A big weekend of racing precedes a big week of racing, as Ascot's King George day comes just 72 hours before Glorious Goodwood's gates open. There are eight races live on Channel 4, and I've taken a look at four of the most interesting from a betting perspective below, starting in the...
A ten furlong Group 2 is the first event to come under scrutiny, and with no rain forecast it looks set to be played out on a fast racing surface.
Danadana is a pretty good place to start. Luca Cumani's Dubawi colt has won five of his sixteen career starts, all over this mile and a quarter range, all on good or faster, and one on this track. Indeed, his form under those conditions (10 furlongs, good or quicker) reads 1211911. The 9 was in an 19 runner handicap at Glorious Goodwood.
As if that wasn't enough in Danadana's favour, he looks likely to be able to make his own running here, with no obvious pace contention; and he has the considerable support of wonder boy, Andrea Atzeni, in the saddle. He's rated just a pound below the pick of these, on 113 and, while the trainer has expressed a slight reservation about his absence of 79 days, Danadana has won both times he's faced a sound surface after a break of 60 days or more.
In short, I think he's a solid bet at 5/1.
Against him are a number of credible challengers, notably the Godolphin pair of Long John and Windhoek. The former is having only his second start in Britain, via Australia and Dubai, and was staying on over a mile last time. That far from makes him certain to stay an extra 25% though, and all his best form is up to a mile (stuffed the only two times he's run at ten furlongs).
The latter is a ten furlong fast ground horse, and comes here in good heart. But he's never won above Listed grade, so this is two rungs up a steep ladder. In beating a field last time all bar one of which were rated 106 or below, he achieved little more than he should, and he looks under-priced.
All three of Secret Gesture's wins have been against her own sex, and she looks to have a bit to find with some robust fellows; while Sheikhzayedroad is also stepping up two rungs on the class ladder and has been found out on previous attempts at this level. He may need a bit more pace to run at too.
I reckon 'Filthy' Luca can claim his second win in this race since 2010, courtesy of Danadana at 5/1 (general).
The state of the turf is a bit more of a guessing game at Ascot, and I'm plumping for good to soft, possibly good in places. In short, I think these seven furlongs will take a good bit of getting, and I don't think it will pay to be too far off the pace.
There are 29 of them engaged, prior to the inevitable absentee reshuffle, but we'll be playing for at least four places and most firms are going five. The first question to answer - or the second after the ground guessing game - is where is the pace berthed?
This looks fairly cut and dried according to the geegeez pace map for the race - it's stacked middle to high - and I'd imagine the winner will also emerge from that mob, towed along by the current of prominent racers.
Those suited by seven furlongs (a bit of a specialist trip), big fields, good or good to soft ground, and Class 2 are Watchable, Majestic Moon, Pacific Heights, Dance And Dance, and Racy. All of that quintet are double figure prices, and I couldn't put you off any of them, especially as all bar Racy are drawn in the pace zone.
The one I like most in a very trappy scrap is David O'Meara's young improver, Watchable. The Channel 4 boys just love banging on about O'Meara, and I reckon they'll have reason to shove a mike under the ginger wizard's nose once more. The case for Watchable is predicated on promise: in just five runs to date, he's only been out of the first three once - and that was on heavy ground.
Last time out he was third of 28 in the Buckingham Palace Stakes, a ferocious handicap over this course and distance. Danny Tudhope is replaced for the first time by Richard Hughes, and all the signs are that this young lad could add a heritage handicap to his palmarès before July is out.
At bigger prices, and far longer in the tooth than young master Watchable, are the likes of Pacific Heights. This five year old is fairly unfussed by ground - he's won on soft, good to soft, and good to firm - and he's a seven furlong nag that gets the mile well enough. He's run over further the last twice, and ran respectably on both occasions, in no less than the Royal Hunt Cup and the John Smith's Cup.
That form brings him into contention back over a more viable distance and from a plum draw in 18. He'll hopefully be gunned half a pace closer to the driver's cab than normal, and 66/1 is absolutely massive.
Majestic Moon is another for whom seven on the soft side of good is optimal, though I have a slight niggle about whether he's quite up to this. He may very well lead, and that looks to be a tough assignment with anywhere up to 28 rivals chasing his tail.
Dance And Dance is one of those expensive types to follow: always running on when the game's gone. He'll be doing likewise here, but the drop back in trip hardly looks the answer for a latecomer such as he. Indeed a look at his seven furlong form is instructive: "strong run to take 2nd but no chance with easy winner"; "ran on well, not reach leaders"; "stayed on one pace"; etc. It might be his day this day, but he's a heartbreaker, this lad, plain and simple.
It's Watchable from the top of the market (11/1 PP) and Pacific Heights (66/1 888sport, Coral) at monster odds, both each way five places, for me.
