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Royal Ascot 2018: Day 3 Preview, Tips

Two down, three to go, and humpback day at Royal Ascot, also known as Ladies' Day, features the centrepiece of the entire week, the Gold Cup. That stayers' Group 1 looks an excellent renewal, though wagering there - and indeed throughout the Thursday card - provides pitfalls aplenty. No matter, for on the day when lassies don their finery, rarely was it truer that faint heart never won fair maiden. So let's have a crack! We kick off in the...

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

A shortish field of ten, though not hugely out of keeping with recent tradition. A few interesting patterns - let's call them trends - have emerged, as follows:

- All bar one of the last 15 winners had a pre-race RPR of at least 106. Only Vintage Brut, Konchek and Land Force fit that bill

- Six of the last ten winners were by US sires. Just Pocket Dynamo, Shang Shang Shang and Land Force tick this box

Land Force is of clear interest on this basis, then. But... he was beaten last time out, over six furlongs, and has never won at the minimum. Those are both negatives in the context of the trends. And yet I still want to be with this son of No Nay Never, the 2013 Norfolk winner. He showed good speed in the Listed Marble Stakes last time, only fading in the last furlong or so.

The other to catch my eye in a race where they'll pretty much all move forward on what they've demonstrated to date is Pocket Dynamo. The Robert Cowell-trained son of US stallion Dialed In is that sire's first British runner as far as I can tell. He was second in a Brighton maiden on debut - hardly Royal Ascot form, though the winner and third have won since - before showing more in winning a Chelmsford novice and then a quite valuable conditions race at Longchamp. He was tenacious in victory there, is more experienced than many and, with an RPR of 105, falls just one note short of ticking both my trendy boxes above. He's 20/1.

Wesley Ward's Shang Shang Shang is the favourite, and could win. In truth I don't know much about the horse, but I do know his trainer is 'only' one from six in the Norfolk, the solitary victor being the aforementioned No Nay Never. Four of his other runners were sent off bigger than NNN's 4/1 SP, with a number of them drifting notably on the day. Keep an eye on the market if you want to back this lady.

Vintage Brut and Konchek represent the Listed National Stakes form, running 1-3 there, and Racing Post consider it the best form in the race allotting them the top two RPR's. Vintage Brut had the favoured rail draw that night at Sandown, whereas Konchek was drawn wide and carried wider before rattling home. Clive Cox's colt must have a great chance to turn the tables on this fairer strip.

But I'll take Land Force and Pocket Dynamo at double digit odds against the field.

3.05 Hampton Court Stakes (Group 3, 1m 2f, 3yo)

The first of four races restricted to three-year-olds on day three is the Hampton Court Stakes. Such races are not really my thing, as I struggle to assimilate what horses have achieved with what they might be capable of doing. Today's preview will be lighter than usual on that basis, and should be taken more lightly also (unless I get all six winners, in which case I meant it, and I hope you backed them all!!)

Although only a Group 3, three of the last four winners - Cannock Chase, Hawkbill and Benbatl - went on to Group 1 glory. The other in that recent quartet, Time Test, was G1 placed on multiple occasions.

Godolphin have won the last two, and they own the early favourite for the 2018 renewal, Key Victory. A winner of his first two starts, he was beaten only three lengths in the French Derby last time. This will be his third run since the beginning of May and, if William Buick can hold a position, he should run well: the worry is that he might encounter traffic problems in this big field around the tight Ascot bends.

Charlie Appleby saddles Key Victory, and also Nordic Lights. This son of German stallion, Intello, was unraced as a juvenile and encountered defeat for the first time in the Dante Stakes at York. Disregarding the facile winner there, he was only a length and a half off second and should progress again. James Doyle rides.

Rounding out the Godolphin triumvirate is Saeed bin Suroor's National Army, who leaps up in grade after winning a novice stakes on debut at the start of the month. He beat fourteen rivals in a fair time and the second home has since bolted up in a similar race. Christophe Soumillon is an interesting jockey booking for a completely unexposed colt with a potentially good draw (if not held up).

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Lots more unexposed types where your guess is as good as mine, but one other worth a quick mention is Mini P. Second in a Newbury maiden over this trip on his only start, his trainer Brian Meehan normally knows what he has and is capable of producing big priced surprises.

But, honestly, I haven't a clue.

3.40 Ribblesdale Stakes (Group 2, 1m4f, 3yo fillies)

The Ascot Oaks. Ten more unexposed three-year-olds, some of whom ran in the Oaks at Epsom and some who did not. WILD ILLUSION is the clear form pick. She was fourth in the 1000 Guineas and second in the Oaks, clear of the third there. With no Forever Together to fret about here, a repeat of that Classic run gives her daylight over her rivals that day, though it could be argued that the well beaten and re-opposing Magic Wand didn't handle the track.

