Let’s get this out there early – I like the Shergar Cup…
I couldn’t care less about which team of jockeys win but we are presented with six races, all with ten runners so they aren’t too hard to figure out and most races tend to be 3/1 or 4/1 the field so the majority tend to be backable prices.
The twist of course is the jockeys but in every race we should account for the quality of the jockeys. If you think a particular jockey isn’t of the required quality to back you can handicap the horses accordingly. Most years you can probably rule two or three of the ten runners out simply because the jockey has never ridden the course, ridden right handed, etc.
This year the jockey choices are very ‘safe’. The Rest of the World team includes Sean Levey, Andrea Atzeni and Kevin Stott who are hardly strangers to Ascot. The only real wildcard jockey selection seems to be Mickaelle Michel, a 26 year old French rider who has joined the Ladies Team. To be honest I’m not particularly familiar with her skills but you’d think the majority of the jockeys who are riding here week in, week out might have a slight edge on her.
I’m going to change the format of these previews this week and go through all of the races at the Shergar Cup, but in slightly less detail than usual. Hopefully I’ll be able to demonstrate that it can be a punter friendly card!
Unfortunately it is yet another weekend where we are playing guess the going due to an uncertain weather forecast. At the time of writing the ground is good but there are thunderstorms coming. It doesn’t look like a substantial amount is forecast so I’m going to assume good ground, maybe just on the easy side. If anything handles good and slightly softer that would be ideal.
Shergar Cup Preview and Tips
12.50 – Shergar Cup Dash – 5f
The draw isn’t going to have much of an impact at this meeting with the ten runner fields, especially on the straight course with the stalls positioned in the centre. Pace will have an impact in all races so let’s take a look at the pace map for this one.
The first thing to note here is that two of the pace angles, Mokaatil and First Edition, are both reserves for this race and will only get a run if there are non runners. This means King Of Stars may well get an uncontested early lead. It can be difficult to make all on the straight course at Ascot but it is far easier to do so over the minimum trip so don't write off front runners here. King Of Stars will be one that wants the rain to stay away and he’s been beaten off 7lb and 5lb lower marks recently on his favoured ground so whilst he should fare better than at Goodwood, he may be unlikely to take advantage of an easy lead.
Count D’Orsay would be fairly interesting if lots of rain came but he’s been disappointing in two trips to Ascot and it’s possible this isn’t his track.
It is certainly Tis Marvellous’ track.
Pretty much all his best form has come here, he was even 4th in last year’s King’s Stand behind Battaash on ground that was a bit softer than ideal. Having run well here in a big field handicap last month on ground that was again slightly softer than ideal (probably similar to how it will ride here) it was disappointing he wasn’t able to add to his Ascot record last time out when the ground was in his favour. There didn’t seem any excuses that day but there has to be a suspicion that wasn’t him at his best. It would be easy to suggest he’s not been at his best this season but on seasonal debut he was just behind Came From The Dark (now rated 7lbs higher), Garrus (now rated 6lbs higher) and King’s Lynn (now 14lbs higher) and that run came away from Tis Marvellous’ beloved Ascot off a 1lb higher mark. The less rain the better his chance.
Stone Of Destiny is capable on his day but predicting which is his day is becoming increasingly difficult. He has a slightly disappointing strike rate for one of his ability and he’s only placed once from six handicap runs on triple figure marks so he’s opposable enough. He ideally needs a very strongly run race.
Tone The Barone has an impressive strike rate and has won twice over course and distance from three attempts. He’s been off since April for an unknown reason but has won off this sort of absence before. He was in decent enough form before his break (won over 5f and then didn’t stay 6f). Goes on good ground but probably wouldn’t too much rain.
Snazzy Jazzy is well served by deep ground and further so his run over 5f at York on good ground in listed company last time has to be considered very promising. This stiffer track will suit but it probably won’t be stiff enough unless they get a lot of rain.
Desert Safari ran twice at Glorious Goodwood and caught the eye on both occasions. The ground was probably a bit softer than ideal when he ran over 5f and then he found 6f a bit far in the Steward’s Cup. He’s not been the most consistent this season but is definitely in form, it’s just a case of catching him on a going day. He is however still completely unexposed at 5f on turf and unbeaten in that scenario away from soft ground (from one run).
Not the deepest of races and TIS MARVELLOUS ticks an awful lot of boxes. He probably doesn’t need to improve on his last two recent efforts here to take this and he’s tactically flexible. If backing him it may be best to wait until it looks like the ground shouldn't be too bad.
There are a lot of ifs and buts about the rest. Desert Safari and to a slightly lesser extent Stone Of Destiny could go close if on a going day, the former makes more appeal of that pair. Tone The Barone could be a big danger if fit after a break whilst King Of Stars should run well if there is very little rain.
