Royal Ascot 2021: Day 3 Preview, Tips
I’m taking over from Matt for day three of Royal Ascot, but don’t worry, Matt will be back tomorrow. Thursday can often be one of the toughest betting days and with no less than three big field handicaps bringing the curtain down on this card most will be looking for some early winners!
The biggest question mark hanging over Thursday’s racing is the weather, and of course it’s effect on the ground. There are thunderstorms forecast overnight from Wednesday into Thursday and everyone knows how unpredictable these can be. You can get hit with 40mm of rain whilst the next town along can get nothing. They put 10mm of water on the straight course on both Saturday and Monday just to keep it good to firm so it will take plenty of rain to soften this surface, but plenty of rain may well be coming.
2.30 Norfolk Stakes (5f, Group 2, 2yo)
Not much to go on here! Early pace is no disadvantage over the minimum trip here and a high draw is generally preferable over this trip. If there is a real star in this field they’d be well capable of overcoming either of those biases though.
Wesley Ward won this in 2013 and 2018 and there will be no hanging around for his runners. Lucci appears to be the stable first string and given he won just a 4 runner race last time he’s very difficult to assess, other than he looks very quick! He could be difficult to peg back from his high draw. Stable mate Nakatomi beat 10 runners when winning his only start on the dirt last time, also showing loads of speed. What effect any rain has on this pair is unknown, but Wesley Ward’s contingent generally prefer fast ground.
Aidan O’Brien also has two wins in this in the past decade and he saddles Cadamosto here. Amazingly he’s been a non runner six times already this season, twice because of soft ground. His sire No Nay Never won this in 2013 and his progeny often act on softer ground so he wouldn’t be without a hope if plenty of rain does fall but stall 2 might not be ideal.
Clive Cox’s runners massively outperform market expectations at Royal Ascot and he won this in 2012 with Reckless Abandon. This year he is represented by Instinctive Move who won well at Bath last time out. That form has been let down a few times since.
Only one runner can boast two wins from two runs and that is William Haggas’ Second Wind. He’s led on both starts so far, defied a penalty in a novice race beating a subsequent winner, looks well drawn in stall 15 and could be interesting at a fair price.
Norfolk Stakes Tips
Lots of unknowns so difficult to bet with much confidence but SECOND WIND has fewer question marks than most and he’s also won on both good to firm and good to soft which is a bonus ahead of an unsettled weather forecast. It will be interesting to watch the Wesley Ward runners in the market regardless of what happens with the weather.
3.05 Hampton Court Stakes (1m2f, Group 3, 3yo)
A likely short priced favourite here in the shape of Mohaafeth for William Haggas. He was relatively well fancied for the Derby before being pulled out because of the rain so he definitely won’t want to see lots of wet stuff and is likely to be withdrawn if the ground is on the soft side. He was impressive in a small field last time out at listed level and looks a very exciting son of Frankel.
One Ruler carries a 4lb penalty in this courtesy of his Group 3 Autumn Stakes victory last season and he faces a quick turnaround having been well beaten in the Derby just twelve days ago. Both his runs this term have come in Group 1 races so sixth places in both the 2000 Guineas and Epsom Derby can be forgiven and he might find this intermediate trip suits perfectly. He’s versatile with regards to the ground but is vulnerable to an improver.
One feature of this race is a potential lack of pace Aidan O’Brien’s Roman Empire looking the likely pace angle.
It’s not easy to make all over this course and distance, even with an easy lead, and he’ll need to improve to take this having been well enough beaten last time in the Dante.
Given a lack of strong pace it could pay to race prominently here. In handicaps in similar conditions prominent racers have a 47.62% place strike rate. Movin Time is likely to be prominent and he looked an improved performer at 3 when taking a maiden in fairly impressive style last time out. The runner up in that maiden won by 6 lengths next time out and runs in Wednesday’s Queen’s Vase and Movin Time looks capable of further progress over middle distances this season.
Hampton Court Stakes Tips
Not an easy race to figure out but it could be worth chancing MOVIN TIME to prove up to this level (and possibly better). He may enjoy a tactical advantage and whilst several of these have already tried and failed to win good races, he comes here very much on the up.