Of the rest, Sir Michael Stoute's novice stakes winner, Sun Maiden, looks the main danger. She won that little race by fully twelve lengths and in a fair time. It would be no shock if this typically beautifully-bred Juddmonte filly (Frankel half-sister to multiple Group 1 winner, Midday) prevailed but 3/1 doesn't set the pulse racing.

The likes of Musidora second, Dancing Brave Bear, and Johnny G's Highgarden are interesting projects for the season, but this looks a really good chance for the twice Classic-placed Wild Illusion.

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

A super race in prospect even in the absence of last year's winner, Big Orange. The field is headed by the 2016 champ, Order Of St George, pipped by Big Orange in his repeat bid last term; and last year's Queen's Vase winner, Stradivarius, who went on to beat Big Orange at Goodwood. Further spice is added to the pot by the presence of French staying superstar, Vazirabad, himself a triple Group 1 winner.

In such a race as this we need to consider more than merely the respective form credentials of the field: pace is a key component. Last year, Big Orange was gifted a lead early in the race that he never relinquished, fending off the desperate late rally of Order Of St George and Ryan Moore in the dying strides.

Order Of St George is one of those hide behind the sofa horses. He has obvious class and stamina, but he gets beaten when he probably shouldn't a little too often for comfort. Although winning eleven of the twenty stakes races in which he's competed, he's been beaten at odds on in four of them, including at 1/7. Ouch. He was a little workmanlike last time in a Listed race but that was a prep for this. He may well win and good luck if you want 7/4 about that. I do not.

Stradivarius is the other vying for market leadership. As well as the Queen's Vase and Goodwood Cup, he was a very close third in the St Leger and Long Distance Cup in a terrific three-year-old season. He looked better than ever when bolting up in the Yorkshire Cup on his seasonal bow for this campaign, and could be the champion stayer in 2018. He does have to prove his stamina for this longer trip, something which is not a given for all that he looked robust enough at the two mile range. Again, 2/1 is insufficient in what is a hot race.

Of the front three in the market, I suspect VAZIRABAD offers a little value. Alain de Royer-Dupre's six-year-old has many T-shirts for being there and doing that: he's won two G1 Prix Royal-Oak's, a G1 Prix du Cadran, and has never been out of the first two at races beyond a mile and a half. Indeed, his full form string is 6211111/117121/211112-211, which is rather spectacular when you consider that the last 18 of those 22 runs have been in Group company.

He'll be ridden patiently, but as a veteran of so many races in France he clearly has the gear change required to quicken off a pedestrian gallop. 5/1 looks a very solid each way play.

With little obvious pace in the field, it may be that Torcedor, who adopted pressing tactics in a Group 3 here last time, may again play catch me if you can. He was a nine length fifth (when waited with) behind Big Orange last year, before running up in the Long Distance Cup on Champions Day and, most recently, that five length score last time. Ascot, then, holds no fears. Nor either does fast ground, so 10/1 could be another reasonable each way play - perhaps without the favourite - about a horse whose form ties in pretty closely on a number of lines with Order Of St George.

I'm struggling to make much of a case for the rest, the pick of which might be Desert Skyline.

Really looking forward to this one!

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

No idea. Genuinely no idea. Winners since 2007 at 33/1, 28/1, 25/1 and 20/1 twice mean the market has no idea either. Seriously, why the hell would anyone bet in a race like this?

Crack On Crack On was a good winner last time in a big field at Haydock, and he's ridden by geegeez-sponsored jockey, David Probert. He's improving fast, like most of these. Similar comments apply to Corrosive, who is now on a four-timer after a big field course, distance and going win last time; and Richard Hughes' George Of Hearts, who steps up to a mile having not quite reached the winner over seven here last time.

Twenty-seven others worthy of mention. Where's Mr Felt Tippy's magic pen sticker when you need him?!

5.35 King George V Stakes (Class 2 Handicap, 1m4f, 3yo)

More of the same for all that there are 'only' 21 runners this time. Draw has been material: double digit stalls have bagged ten of the last dozen. Why? Not sure, but I presume because it is very difficult to lead all the way in such a big field over such a trip; and if you don't lead from a low draw, you're probably in the pocket screaming for room entering the straight.

So on that basis I've deselected half the field. Honestly, if you've got a better idea, I'm all ears...!

This has been a decent race for the top of the market, too, with two-thirds of the winners since 1997 coming from the top four in the betting.

That leaves me with Cross Counter and Baghdad.

