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Royal Ascot 2021: Day 2 Preview, Tips

Royal Ascot 2021: Day 2 Preview, Tips

Wednesday, day 2, and another heptagon of sides to take or, in plain English, seven races to decode. Just seven sides to take in the feature Group 1, the Prince of Wales's Stakes at 4.20 also, but they promise a superb race. That main course is for later, before then we've some delicious-looking amuse bouches through which to work...

2.30 Queen Mary Stakes (5f, Group 2, 2yo)

Juvenile fillies over the minimum kick us off and, this being Royal Ascot, Wesley has a live one at the top of the 22-runner list. She's called Twilight Gleaming and she'll be ridden by the brilliant Puerto Rican jockey John Velazquez. Second on the main (dirt) track at Keeneland on debut, she was an easy seven length winner when switched to the turf course at Belmont next time. You can watch that race here. It is hard to say what she beat, but the time was good even allowing for her being eased down.

As with most Wes runners she's fast from the gate, leading early at Belmont through an opening quarter in 22.22 seconds (they do have 'run up' so that's not from a standing start). She'll get the stiff Ascot five, will probably lead early, and will take some pegging back. Ward is 4-from-13 in this, and has amassed a further three placed runners.

Aidan O'Brien meanwhile is 0-for-15 - Aidan O'fer as my US pal DiLo likes to call him. O'Brien has saddled five placed fillies but, since Sophisticat (who?) was placed in 2001, his record reads 0000842909. And yet, here's Yet, a beautifully-bred daughter of War Front exiting a Dundalk maiden and currently second favourite. Only two horses have emerged from that contest, beaten off the board three times between them. In Yet's defence, she and the second (the reopposing Orinoco River) were seven clear of the rest and the second has not raced since either. We've kind of seen this show before, though, haven't we?

More credible of the Irish, but also more exposed, might be Quick Suzy, representing predominantly jumping trainer, Gavin Cromwell. She was touched off in a Naas Group 3 over six furlongs (soft) last time, when leading but not quite getting home. The winner was a 50/1 poke, the third was almost six lengths away and the 2/7 favourite was fourth. She'd previously won a six furlong Curragh maiden (yielding) by almost six lengths and she arguably brings the best established form to the party. But she's yet to race on fast ground. The drop back to a stiff five might be fine if she can handle the firmness; she won't probably have as much improvement as some of her rivals but they still have to show they can get to her level let alone beyond it.

Nymphadora, trained by Andrew Balding, emerged from arguably the hottest maiden of the year so far. That Newmarket race won by Desert Dreamer has thrown nine UK winners from 21 subsequent starters:

Nymphadora's part in upholding the form was snugly winning the Listed Marygate Stakes at York. The Marygate has been the springboard to Queen Mary success for four fleet fillies.

That maiden's winner, Desert Dreamer, lines up here having won again since, over six furlongs (good, Newmarket). The form is working out well enough with second placed Dashing Rat beaten only by subsequent Woodcote winner Oscula, and third placed General Panic winning a novice next time. Oisin Murphy will ride and I think his filly's chance is understated in the market.

There is a second US raider in the line up, and Frankie steers her. She's called Artos and is trained by George Arnold. Beaten far enough on debut the daughter of Kodiac got the verdict in a tight picture on her sole subsequent spin. That was over five and a half furlongs at Churchill (firm), so she ought to see this out. Whether she's good enough is another matter entirely.

Nick Bradley Racing are one of the owners of the hour, and they've done brilliantly with their buying. Mas Poder was a 22/1 first time starter when only two lengths fourth to Nymphadora in the Marygate and, having run green there, she might narrow the gap with her debut vanquisher.

There are others who deserve their place here, too.

Queen Mary Stakes tips

I imagine Wesley's filly, Gleaming Twilight, will go very close here, and 7/2 is probably fair enough. She might be an in running back to lay for those into such things as it will be a bit of a shock if she doesn't lead. After her I'm inclined to swing at prices in the form of 14/1 Desert Dreamer and 20/1 Mas Poder. There are plenty of extra places if you shop around and want to roll each way.

**

3.05 Queen's Vase (1m6f, Group 2, 3yo)

A three-year-old Group 2 over the St Leger trip these days, and a strong trial for that final Classic as a consequence. Aidan O'Brien has won half of the last 14 renewals, so no 'ofer' gags here. And this is a race that perennially goes to a fancied runner, 19 of the last 24 winners returning at 6/1 or shorter.

That gives a shortlist of one: Wordsworth, the Aidan O'Brien-trained 11/4 favourite. Second in two of his three runs either side of a big field ten furlong Curragh maiden win, he was last spotted straining to within a neck of the fairly well-touted Sir Lucan. He has progression and proven stamina on his side, and the fact Ryan Moore has opted for this one over Arturo Toscanini implies he's stable first string (though we all know that supposedly lesser runners from the yard usurp their better-fancied barn mates frequently).

Arturo for his part was a never nearer second of nine in a ten furlong Group 3 at the Curragh, which suggests this sort of range should enable him to conduct himself (geddit?!) meaningfully.

I mentioned Joseph's Royal Ascot blank yesterday and, while that might already be consigned to the dustbin of history, it remains a factor in my considerations as I write this (Monday afternoon) with regards to Ruling, a thrice-raced maiden albeit most recently when staying on over a mile and a half in a Leopardstown Listed.

