Ropey Guest ready to cash in at Ascot

George Margarson will happily trade off what he feels is an acceptable rating for next season if Ropey Guest wins the Balmoral Handicap on Qipco British Champions Day.

Until his recent win at Chelmsford, Ropey Guest had the unwanted title of the best maiden in training.

Placed in several Group races in a busy juvenile campaign, this season he picked up where he left off when fourth on his reappearance in the Jersey Stakes.

Margarson thinks he will come into his own next year in big-field handicaps – but given he is already rated 103, he could end up too high in the weights and find himself forced back into Group races.

“He’s run well in big fields before at Ascot, in the Coventry and the Jersey Stakes,” said Newmarket trainer Margarson.

“I think we’re drawn (three) on the right side with the favourite (Raaeq), because I think it will favour the stands side myself.

“He handles every ground – he was unlucky not to win the Horris Hill at the end of last season on heavy, and it was pretty soft at the Royal meeting.

“He’s in good form, and we’ve kept him fresh for this – hopefully it will give us an idea for the future as to where we go with him.”

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Ropey Guest ran well in so many big races without gaining a deserved success that many questioned if it would ever come, but Margarson reports that his confidence never wavered.

“He doesn’t take getting beaten personally – he always came home and ate up,” he said.

“Katie (Margarson) rides him most mornings and says he’s bouncing – and by this time last year he’d had 11 runs, so he should be feeling very fresh, but there haven’t been the races for him this year.

“I’m really looking forward to next year for him and the big handicaps. But if he wins this then he might be too high – I’d take that, though, if it meant winning £100,000!

“He ran all those good races in Group races, and I always thought he wasn’t rated as high as he probably could be – we’ll get to find out now.

“I’ve had horses like Imperial Guest and Excellent Guest for the good handicaps, and I’d rate him above those two.”

Keats (navy blue) winning at Gowran earlier this season
Keats (navy blue) winning at Gowran earlier this season (PA Wire)

Aidan O’Brien’s Keats is another three-year-old in the field, and arrives on the back of a Listed win at Cork last time out.

“We’ve run him over further, but each time he drops back to a mile he’s very comfortable,” said O’Brien.

“Seamus (Heffernan) won a Listed race on him the last day and was very happy with him.

“He looks to be off a nice enough mark, even though he’s a three-year-old. He seems to be in good form since his last run.”

Brian Meehan’s Raaeq has headed the market since winning at Ascot by five lengths earlier this month – for which he carries a 6lb penalty, just like Keats.

“He’s an exciting horse with a big future,” said Meehan. “He’s gone up to 108 and will be off 103 on Saturday, which hopefully gives him a head start, but in big handicaps such as this you’ve got to be cautious.

“His rating means he’s in Stakes category now, and I’ve no doubt whatsoever he is up to it.”

James Doyle takes the ride on the Charlie Fellowes-trained King Ottokar, who has never quite lived up to his tall reputation.

“I rode him at Royal Ascot last year to be third in the Hampton Court, but for one reason or another he never quite went on from that,” said Doyle.

“I was in to ride him out last week and he felt really well – and one thing is for sure, he’ll love the ground. He loves to get his toe in.

“Hopefully it’s the sort of race he could go well in.”

Margarson ready to take handicap option with Ropey Guest

George Margarson may test Ropey Guest in handicap company for the first time at Ascot this weekend.

The Newmarket trainer is favouring Saturday’s Challenge Cup for his smart three-year-old, but he has also put him in the John Guest Racing Bengough Stakes at the Berkshire track and the Racing TV EBF Stallions Guisborough Stakes at Redcar.

Margarson is likely to wait until near declaration time on Thursday morning before deciding which race Ropey Guest will tackle.

The Cable Bay colt got off the mark at the 13th attempt when dropped in class for a novice event at Chelmsford last month, following a host of creditable efforts which included being placed in four Group races.

“I’m keen to try him in a handicap – I think he’s well handicapped on what he’s been doing,” said Margarson.

“I was going to wait until next year before he went into those sort of races, but there aren’t a load of options left for him off his mark.

“There’s either that or the mile race at Ascot on Champions’ Day (Balmoral Handicap). That’s the one I was aiming at, so if the ground is on the soft side he might go to Ascot for the handicap.

“I can see Redcar being heavy, looking at the weather forecast.”

Ascot is therefore the likeliest destination as Margarson mulls which race to choose.

He added: “It’s 50-50 – I am keen to try out his handicap mark, but it is tough for three-year-olds taking on those hardened handicappers.

“He’s held his own in some rough races there, though – the Jersey Stakes and the Coventry – and a big field wouldn’t worry him.

“He comes out better in that race than in the others. I’ve been going through all three races.”

Margarson has not totally ruled out the Bengough Stakes, because it is sponsored by Ropey Guest’s owners John Guest Racing.

“I was keen to try to win the boys their money back, so I wouldn’t say no, but I wouldn’t want to take Judicial on,” he said.

“He’s a proper sprinter a 110-rated horse. We’re not well in with him.

“I’ll be waiting until Thursday morning, but favouring the handicap at the moment.”