Royal Ascot 2014 Day 2 Preview, Trends, Tips
The second of five days of the Royal meeting, and this day has historically been comfortably the toughest of the lot.
So, after a largely punter-friendly opening day, tread carefully here and, if you get out level, you've done well! We start as always at dentist o'clock, i.e. tooth hurty, with the...
2.30 Jersey Stakes (Group 3) 7 Furlongs
A trappy start to a trappy card, demonstrated by winners at 11/1, 12/1 and 20/1 in the last five years. It's a race for three year olds only, and these are the trends.
Jersey Stakes Trends
Twelve of the last seventeen winners were first or second last time out, with another pair finishing fourth.
Of the fourteen Jersey winners since 1997 to have an official rating, ten were rated 106 or higher, from 48% of the runners. That would eliminate thirteen of this year's field.
15/17 winners since 1997 had run this season, between 16 and 60 days ago
Only two of the 47 horses to have won at beyond seven furlongs had the speed and class to win this. They both won over a mile on their previous start (from just 13 who did).
Those of interest from a trends perspective include Giovanni Boldini, Big Time, Muwaary, and Mustajeeb.
Jersey Stakes Form Preview
I'll come right out and say it. I really like one in here. Trained by John Gosden and dropping back from a mile when beaten just two lengths in the French 2000 Guineas, Muwaary must have a really solid chance. That he was pitched into that Group 1 having previously only won a maiden and a Class 2 handicap, both at this distance, speaks of the regard in which the Oasis Dream colt is held. He's been freshened up since his French Guineas run and, though he's far from a sexy price, he has definite claims, a wider than optimal draw notwithstanding.
Mustajeeb is in the same ownership - Sheikh Hamdan - and is trained in Ireland by Dermot Weld. He won a Guineas trial but was comprehensively outpointed in the Irish 2000 by Kingman. Still, he was good enough to hang on to third, seven lengths behind the winner on ground that might have been too testing, and this looks a fair opportunity. My reservation is whether he really wants to be dropped back in trip, and that's enough for me to overlook him at the prices.
Giovanni Boldini has had plenty of racing already - seven starts to date - and that septet includes a silver medal in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf behind Outstrip. In his last four runs, including three this year, he's raced in four different countries: America, Dubai, France and Ireland; and this will make it five countries in five runs!
The form of his French Guineas run behind Muwaary et al gives him enough to find, and he looks far more exposed than the Hamdan duo. Moreover, I'm far from convinced he needs dropping in trip, having been a miler at two, and run on over ten furlongs in the UAE Derby.
French raider Redbrook looks more compelling. 'Only' a winner of a Listed race so far, he looks to be progressing apace. Having scrambled home in a mile conditions stakes (form not worked out), he was commanding in strangling that Listed field the last day over seven furlongs at Longchamp. He is capable of finding similar improvement to the Hamdan pair, and Frankie Dettori will ride a prominent race, though his wide draw is not ideal.
There is a plethora of unexposed types in behind, but they look either not quite good enough, or unsuited by the specialist distance. Musical Comedy, for instance, has raced exclusively at six furlongs to date, and no higher than Listed class. That Is The Spirit ran at Epsom just twelve days ago and was almost caught by Parbold over that easy strip on his first attempt at Listed grade. The latter should reverse form this time, and may be value at 16/1.
Of course, either of those, or numerous others could improve into the frame. One that could outrun big odds is Big Time. He was second to Sudirman (re-opposes) in the Group 1 Phoenix Stakes last year, and was fifth in the Irish 2000 on his seasonal bow. All Big Time's prior form was on top of the ground, so the soft to heavy on the Curragh the last day - allied to lack of match fitness - can be excused.
If he has trained on - still an 'if' at this point - then 14/1 looks all right.
Sudirman, for his part, went on to be second to Toormore in the Group 1 National Stakes, and fifth to Astaire in the Group 1 Middle Park Stakes. He was disappointing on his first run this term when only fouth of nine in a Listed event over six, but if he has trained on, he has the best official rating in the field, and retains scope to improve a dribble. 28/1 with Coral looks wrong. [Note, since writing this, and taking the 28/1 he's been cut to 16/1, which looks about right]
Jersey Stakes Tips
Oddly strong fancy: Muwaary 5/1 Coral / Winner
Each way alternatives: Big Time 14/1 general / Sudirman 16/1 Coral
3.05 Queen Mary Stakes (Group 2) 5 Furlongs
Two year old fillies, all on the improve, and hurtling rapidement down the five furlong straight for as long as they can.