If it was more testing than expected then perhaps Snazzy Jazzy and Count D'Orsay would be the ones to concentrate on as most of the market fancies seem to want decent ground.
1.25 – Shergar Cup Stayers – 2m
Here’s the pace map for this contest, and there isn’t seemingly a whole lot of pace in this race so it may not be a severe stamina test.
Hochfeld looks most likely to go forward with Call My Bluff potentially happy to track the Mark Johnston runner. It would be no surprise to see this develop into a bit of a sprint finish so a stayer with a bit of speed might be best here.
The two most likely pace angles fit that bill to a certain extent but Hochfeld is inconsistent and his better runs this season haven’t really worked out whilst Call My Bluff will want a lot of rain, potentially more than they get.
Uber Cool looks likely to go off favourite. He returned from a whopping 959 day break at Chester in May with a comfortable victory and a long break since (70 days) has presumably been the plan in an attempt to avoid the dreaded bounce factor. The ground doesn’t seem to bother him whichever way it goes and he’s won an impressive seven of his fourteen starts. He’s 4lbs higher than when beating Elegiac in 2018 and that runner quickly went up 10lbs in the rating so he looks well handicapped from that run. He has been beaten three of the four times he’s raced at two miles or further thought, but he has won over this trip at Goodwood (just held on) and this might not be too much of a stamina test, especially if there isn’t lots of rain.
Island Brave won this race last season but that was a shock, he’s 6lbs higher here and hasn’t been in as good form this season. He was 4th in the Northumberland Plate last time out but that was a different surface and the form hasn’t worked out.
East Asia seemingly improved for the switch to turf this season and won three on the trot on ground ranging from soft to good. He isn’t as good on the all weather so is forgiven a flop at Newcastle next time but he bounced back to form over two furlongs shy of this trip on the fastest ground he’s encountered to date. That was a hotter race than this and he should improve for slightly easier ground and the step back up in trip here. He might not be done winning yet and whilst he should be okay on good ground, any more rain will help him further.
Indianapolis is a horse I selected in these previews a couple of weeks back at Newbury and he ran well enough in fifth given he was given too much to do. A return to a more prominent ride should suit and not only has he won at this meeting before, he was also in good form here two starts ago on good to soft ground and the winner and runner up have both come out of that race and run very well. Might not quite be up to winning but looks likely to be in the shake up.
Uber Cool is probably the one to beat but he might not want this to be too much of a test and he’s clearly been difficult to train so has become a riskier betting proposition.
I’s rather back either EAST ASIA or Indianapolis each way with the former making a bit more appeal as a likely winner. I respect Uber Cool enough to probably include him in some forecasts and tricasts with the other pair.
Call My Bluff would definitely be considered on good to soft or worse but even then East Asia is just as comfortable on that ground and possibly still better handicapped so an each way bet on the selection seems a safe play.
2.00 – Shergar Cup Challenge – 12f
Another pace map to look at, this time racing over 12f.
Torcello would be the only guaranteed pace here except he’s not guaranteed as he’s 2nd reserve and needs two non runners to get a run. Restorer did make the running on his penultimate start but normally tracks the pace so Group One Power could be the one who goes on. He has led early on his last three runs at this trip. It seems unlikely they’ll go hard so tactical speed and/or a prominent position could be important.
Sam Cooke had been struggling with keenness in his races but seemed to settle better in a hood last time out and ran his best race for some time as a result. He was a length and a quarter behind Group One Power that day at Chester and is 1lb better off here. He’s run well here before, is still lightly enough raced and has leading form claims. He might not settle if they go a slow gallop though and he'll want a fair bit of rain to fall to be at his absolute best.
Group One Power probably wouldn’t have beaten Sam Cooke last time out had that race been run over this trip instead of half a furlong shorter. He might have gone a little fast early in that race though as the other runners that were prominent early finished 6th, 7th and 10th, so to be beaten just half a length was a sound performance. He should be well placed in this and has run well here before twice. Joe Fanning is probably a lucky jockey draw given he knows very well how to set the fractions from the front.
HMS President ran on Thursday so could be a non runner in this. He ran well in a strong race at Windsor over half a furlong shorter on his penultimate start but didn’t conclusively prove his stamina that day. He’s not badly handicapped and was in good form on Thursday but could be found wanting late on if he does turn up here, for all he’s respected.
Spanish Kiss won a very hot York handicap in May (2nd, 3rd, 5th and 6th have all won since) but he too has won again since, by a wide margin, and now finds himself 16lbs higher. He ran okay here in a decent race a few weeks ago but dropping back in trip might not be ideal plus the handicapper might now have him.
