Royal Ascot 2015: Day 3 Preview & Tips
The middle of five days at Royal Ascot, Day Three/Thursday, features the historical showcase event, the Ascot Gold Cup. A Group 1, run over two and a half miles, it is supported by two Group 2's, a Group 3, and two fierce handicaps to end the card. It is NOT for the faint-hearted.
2.30 Norfolk Stakes (Group 3, 5f)
We start with the juvenile colts, over a furious five furlongs. At this stage in their careers, most of these lads will jump from the gate as quickly as they can, and run straight as fast as they can for as far as they can. It will be unsubtle.
A dozen are slated to face the starter and one of that dozen is odds-on. King Of Rooks is his name, and he deserves to be that price on the evidence of his demolition job in the National Stakes at Sandown. There, he had five lengths in hand over Buratino, a horse that has subsequently won both the Listed Woodcote Stakes at Epsom, and Tuesday's Group 2 Coventry Stakes.
The manner of Buratino's wins certainly suggest he has improved for a sixth furlong, and it should also be noted that he fell out of the stalls in the National Stakes. Still, King Of Rooks was a very easy winner, supplementing his previous six length verdict in a Newbury maiden. He's since changed hands and will run in the colours of Al Shaqab Racing, and he'll run very fast in them.
With conditions proven - he even had a debut spin over course and distance - I think he'll probably win, without being an exciting betting proposition.
The one to chase him home is most likely to be the clear second favourite, Log Out Island. As unimaginative as that reads, the reality is that King Of Rooks has much the best form, and Log Out Island has much the second best form. Of course, one of the others could take a big step forward, but I'm expecting the front two in the betting to move up again on what they've shown thus far, too.
Log Out Island has also changed hands - to Godolphin - since he last ran: bolting up over course and distance in his only race to date. Behind him in third that day was Buratino, where that one again showed lethargy from the gate and that he wanted further than five. Richard Hannon trains both of these two but, because of their new owners, neither will be ridden by Richard Hughes.
It is quite difficult to recommend anything else, but for the windmill-tilters, Riflescope could go better than a 50/1 shot. Mark Johnston has already shown this week what a strong group of juveniles he has, and this fellow was all at sea over six last time. Dropped back to five, he's worth a tiny chance to see if he can steal a place at a massive price.
But this looks 'open and shut' material: King Of Rooks to beat Log Out Island. In case I'm wrong, if/when a firm offers money back as a free bet if the favourite wins (Skybet quite likely), I will be backing Log Out Island. Also, Paddy are money back as a free bet if your pick is 2nd or 3rd.
I've had £50 on King Of Rooks with Paddy, and £25 on Log Out Island with Skybet - see below:
3.05 Tercentenary Stakes (Group 3, 1m2f)
Next up, a Group 3 over ten furlongs, and a race in which I've historically struggled to get a toehold. There are fourteen progressive 3yo's, and trying to fathom which has the most to offer on this occasion is tricky.
Strong favourite - and well backed as I write - is Time Test, trained by Roger Charlton. Beautifully bred - by Dubawi out of Passage Of Time (Oaks favourite in 2007, won the Musidora and a Group 1 as a two year old) - this fellow's form ties in very well with Latharnach. That one finished runner up to Gleneagles in a Group 1 on Tuesday, and Time Test has won his only start since, on his 2015 bow.
That last day win was also his first try at ten furlongs, a trip for which he was bred. It was a taking display, with Ryan Moore having to chart a brave and bumpy passage to get from last to first, eventually winning with something in hand. This is obviously tougher, and Frankie Dettori takes over from Moore, but he has a decent chance.
The Royal runner, Peacock, is next in the market. Richard Hannon's Paco Boy colt has been a consistent performer in Listed class, and looked to appreciate the extra furlong when faced with this trip for the first time on his most recent start. That win, going away at the end, is the main cause of hope for his supporters (including HM!) but he has less scope than many here to step forward again.
Depending on how much water goes on the track Wednesday night will inform whether or not to bet Bocca Baciata. I'm sure she's very good - up to winning this - but she'll need it to be no worse than good ground I suspect. Second guessing the artificial irrigation intent of one man is a dangerous game, but with Forgotten Rules, favourite for the Gold Cup, wanting juicy turf, and with it being three days until Saturday's final card (with only a threat of bits of rain), I'd imagine they'll make it good.
