14.06.2022, Royal Ascot, Coroebus (William Buick) wins the St James's Palace Stakes at Ascot racecourse, GB. Photo GALOPPFOTO/Racingfotos.com

Royal Ascot 2024: Day 3 (Thursday) Preview, Tips

Eyes down look in for another full house: seven more devilishly difficult punting puzzles. And, as is the usual way of it during Royal Ascot, it's quality from top to bottom. The feature race of the day is the historic pinnacle of the whole week, the Gold Cup, a Group 1 contested over two and a half miles. Kyprios is a very warm order in his bid to regain a crown he was unable to defend last year. Before that, though, it's the flying juvies in the...

2.30 Norfolk Stakes (5f, Group 2, 2yo)

Presented by John Burke's "Victor Value" service

I’m writing this preview having just watched Electrolyte, my pick in the Coventry Stakes on Tuesday go agonisingly close at 40/1 SP. On we go...

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The Group 2 Norfolk Stakes kicks off Day 3. It’s one of the highlights of the juvenile races at Royal Ascot, specifically showcasing two-year-old sprinters. Originally known as the New Stakes, it has a rich history dating back to 1843. It was renamed in honour of the Duke of Norfolk in 1973. The race has been a stepping stone for many future stars in the sprinting world. Trainers, such as Richard Fahey, Aidan O’Brien and Wesley Ward have had notable success in the race in the past decade.

Horses that have demonstrated early speed and can break well from the gates are often at an advantage in this fast 5-furlong dash.

The race is a 'Win and You're In' race for the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf Sprint.

Key Contenders:

Thirteen colts and geldings and one filly have been declared for this year’s renewal. We have a short- priced favourite in Whistlejacket. The Aidan O’Brien trained colt is a full brother to Little Big Bear who won the Windsor Castle Stakes for Aidan in 2022. Whistlejacket built on a promising racecourse debut when making all to win a Listed race (5f) at the Curragh. He finished 3¾ lengths in front of Arizona Blaze who has since gone onto win a Group 3 (6f), also at the Curragh. It’s hard to see Arizona Blaze reversing places with Whistlejacket.

Big spending Wathnan Racing have a couple of contenders in Shareholder and Aesterius. Shareholder, the choice of retained jockey James Doyle, looked a very well developed juvenile when overcoming greenness to win the Two Year Old Trophy at Beverley 12 days ago. He’s capable of better and should be in the mix. Aesterius knew his job when winning at Bath on his racecourse debut last month: despite being up with the pace all the way the colt was still strong at the finish. He looked a good prospect in victory and can improve further. Trainer Archie Watson went so close in the Coventry Stakes and Aesterius can do the same for him here.

Moving Force battled on well but was just touched off by Shareholder at Beverley. He was trying to give the winner 7lb so it was a good effort, and he can progress again. Trainer Richard Fahey saddled the winner in 2021 & 2022.

Saturday Flirt, trained by Wesley Ward, is the only filly in the line-up. The daughter of Mendelssohn came from off the pace to win at Keeneland (5½ f) on debut in April. She now runs in the colours of Mrs Fitri Hay and must be respected.

Tropical Storm left behind his debut effort when a much improved neck 2nd of 7 to The Actor at Newbury last month. He’ll need to step up again to win his but could well do so.

Norfolk Stakes Verdict:

It’s possible that Whistlejacket will prove much too good for his rivals. However, he’s plenty short enough for me and I prefer the claims of Aesterius, who is a standout 14/1 with Bet365 / William Hill and worth taking each-way.

Betting Advice:
Aesterius £4 each way – 14/1 @ Bet365.