Perhaps the biggest threat from the home team will be progressive handicapper Dancing King, a well-related but cheaply-bought-as-a-yearling (ah, hyphens) son of Free Eagle trained by the former Mr Queen's Vase, Mark Johnston. He, like Aidan, has seven wins in the race to his name; but unlike Aidan the last of them arrived in 2014. Since then, eight of Johnston's nine Vase runners have been double digit odds; he's still managed a 20/1 fourth and a 16/1 third.

Dancing King is battle hardened, progressive in small field handicaps and stays well. That might not be quite enough against some regally-bred and thoroughly unexposed rivals, but he'll give a run for pennies.

Possible pace map looks as follows, though plenty of these could run to a different style being so lightly raced:

Queen's Vase tips

I've been burned opposing APOB hotpots in this a number of times in the past decade, and I've finally got the message... in time for him to clunk no doubt! But it's easy to see the case for Wordsworth finishing "lonely as a cloud" in front of his field. 11/4 is all right based on trainer records.

**

3.40 Duke Of Cambridge Stakes (1m, Group 2, 4yo+ fillies & mares)

The more seasoned ladies step to the fore in this Group 2 the favourite for which is Lady Bowthorpe. That looks spot on after Lady B, trained by William Jarvis, ran closest to none other than Palace Pier in the G1 Lockinge a month ago. Prior to that she'd won a nine furlong Group 2 at Newmarket, a fair leap from the Class 4 all weather handicap she took this time last year. That's the best piece of form in the field.

That is, arguably, unless you take a literal perspective on the Middleton Stakes where Queen Power bolted up by eight lengths. With a couple of the beaten mares there running second in Group 3's since, there is at least some substance to the literal case. But that was ten furlongs. She'd previously been second to Lady Bowthorpe in that nine furlong Dahlia Stakes, and was third in this last year - beaten three lengths - when seeming to lack the miler's gear change. It feels like this might be the wrong slot for her though I fully appreciate that Sir Michael Stoute has been at this game a minute or two longer than me.

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Perhaps the most interesting contender is the wildly progressive Double Or Bubble. She's had just four races, with only one horse finishing in front of her and that on debut. The Chris Wall charge was a four length scorer in a Class 2 handicap last time over seven furlongs, though beaten horses from there are 0 from 19 since the race which dents the form somewhat. There's plenty of stamina on the dam's side (by Dalakhani) so she ought to stay the mile.

Onassis won the Sandringham last season at 33/1 and also bagged a heavy ground Listed race two back. She's a likeable and versatile filly but doesn't look good enough. Lavender's Blue has little to find with Lady Bowthorpe and Queen Power on Dahlia form - she was a half length third - which makes her ostensibly interesting at double figure odds. She's run plenty of good races in defeat but was thumped in this last season.

Champers Elysees was a huge flag bearer for the emergence of Johnny Murtagh as a trainer last season, winning the Group 1 Matron Stakes, but she's dipped below that high water mark in a trio of fourth placed efforts since. A return to a sounder surface could see her improve on recent efforts and she's a square price.

And one other at hail mary odds is Indie Angel, trained by the Gosdens and ridden by Frankie Dettori. Surely that already means she can't go off at her current quote of 20/1. She wasn't far back in the Dahlia and the fact she's pitched in here might be a bit of a clue.

The Duke Of Cambridge Instant Expert looks like this - remember, green is good, amber OK, red not so hot (and don't totally believe small sample sizes)

Duke Of Cambridge Stakes tips

This revolves around Lady Bowthorpe, who laid to rest any suspicions that she could only operate at Newmarket when giving Palace Pier a race in Group 1 company at Newbury last time. She's not the wrong price at 2/1 but nor is there much margin for error. No, I'll watch her win while backing a 'value alternative'! Most appealing in that context is 14/1 Champers Elysees, a Group 1 winner over a mile just four starts ago. She has to defy the G1 penalty but gives only two pounds to the most credible of her rivals, and five to the rest. If the faster ground wakes her up, she's a big player. If...

**

4.20 Prince Of Wales's Stakes (1m2f, Group 1, 4yo+)

A cracker for the day's highlight, the Group 1 Prince Of Wales.

Love has been backed in the early wagering skirmishes as though she's as least as good as last season. We have a lot in our lives - a lot of horses in our lives - so it's worth a quick refresher as to Love's 2020. It was only three races but, like, WoW!

First up, she sizzled more than four clear of her 14 rivals in the 1000 Guineas. Then she romped nine - NINE - clear of the rest in the Oaks (seems like small beer when next to Snowfall's 16 length destruction in the same race this year!). And finally, in the Yorkshire Oaks, she cruised to a five length verdict. Nothing got even remotely close to her.

But. But... now she goes against the boys and she rocks up to the racetrack for the first time in exactly 300 days. In a hot renewal of the Prince Of Wales's Stakes. She will need to be on song.

Last year's winner, by almost four lengths, Lord North defends having won the Group 1 Dubai Turf in his previous run. He was beaten a few times in between and overcame a shallower field than this a year ago. It's not good general practice to oppose Frankie and Johnny (and Thady) but I'm against at the price.