C’Est No Mour seems overpriced given he’s won two of his last three and was a little unlucky last time out. His win at Goodwood in June has worked out well with the runner up and 3rd both winning next time out. C’Est No Mour is only 4lbs higher here but that was over two furlongs further than this. He’s won on anything ranging from good to soft up to good to firm but is probably better on faster ground. He’s fairly handicapped but hasn’t placed in four runs here and his run style may leave him vulnerable here.
Much will depend on the ground here. GROUP ONE POWER is better than the bare result of his last few runs and could get a very easy lead in this for a good front running jockey. If the ground goes to good to soft Sam Cooke would probably be preferred whilst C’Est No Mour will probably be seen running on too late.
2.35 - Shergar Cup Mile – 1m
The pace map for this race, which is on the round course, not the straight course.
Corazon Espinado is the most likely pace angle but he’s a reserve for this and needs two to come out so he’s unlikely to get a run. In his absence Lord Rapscallion could lead but he’s not a guaranteed pace maker. Data Protection often makes the running but he was held up last time out and this is a shorter trip than he usually races over so he might not have the pace to lay up with them here. Vintager often only tracks the pace so he might not add much to the early speed meaning we are probably looking at no better than an even pace.
Dance Fever is the relatively warm favourite after a 3rd place in the much more competitive International Stakes here last time out over 7f. He’s up another 4lbs here, will be racing on slower ground (he’s been kept to very fast ground in his career so far) and has been beaten in both starts over a mile. Hopefully the rain doesn’t cause him to become a non runner because he’s opposable and helps make the market.
Dashing Roger likes to race prominently and enjoys plenty of cut in the ground. He bounced back to form two starts ago, winning at Sandown. He went up 6lbs for that but the runner up has won since. He was 3rd off a 1lb lower mark on good to soft last time out, the winner was 4th in the Golden Mile at Goodwood and the 4th won a competitive handicap there with ease so that was pretty strong form. He’s maybe slightly in the grip of the handicapper now but should run very well again from a decent early position if the word ‘soft’ appears in the going description.
Vintager has hit form in his last couple of starts but he won a fairly poor race at Windsor and then was a little unlucky on his latest start in an average race. If the ground doesn't soften much he could run okay. Of much more interest at a bigger price would be course specialist Raising Sand. He won this race comfortably back in 2017 and has four wins and a further four places at Ascot. It had looked like age had caught up with him until cheekpieces went on in the Buckingham Palace Stakes in June. He was drawn on the wrong side that day but still finished 6th overall and he ‘won’ on his side, finishing ahead of ten other runners. Last time out he ran in the International Stakes and he was 8th, 3rd in his centre group. He’s now 5lbs and 3lbs lower respectively from those races and crucially will get easier ground here. He’s never won on good to firm ground and those recent efforts are probably as well as he’s ever run on fast ground. He's now 12lbs lower than his highest mark (two years ago) and 6lbs below his last winning mark. He's raced more prominently than usual in the cheekpieces and that should help here.
Ouzo ran a very good 4th here in the Royal Hunt Cup and never got a clear run so could be marked up but he was perhaps flattered by racing close to the stands’ side rail that day as that looked easily a career best on ground that would have been plenty fast enough. He didn’t back that up next time out when behind Dashing Roger at Salisbury. He’s only 2lbs higher than when winning at York last season but he needs very soft ground to be at his absolute best.
RAISING SAND looks a pretty obvious one and I’m surprised, given his Ascot record, he’s not much shorter in the betting. Good to soft might be absolutely perfect over this trip but even good ground should be enough for him to go close. On good ground Vintager could be the one who gives him most to do.
If the word ‘soft’ did appear in the going description Dashing Roger would be worth including in a forecast whilst Ouzo would come into the reckoning if it did get very testing.
3.10 – Shergar Cup Classic – 12f
Here's the pace map for this 3yo race.
This could be the most truly run race of the day with three last time out leaders and another that has made the running in one of their last two starts. There are no reserves in this race.
Mark Johnston has a total of three entered in this, including State Of Bliss. That runner ran a blinder in what should be a warm Goodwood handicap but that was his fourth second place in six runs. He’s still lightly raced but is beginning to look like one of those that struggles to get its head in front. Johnston did win this in 2019 with a similar type though. Annandale almost certainly wants further and Harlem Soul needs to bounce back from two poorer runs.
Barn Owl is the early favourite. He scrambled home in a Ripon novice in June but that form has been franked with the runner up, who got 5lbs from Barn Owl, winning a handicap since. That runner up is now rated 82 so Barn Owl probably isn’t badly treated off 84. He looked like this trip might suit when runner up at Sandown on seasonal debut but that didn’t look a strong race and rain probably wouldn’t suit (withdrawn on good to soft at Goodwood).