3.40 Ribblesdale Stakes (1m4f, Group 2, 3yo fillies)
A key form line here could be Newbury’s Fillies Trial Stakes in which the unbeaten Eshaada edged out Gloria Mundi with Aristea and Twisted Reality back in 3rd and 4th respectively. Gloria Mundi was well placed off a slow gallop that day and is poorest drawn of the quartet here so she could be worth taking on. Eshaada undoubtedly looks the one with most potential of the remaining trio and she’s also the best drawn here so she looks interesting, especially if there is rain.
John Gosden has won three of the last four renewals of this race and if he doesn’t win it with Gloria Mundi, the mount of Frankie Dettori, he still has chances with Taslima and Loving Dream. The former looked in need of further when third at listed level last time out. The winner of that race finished 2nd to Snowfall in the Oaks since so it wasn’t a bad listed race but you’d have preferred Taslima to have shown a bit more speed, even at 10f. Loving Dream was well enough beaten in the Lingfield Oaks Trial on soft ground and on his previous good ground 2nd she has plenty of work to do to reverse form with the better fancied Noon Star here.
In hindsight Noon Star’s 3.75 length defeat at the hands of Snowfall looks pretty good form. She’s impeccably bred being by Galileo out of Midday and looks the potential class act in the field, both on form so far and breeding, so she shouldn’t be underestimated.
Aidan O’Brien won this in 2014, 2016 and 2018 so anything he runs commends plenty of respect. This year’s sole runner is Divinely, who has looked happiest on a soft surface to date. It’s a quick turnaround after the Epsom Oaks though so whilst she’d have a decent chance on form, especially if it turns soft, she’ll need to have recovered quickly from a fairly tough race.
Ribblesdale Stakes Tips
An open contest which seems to be the feature of the day. NOON STAR looks a very promising type who has shown form on a variety of going so far which is enough to persuade me she could be the one in this. Eshaada is potentially the biggest danger whilst Divinely has the form to win this but he’s a risk after contesting the Oaks so recently.
4.15 Gold Cup (2m4f, Group 1, 4yo+)
Can Stradivarius equal Yeats’ record four wins in a row in this? Rain would be considered a negative for him but he’s won this on soft for the past two years so it’s possible all rain does is make him a better price.
This definitely looks a tougher renewal than last year though. Tough front runner Subjectivist won’t mind any rain and although he’s yet to prove his stamina, he’s got better the further he has gone. Last year’s Derby winner Serpentine could hamper Subjectivist’s chances though by taking him on early.
Stamina was always going to be Trueshan’s forte as he made his second racecourse start over a mile and a half. He enjoyed the step up to two miles when beating Stradivarius in the Long Distance Cup by a wide margin. That form shouldn’t be taken literally but Trueshan confirmed himself a smart horse when finishing runner up to Japan at Chester last month. He’s fairly ground dependent so will want as much rain as possible but if it comes he’d have a good chance.
Spanish Mission has improved as a stayer in the past year or so and won what was admittedly a pretty poor renewal of the Doncaster Cup last year. His Yorkshire Cup victory last time out was a career best when accounting for Santiago who reopposes here. He’s one that won’t want any rain and might not enjoy this test as much as some of the slowly run races he has been running in over shorter.
Connections will be hoping the extra distance can help Santiago reverse that form with Spanish Mission. He got within 2.25 lengths of Stradivarius at Goodwood last year and the key to this horse could be rain. His best performances seem to have come when getting cut in the ground and a combination of this trip on softish ground could see a career best, especially with a couple of front runners in the field.
Ascot Gold Cup Tips
The going will have a massive effect on this race. On faster ground STRADIVARIUS looks a very good thing to equal Yeats’ record. He can often come there like he’s going to win by a wide margin only to end up toughing it out. In fact eleven of his last twelve wins have come by a winning distance of 1.75 lengths or less which is relatively 'unimpressive' for a horse considered a bit of a superstar. If you can find an ‘unders’ bet on the winning distance that might make him much better value.
If the ground was to end up softer than good Stradivarius would still be the most likely winner but the each way value could swing towards SANTIAGO who is still unexposed as a stayer and has spent most of his career racing on ground that was probably faster than ideal.
5.00 Britannia Stakes (1m, class 2 handicap, 3yo)
All eyes will be on the Royal Hunt Cup ahead of placing any bets on this and that’s the race most likely to highlight a potential draw bias. Without the benefit of knowing the Hunt Cup result at the time of writing we’ll rely on the Geegeez data to give us the draw pointers.