Aidan O'Brien saddles Armory as well as Love. Short enough at around 3/1 he won the Group 2 Huxley Stakes at Chester and the Group 3 Royal Whip at the Curragh either side of his best effort, a two length third in the Irish Champion Stakes. He was a 66/1 chance that day, a price in line with his form either side in the context of that championship race, and I don't really believe it. Again, you pays your money and you takes your chances.

Audarya won Group 1's in France and America last autumn, and this being her seasonal debut implies a similar campaign awaits. I love James Fanshawe and I love this mare; but I don't think she'll be quite ready this time.

I'm struggling to make a case for the 114-rated My Oberon who would look badly handicapped off that mark if eligible for such races. He was whacked in the Lockinge, was whacked in a Redcar Listed as 11/8 fav, and was second in a pair of Group 3's last year. He did win a four-runner Group 3 on good ground when trying a trip beyond a mile for the first time and that must be the key to his case: the step up to ten furlongs is credible on pedigree (Dubawi out of a Sea The Stars mare). If so, they've taken long enough to get there and are hardly pitching in half-cocked in this top rank Group 1. Again, connections are greatly respected but this looks a tough task.

Similar comments apply to Sangarius. And yet I've had a small each way ante post (three places, burglary). Sir Michael Stoute is justly renowned for taking his time to allow horses to achieve their optimum performance levels as they mature, and this chap looks off that production line for all that he showed some precocity at two. As a juvenile he won twice before a midfield effort in the Dewhurst, finishing the season on an official rating of 106. At three he had just two starts, winning the Group 3 Hampton Court Stakes over course and distance on the second of them (having prepped on the Sandown Brigadier Gerard card), and ended the season rated 113. Last year brought a further brace of efforts, again winning on the latter occasion, this time in Listed grade. End of season rating 114.

He still has seven or eight pounds to find with the pick of his rivals, but in each of the last two years he's progressed to win. He was three lengths behind Armory on debut this term (remember, that one is 3/1 here) and four lengths behind Euchen Glen at Sandown in the Brigadier Gerard Stakes last time in a mad  (seriously, watch it) prep for this. Today is his big day and, if Sir Michael has it right, he might get into the frame especially if granted the easy lead he sought but did not get at Sandown. Colin Keane is a very interesting jockey booking, though may be Juddmonte's retained rider in Ireland (I probably should know that, apols).

Desert Encounter completes the seven and is a great globe-trotting money-spinner. the now nine-year-old gelding has never won above Group 3 level in Britain and yet has amassed £1.1m in total prize money. Well played! He's been second a fair bit in the past year but he won't be second here. Nor first. Wish I owned ten per cent of him: the days they've had around the world. Lovely stuff.

The pace map, based on UK and Irish form only, looks thus:

Prince Of Wales's Stakes tips

A few imponderables in what could be a cracker. If LOVE is on her A game, she ought to win. She's top on ratings after her sex allowance is accounted for and, unless the three-year-old fillies were a rotten lot last year - not impossible - she could be a fine sight. But she's been off a good while and this is deep. Lord North is well suited to the matter at hand though I'm not completely convinced of his credentials; similar comments apply to Armory except that I'm not at all convinced of his credentials (cue easy win).

I suspect Audarya will have her days later in the year, I don't like My Oberon though expect the trip will eke a little more, and Desert Encounter has no secrets from any of us. That leaves Sangarius as a bet without the first two if you can find it. At time of writing one firm is 22/1 without Lord North, and I'd take anything 8/1 and up without LN and Love, especially if someone offers each way 1/4 1-2.

**

5.00 Royal Hunt Cup (1m, Class 2 handicap, 3yo+)

The mother of all head scratchers is the Royal Hunt Cup, a straight mile handicap with thirty runners, and three reserves in case any of the main field try to escape and make life easier for punters! Trends time...

Horses priced above 20/1 are 5/402 in the last 24 years (thanks to horseracebase.com) and -£261 to a £1 level stake. I'll go with the 20/1 or shorter group, who are 19/292 (-£38, so still some work to do. Duh!)

No horse has shouldered more than 9-05 to victory during that time. That's numbers saddle cloth numbers 1 to 5 semi-arbitrarily excluded.

The draw is seemingly against the lowest numbers though I don't have data to bear that out. However, perception is reality and if trainers and jockeys decide low is unfavoured they're likely to race middle to high. Self-fulfilling prophecy thereafter for low, forfeiting ground.

Indeed, in 16+ runner handicaps over a mile on good or quicker, either flank has been beneficial. More material by far is that midfield and held up horses have significantly out-performed those presented more forwardly.

So I want a late runner.

Ignoring those already eliminated, the pace map looks a little like this:

The favourite currently is Finest Sound, a Varian/Atzeni entry and respected very much as a consequence. Stall nine is fine and his form - notably when second in the straight mile Britannia last year (soft) - looks progressive and relevant. There isn't a ton of pace on quick ground, so perhaps a prominent to midfield run style will give his rider options depending on how fast they go in front of him. Obvious player.