That might be enough to bring Jessica Harrington's filly into play. She was a decent fifth of 18 in the Irish 1000 Guineas and, before that solid mile effort, she won a Listed race over this distance. The form of the first race was franked when Pleascach reversed places to win the Guineas, and when Qualify - thumped in the Guineas over an inadequate trip - won the Oaks. 7/1 looks good, assuming good ground.
Ryan Moore rides Bisogno, sorry, Disegno, for his old guv'nor, Sir Michael Stoute. 'Stoutey' won this last year with Cannock Chase, and in 2009 with Glass Harmonium; and he recorded two fifth places with his runners in between.
Disegno is in the same Niarchos family colours as Bocca Baciata, and was only two lengths behind Derby winner, Golden Horn, in the Feilden Stakes at Newmarket in April. He was chinned on the line at Chester subsequently, that race run on unsuitably soft ground, and I expect he'll go very close to winning if his stamina holds out.
As I said at the outset, it's not a race I'm confident about at all, but I'll probably dutch the Niarchos pair for small money, with a saver on the jolly... as lily-livered a betting approach as I can think of!
3.40 Ribblesdale Stakes (Group 2, 1m4f)
A race for the top of the market in recent years, and one in which there is another very strong favourite today. Pleascach won the Irish 1000 Guineas for Bat Sh!t Crazy Bolger (that nickname has been created by Tony Keenan, in the linked post there - well worth a read, really interesting stuff).
Bolger runs his good horses a lot. And he's got no problem with mixing up their trips, as evidenced here. The Guineas is a mile race, the Ribblesdale is a mile and a half race, and prior to winning at the Curragh, Bolger sent Pleascach out to win the Group 3 Blue Wind Stakes over a mile and a quarter!
Let's get to the form book. Pleascach is obviously the class filly in the race, as a Classic winner. But she's not a cinch to get the mile and a half. By Teofilo out of a Thunder Gulch mare, most of the family have been best at ten furlongs. When asked to take odds on with a major unanswered question like that, even about a Classic winner, I have to look elsewhere despite her stand out form claims.
The second choice in the early betting is Pamona, but her form has taken a number of knocks, most notably by her last day conqueror, Crystal Zvezda. I prefer the prospects of the next pair, Gretchen and Curvy.
Gretchen is thrown into the lioness's den off a single previous run, a win naturally enough, in a mile and a half fillies' maiden at Newmarket. The form is working out well, and for Johnny G to pitch her in here she must be considered a very smart filly. Gosden is having a monthus mirabilis in June, and Gretchen - archetypal 'could be anything' material - is worth the chance at 10/1 for a trainer who won this in 2008.
David Wachman's Curvy has maybe been a little under-rated. She beat a conservatively ridden and possibly ring rusty Giovanni Canaletto last time out and was recording a hat-trick in the process. That was her first step into Pattern company, having bagged a pair of handicaps previously, all three of those races being at ten furlongs.
Connections clearly feel she'll stay the extra quarter mile, a feeling upheld by her pedigree (by Galileo, and half-sister to Thakafaat, the 2005 Ribblesdale winner).
[[[[[[ SOME TIME AFTER THIS POINT, AND HAVING WRITTEN ANOTHER 2,600 WORDS, I LOST ALL OF THAT DUE TO A COMPUTER FAILURE. AS A CONSEQUENCE, WHAT NOW FOLLOWS IS AN ABRIDGED VERSION - SOME MAY JUMP FOR JOY! ]]]]]]
With Aidan O'Brien's team in good form this week, Wedding Vow is worth a second chance too. She was disappointing (and had a rare middling ride from Ryan Moore) in the Lingfield Oaks Trial, and is surely better than that - sent off 8/11 there.
No bet for me. A good chance that Pleascach will stay and outclass them, but that chance is more than factored into a best price of even money. Gretchen is the most interesting of the bigger prices, and looks a fair each way bet if you wanted to play.
4.20 Gold Cup (Group 1, 2m4f)
Will they, won't they run Forgotten Rules? Even if they do, the ground will be plenty fast enough for the unbeaten Dermot Weld gelding (Dermot welding?)