Queen Mary Trends
Sixteen of the last seventeen winners were either first or second last time out, and the other winner was third. None of the 62 horses unplaced last time won, and only two of them placed.
13/17 had had one or two previous runs.
13/17 had won either once or twice already.
That gives a fairly long shortlist of Anthem Alexander, Blue Aegean, Dangerous Moonlight, Harry's Dander, Spanish Pipedream, Arabian Queen and Polar Vortex.
Queen Mary Form Preview
So many unexposed and rapidly improving fillies makes for a tricky puzzle, ostensibly at least. In reality, the favourite has won six times since 1997, for a level stakes profit, and the winner is more often than not from the top three in the betting.
A sensible place to start then is with the trio vying for a 'F' to be appended to their starting price, Tiggy Wiggy, Anthem Alexander, and Spanish Pipedream.
Tiggy Wiggy is the most experienced of these, with four runs to her name. She won the Listed National Stakes last time, having been second in the Listed Marygate Stakes the time before. The last day, and when she won her conditions race, the going was soft. In between, her defeat was on good ground and, in the face of that limited evidence, she does have a question to answer if the rain stays away, as is currently forecast.
Moreover, she is far less likely to leap forward in terms of performance level than the once and twice raced posse, and trap 22 - the widest of all - is a negative. From that group of unexposed sorts, Anthem Alexander was a good winner last time having been hampered a couple of times on her debut. That debut was over six and I'm not sure she'd have been winning anyway, but there was a lot to admire in her seven length demolition job at five last time.
It's possible she beat trees there, but you can only beat them hollow (geddit? Beat Hollow? Hollow Tree? Never mind...) as she did. I'd be a little worried that she returns to the track within thirteen days of an effort that might have left its mark, though, and 9/2 is short enough.
Spanish Pipedream won her sole start to date, by four and a quarter lengths. That was at Keeneland, and she's trained by Wesley Ward, winner of the Queen Mary in 2009. She's very fast and looks extremely likely to lead from the stalls - as are all of Wesley's wunners - and, if the ground stays on the quick side, she could take a big leap forward. 4/1 on good or quicker looks the pick of the top of the market, if she takes to the turf on her first public attempt.
Like Spanish Pipedream, Dangerous Moonlite and Harry's Dancer are both unbeaten after a single race. Dangerous Moonlite represents the Hannon stable, and Ryan Moore rides this course and distance winner. She won easily that day and will, like the rest of 'em, bound forward from then to now. 12/1 might be worth a speculative.
John Quinn has some nice juvies this year, evidenced by the bamboozling win of The Wow Signal in Tuesday's Coventry Stakesm and Harry's Dancer could be almost as good as that one. She was five lengths better than the best of the rest when scurrying away with a Thirsk maiden in a decent time.
Blue Aegean has a nice middle draw, and came on from first to second start, winning a Nottingham maiden on soft ground from a pair of Hannon runners. That should give the latter trainer a line on the form with his own entries and, though it's possible she can improve for terra firmer, she might have something to find with those housed at East Everleigh.
It's harder to make a case for the others, which is not to say that one of them won't win, of course!
Queen Mary Stakes Tips
Tentative selection: Spanish Pipedream 4/1 general
Each way alternative: Dangerous Moonlite 12/1 BetVictor
3.45 Prince Of Wales's Stakes (Group 1) 1m2f
A very high class renewal of a high class race, as Arc superstar Treve takes on the best of British (and Irish) in the shapes of Magician, Mukhadram, Dank and The Fugue. It really is a cracking race, and quite possibly the best of the week.
Prince Of Wales's Stakes Trends
The French have won this three times in the last seven years, from nine runners.
16 of the last 17 winners were aged four or five, albeit from a majority of runners.
Six favourites have won since 1997, and 15/17 winners in that time came from the top three in the market.
Prince Of Wales's Stakes Form Preview
Such a good race. Such. A. Good. Race.
Treve is favourite, odds on, at 4/6. She is the best horse in the race. She is a fantastic filly trained by a fantastic woman, Criquette Head-Maarek. I first spotted her - Treve, not Criquette, who I spotted some years ago - when she won the Prix de Diane (French Oaks) in unequivocal style, and I backed her then and there for the Arc. Before the biggest race in Europe, Treve lined up for the Prix Vermeille, the only one of the French Arc trials with Group 1 status. She won well despite being less than fully wound up.
Next stop was the Arc, and my clever work in getting the price straight after the French Oaks was undone by a terrible car park draw. Or so I thought. As it transpired, Treve waltzed around the outside, despite pulling hard in the early stages, and galloped clear with disdainful ease from a truly world class field. She won by five lengths.