Godolphin colts have won three of the last four renewals, so Cross Counter is your winner. Maybe.

**

Royal Ascot really is a super tough meeting at which to back winners, and I make no apology for being almost flippant in some of my analyses above, particular in the last two races. This is probably a sensible time to remind readers that nothing on these pages constitutes financial advice - duh!

Good luck with your Thursday wagers. I've a feeling we'll need it!

Matt

Royal Ascot 2017: Day 3 Preview, Tips

Royal Ascot 2017: Day 3 Preview, Tips

The middle day of five already, Ladies' Day, and the historical highlight, the Gold Cup. In truth, it's a less thrilling card in terms of quality, but a single winner should leave a surplus for anyone lucky/smart enough to locate such a rare find. That's the task of this post, so let's get on with it, beginning with the...

2.30 Norfolk Stakes (Group 2, 5f)

A fast five furlong dash for two-year-olds, there is the prospect of another juvenile track record after Rajasinghe's lightning Coventry victory on the opening day. The micro-system flagged here throws up McErin and Sioux Nation.

Wesley Ward runs McErin, a twice raced colt who has yet to be seen publicly on turf. Not obviously a wagering proposition. But WW is a master with five furlong speedballs, as already demonstrated by Lady Aurelia on Day One (Happy Like A Fool yet to race at time of writing). This son of Trappe Shot is reportedly a much better work horse on turf and it is a long way to come if you don't believe your horse can act on the surface. The leap of faith required makes the price - around 4/1 and expected to be available at 9/2, perhaps even 5's on Thursday morning - so there may be some value there given the trainer's record: he won this in 2013 with the powerhouse, No Nay Never.

Aidan O'Brien brings Sioux Nation to the party, a chap who took three attempts to break his maiden and was then whacked when raised in grade. Again, not obviously a contender for a Group 2 at the Royal meeting. But APOB has had a 12/1 winner, Waterloo Bridge, and two seconds, at 8/1 and 9/4, from six Norfolk starters since 2009. His son of Scat Daddy should act much better on the Ascot road so, while the form is not there yet, there is every reason to believe, especially as he has a similar late-maturing profile to 2015 winner, Waterloo Bridge, who was also one from four when arriving here. With Ryan Moore riding, the standout 25/1 is not going to last, and the general 20's will be under some pressure too.

The Brocklesby winner, Santry, is two from two now, having supplemented his opening day success with a smooth effort in a conditions race. Both runs so far were on a soft surface, however, which leaves a question mark now.

There are lots of unexposed sorts in here, and perhaps the National Stakes form will take a further boost after Sound And Silence's win in the Windsor Castle on Tuesday. The winner and second from the Sandown race line up here, with Frozen Angel perhaps the value to reverse form with Havana Grey. In another juvenile guessers' race, though, I'll stick with my Wes and Aidan angle.

Bookie specials on this race

Bet365: 1/4 1-2-3-4 plus risk-free bet to same stake if you back 4/1+ winner (max £50)

Ladbrokes: Bet £20 on this race and get £10 free bet on 3.05

Skybet: Money back as a free bet if 2nd or 3rd in this race (max £20)

Paddy: Money back as a free bet if 2nd, 3rd or 4th to SP favourite (max £25)

Betfair sports: Free bet to same stake as any 3/1+ winner you back (max £25)

**

3.05 Hampton Court Stakes (Group 3, 1m2f)

A big field of three-year-olds comprising the usual proven class droppers and unexposed aspirants. Mirage Dancer heads the market and is a solid option. In two runs to date he's won a maiden (quite rare for Sir Michael Stoute horses to win on debut) and was then an eye-catching fourth to Cliffs Of Moher in the Dee Stakes. There, he was all at sea around the very tight turning circuit, whereas here he can put that additional experience to good use on the slightly more galloping plains of Ascot.

Bay Of Poets was in front of Mirage Dancer at Chester, and has since run all right in the Prix du Jockey Club. This trip and ground should be ideal, but I believe Mirage Dancer has the scope to progress past him. Godolphin have a second and third string to their bow in Benbatl and Tamleek. Benbatl brings the best form to the race, his second in the Dante and fifth in the Derby surpassing what his rivals have achieved thus far. But it is also form which screams 'beatable' (almost an anagram of Benbatl!), and I'll be disappointed if he's good enough.

Tamleek is in a similar boat to Mirage Dancer in some respects whilst lacking the optical appeal in his Chester run (behind Venice Beach and Derby winner, Wings Of Eagles, in the Vase). He could be the each way play.