Moreover, he has to prove he stays the extra half mile, despite how well he's seen out two miles previously. He's drifted out to 11/4 as I speak, and I think he'd be opposable even with slightly softer ground in such a competitive field.
Mizzou and Vent De Force have a form line that puts them very close together. Sure, Mizzou won that Sagaro Stakes by a couple of lengths but that's only half the story. Vent De Force was squeezed up when making his run, and had cruised into the straight before meeting trouble. Without suggesting the result would have been the other way around, I think they'd have been mighty close.
The Sagaro form showcases the up-and-comers, with VdF's subsequent Henry II Stakes win cementing the impression of that previous day at Ascot. 'Filthy' Luca Cumani claims Mizzou has come on since his 2015 bow and, if so, he might be hard to beat. Note that both this pair also have to prove their stamina for beyond two miles.
French raider, Bathyrhon, showed he stays when a close second in the Prix du Cadran over this trip, but he was beaten by High Jinx there and that is surely not good enough, despite a telling turn of foot. Trainer Pia Brandt, second with L'Amour De Ma Vie in the Duchess Of Cambridge Stakes last year, saddles this one and she admits she's worried about how he will handle the preliminaries.
Talented, but maybe next year.
Top rated is Tac De Boistron, but he's having his first run of the season and would definitely want it softer (0 from 13 on ground with good in the going description). Not this time, Tac.
Aidan O'Brien has won this six times in the last nine years, four of them with the incredible Yeats, whose statue now adorns the parade ring lawn. If that horse dominates the recent roll of honour, it is still impressive that O'Brien has won it with two other horses. Kingfisher bids to add further lustre to that record, and he's an interesting project.
Prior to a 1m6f victory in Listed grade last time, he'd not won since the Dee Stakes last May. In between times, he was down the field in the Derby before running up to Australia in a horribly weak Irish Derby. I respect his trainer hugely, but 10/1 and the recent curse of Pricewise (4 from 91 since April 22nd, according to one twitter bean counter today) is not appealing with a lot to prove in the stamina department and a residual class doubt as well.
Much more appealing at that sort of price is Simenon, winner of two races at Royal Ascot in 2012: the Ascot Stakes on Tuesday, and Queen Alexandra Stakes on Saturday. He was also second in the Gold Cup in 2013; and fourth, beaten just five lengths, last year. The ground will be no issue, and with trainer Willie Mullins having won the Ascot Stakes again this year, he will have a solid handle on where Simenon is form wise.
At the prices, I think Vent De Force is the better bet against Mizzou (though I have already have a good ante post bet on that one at 7's). 9/1 VdF looks a really solid play. And Simenon has been under-rated a little: fifth on his seasonal reappearance over two miles, he'll come on plenty for that. Again, 12/1 is perfectly playable to my eye.
Vent De Force e/w 9/1 general
Simenon e/w 12/1 general
5.00 Britannia Stakes (Class 2 Handicap, 1m)
The three-year-old Royal Hunt Cup. High draws have a slight advantage, but not as marked as in the Hunt Cup (not that it played out that way this year anyway). As such, pace will be the order of the day. If only we had a picture that would make sense of 30 horses' pace preferences. Haha, only kidding. Of course we do, it's called the Geegeez Gold Pace tab. Here's how this one looks based on recent run style history:
[HINT: Click the image to open it full size in another window]
To remind you, 4 means led or on the lead; 3 is prominent; 2 is midfield or in touch; and 1 is held up/in rear, etc. The last four runs are in there, meaning a max score of 16 and min of 4 for four runs.
This picture is sorted by stall number, low to high, and we can see that most of the double-digit total scores - implying the more likely pacey runners - are drawn middle to high. That said, in Rotherwick and Malaf, low has a couple that could push on.
Note also the right hand column (SR). That contains Dr Peter May's marvellous speed ratings, and gives a further indication as to which of these has previously run rapidement.
So far, so confusing? Here's my take: all other things being equal, I'd be happy with a stalker drawn middle to high, I think.
The quickest, according to Dr May's numbers at least, is Resonant. A general 25/1 shot, he stays further than this, has a high draw, and races prominently. He makes my placepot ticket at least.