That was one of the most incredible performances I've ever seen (though Moonlight Cloud almost matched it on the same card an hour later!) and, to repeat myself, she is the best horse in this race. But she's not necessarily the bet.
First of all, she's 4/6, which requires supreme confidence in a field that includes three other horses rated 120+. Second, she was beaten last time, albeit that there were excuses (first time out against a match fit Cirrus Des Aigles; trip possibly on the short side; ground probably on the soft side). Third, she hasn't raced over this short a distance since her first three year old start, when she won a small conditions heat over a mile.
I think she'll probably win. I really, really hope she wins. But I won't be betting her.
Magician is a very good colt, who has had legitimate excuses for most of his non-wins. Last year, there was the famous seagull in the swimming pool incident, which led to a terrible run in the St James's Palace Stakes. That flop was sandwiched between top grade wins, before when taking the Group 1 Irish 2000 Guineas, and after when nutting The Fugue close home in the Grade 1 Breeders' Cup Turf.
This season, he opened up with a close second to Noble Mission in the Group 1 Tattersalls Gold Cup, a race run on soft ground. He hates soft ground. Here, on quicker, and with the team in great form, over a trip that could be his best, Magician rates a live danger to conjure up a winning run (groan).
There follows in the betting a trio of proper Group 1 horses in Mukhadram (beaten a neck in this last year), The Fugue (triple G1 winner) and Dank (dual G1 winner). It's hard to pick between them - slight preference is for Mukhadram - but I don't need to because I don't believe that any of them have the scope, or the established level of form, of Magician or Treve.
Magician looks, to my eye at least, the clear second best horse in terms of ability, and probably the best suited horse to this particular test. In short, I think he's a decent win bet with a forecast saver Treve on top of Magician. And that's how I'll be playing it.
Prince Of Wales's Stakes Tips
Value against Treve (heretic bet): Magician 5/1 SkyBet
Forecast saver: Treve to beat Magician
4.25 Duke Of Cambridge Stakes (Group 2) 1 Mile
Formerly the Windsor Forest, this race has been my placepot demise on too many occasions. And it looks eminently capable of dashing my dividend again this time around. Gulp.
Duke Of Cambridge Stakes Trends
A new race in 2004, there are now ten years worth of data to consider.
Only three winners won last time out, thought eight were placed 1-2-3 the last day, and all ten were in the first five.
Four year olds have won eight of the ten runnings, though they've accounted for 71% of the runners, so only marginally over-perform.
9/10 ran within the last 60 days
8/10 had won at the mile trip
That would offer a trends shortlist of Annecdote, Esoterique, Integral, Kenhope, Masarah, Princess Loulou, and Purr Along.
Duke Of Cambridge Stakes Form Preview
It's 3/1 the field in a pack of fourteen fillies and mares, half of which are priced up at 20/1 or bigger. On the face of it, then, it's a seven horse race. Indeed, with all ten previous winners having been returned at 14/1 or shorter, it could arguably be a five horse race.
That, of course, is simplistic, but it underlines the sense in starting at the top of the lists, and specifically with Sky Lantern. Winner of the Coronation Stakes at this meeting last year, in emphatic style, Sky Lantern has since scored only once in four starts. That win, though, was also in Group 1 company in the Sun Chariot Stakes, and she is an out and out miler. She does seem to need fast ground and, given the rain staying away, she ought to go close under ideal conditions.
Sir Michael Stoute has won this race three times, and he has a live chance of making it four with Integral, joint favourite at time of writing. Integral has a bit to find with both Sky Lantern and Esoterique, both of whose hind quarters she experienced up close in her last two runs at three. First, she was within a length of Sky Lantern in the aforementioned Sun Chariot; and then she was beaten a head by Esoterique in a nine furlong Group 3.
She's not won in Group 1 company yet, but Sir Michael Stoute is a wizard at improving horses with age. On the book, he'll need his magic wand to be in fine fettle to abracadabra a double reversal of form, but if anyone can, Sir Michael can.
Esoterique is clearly closely pegged to Integral, then, and Andre Fabre brings them over only when they can win. She was second in the French 1000 Guineas last year, but then seemed a step short of top grade thereafter. This being a Group 2, it is a step short of top grade, so she may be well placed, and the way she was still cruising after a mile last time suggests she'll appreciate the drop back in distance. She offers a soupçon of value against the joint-jollies.
It's 12/1 bar three, and that presents an opportunity for each way punters, though it's not easy to choose between Certify, Fiesolana, Purr Along, and L'Amour De Ma Vie.