3.05 King George V Stakes (1m4f, Class 2 handicap, 3yo)

Presented by Josh Wright from "Racing To Profit"

I’d be lost without my own trends and stats for these ‘festival’ handicaps and, having already served me well in this year’s Ascot Stakes with a 20/1 winner, hopefully they can help us out here. That’s even more true with a 3YO only handicap where the majority of runners seemingly arrive in decent form and are open to improvement. Let’s dive in…

16/16 were rated OR 95 or lower (0/38, 10p rated higher, small numbers and the placed horses suggest that may fall sooner rather than later, only three runners this year OR96+)

14/14 (of those with a career win) had won at Class 4 level or higher

14/14 (of those with a career win) had won at least once on their last two starts

Applying those pointers would leave us a short list of six…

Going The Distance, Fouroneohfever, Gallantly, City Burglar, Warda Jamila and Naval Force

I should add two further horses, both rated 95 or lower, who’ve yet to win in their career in the UK/Ireland, (my trends ignore form from other racing jurisdictions) … French Duke and Autumn Winter.

I will add one other stat, mainly as it’s a potential negative for City Burglar, but those drawn in stalls 1 or 2 in the period are now 0/30, 3p. I suspect said horses either use up too much gas trying to get a prominent position early, or end up behind a wall of horses as the race hots up. It’s sure to be broken one of these years, though, and not many fancied horses have had a go.

Now we just need to hope the trends profile holds, as that makes our job easier, with eight horses to focus on instead of twenty. Still, assuming the winner is in those eight, landing on the right one is still a challenge!

Where possible I don’t like applying too many trends to form a shortlist but with 15/16 winners being colts, if upholding that would leave Fouroneohfever, Gallantly and City Burglar, and the two who’ve yet to win a race… French Duke and Autumn Winter. All of those finished in the top three last time out which has been a big positive also.

The trainers…

Given racehorse trainers would tend to be creatures of habit, it can pay to focus on those handlers who have previously won said race, as they know the type required to get the job done and this may well have been the target.

The trainers who have won this race in the previous sixteen renewals, are represented by…
- Aidan O’Brien: Chantilly, Gallantly, Gasper De Lemos, Autumn Winter
- Ralph Beckett: Going The Distance, Poniros, City Burglar
- William Haggas: Glided Warrior

Cross-referencing the stats and the trainers gives… Going The Distance, City Burglar, Autumn Winter and Gallantly

For those of you who enjoy solving the puzzle hopefully the above may help.

So, where have my darts landed?

Looking at this race a couple of things strike me: firstly, no horse has yet won on officially Good to Firm ground and only City Burglar has even placed on such a surface, all bar three horses have yet to encounter fast ground – some of these are going to improve for conditions, and that could be a reason for something in here taking a massive step forward, notwithstanding this may be the most frantic gallop most of these have ever experienced.

The Geegeez Pace map suggests this could be frantically run with a few who like to lead and many who like to race prominently and push the pace. We’ll see how it transpires but this may go to a jockey who engages their brain and sits off the early fractions…

French Duke – 9/1 - the first of the two who are yet to win a race, but in this race that sort is 2/8, 3p +185 BFSP, so it’s certainly been no hindrance, and this son of Sea The Stars did all but win when last seen. He’s one of the few in here who could drop in, he’ll need some luck, but William Buick knows his way around this course and distance (5/26, 8p last five years) as does Roger Varian: while he’s only had two runners in this race previously, he’s 5/16, 6p +14 SP with all runners over this track and trip, and the yard are hitting form. French Duke is thoroughly unexposed, should strip fitter for his return run where he may have done too much too soon, and could improve for fast turf and this further step up in trip. I expect him to be running at them late, we’ll see if he gets the gaps.

Autumn Winter – 20/1 - the other one from my list yet to win a race, but Aidan O’Brien knows what’s required, his one winner of this returning 22/1 SP. The booking of Jim Crowley suggests he’s down the pecking order, but he makes handicap debut here after some promising maiden efforts, all in heavy ground. This Galileo colt could well transform for a sounder surface, and a half mile step up in trip. Given the longer race I hope his rider drops him in behind the pace.

Naval Force – 33/1 - one at an even bigger price here for Donnacha O’Brien, who had a group winner at last year’s meeting. There are plenty of unknowns about this son of Churchill also, his first go on faster turf which I think may well suit him, and again a step up in trip to the longest distance he’s faced. Donnacha wouldn’t send him simply for a day out, and he could be a lively outsider in a race where price has been no barrier to success.