Ryan Moore chooses Orderofthegarter over Taj Mahal, but his lad has been racing on soft surfaces since a debut second on good to firm six runs ago. This is a drop in class from his last two G1 spins but, again, it would be somewhat disappointing if there was nothing progressive enough to beat him.

Bookie specials on this race

Bet365: 1/4 1-2-3 plus risk-free bet to same stake if you back 4/1+ winner (max £50)

Betfair sports: Free bet to same stake as any 3/1+ winner you back (max £25)

**

3.40 Ribblesdale Stakes (Group 2, 1m4f)

The Ascot Oaks, sort of, this is a mile and a half G2 for three-year-old fillies. Alluringly, twice beaten - the second time heavily - by Oaks winner, Enable, is favoured. But the daughter of Fastnet Rock has stamina to prove to my eye. After all, she was bested by fully eleven lengths when third at Epsom.

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Sir Michael runs Mori, winner of the Listed Height Of Fashion Stakes at Goodwood last time. Unraced as a juvenile, she won her maiden at the second request over course and going. That was ten furlongs, as was the Goodwood run, so she too has to demonstrate staying power. But with her imperious breeding - by Frankel out of multiple Group 1-winning mare, Midday - she ought to see the trip out. Her mum did, and her dad's brother (Noble Mission) did too. I'd take her as the class riser over Alluringly dropping down a level.

The Irish have won this five times in the last six years, and only twice with an Aidan O'Brien runner, which makes John Oxx's Naughty Or Nice of mild interest. Oxx saddled the winner of this, Sahara Slew, back in 2001, and has since overseen the career of the peerless (for some, including me) Sea The Stars. Oxx is not the force he was, sadly, but he has a respectable record at Royal Ascot, four of his eight runners since 2009 making the first four.

This filly is unbeaten in two, the latter a 1m5f Listed contest; not for her stamina reservations then. Whether she's quite quick enough could be a more pertinent question, the answer to which lies in a quote of 12/1 generally, which is worth a nibble each way to find out.

John Gosden runs four, and that reads like an attempt to snaffle black type for one or two of them rather than a robust bid for Ribblesdale glory.

Bookie specials on this race

Bet365: 1/4 1-2-3 plus risk-free bet to same stake if you back 4/1+ winner (max £50)

Betfair sports: Free bet to same stake as any 3/1+ winner you back (max £25)

**

4.20 Gold Cup (Group 1, 2m 4f)

The feature race of the week, the Gold Cup. A thorough test of stamina always, but it may be the horse which can best quicken after two and a quarter miles that gets the plaudits.

On the face of it, Order Of St George looks fairly bombproof. The defending champion, he was three lengths too good for the best of the rest a year ago. Although that was on soft turf, his record on good to firm at staying trips reads 111. With at least two confirmed front runners in the field, Ryan Moore should be able to bide his time and quicken through tired horses. I think he'll win.

So it may be that a forecast and/or exacta is a more appealing play for those that fail to get excited by an even money shot that should be 4/6.

Big Orange is not in my thoughts, as he looks sure to be locked into a compromising pace battle and will be forgiven for wilting late on. Similar comments probably apply to Torcedor, Nearly Caught and 2015 winner, Trip To Paris. No, it's late runners I'm looking for, and I'm hopeful that Martin Harley will take back aboard Sheikhzayedroad and play his hand on the reliable old boy towards the end of the show. If he does, I reckon he might be both the each way play and the exacta 'underneath'.

Sheikhy was a winner over two and a quarter in the Doncaster Cup, and over two miles here in the Long Distance Cup on Champions' Day, last year. He's won in Britain, Dubai and Canada and, although he might prefer a spit more juice in the ground, he's got plenty of very good form on fast.

If Jamie Spencer reverts to type atop Quest For More, delaying his effort, that one could also outrun his odds of 16/1.

Bookie specials on this race

Bet365: 1/4 1-2-3 plus risk-free bet to same stake if you back 4/1+ winner (max £50)

Betfair sports: Free bet to same stake as any 3/1+ winner you back (max £25)

Paddy: Money back as a free bet if 2nd, 3rd or 4th to SP favourite (max £25)

**

5.00 Britannia Stakes (Class 2 Handicap, 1m)

This is not really my thing. Too difficult. That said, five of the last seven winners were 10/1 or shorter, and only four of the last twenty winners were outside the top ten in the betting, so maybe I'm overthinking it...

The strong-travelling Son Of The Stars should settle better if buried mid-pack and, with just three runs under his belt, he's got plenty of improvement in him off a mark of 95. Trainer Richard Hannon is 0 from 8, one place, so far; and his dad, Richard Hannon, Sr., was 0 from 45 (six places) since 1997, which is a little off-putting, even if we shouldn't necessarily visit the sins of the fathers upon the sons. Hannon also runs The Grape Escape and Medahim.