Certify clearly didn't live up to her previous level of form when fourth of six behind L'Amour De Ma Vie, but her earlier form - unbeaten in five, including in the Group 1 Fillies' Mile - makes her worth chancing at 12/1. A mile on decent ground is what she wants, and she doesn't have much to find with the principles to actually win.
Fiesolana should be cherry ripe after two runs this season, both on ground a good bit softer than she likes. She did most of her winning last year over seven furlongs, but had mile-winning form earlier in her career. Whether she truly stays that far in Group grade is the question, and that's why she's 16/1.
Duke Of Cambridge Stakes Tips
Win selection: Esoterique 4/1 general
Each way alternative: Certify 12/1 general
5.00 Royal Hunt Cup (Class 2 Handicap) 1 Mile
Yikes, a thirty runner straight mile handicap. This really is as tough as it gets, as Belgian Bill - a 33/1 shot - demonstrated last year. At least there are some trends to go at...
Royal Hunt Cup Trends
Winners have come from right across the draw, and being drawn close to the pace may be more important than being high, middle or low.
Ten of the last seventeen winners finished on the podium in their previous start
15 of the last 17 winners were aged four or five. No horse older than six has won in that time, despite 68 trying
Only one horse, from 84 to try, since 1997 has won from a rating higher than 102. Nine of this year's field are rated 103+
16 of the last 17 winners had run their previous race within two months of lining up for the Royal Hunt Cup
That leaves eleven on my shortlist, including favourite Abseil, as well as Pacific Heights, Sea Shanty, Niceofyoutotellme, and Red Avenger.
Royal Hunt Cup Form Preview
With the last four winners returning 12/1 or bigger, this is not a race for the faint hearted. Regardless, there will be plenty keen to back Abseil at around the 5/1 mark. And, twenty-nine rivals notwithstanding, it's easy to see why.
Notably unlucky when missing the break at Chester and staying on to be second, he confirmed the impression of that run by trapping far more professionally and always being well placed to fend off the latecomers at Epsom twelve days ago. He had just half a length to spare at the line, and is just five pounds higher here. It might be that the extra furlong there stretched his stamina somewhat and, if that was the case, then the drift back to a mile here could be in his favour.
Drawn right amongst the pace in stall 22, he has a heck of a lot going for him, if you like that sort of thing.
Personally, I don't like that sort of thing and, having missed the wedding at Epsom, I'd be loathe to attend the funeral - or at least an acrimonious divorce - at Ascot; especially when those generous bookie types are offering 14/1 bar. That doesn't make it too much easier, but it does grant us jam on our bread if we're smart/lucky enough to hit the mark.
Niceofyoutotellme has an interesting profile for this: the son of Hernando won a ten furlong maiden on his three-year-old debut, and was immediately pitched into the King George V Stakes at this meeting after that, over a mile and a half. He didn't get home there, but was able to hit the mark twice more before the season was out, at a mile and three, and then a mile and two.
This season, he's opened up with a win at a mile and one, and here he'll race over the straight mile! One thing is for sure, he'll get the trip all right. Whether he has the pace to sit handy with some very speedy types remains to be seen, but if he does, he looks progressive. A seven pound rise wouldn't make him the best handicapped horse in the field but nor is it draconian for a horse entitled to improve for his first run of 2014. He's drawn right in the thick of it but will need to weave a charmed way through - at least Jim Crowley is a fine man for that task.
So who is the best handicapped horse in the race? Well, as always, it depends on how you measure such things. If you like the disparity between today's rating and the last winning rating as your barometer, then you'll be keen on the chance of Trumpet Major, as I am.
Trumpet Major is a dual Group 2 (and dual Group 3) winner over a mile, and he's dropped eight pounds from his zenith of 114. 106 is still a tough perch from which to win a cavalry charge, but it's a game of relativity, and there aren't many Group 1 or 2 horses in the field, which is the level of competition that TM has been tested against in four of his last six races.
In his most recent two runs, he may not have acted on Kempton's all weather surface on seasonal debut, and he ran a cracker with this surely in mind when fourth to Niceofyoutotellme in a big field nine furlong handicap at Newmarket. He weakened late on there, in the manner of a horse that would prefer a furlong shorter and, lo and behold, that's what he has this time.
He's a 16/1 shot and I can tell you I've already backed him at 20/1 each way when Ladbrokes were offering six places the other day, so obviously I'm keen to make a case for him!
And finally, to save me trying go through all of them, there may be worse each way pokes than 33/1 Tales Of Grimm. He was running on well when fourth in a Listed handicap at York last time, and this straight Ascot mile will place more of an emphasis on stamina. He was fifth over a mile and a quarter in the Group 3 Tercentenary Stakes at the 2012 Royal meeting, and beat French Navy - subsequent winner in Listed and Group 3 fields - last backend. Olivier Peslier is a fascinating booking for Richard Fahey and, though it's a fiendish puzzle, double carpet is surely too big about his chance.