The data suggests no strong draw bias here but it’s worth remembering that sometimes nearside is favoured and sometimes far side is favoured, which is why both sides of the draw have performed well. It can be easier to get a run when drawn on a flank and the pace data strongly suggests you want to be with something that is patiently ridden so backing central drawn hold up performers will often be riskier than wide drawn hold ups.
Mithras is the early market leader in this for Gosden and Dettori. He only just got home in a traditionally strong Newbury handicap on seasonal debut but this year’s renewal has worked out really poorly and the fact that Mithras was well enough beaten at Sandown next time out is very disappointing and in line with the form of that Newbury run, even if this latest run was in listed company. Perhaps the ground was too soft last time out (might be soft again here) but an 8lb rise for that narrow Newbury win might still be harsh and he could one to take on.
Air To Air is one I’ve had in mind for this race for a while, he looks one of those horses that will be ideally suited by Ascot’s straight mile. He’s been called a few names for seemingly not going through with his effort in the past but after being gelded in March he seems an improved horse. He may have been beaten over 4 lengths when odds on on his following start but he was the only one to make up any ground over what now seems an inadequate 7f. That race has worked out extremely well too.
Bowman, who very much got the run of the race, hasn’t run well since but the runner up has won three times since, the 3rd won on his next start and the 5th went close last time out. Air To Air has since won twice himself and he took apart a fairly decent field last time out on his first start over a mile. He’s a bit more exposed than some but he’s improving and looks the typical Spencer sort on this straight course. His latest win came on fast ground but his previous win in novice company came on soft ground. That softer ground might not be perfect for him but at least he’s proved his versatility.
Roger Varian won this last year and assuming his reserve doesn’t get in he has two high drawn runners in this. Raadobarg has won all three starts this season including the Silver Bowl at Haydock in heavy ground last time out. He’s chased leaders in all three starts this season and could end up too close to the pace, plus he’ll want plenty of rain. Dinoo is the other one for Varian. He’s still a maiden after three runs but split two 100+ rated horses on debut on fast ground before blowing the start in a Group 3 on his second and final start last season. He was once again slowly away in a maiden this season and poorly placed off a modest gallop. You’d hope with a mark of 93 he could have overcome this sort of thing but the mile promises to suit and he could run well if the ground stays fast.
A 7lb rise for winning a 5 runner handicap by less than a length seems a harsh punishment for Aerion Power’s latest success but he shouldn’t be underestimated. The runner up and 3rd came out of that contest and won making that 7lb rise look a bit more acceptable. Stall 1 and a prominent racing style are offputting though and he’d appeal more for something like the mile handicap at Sandown on Eclipse day or one of the 3yo handicaps at the July Festival the following week.
Britannia Stakes Tips
Many of the fancied runners in this seem quite likely to race not far off the pace which is rarely the place to be over the straight mile, especially in this race where there is a lot of early pace spread across the track. Perhaps some will be ridden more patiently but nothing is likely to be ridden with more patience than AIR TO AIR. Confidence would be increased if the ground gets no softer than good and if some of the lower drawn runners go close in the Royal Hunt Cup.
5.35 King George V Stakes (1m4f, class 2 handicap, 3yo)
Only a handicap but often won by a very smart sort, last year’s winner Hukum scored at Group 3 level later in the season. The draw may have a fairly large bearing on the result here.
A massive 17 of last 24 12f handicaps with 16 runners or more on ground ranging from good to firm down to good to soft have been won by double figure draws. Low draws have a PRB of just 0.41 with middle draws and high draws earning PRBs of 0.54 and 0.55. Fairly strong preference would be for something breaking from stall 8 or higher and this information hopefully makes narrowing down this difficult field a little easier.
Handicap debutant Nagano heads the market early for Roger Varian and he’s going to have to be extremely useful to win this from stall 2. He looks at least fairly handicapped off 94 based on his win over Mystical Dawn on his penultimate run (that runner has since gone close off 90) but he’s difficult to back from this draw in such a competitive race.
