possible and, for place or placepot players, nine top or joint-top weight have placed from 19. I like her.
Nargys obviously didn't run her race last time when sent off 7/2 in the Nell Gwyn Stakes. She has questions to answer as a consequence but would have been close to the pick of these as a juvenile and 20/1 might tempt a few in, given Luca Cumani's record in handicaps. It probably won't tempt me this time though.
Waterway Run has run three good races in defeat - two of them in Group 1 company - since a Group 3 win last September. The trainer is a whizz with vintage generation lasses, and she too could run into the frame.
The one perhaps most open to improvement is David Wachman's Hint Of A Tint. She ran a neck second in a Group 3 last time on just her third start. She's entitled to come on again here, and the hood is on for the first time: this piece of headgear has worked the oracle for many a buzzy madam and Hint Of A Tint wouldn't need to find much progression to trouble the best of these.
Hardest to quantify is Bracing Breeze, who is beautifully bred and trained by Dermot Weld, a master. She's had three runs, the first two over seven furlongs, and the latter of the pair a win on the all weather at Dundalk. She then dropped back to six where she was outgunned by the smart Cork specialist, Cape Of Approval. Clearly, she's thought to be pacey, so the step back up to a mile - whilst accommodated theoretically in her breeding - isn't the obvious move on the basis of her form profile. Weld hasn't had a handicap winner here since 2003 (twelve runs back) and I'm against this one.
Woodland Aria makes a lot more sense to me than Mango Diva at the head of the market, and the former ran a fair race in the Musidora (Group 3) before dropping back to seven furlongs to land a conditions stakes. Although that was a relatively soft race, she did it well and the extra furlong here is tailor-made. She's close to favourite and it's easy for me to understand that. A player, most likely.
The rest probably aren't good enough.
Sandringham Handicap Tips
I might be tempted into a little bet on a couple here, and Zurigha, Hint Of A Tint and Woodland Aria are three I like the most. Picking between them is tough but, at the prices, I'll side with Hint Of A Tint, the 10/1 with Hills being a bit of value to my eye.
Selection: Hint Of A Tint
Alternatives: Woodland Aria, Zurigha
How to play the Sandringham Handicap
Boyles and bet365 are five places here, which is fair enough in a race I reckon is less competitive than the numbers imply. BOG too. Plus the 4/1 offer on the first race on Thursday if you find the winner.
Back Hint Of A Tint (9/1) and / or Woodland Aria (6/1) and / or Zurigha (11/1) with bet365, and get five places, best odds guaranteed, and a free bet to the same stake on the first race on Thursday if you find the winner.
An early update on the Tipping Competition. Some excellent early performances, none more so than j1mbob, who found Well Sharp from his two Tuesday picks for a small lead from Snowie (Sole Power and War Command, impressive picking), and the jediknight (Dawn Approach and Declaration Of War). This trio is separated by just £7.50 at the top, so all to play for.
You can still enter, though of course you're playing catch up a little now, by registering here: http://www.geegeez.co.uk/tipping-league/
You will need a BetVictor account to qualify for a prize, and you can sign up for one of those if needs be, here.
Finally, how did you do on Day One? Big chicken dinner, swimming in gravy? Or shirtless, potless and hopeless? And what do you like today? Leave a comment and let us know!