There are hundreds more, almost literally, that I haven't mentioned. That's because it's possible to make a case for almost all of them! So I'll stick with the above.
Royal Hunt Cup Tips
Two against Abseil: Trumpet Major 16/1 bet365 FIVE places / Niceofyoutotellme 16/1 bet365 FIVE places
Bigger priced each way pig in a poke: Tales Of Grimm 33/1 PP
Paddy paying SIX places Royal Hunt Cup
5.35 Sandringham Handicap (Listed) 1 Mile
Another mile handicap, this time for 3yo fillies only, run over the same piste as the Royal Hunt Cup. Although it looks a horrendous wagering challenge, there has actually only been one winner priced at longer than 12/1 since at least 1997.
Sandringham Handicap Trends
Nine of the 56 last time out winners also won this race, netting a profit of 8 units
16 of the last 17 winners came from the top six in the betting
For a race that is 10/1 the field, those are a strong pair of trends, given that there are just six last time out winners in the field, and only three of those are in the first six in the betting.
Sandringham Handicap Form Preview
This is usually won by an upwardly mobile filly en route to Group race success. So it becomes something of a guessing game as regards which horses can make the biggest leaps forward. Muteela and Psychometry are the bookies' favourites to do that, for differing reasons.
Muteela has run three times, and won all three, making all each time. The first two wins were over seven furlongs, and last time out she stepped up to today's distance, leading every yard of the way to a half length victory. It will be hard to dominate a field of 25, with the likes of Qawaasem, Secret Pursuit and Crowley's Law likely to be handily ridden; but Muteela has shown battling qualities when pressed for the lead before and she may prove tough to pass.
Be that as it may, I do think she will be passed, and it might be that Psychometry is one that does that. Sir Michael's latest project for the Niarchos family, Psychometry won her maiden over a mile at Kempton on the last of three juvenile runs.
This season she's been racing over further, and not getting home, in Listed company the last twice. Dropping back a quarter mile looks the right call, and she sneaks in at the bottom of the weights, albeit a pound out of the handicap. That's unlikely to be the difference between success and failure with Ryan Moore doing the heavy lifting; and those Niarchos guys are bidding for a second win in the race in the last three years.
Crowley's Law, as mentioned, may try to force the pace again, as she did to good effect last time. She has been ridden with more restraint previously though, like when bolting up the time before having tracked the speed early on, and that tactical versatility looks sure to be an asset here.
She's progressive, having improved from an initial rating of 77 to a current mark of 99, and she already looks a Group class filly. With a degree of ground agnosticism - won on soft and good - and a trainer that knows how to win at Royal Ascot in Tom Dascombe, she's tempting at 10/1.
Odisseia is bred for a mile, and has won at the range, but was last seen going on at the finish over a mile and a quarter, which would signal a slight concern about reverting to the shorter distance. Nevertheless, trainer Eddie Lynam is respected (won with Sole Power - again - on the opening day) with everything for which he buys a ferry ticket.
Richard Hughes rides Feedyah, a filly with almost as many air miles as her jockey. She's raced in France, Britain and Dubai so far, and running close to Ihtimal the last twice in Meydan looks strong form in the context of this contest. She has a course and distance win (on the round course), so we know she'll act on a track that not all do, and the ground should be fine. At around 16/1 she might be the best each way value.
Sandringham Handicap Tips
Wide open, and tough to pick one above the rest. That said, I like the straightforward progressive winning profile of Crowley's Law, and her tactical flexibility will be an asset here. Feedyah could be interesting at a bigger price.
Top of the market selection: Crowley's Law 10/1 general
Each way play: Feedyah 16/1 general
BetBright, bet365, SkyBet paying FIVE places on Sandringham Handicap
That's all for day two, but don't forget the tipping competition.
It's open to all registered members of geegeez. Registration is free and can be done here.
As well as a cash prize of £100, I'm also throwing in a runner up prize which consists of the Day 1 programme (featuring Toronado and Kingman), the Royal Ascot magazine, and the Royal Ascot media guide.
To enter, just add your tips via the racecards (click the tip icon next to the horse you fancy), select your stake; win or each way; and click 'Tip'. Easy as pie.
You must enter at least ten tips across the five days of Royal Ascot. That could be two a day, five each on Tuesday and Saturday, ten on Saturday, or... well, you get the idea. But at least ten tips.
Higher scorer wins £100 cash. Nice!