But the one I'm most interested in is Irish Admiral. Trap six might put a few off but it shouldn't; so too might a fifth place finish last time, that too is a red herring: the Epsom handicap he contested then was a muddling affair (first three home 12/1, 12/1, 20/1) where the speed held sway, the winner going gate to wire. Unless Maydanny gets a total freebie - possible - this should play to later runners and Irish Admiral protected his mark in failing to land a blow on the Downs. This will be just his sixth lifetime run so there is sure to be more to come.

The Hambleton Handicap at York has been a good pointer to the Hunt Cup historically, and a few from there appear here. They include the very unlucky Brunch, whose second places this season have been in two of the North's most prestigious mile handicaps, the Hambleton and the Lincoln. Up three pounds for a neck defeat last time doesn't help, but this strong travelling hold up type has everything in his favour for another 'in the mix' effort.

Of those in behind, What's The Story (too much weight?) and Ouzo (not good enough?) are overlooked but Matthew Flinders enters calculations. He wasn't persisted with when his York chance had gone and remains on the same mark. Drawn bang in the middle, he'll be looking for gaps from the two pole; Oisin Murphy is better than most at threading the needle in these types of race.

The Irish don't run too many in the Royal Hunt Cup but they're two from seven in the last five years. They have three entered this year: Pepperoni Pete and Bowerman look poorly handicapped but Lafayette is interesting for Noel Meade. Consistent in big field mile handicaps on soft ground he won his maiden on good to firm and has been in the frame in eight of ten starts following his debut.

Royal Hunt Cup tips

Wide open. Obviously. Lots of bookies offering place concessions which is a solid alternative to splitting stakes win only in a race like this. I'll take a small win bet on Finest Sound as insurance and then try a few at bigger prices each way with many places. Irish Admiral at 12/1 and Lafayette at 20/1 are compelling in the latter scenario, as is 16/1 Brunch who will surely be within spitting distance of the first past the post. So many more to consider and that's why they're all big prices!

**

5.35 Windsor Castle Stakes (5f, Listed, 2yo)

A lesser juvenile race, at least in the context of Royal Ascot juvenile races, and often a big priced winner - 100/1 Flashman's Papers anyone?

Those with two or fewer runs to date are the place to focus, and top four last time out. That leaves plenty but it eliminates some, which is a start!

In the last five years, Aidan O'Brien, Charlie Appleby and John Gosden have won this, with horses priced at 7/1, 12/1 and 20/1. Clearly they all stepped up on what they'd shown theretofore. Wesley Ward, meanwhile, won this twice between 2009 and 2014, but has gone 506000098 since then, all bar one returning 10/1 or shorter. Small samples, yes, but perhaps a reason for caution.

WW's Ruthin is favoured, the once-raced daughter of Ribchester a runaway trap to line victor at Keeneland. Like many Ward Royal Ascot entries, she is electric from the stalls and looks set to take the field along from her middle draw in 12. After that, I haven't really got much of a clue.

Horses exiting the National Stakes at Sandown, the Hillary Needler and Two Year Old Trophy at Beverley, and Epsom's Woodcote have been fair portents of good runs. That brings in Tipperary Sunset and, to a far lesser degree, Guilded, both from Beverley; Bond Chairman and Chipotle from Sandown; and Dusky Prince and Flaming Rib from Epsom.

Cutting to the chase, I'm quite interested in Tipperary Sunset who was game on the front and is now two from two. He's made all on softish turf both spins to date and this will be quicker ground and a quicker tempo; but he looks quite relaxed in his races so probably doesn't need the lead. The Two Year Old Trophy he won was run about six lengths faster than the Hillary Needler in which Guilded was second: she'll have to improve a ton to beat him.

But this is too hard for me.

Windsor Castle Stakes tips

I'll try Tipperary Sunset each way at 12/1 or so with extra places aforethought.

**

6.10 Kensington Palace Stakes (1m, Class 2 handicap, 4yo+)

A new handicap on the round course for older fillies and mares. Easy enough, eh? Sheesh.

There could be a lot of pace here and, on the round course, that should make for a strung out field and my guess is advantage midfielders.

Roger Varian has won three Royal Ascot handicaps in the last two years from ten runners. What is more remarkable is that eight of the ten have made the frame. With that in mind, the inside drawn midfield runner Waliyak gets a check. Closer inspection reveals that, although she is making her seasonal bow, she was second in the (straight mile) Sandringham last season and has run over ten furlongs with credit since. She's not appeared to be quite getting home in truly run mile and a quarter races, so if this is the fast pace I expect it to be it could set up for her. Surprising that she's as big as 16/1 for all that she might prefer a bit more juice in the turf.

Lights On and Dreamloper are closely matched on their straight mile 1-2 last time here: there was a short head between them that day, three lengths back to the rest. Both raced handily there, a repeat of which would give them first run on presumed fading leaders but may also leave them susceptible to a mid-pack closer. That said, Lights On's draw in 17 of 18 means Ryan Moore may be forced to ride for luck whereas Oisin Murphy sends Dreamloper from eight which gives him options.

The unpronounceable Dalanijujo is fairly wide but quickened up well at Yarmouth last time off quite fast early fractions. She'd been racing at ten furlongs previously and the drop back to a well-run mile obviously suited; this will be that and William Buick is a jockey positive on the round course.

Naturally, lots of others with prospects.