Those three darts will do for me in an ultra-competitive handicap. I may not have mentioned the winner, or indeed picked the right ones from the trends list, but they’re the most interesting to my eyes and with any luck they give us something to cheer.


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3.45 Ribblesdale Stakes (1m4f, Group 2, 3yo)

Preview by Matt Bisogno

A Group 2 over the Oaks distance for Classic generation fillies, and a race that Teams Gosden and Ballydoyle have held in a half nelson since 2014. During that decade, only Jessica Harrington (2022) and David Wachman (2015) have encroached upon the duopoly. It may be little surprise then that those two powerhouse yards will saddle five runners between them, three for John and Thady, two for Aidan.

None of that quintet is favoured, however, that honour bestowed upon Diamond Rain, a gorgeous daughter of Shamardal out of Oaks winner Dancing Rain. Trained by Charlie Appleby she was unraced at two and, as a three-year-old this term, is unbeaten in two. The first of that pair of wins was here at a mile, the second a striking saunter in a noted Oaks trial at Newbury, Listed level. She skipped Epsom and steps up two furlongs and two grades to contest this. Drawn inside and a prominent racer last time, she's going to be very hard to beat.

Second in the betting lists is Kalpana, trained by Andrew Balding for Juddmonte. She's another who didn't race as a juvenile, but has had four spins in 2024 starting with a neck verdict at Wolverhampton in January. She then bumped into the very smart Inisherin (6th in the 2000 Guineas and now favourite for the Commonwealth Cup on Friday) over a mile at Newcastle before winning a nine-runner Newmarket handicap by ten lengths. Ten! Upped to Listed class last time, over the same ten furlong course and distance as her handicap stroll, she pulled a dozen lengths clear of the third but couldn't quite reel in Friendly Soul.

Aidan's pair are Port Fairy and Rubies Are Red. The former was just caught by the re-opposing Forest Fairy in the Cheshire Oaks last time; while Port F hasn't run since, Forest F rocked up in the Oaks, finishing 17 lengths behind the winner. That doesn't look like Ribblesdale-winning form even allowing for maybe not handling the track that day. Rubies Are Red was even further back at Epsom and is now a four race maiden, though she did run a solid race in the Lingfield Oaks Trial when second.

Best of the three Oaks fillies to contest this was You Got To Me, who finished fourth. She'd previously won half a length in the Lingfield Oaks Trial, a run that puts her close to Rubies Are Red. I think Ralph Beckett's filly is the better but I'm not totally sold on her stamina.

In third at Lingfield was Danielle, for the Gosdens. That is the best of her four efforts to date and she'd need to improve a stone to win. John and Thady also send Siyola, a twice-raced debut winner who ran third behind Diamond Rain in the Newbury Listed race. She was a bit keen in the race that day and, with this bigger field offering prospects of a bit of cover and settling better, she might be able to get closer to the winner there this time; they are both open to plenty of improvement.

Queens Fort rounds out the Clarehaven Stables trio. Another twice-raced filly, she was fourth in a mile and a quarter maiden here on her first run before taking a mile and a half maiden on the all-weather at Lingfield last time. It's a quantum leap from that to this but she's a Galileo out of a smart mare so she, too, could improve again (and she, too, will need to).

Lava Stream is a different model altogether. Trained by David O'Meara she's had six runs, losing the first three and winning the most recent three. Although not obviously bred for this far - by Too Darn Hot - there is stamina on the dam's side and she needed all of the ten furlongs to prevail at Goodwood last time in Listed class. She's a bit of a 'now' filly, improving fast this season, and I quite like her as a late runner to get into the frame. I can't make a case for any of Je Zous, Higher Leaves or Sheema's Rose, which is not to say they won't win of course.

From a betting perspective, she's not much of a price but 13/8 DIAMOND RAIN has looked all class in two starts to date. There's a very good chance she'll take this further step up - in class and distance - in her ample stride. In the each way markets, I can't resist a small play on 25/1 Lava Stream who was doing all her best work at the finish last time and looks deceptively progressive.