Sir Michael Stoute has a winner at least, when the race was run at York, and another five places, from a fairly profligate 23 attempts. City Of Joy, on a hat-trick, is his entry. Off a mark of 94 and drawn in the middle, Ryan Moore's presence in the saddle suggests the current 10/1 about his chance will truncate before the stalls open. He'll be held up for a late run in a race that doesn't look overly blessed with early toe.

I've already said too much about a race where I don't have any edge, so I'll throw a lucky dip pick from the top end of the market, exclusively in hope rather than expectation: Maths Prize has had just the one run this term, when fifth to Shutter Speed at Newbury over a mile and a quarter. Presumed to strip fitter for the outing, and dropping back in trip, his juvenile form was solid and included two wins and a close up third to Derby runner, Khalidi. Drawn in the middle, where I think the race may unfold, and with a prominent racing style, this lad could give The Queen a winner on Gold Cup day. And at 20/1 as I write!

Naval Warfare, whose first two races were the same pair as Maths Prize's, made all to win on his first three year old start last time. He looks more of a man this term so, with little early pace predicted, he could carry the field deep into the final furlong. Joshua Bryan's seven pound claim means geegeez.co.uk sponsored jockey, David Probert, misses the gig, but also means Naval Warfare is only four pounds higher than the last day. He too is a 20/1 poke with a squeak.

Bookie specials on this race

Bet365: 1/4 1-2-3-4-5 plus risk-free bet to same stake if you back 4/1+ winner (max £50)

Paddy: Money back as a free bet if 2nd, 3rd or 4th to SP favourite (max £25)

Betfair sports: 1/4 1-2-3-4-5 plus free bet to same stake as any 3/1+ winner you back (max £25)

Victor, Ladbrokes, Coral 1/4 1-2-3-4-5

Skybet, Paddy 1/5 1-2-3-4-5-6

**

5.35 King George V Stakes (Class 2 Handicap, 1m 4f)

Another huge field handicap where the pin is a better guide than my digi-quill. I've learned one thing, however, and it is this. Of those horses making their handicap bow in the race, seven won - from 98 to try - and 30 were placed. That works out at 35% winners, 37.5% places, from 27.37% of the runners. Not a massive edge, but an edge nonetheless.

It's a race that has thrown up plenty of bigger priced winners, too, so I'll throw a blind dart (tuppence each way) on Sheila Lavery's Twin Star at around 33/1 (expect bigger nearer the time, especially on the exchanges). Handled by an under-rated Irish  trainer, this lad looks to have been well placed in here: he won a ten furlong maiden on good to firm at Navan before running a two length fourth to the re-opposing Homesman, trained by Aidan O'Brien. Twin Star gets a five pound pull for two lengths, having been the horse running on best of all at the finish. The extra quarter mile and the return to a quick surface are positives, and the price makes it close to a free go.

Elsewhere, and more obviously, Mark Johnston, whose record is a winner and a place from just two runners in this race, saddles Sofia's Rock and considers him one of his better chances of the week. A winner three times in small fields he has second top weight, but the trainer's conviction will need to be more than robust if this one is to get the lead - his normal style - from box 20.

Atty Persse was considered a Derby candidate at one point, but has since lost his unbeaten record over ten furlongs. Nevertheless, he steps up to a mile and a half now, which I expect to suit. He looks a legit jolly, if you're unconcerned by the widest pitch of all in 22. High draws have done pretty well in this race, including four of the last five winners.

Good luck wherever your pin lands in this one, and indeed all afternoon. It's trappy-looking fare, but great fun!

Bookie specials on this race

Bet365: 1/4 1-2-3-4 plus risk-free bet to same stake if you back 4/1+ winner (max £50)

Betfair sports: Free bet to same stake as any 3/1+ winner you back (max £25)

Skybet, Paddy 1/5 1-2-3-4-5

Matt

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Royal Ascot Betting Trends

DAY THREE: It's Ladies' Day at Royal Ascot today and Andy Newton's got all the trends & stats that matter ahead of the six LIVE BBC races. Read more

Royal Ascot 2011: Day Three Preview

In search of Gold Cup Fame and Glory

In search of Gold Cup Fame And Glory

Sheesh, it was tough for Royal Ascot punters yesterday! Not much to say, except wounds suitably licked, wallet unsuitably replenished, it's time to go in again for day three.

It's Thursday already, and we'll reach the halfway point of the Royal Ascot 2011 meeting today with the running of the Ascot Gold Read more