Kensington Palace Stakes tips

I think Waliyak is a heck of a price if she handles the ground. Roger Varian's recent Royal Ascot handicap record is unsustainably good but this mare has draw, run style, profile and a fine young rider in her corner. I've backed her at 16/1 which is widely available at time of writing. And I've also had a go at Dalanijujo (I don't have to be able to say it to bet her!) each way at the same price. If they don't go fast early, another will probably win. But I'm expecting this big field on the round course will be a fun, but potentially frustrating, wagering watch.

**

And that's how Day 2 looks from this corner. Sam is taking over for our Thursday (Day 3) preview, and I'm back on Friday. As ever, it's every person for themselves on Saturday.

Good luck

Matt

Royal Ascot 2020: Day 2 Preview, Tips

Royal Ascot 2020: Day 2 Preview, Trends, Tips

The second of five days of this alternative Royal Ascot experience sees another septet of top class tussles up for grabs. The feature of the day is undoubtedly the Group 1 Prince of Wales's Stakes, where Japan takes on Headman, Barney Roy, Addeybb and more. We are also treated to the first juvenile race of the week, the 20-runner Windsor Castle Stakes; but matters commence with this year's customary huge field handicap, this time it is the...

1.15 Silver Royal Hunt Cup Handicap (1m, Class 2, 3yo+)

The Royal Hunt Cup is so impossible that they decided to duplicate it with this consolation version. Two dozen 90-odd rated handicappers hurtling up the full Ascot straight is a sight to behold, but it's a devilish wagering ask. Thank heavens for extra places with at least five up for grabs with most firms and six with a few.

The aim of the game is probably to find a hold up horse that loves a big field straight mile. That would bring in Sir Busker, Home Before Dusk, Red Bond, Ouzo, and Maydanny, all of whom have good straight mile-winning form, many of whom have done it in big fields.

Sir Busker, as top weight, was the last to miss the main cut. He's trained by William Knight, who is enjoying a great time of it since moving to Newmarket; and was a winner 15 days ago at Newcastle over a similarly straight mile, albeit on the synthetic surface. A winner of four, and placed in four more, of his 15 starts, he knows how to get the job done. With a middle to high draw and a hold up run style, Oisin Murphy will try to swoop late.

Keith Dalgleish saddles not one, not two, but three runners, with two of them being ridden by geegeez-sponsored jockeys. Of course, the best profile fit is the third string to Dalgleish's bow, Home Before Dusk, who has made a habit of finishing best at Gosforth Park, progressing from a mark of 58 this time last year to his current perch of 96.

Callum Rodriguez has been on board for the most recent three of six wins but jumps across to Red Bond this time for the Middleham Park Racing mob. He, too, is progressive, stepping forward from 75 to 92 in the space of four runs. He's likely to be close to the speed and that makes him susceptible to the massed ranks of later runners.

Rounding out the Dalgleish triumvirate is the David Probert-ridden Universal Gleam. Stall one should ensure he gets a run, assuming they come down the middle, and he'll be delivered late. He is another straight track mile winner and I'll be cheering him without necessarily wagering him, a truism whenever one of the geegeez riders is steering.

Back to the shortlist, and the remaining pair on that sheet are the top two in the market, Ouzo and Maydanny. Ouzo has good form on the Newmarket straight and ran a taking trial for this ten days back, getting collared late on. Ryan Moore retains what is an eye-catching partnership.

Well supported in recent days is Maydanny, about whom the the fancy prices are now gone. It is not hard to see why: this 1.35 million guinea yearling is a son of Dubawi out of the brilliant filly, Attraction, herself a winner of five Group 1's. With just three starts to his name, the four-year-old has clearly had his challenges but he laughed at a field of solid if unspectacular Class 4 handicappers a fortnight ago, coming away for a facile four length score. There's a really good chance he's a fair bit better than his current mark of 90.

Clearly a very trappy race and I'll be trying to get one into the first three, the bizarre requirement this week for placepot purposes even in 24-runner handicaps like this. Maydanny might just about still be backable at around 7/1 and I'll also take 12/1 Sir Busker to be in my corner.

*

1.50 Hampton Court Stakes (Group 3, 1m2f, 3yo)

A ten furlong heat for those staying on in the 2000 Guineas but probably not good enough for the Derby and those rising up through the ranks. Its roll of honour is good but not great with every likelihood of that being the prevailing perception post-race.

Favourite is Her Majesty's First Receiver. For the first time, as I understand it, in 67 years, The Queen will not be at Royal Ascot though she will doubtless be cheering this easy last day victor up the straight as though she was in her customary vantage high in the stands. That Kempton romp is hard to contextualise but First Receiver's trainer, Sir Michael Stoute, has won this race three times since 2009 so that's a clue. Mind you, Stoutey (if I might be so bold) has run 22 horses in this down the years which somewhat dilutes the still considerable merit of his achievement.

I was more taken with the effort of Juan Elcano last time when that one was a four length fifth in the 2000 Guineas. This represents a notable step back in grade which, allied to the extra quarter mile in trip, ought to see him go close if the exertions of a Classic run just 11 days ago have not left their mark.