4.25 Gold Cup (2m4f, Group 1, 4yo+)

Preview by Rory Delargy

Some races are easier to analyse than others, and some are a nightmare, with little form to tie the contestants together. The Gold Cup falls into the first category but is no less intriguing for all that most of the major contenders have intertwined form. The best horse in the contest based on historical form is the 2022 winner Kyprios, but whether you judge him on that form or his runs since returning from an injury last autumn is the key debate to have.

Based on that stellar season where he racked up a series of Group 1 wins, including a career-highlight in the Prix du Cadran which he won by 20 lengths despite literally going walkabout in the closing stages, he will be hard to beat, and his odds are predicated on the notion that he’s as good as ever.

It is possible to argue that two workmanlike wins against inferior rivals this term are a fair bit short of the form he showed then, and he was turned over in the Long Distance Cup by Trawlerman on British Champions Day. The excuses that day were that he had an interrupted prep and that Frankie Dettori outrode Ryan Moore tactically, and there is some merit in both, but excuses are just that. Trawlerman won at level weights when the pair clashed last year and the Godolphin horse has improved markedly in the last 18 months, as shown by his latest third in the Dubai Gold Cup, a race he was well beaten in twelve months prior, before winning all three starts on British soil.

Winner of the 2022 Ebor, Trawlerman showed his liking for Ascot with a close third in the Long Distance Cup later that year, and his British form in the last two years has been progressive since being fitted with a hood, with form figures on home soil reading 113111. He failed to fire in the Middle East last year so his third to Tower Of London in the Dubai Gold Cup was encouraging, especially as he rallied late having been headed. The key feature of his win here on Champions Day was that he also rallied to regain the lead having been headed by Kyprios in the home straight, and he gives the impression that he will be even better suited by the longer trip of the Gold Cup.

I don’t really get why Trawlerman’s stablemate Gregory is a shorter price than him, with his best effort a win in the Queen’s Vase here last year. He’s lost all three subsequent starts by the guts of five lengths each time and while he may appreciate the longer trip, he needs to improve by 7lb to match the leading pair and I'm less convinced than others that he will relish the step up from 1¾m to 2½m at the first try. Vauban was in front of him in the Yorkshire Cup last time, but doesn’t look to be crying out for a stiffer test, and his win here last year was in handicap company over 1¾m which leaves him with a bit to find. It’s a similar story for last year’s Ebor runner-up Sweet William, who does at least hold Caius Chorister on Henry II Stakes form at Sandown.

Coltrane beat Caius Chorister the same narrow margin as Sweet William did when winning the Sagaro Stakes here and there is little between the trio, who have place claims but seem held on collateral form. Ironically, Trueshan proved he didn’t need softish ground when winning the Prix du Cadran last year and he also beat Sweet William at Doncaster prior to that. He could outrun his lengthy odds if allowed to run, for all his participation must be in doubt given previous late withdrawals from this race.

Recommended: 1pt e/w Trawlerman @ 8/1 (general – 3 places)




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5.05 Britannia Stakes (1m, Class 2 handicap, 3yo)

Presented by Gavin Priestley's "Festival Trends" service

There are some very strong trends associated with the Britannia handicap and hopefully they can narrow down the field sufficiently to help us find the winner. I'm going to ignore the result for 2020, due to the Covid outbreak, as Royal Ascot was run out of order with some of the major meetings that year and without the usual build up to the race for these 3yo's.

The most striking stat from the last 12 non-Covid renewals is that they had all finished top five on their last run (71 losers finishing 6th or worse last time out).

Looking at some other stats we can see that all of the last 12 winners had run in the previous nine weeks (63 days) with all 28 horses trying to defy such a break beaten (just two placed). Other types of runners that we can overlook in the Britannia include those dropping down in trip compared to their last run (55 losers in the last 12 years), those that last ran on the all-weather (34 losers / 4 placed), those that last ran in a maiden (all 17 such runners unplaced) and any rated under 87 or carrying less than 8-04 (all ten unplaced).

Unfortunately, this year those trends don't help us too much with only a handful of runners ruled out; but if we look at the other end of the weights we can see that only one winner has managed to carry more than 9-03 and only one winner has managed to defy a rating of 100+ (Aidan O'Brien's War Envoy in 2015) from the 55 to have tried over the last 12 years. In fact, since War Envoy won in 2015, all eight winners have been rated in the 90's (three of the eight were rated exactly 90).