Possible Man won a decent novice in December but he’s had some limitations exposed since then. He did win last time out off just a 1lb lower mark, just beating State Of Bliss who is 2lbs worse off here so unlikely to reverse form. Stamina doesn’t look guaranteed and he was last of four when facing soft ground so rain is unlikely to help him either. Seems to be one to take on.
Sky Cutter seems quite a tricky type who gives trouble before races. He’s proven over this trip and on ground with some cut in it (he’d probably want lots of rain) and has finished runner up on both starts in the UK, for all the form of those races doesn’t look anything special. He was given an enterprising ride last time out and almost got away with it but he’s likely to have more competition for the lead here. One of the more proven runners at the very least.
Star Calibre couldn’t take advantage of weight for age against elders here last time out over two miles despite having the run of the race and he’s now looking a bit tripless.
Contact is more exposed than a few of these but he has a likeable profile. He enjoyed the step up to this trip at Pontefract, winning by 5.5 lengths, and although raised 8lbs for that he was still a creditable 5th on testing ground at Haydock trying 14f for the first time in what is normally a strong race. The very soft ground that day probably didn’t suit and whilst Contact should enjoy that trip again in the future, a strong gallop at this distance might be perfect for now. A good ride for Mickaelle Michel.
I’m keen to oppose quite a few of those near the head of the market in this one with some form question marks and definitely ground question marks if there is more than a little rain.
Sky Cutter seems solid, especially if the ground softens appreciably, but he needs to step up again on his previous form and he’d have made more appeal if an easier lead looked likely. CONTACT will need a bit of luck in running but if they go hard early as expected it could play into his hands and he’s take to finish fast and late at a decent price. One of the more difficult races though.
3.45 – Shergar Cup Sprint – 6f
The pace map for the final race on the card.
There are a couple of pace angles here so the race should be run at a decent clip. Bowman has looked far better on fast ground (or artificial surfaces) to date so there is the chance he is pulled out after some rain, although he’s been allowed to take his chance on soft ground before so seems likely to run and help set this up for something a little more patiently ridden.
If there is a non runner Crazy Luck would look fairly interesting. He’s shown good form with cut in the ground and bumped into another progressive sort last time out. The main reason for non runners here could be softening ground so the likelihood is if he gets a run, he’ll probably get his ground too.
Slightly unsurprinsgly though the three who are clear in the betting look those open to most progress though.
Royal Scimitar is completely unexposed at sprint trips. He won over 6f on his debut (runner up now rated 110) but raced over further until dropping back to this trip last time out in a hotly contested handicap restricted to 3yos at the July Festival. He’s 5lbs better off with Popmaster having finished a short head behind that rival in 4th but softening ground would be a concern - he’s been a non runner on good to soft and soft this season. He pulled away from his group in that Newmarket handicap in good style, only beaten by much higher drawn rivals, so could be a good thing if the rain stays away.
Popmaster’s best hope of beating Royal Scimitar has to be the rain. He seems pretty versatile with regards to the ground but is arguably better on slightly softer ground, he even ran well on heavy here during the Royal Meeting over what seems to be an inadequate 5f from a poor draw. His form in 6f handicaps reads 32231 and he’s still only 11lbs higher than when bumping into both Rohaan and Diligent Harry in a Lingfield handicap in March, that pair are now rated 25lbs and 20lbs higher respectively. He still looks feasibly handicapped, is very consistent, is proven at the course and won’t mind any rain.
If it does rain heavily Dream Composer is the potential fly in the ointment for Popmaster. He was 2 lengths ahead of Popmaster at Royal Ascot and he’s now 4lbs better off. He may have been much better drawn than Popmaster that day but he actually ended up making his challenge on the same part of the course and finished much more strongly so should be well enough fancied to confirm that form with the extra furlong looking a big positive. He was actually supposed to face Popmaster last time out at Doncaster but was a non runner because of the good to soft ground, perhaps an indication that he wants it really soft. He did seem to enjoy the heavy ground at Ascot after all.
Picking between the three favourites seems quite tricky and it has to be an extremely ground dependent decision. If there is very little rain and the ground is no worse than good then Royal Scimitar could be chanced, but even 4-5mm of rain might be too much for him to show his best as he seems to get on well with very fast ground.
POPMASTER is the least ground dependent of the trio and should run well whatever happens but ground just on the soft side of good could suit him perfectly, especially as it would probably be too slow for Royal Scimitar and too fast for Dream Composer.
On good to soft or worse Dream Composer might be narrowly favoured over Popmaster but even good to soft ground might be deemed too fast for connections of Dream Composer, even if he did win on good to soft at Carlisle earlier this term beating two subsequent winners in the process.
I’ve predicted good ground so I’ll stick with Popmaster but out of all the races on this card this is the one where the slightest going change would sway my decision more than any other so it may pay to wait until closer to the race or until the likely forecast is clearer.