Aidan O'Brien runs two, the better fancied of the pair being Derrinstown Derby Trial second Russian Emperor, a rare runner from the yard in non-Coolmore colours. In fact, as with all of the Ballydoyle horses it is a partnership, this time with Laurie Macri. Getting back to the horse, he was given plenty to do in a tactical race at Leopardstown that last day, finishing best but failing by a half length to reel in stablemate, Cormorant. You might say that the bird had flown. (sigh)

Eight days later and here he is in what may become another tactical affair, though Ryan Moore will have a match fit partner where Seamie perhaps was minded to tighten the bolts a little. That's all doublespeak for he'll be on his A game here and there will be no excuses.

Berlin Tango scored in Listed company under David Probert at Kempton last time, a beneficiary of trainer Andrew Balding's white hot form at the resumption. He's a progressive colt and showed a ready turn of foot about a quarter mile out which won him the race. He still has to show that his turf form is up to that level, however, and Oisin Murphy takes over from David.

Some way behind Juan Elcano at Newmarket was Kenzai Warrior, who completely fluffed the start. Whilst he is likely better than the bare form, I'm not sure the step up in trip is what he needs, or indeed whether he's good enough anyway. [We all know what happens now...]

Ralph Beckett's Zoffany colt, Mascat, looked to be crying out for the extra range after only just inhaling the leaders in a mile maiden at HQ last time. This is a leap and bound forward in class terms but he has reasonable credentials on both pedigree and form - he was second to the much-vaunted Palace Pier on his only other career start.

This is one of those races where I haven't really got a clue and, in that absence of idea, I tend to swing wildly for penny change. 20/1 Mascat is the horse to fit my requirements though he clearly has to improve some to get to the established level of some of these, and then a bit more to out-improve those other improvers, if you see what I mean. 7/2 Russian Emperor and 11/4 Juan Elcano are much more obvious, though commensurately shorter-priced, alternatives. But, it bears repeating, I have less of a clue than normal here.

*

2.25 King George V Stakes (Class 2 Handicap, 1m 4f, 3yo)

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The curious case of the mile and a half draw bias against low-drawn horses. It really does defy convention, except that perhaps those drawn low are either too far forward if they're quick at the gate, or stuck in a pocket if they're tardily away. Either way, the data bear out this counter-intuitive snippet which is a key to hoping to unravel a conundrum such as the King George V Stakes.

Here's a picture which shows the three-stall rolling average of percentage of rivals beaten (or PRB3 for short). 50% is the mid-point - where runners from a stall have beaten as many others as have beaten them - so north of 55% is a good figure and south of 45% is the converse.

The blue line is the filtered data - in this case good/firm to good going, 16+ runners, actual draw (accounting for non-runners) - which shows the poor record of inside boxes. As can be seen from the pink line, that disadvantage is regardless of going. We're dealing with small samples here so the usual caveat emptor applies, and one should note that horses from stalls three and six have won a race each; but those two scores are from 119 to exit logical (i.e. removing non-runners) traps seven or lower.

After all that, I'm sorry to report that the shortest-priced low drawn horse is 10/1 Kings Caper in stall five.

What else do we have to conjure with? Trainer Mark Johnston has saddled five winners but from 58 runners (-£8.50 at SP), Aidan O'Brien saddled his first winner last term from 14 starters to date, and Sir Michael Stoute is the king of the King George V with four winners and another seven placed from 28 starters.

Sir Michael, of course, is empty-handed this term, as is Aidan; but 'Always Trying' runs a quartet, three of which are drawn 1, 2 and 5. History says that may make life difficult; his fourth strand is Subjectivist from stall 15 and with Ryan Moore booked to ride. He drops from minor pattern company into a handicap for the first time, his open race form mixing it with the likes of Juan Elcano, Mohican Heights and Pyledriver, all of whom take on loftier pots this week. 25/1 may understate his prospects.

The favourite is Kipps, trained by Hughie Morrison and ridden by David Probert. This lightly-raced War Command colt is well thought of and was narrowly denied close home on his seasonal debut ten days ago. Ideally berthed in stall twelve he has an obvious chance for a trainer with a quietly impressive Royal Ascot record (7/76, 14 further places, +£17 at SP, which improves to 6/49, 15 further places, +£23 in handicaps only). Morrison has had two from five placed in this race and I obviously hope Kipps wins. But I can't back him at 4/1.

The Yarmouth race in which Bodyline was a strong-finishing second looks certain to work out well and Sir Mark Prescott's Australia colt ought to improve for the extra distance. Stall 17 is almost too wide, however, and tempers enthusiasm a touch.

John Gosden has had just one winner, from 18 runners (three more placed), in the King George V Stakes, but To Nathaniel has fair prospects of doubling his victory tally. No prizes for guessing his dad's name with stamina also imbued from the dam line, Sea The Stars being his maternal grandfather. To Nathaniel is unbeaten in two seven-runner lower-grade handicaps since stepping up to this sort of trip and since being fitted with cheek pieces. He can progress again.

Arthurian Fable is somehow still a maiden after just failing to get up on his fourth and most recent start. That was at ten furlongs, this is twelve, and the Brian Meehan yard are enjoying a good little spell. Jockey Martin Dwyer will, like all the car park lads (and the lass Hollie Doyle), need to negotiate a ground-saving passage; if he can, his mount could break his duck on the big stage.