A typical Britannia winner is also fairly lightly raced with ten of the last 12 winners having raced 3-6 times in their career and when coupled with what has been a fairly significant draw bias in the Britannia (high numbers have dominated this century including nine of the last 10 winners coming from a double figure draw) this would take us down to a shortlist of five: Involvement, Qirat, Artic Thunder, Mickley and Skukuza.

Of the five I quite like the look of ARTIC THUNDER who two starts back got within three lengths of the subsequent 2000 Guineas winner Notable Speech (didn't run his race in yesterday's St James Palace) at level weights, leading that race until the final furlong. He showed that performance was no fluke when going to Ascot to win a Class 2 handicap by a short head with the third horse 3 1/2 lengths back and, despite going up 7lb, could still be well in going by that Kempton run.

The step back up to a mile shouldn't be a problem as he was sticking on well at Ascot and always looked to have the measure of the runner up. It's a big field of mostly unexposed 3yo handicappers but his trainer did win this race in 2014 and the selection seems to fit the profile of a typical Britannia winner. He's worth chancing at the odds.



5.40 Hampton Court Stakes (1m2f, Group 3, 3yo)

Preview by David Massey

The only winning favourite in the last five years for the Hampton Court Stakes has been Mohaafeth, who had been due to run in the Derby before a last-minute injury kept him away from the race; but, equally, the biggest-priced winner in that period has been 7-1, which both Claymore (when defeating the long odds-on Reach for The Moon) and Waipiro were when winning in 2022 and 2023 respectively.

So we don’t usually have to look too far down the market to find the winner, and we might not have to look far at all if the fast-improving King’s Gambit takes another step forward after his easy Newbury win last time out.

It was hard not to be impressed with the manner of that win, showing a very smart turn of foot after being produced at the furlong pole, and the way he powered on to pull four lengths clear of the improving Poniros, with previous winner Chantilly back in third, was impressive.

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The fact that connections weren’t trying to win clever with him rather suggested that further handicaps weren’t on their minds anyway: just as well as he received a 14lb fine for it, but rather that they knew they have a Group horse on their hands and one that will be stepping up in grade sooner rather than later.

All the metrics of that win stack up, form and time figures both impressive, and now he’s proven himself on quicker ground, it’s hard to find many negatives to his chance.

Technically speaking, First Look’s second in the Prix du Jockey Club is a better piece of form but all of his turf form to date has come on ground no quicker than good, according to Timeform, and by Thursday it’s going to be very quick. (I can tell you from walking the course Tuesday morning there’s no give out there, and it’s only going to get quicker.) That has to be a concern, and for all he’s respected, King’s Gambit looks the better option.

Taraj changed hands for a pretty penny earlier in the week, with Amo Racing going to £480,000 to get him on Monday, and they will be looking for an immediate return. His third to Los Angeles in the Leopardstown Derby Trial reads well enough, but it needs improving upon.

You can, if you are the forgiving sort, make some sort of case for Jayarebe from the outside stall 12, which might suit his front-running style given there's not that much pace on here. He looked a useful sort when winning the Feilden Stakes back in April, for all that Newmarket was suiting front-runners at the time, and it’s worth remembering he had Derby second Ambiente Friendly behind him that day. He ran to a similar level at Chester in the Dee Stakes despite pulling too hard for his own good for the first half of the contest; the key will be getting him to settle in front and saving something for the final stages. Both Brian Meehan and Sean Levey are off the mark for the week, and of those at double-figure prices, he makes a bit more appeal than most.


6.15 Buckingham Palace Stakes (7f, Class 2 handicap, 3yo+)

Presented by Sam Darby's "Winning Post Profits" service

I write this before any races have been run on Wednesday so it’s possible that, 13 races later when it’s time for the Buckingham Palace Stakes, there could be a fairly obvious draw bias. Despite being a little in the dark I’m relatively confident I know which side is going to be favoured here, and it’s not the side most of the market leaders have been drawn on…



Higher draws do have a better record over 7f here on fast ground but, quite remarkably, the main three pace angles in this race - and possibly the only three pace angles - will be emerging from stalls 1, 2 and 3. Arabian Storm is shown on the pace map as a potential leader from stall 15 but he’s a reserve and probably won’t get in.