Frankie's mount is Azraff, trained by Marco Botti, and the Italian connection have plenty in their favour. This one will be played later, and may not have been getting home over ten furlongs (bred for a mile). He's got some class about him.
Talking of class, War Envoy has run in back-to-back Group 1's prior to this engagement, and was only beaten six lengths in the French 2000 Guineas. Trip and ground look fine, so if there is pace on the low side, he must have a big chance. I've taken 18/1 with Skybet paying six places.
And I've been seriously impressed by two who step up in class, Udododontu and Amazour. Both have more to come, which they'll need to win a race like this, both go on the ground, both are drawn low, both have quick speed ratings, and both are 25/1+. Both are therefore subject to small bets from yours truly.
The top of the market has many chances too, notably perhaps Mutarakez and Sahaafy, but I'm not in the business of backing 8/1 shots in prayer mat handicaps.
Good luck if you're playing. I've spread a small amount across Resonant, War Envoy, Udododontu, and Amazour. Prices too tempting to resist, but very little expectation of collecting.
5.35 King George V Stakes (Class 2 Handicap, 1m 4f)
If you're still rolling on what looks an impossible placepot, don't pat yourself on the back just yet, for there is still the small matter of a 19 runner mile and a half handicap contested by similarly unexposed members of the Classic generation.
There's little sense in me pretending I know how this will pan out so I'll share a couple of trends since 1997, and a guess or three.
A top three last time out looks a certainty: 17 of the last 18 winners had that (94% winners/ 92% placers from 72% runners). Sadly that removes just three of the nineteen runners this time.
Those to have recorded a win at the distance won four times from 60 runners, and placed on 21 occasions. That's about par for wins, but well above for placed horses.
One more interesting angle is the performance of maidens in the King George V Stakes. Since 1997, 31 maidens have run in the race, winning four times and placing another three times. The winners were worth a whopping 88 units profit at SP. Alas, there are none in the race this year. Aargh!
At the other end of the spectrum, those with three or more wins have also won four from the last 18 renewals, another five placed, from 39 runners. This year, Yorkidding (who finished fourth last time!) and Quest For Wonder fit that bill.
Yorkidding is a typical Mark Johnston run-every-week sort, and comes here for his fifth race of the year. A winner over the trip, he's also won over a quarter mile further, so he'll stay just fine. I'd imagine Silvestre de Sousa will have him close to the front, meaning he'll have every chance. 20/1 looks fair.
James Tate's Quest For Wonder is quietly progressive, having been in the first two in all six starts to date. The curious thing is that he's only beaten ten rivals in that trio of victories, and he might have been unfairly caned by the 'capper for an eleven length win on soft ground at Brighton. That was Class 5 as well, and this is about as far from that as you get. Still, he's seriously consistent and may have more to come. You can buy his affection for a couple of minutes at 33/1.
Getting away from the trends, such as they are, the one I really quite like is Michael Bell's Taper Tantrum. He ran on really well behind the beast that is Stravagante at Epsom last time, having been hampered at a crucial time; and would otherwise have been a clear second I believe.
He's certainly entitled to come on for the run, is versatile with regards pace, and has the right man aboard for a late bid in Jamie Spencer. Taper Tantrum is 11/1 with BetVictor, and I've had a little bit.
Sir Michael Stoute and Ryan Moore pair up with Dissolution, a horse denied the hat-trick by Time Test last time. That one could nab the Tercentenary earlier in the afternoon, an effort which would seriously advertise this lad's claims.
Elsewhere, another Italian connection, Frankie teaming up this time with 'Filthy' Luca and King Bolete. This Cape Cross colt, out of a Trempolino mare, has been screaming out for a longer range over which to run, and showed the value of that with a going away win last time. The front pair kicked five clear of a fancied Stoute horse so the form looks solid.
I'd expect him to step forward again, and the trainer has reportedly been pleased with his progress since that win.
Before I close, I must mention Scottish, who is expected to run well by the Clan Kingsclere, though they'd have wanted a bit more cut in the ground. A last day winner on just his third start - the second has won since - he'll improve a bundle from there to here, and I hope he runs well.
As you'll be starting to see it's a wide open contest, and not one about which to be bullish. Taper Tantrum is a sporting suggestion, but that aside, this will be "I hope I'm still in the placepot territory" only!