There are lots more with chances, a universal truth in Royal Ascot handicaps.

Jeez, it's trappy. Better to be lucky than good, as they say, so I'm rolling the dice with 25/1 Subjectivist and 14/1 Arthurian Fable, for sticky bun stakes.

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3.00 Prince Of Wales's Stakes (Group 1, 1m2f, 4yo+)

The highlight of the day is the Group 1 mile and a quarter Prince of Wales's Stakes for older horses. Locking horns in a field where quality usurps quantity are the recent winners of Group or Grade 1's in Britain, France, Dubai and Australia.

Market leader at coin toss odds is Japan, third in the Derby, fourth in the Arc and a three-time winner in between, including the Prix du Jockey Club (1m4f) and the Juddmonte International at York over this trip. His form is the best in the race and he's likely to have strengthened up from three to four; but connections might just have an autumn campaign on their minds. I also wouldn't be completely sold on a waiting ride in what may be a tactical race, not at even money or so at any rate.

Second favourite is the Roger Charlton-trainer Headman, who won the always top-class London Gold Cup handicap before a brace of Group 2's in France, and finished off with a solid fifth in the Irish Champion Stakes. I'm just not at all sold on the French pattern form from last year with pretty much all of their black type races having been won by overseas raiders.

Barney Roy seems to have been around forever - indeed he won the St James's Palace Stakes in 2017 at this meeting, having run up to Churchill in the 2000 Guineas previously. More recently his best form has been in Dubai but, as a nine-furlong horse stretching out, he might have the tactical toe to outspeed rivals if it is a steadily run contest.

Officially rated the same as Japan - both on 122 - is Addeybb. He enjoyed a purple patch down under in the spring winning a pair of G1's; in beating the same horse twice, however, there may be reservations about the form. It is probably a lot fairer to say I am incapable of quantifying the Australian form. Historically, their best middle-distance horses have not been as good as ours. All that said, Addeybb was second to Magical in the Group 1 Champion Stakes on soft ground before leaving for Oz so he has rock solid course and distance form and any rain will support his cause.

John Gosden runs both the filly Mehdaayih and the progressive Cambridgeshire winner, Lord North. The former was sent off favourite for the Oaks last year: things didn't work out on that tricky track and she showed better form in a Group 2 in France subsequently. Despite getting closest to Japanese raider, Deirdre, in the G1 Nassau Stakes at Goodwood last summer, and even with her gender allowance, she doesn't especially appeal on here second spin against the men here.

Lord North has moved forward a stone, from a mark of 98 to 112. That gives him ten pounds to find with the best of these and he was perhaps a little fortunate to beat Elarqam last time. It would be a surprise and, from a form perspective a disappointment, if Bangkok was good enough.

The Prince Of Wales's Stakes is a difficult race to weigh up this year. On the face of it, Japan should win: ten furlongs looks optimal for an improving multiple Group 1-winning colt. But perhaps not a steadily run ten furlongs; and perhaps not on his seasonal bow. At the prices - always at the prices - I'm going to take him on with Addeybb. He too is a risky proposition: is he over his travel exertions? Is that form actually good enough? But he does like a bit of cut and his run behind Magical in the Champion Stakes last autumn is high class and over track/trip. At 10/1 in a place, that'll do for me.

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3.35 Royal Hunt Cup (Class 2 Handicap, 1m, 3yo+)

An impossible cavalry charge down the straight mile. As always in such races, I'm looking for a hold up or midfield horse with big field form, ideally here. My shortlist is Kynren, Raising Sand, Indeed, What's The Story, and last year's winner, Afaak.

Kynren is a season ticket holder in these kind of events, finally snaffling an overdue win in a heritage handicap at the track over seven furlongs last autumn. Therein may lie the key, though: he is probably slightly better at seven than a mile for all that a form string of 052516 in huge field Ascot handicaps marks him down as an extra place each way wager.

Raising Sand has a similar profile to Kynren. He, too, has been uber-consistent in the context: 143078164310 is his string, which at a mile goes to 1763 and a mile on soft side of good 163. The '3' was in this race last year but another five pounds hardly makes his task easier. I respect this chap but will let him beat me.

Dominic Ffrench-Davis doesn't have many superstars but he is clearly eminently capable of handling a good one when it comes along. Enter Indeed, second in a soft ground nine-furlong straight track Group 3 last season, ideal credentials for finishing off this furlong shorter mission. He's gone very well fresh in the past and, while his handicap mark is no 'gimme', he's feasibly weighted from a mid-track position.

What's The Story will be ridden by Callum Rodriguez, so naturally I'll be hollering for him out of loyalty. But his form profile stacks up, too. Although there are mixed messages about softish ground, he has handled a variety of underfoot conditions and stays as far as ten furlongs as well as being nippy enough for seven. In other words, he's versatile. Whether he is quite enough of a specialist for this gig, I'm not sure.

Afaak, or something very similar, is what I was screaming twelve months ago as Jim Crowley repelled Jamie Spencer's late Clon Coulis charge. That was on soft ground and, remarkably, Afaak had been second in this same race a year prior to that. 2nd of 30 (rated 103) and 1st of 28 (rated 103) screams contender, especially off a mere three pound higher mark mitigated entirely by Cieren Fallon's three pound claim. There can be little doubt this has been the target.