Perhaps the ground will be faster on the near side by the time this race comes around and high draws might be favoured but it seems the lower drawn horses are going to get a much better tow into the race and I’m therefore largely attracted to lowish drawn hold up performers.

I do want to have Fresh on my side despite him exiting stall 30. He’s a three-time course winner and has also finished a close 2nd in the Wokingham previously. He might be a little regressive now at the age of 7, which is why he’s so well handicapped on older form (10lbs lower than his last win) but I’m a sucker for horses that perform very well in far from ideal circumstances (which he did), as it’s pretty certain they’ll run even better when getting the ideal setup.

He’s been slow to come to hand this season but he showed much more of his old sparkle last time at Haydock in a steadily run race over 6f where he was only beaten 1.5 lengths, and very much shaped as though a stiffer test would suit. If all the pace was on the near side I’d be having a hefty each way bet on Fresh but I think, in the circumstances, a small win only bet will suffice. Assuming he is drawn on the wrong side, he should be monitored in the near future as I think his turn is approaching.

The horses more likely to be well handicapped all seem to be drawn higher so I wouldn’t be surprised if the places are filled with big prices from the lower half of the draw. I was tempted by Greatgadian at 40/1, who might love a really well run 7f handicap having done most of his racing over further. He would have been a bet on his all-weather form but he does seem a better horse on artificial surfaces and for that reason I’ll leave him out of calculations from stall 4.

I’ve been watching Summerghand find the run of the race against him time and time again this season and the old boy has become extremely well handicapped again. He would have been my bet in the Wokingham had he looked likely to get in but the big question mark here is the trip. He’s always been a 6f specialist, though he was stepped up to 7f last time out at Newmarket and, because of his sole previous effort over this trip in the UK, I thought he had half a chance in that.

All the way back in 2019, Summerghand was 4th of 17 in soft ground in the Challenge Cup here off a mark of 102. Given he’s better on faster ground, that was an excellent effort and seemed to confirm that he gets 7f. But he got disappointingly outpaced last time at Newmarket though over the 7f trip and, whilst he finished well, he was never getting near the leaders. He’ll likely be better at this course but considering the winner was in a similar position to him about 3f out, the pace setup can’t be blamed for Summerghand’s performance there.

Still, I’m not sure the Rowley Mile course suits him so much these days so at 33/1 I’m willing to give him the benefit of the doubt slightly here from stall 13. He’s finished 2nd once, and 5th twice, in the Wokingham and he’s always been strong at the finish in those so must have some sort of chance from his lowest mark in over six years. If this isn't to be his day - he tends to show his very best form around August time - I expect him to take advantage of his slipping mark very soon.

Tacarib Bay has run in three handicaps at Ascot: he was 2nd to Tempus over a mile two years ago off a mark of 106; in the same year he was 3rd in the Balmoral off 104; and he was 6th (1st of 14 in his group) in last year’s renewal of this race off a mark of 103. All three of those runs make him look well handicapped off 99 here.

As recently as November he won a Listed sprint at Newcastle and, again over 6f at Newcastle in January, he was 5th off 106 in a hot handicap. He hasn’t beaten many home in three starts this season but headgear goes back on now suggesting this is either a bit of a plot, or a last roll of the dice. From stall 10, at 40/1, I’m willing to pay to find out.

In summary, the positioning of the pace makes the low draws too difficult to ignore. The more fancied runners mostly seem to be drawn high and I like the chances of Fresh on that side so I’m recommending a small win only bet on him (top price 20/1 at time of writing, similar available on Exchanges). I think low drawn horses at big prices could dominate the finish, though, and I’ll have further small win only bets on Summerghand (33/1) and Tacarib Bay (40/1). Low confidence, but saving stakes for a winner on Friday!

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Hoping your Gold Cup day wagering will be fun and profitable. It should definitely be the first one but if it's not the second, there's always tomorrow...


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