The Skybet Dash is a six furlong Class 2 handicap, and some dear old friends reunite for another shemozzle. Muthmir is favourite, at about 5/1, and he has claims. Making his belated seasonal debut at the end of last month, Muthmir was just a neck shy of winning a class and distance handicap, and while an elevation of six pounds is not lenient, it is not especially harsh either.
He'll be fitter this time, and is the one to beat, albeit hardly a bargain in a competitive field of seasoned pros.
Against him, there may be value in the price of the three-year-old, See The Sun. His ten career starts to date have yielded three wins, including on good to firm, and over six furlongs (twice). His most recent triumph was here in a field of twenty over this trip and in this grade. Just seven pounds higher than for that victory, and with a highly respectable run the last day on Newmarket's sodden July course, he's tempting at 20/1.
At bigger prices, I'm vaguely drawn to the prospects of Rene Mathis. This is his trip and class and, though it might be quick enough for him, he has made the frame three times on good to firm. 22/1 makes him worth a chance.
Not a race I'll be getting stuck into but See The Sun (20/1 SkyBet, Coral) and Rene Mathis (22/1 BetVictor) are interesting alternatives to Muthmir (11/2 BetVictor, PP, Lads).
The King George is the feature event of the weekend, a mile and a half Group 1 for three year olds and up. The likely going will not be ideal for some, but if it is on the soft side of good, most should stand their ground. At least, I hope they do.
Telescope is the market leader, and Sir Michael Stoute's four year old has begun to point more firmly to the quality that has long been associated with him. His seven length demolition of Hillstar in the Group 2 Hardwicke Stakes at Royal Ascot was impressive; and the soft ground he encountered in both defeats to Noble Mission earlier in the season are excusable.
I think he's a smart horse, and I love the way Sir Michael brings them along with age. He has a fine chance to win, but he does finish second in a lot of races, and 5/2 is a bit short in such a decent line up.
Oaks winner Taghrouda gets the weight and sex allowances, and she's a progressive filly for sure. There was no fluke about that Epsom romp, and good ground will be perfect for her. I doubt a bit more juice than good will be a concern either, so she's a shortlist contender with the prospect of a fair bit more to come. But fillies don't have a fantastic record in the race, with just Danedream claiming the spoils this century. Of course, they're numerically under-represented and it's far from a terminal knock.
Gosden has Eagle Top in here too - as well as Romsdal - and this son of Pivotal, out of an In The Wings mare, has a rating of 118 after just three runs. Given his breeding, he should handle soft ground dancing the can can, but the fact he's yet to race on softer than good still leaves a bit of a question mark, especially when one considers how impressive he was when romping away with the Group 2 King Edward VII at Royal Ascot on good to firm.
Still, he is rated six pounds inferior to the top rated older horse and, because of his age, he gets a weight pull of almost a stone. Despite the four year olds historically having the upper hand against their juniors, I like this boyo. He travelled liked an absolute machine at Ascot last time, and with so much more to come he can surely usurp his elders.
Magician is stepping back up to a mile and a half for the first time since given plenty to do in the Dubai Golden Shaheen. Prior to that, he'd won the Breeders' Cup Turf over the trip, mugging Johnny G's The Fugue in the process. Fast ground is optimal for him, and I'd not be certain that he'll be as effective with a spot more squeeze in the lawn. There are no worries about the distance though, and he's a dual Group 1 winner already.
Trading Leather was second to Novellist in this race last year, but that was on his preferred good to firm. He does act on slower, but he's not best suited by it, and I think this may be one of the rare occasions when Jim Bolger's ultra-consistent son of Teofilo fails to make the frame.
Likewise, Mukhadram will not be allowed the rope he was gifted in the Eclipse, and anyway he is very far from certain to appreciate this first try at twelve furlongs. Not for me, not in this deep field.
Romsdal is more interesting given his guaranteed stamina and ground agnosticism. After just four runs, he's the third of Gosden's musketeers to have vast scope to demonstrate more than is currently in the good book, but perhaps that bronze behind Australia in the Derby doesn't read quite so well as Taghrooda's Oaks win. It reads better at this stage than Eagle Top's Royal Ascot victory, but it's hard to crab the winner of that: he was in a different constituency to his rivals, and has course and distance form nailed down.
Let's hope they all stand their ground, because if they do - despite the early defection of Flintshire - it looks a fizzer of a King George. Telescope is respected but short enough on the basis of his more exposed look. That's not to say he can't improve - many Stoutey's do at four - but he surely doesn't have the untapped potential of Taghrooda or Eagle Top.
At the prices, Eagle Top is the one for me. Course and distance form, a perceived liking for a spot of give, and any amount of talent yet to be revealed make 9/2 attractive, relatively at least. Most of these can win this, but if any is over-priced (and I'm not sure they currently are), then it's probably Eagle Top.