This is often won by a top trainer so it’s a surprise that John Gosden hasn’t had the winner of this since 1997. He runs First Light here who might be just about okay in stall 7, for all higher would probably have been better. Some will see form with John Leeper and be drawn to that but in that race, when First Light was 3rd, Moktasaab was 2nd, 2.5 lengths ahead of First Light, and he’s since been beaten in a handicap off 79. First Light has since won a soft ground Ripon maiden by 12 lengths but that race didn’t take much winning and there are probably better handicapped rivals, especially if it doesn’t turn soft here.
Sir Lamorack represents Aidan O’Brien who won this in 2019 and he seems to have a nice draw in 11. He ran on soft and heavy as a 2yo but his two runs this season have come on the all weather and good ground. He was withdrawn at Chester due to good to soft ground which might be an indication this runner will want the rain to stay away. He’s already proved himself in handicaps, he was an easy winner of a 10f handicap at Leopardstown last time out and the placed horses from that have placed again so it was okay form. He’s up 15lbs for that win so he’ll need to improve for the step up in trip, which he should do.
Kondo Isami is interesting on his York form. He beat Tashkhan by a short head there and Tashkhan won 3.25 lengths next time out. That runner actually reopposes here but Kondo Isami is 8lbs better off this time around so should have no problem confirming form. Kondo Isami got collared late on next time out at Doncaster over further and he might not have quite stayed, but he was also beaten by a runner completing a four timer so it wasn’t a bad effort. He looks Mark Johnston’s best chance and is well enough drawn in 9.
If the ground got very testing one who might prove overpriced is Act Of Wisdom. He was a heavy ground winner over 10f as a 2yo which suggests he’ll be a strong stayer and fast ground didn’t suit last time out at Newmarket. That 5th last time was still a good effort though with the winner and 3rd winning next time out. From stall 14 he could outrun his odds if the word soft appears in the going by race time.
King George V Stakes Tips
Plenty in this who could be anything and it’s a race that is potentially more interesting going forward than it is a betting medium here. If having a punt the value in this contest could lie with KONDO ISAMI if the ground is no worse than good, he’ll enjoy a likely fast pace and has plenty in his favour. If it’s softer than good then ACT OF WISDOM would come into the equation and he could be a bit underestimated in this. They might not be as potentially well handicapped as some but are both capable of running into a place at least granted suitable ground conditions.
6.10 Buckingham Palace Stakes (7f, class 2 handicap, 3yo+)
What an easy race to end the card with! As usual in these contests the draw and pace will play their part. By the time this race is run there may be a clear draw bias to either side but without that information at the time of writing it seems an advantage to be drawn in either low double figures or very high (20+).
There isn’t such a need to be held up over this distance as there is on the straight mile. There is still some benefit to being patiently ridden but early pace holds up much better than it does in big fields over a furlong further.
You don’t see many 3yos run in this but William Haggas heads the early betting with Aldaary. He’s a course and distance winner but might have been better served by a mile and he’ll definitely want the rain.
Boardman is interesting chasing a four timer. The way he travels through his races means he should be ideally suited by this course but he’s potentially drawn a little lower than ideal in 9. He beat Ejtilaab last time out and that horse won his next start. He’s another that wants a little bit of rain.
One that won’t want the rain is Karibana who was a bit of an eyecatcher on soft ground here in May before winning at Chelmsford, nailing a well handicapped front runner on the line. He looks like he’d be ideally suited by fast ground at this course and although stall 11 is okay statistically a higher draw might have been preferable.
Persuasion has to be of some interest. He’s looks to have been saved for this since winning at Haydock six weeks ago.
The runner up has won since from a 3lb higher mark, the 4th went extremely close next time out on ground that didn’t suit and has the chance to frank the form on Wednesday in the finale and even the 5th went close on his first run on fast ground since. Persuasion only went up 3lbs for that win and whilst most of his form is on faster ground, he has finished 2nd on heavy ground so even if the ground softens he should be fine. Stall 24 looks good at this stage.
Buckingham Palace Stakes Tips
If the ground stayed on the fast side I’d be inclined to forgive Karibana for stall 11 (low double figures do have a decent record after all) and get involved each way. If betting early or simply looking for a solid selection in this contest PERSUASION seems to tick all the boxes and he can even be backed if the bad weather hits the course as he should be fine regardless of underfoot conditions, something that can’t be said about many here. The majority of the pace in this race is drawn high which could give Persuasion an extra edge over Karibana, even if the ground stays fast.