There are any number of less exposed, more fashionable profiles at the top of the market but this is a race that tends to go the way of a battle-hardened handicapper with a touch of class. With that in mind, Indeed and Afaak are my each way two against the field, both at around 16/1. Try for fifteen places!

Royal Hunt Cup 2020 pace map, ordered by draw

Royal Hunt Cup 2020 pace map, ordered by draw

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4.10 Windsor Castle Stakes (Listed, 5f, 2yo)

The first two-year-old race of the week, and as many as twenty of them go to post.

US trainer Wesley Ward is two from twelve in this race, most recently with Hootenanny in 2014. He's had a couple of shorties down the field since, and the soft ground is probably not optimal for Sunshine City. Although only midfield from the gate on her four-and-a-half furlong turning dirt track debut, she can be expected to bounce alertly here; but it won't be lost on many what a different proposition this will be. Of course, Wes has done it before and he might do it again. The price means I'll look elsewhere. Ward also runs Sheriff Bianco, beaten three lengths on debut and not on my wishlist.

Aidan O'Brien is the other obvious trainer in the race having saddled last year's victor, Southern Hills, and 2015 champ, Washington DC. He's also had a second, a third and four fourths from 16 entries. Chief Little Hawk, an impressive winner just a week ago, travelled well that day and quickened up readily. The ground will be a little softer here but he's feared.

The upstart in this juvenile sprint division is Archie Watson. He got the lot two years ago with Soldier's Call and has another live one in Mighty Gurkha. The cheaply bought Sepoy colt bossed things from the stalls on his sole jaunt thus far, a six-furlong Lingfield all weather spin. Soldier's Call also began on the Lingfield AW but he didn't scoot up by eight long lengths! Who knows what was behind Mighty Gurkha that day - the second has been disappointing since - but Watson's entry has both speed and relative stamina.

The Queen's Tactical, trained by Andrew Balding and ridden by James Doyle, has been backed recently in the manner of a horse that has come out of his debut well. That effort, 13 days ago, was a two-length third in a Newmarket maiden (Get It a length and a quarter ahead in second) where Tactical encountered a small amount of trouble in the run. Balding's horses invariably improve from first to second start - he wins second time out at 20%, first time out at 11%. He might be able to reverse the form with Get It, whose trainer Clive Cox scores at roughly 10% with horses on both their first and second starts.

At bigger prices, James Tate's Victory Heights and George Boughey's Astimegoesby are not without a chance, a comment which doubtless applies to several others unmentioned in these despatches.

Wagering the Windsor Castle is not for the faint-hearted, like most of what has preceded it, and Chief Little Hawk is an unimaginative though pretty solid suggestion. Mighty Gurkha could also go well at a bigger price.

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4.40 Copper Horse Handicap (Class 2 Handicap, 1m6f, 4yo+)

A one off this year is the mile and three quarters Copper Horse Handicap, for older horses. With very few handicaps run over this trip at Ascot, and none with sort of field size, it is difficult to know what will be the impact of draw and pace. The likelihood, however, is that it might follow the pattern of big-field mile and a half handicaps, with a middle to wide draw and a good trip being optimal. Below is the Instant Expert view of the world:

As can be seen in the above, which is displaying place data, Alright Sunshine, Shailene, Fujaira Prince and Here And Now all have green for those components against which they've previously raced.

Alright Sunshine drops down in class from a Group 3 last time, his first run of the year, and if that has blown away the cobwebs he'll bring progressive handicap form, including on softish ground, to the party. A four pound rise for that recent outing doesn't especially help, however; nor does an inside draw for a hold up type: he will need plenty of luck in the run.

Shailene has trap one but at least has Silvestre de Sousa to navigate her. They may go straight for the lead - the alternative is almost certainly a boxed-in transit and frustration; either way, it will be hard to get the run of the race with so many rivals ostensibly setting up better. On form, her third in a similar handicap at Goodwood last summer when held up and never quite getting there gives her a squeak.

The favourite is Fujaira Prince. Trained by Roger Varian, the son of Pivotal has stamina on the dam side being out of a Dalakhani mare. That offers hope on this first foray beyond a mile and a half, having stayed on in such contests the last twice, including most recently in the Duke Of Edinburgh Stakes at this meeting a year ago. His trainer has an excellent record with horses off a layoff - better than 21%, 50% hitting the frame - and Fujaira Prince has a wide draw to give jockey Andrea Atzeni options.

Here And Now is a massive price, largely because he hasn't run for two years. But I imagine he's well drawn in twelve and has a great profile fit on his old form. Those 2018 efforts include a five length score in a 16-runner two mile Class 2 York handicap. Harry Bentley is one of trainer Ralph Beckett's go-to 'handicap job jockeys' - according to one of my QT Angles anyway - so, while the layoff is clearly a huge question mark, he's worth a small chance at 33/1 or so. Beckett's record with handicappers off a 200+ day rest is 15%, though it is less impressive off an ultra-break like this.

Collide, Ranch Hand and Beckett's other entry and third reserve, Hereby, all have progressive profiles and winning form at this specific distance; as such all have clear chances.

A very trappy close to a fiendish day. Again, Fujaira Prince looks solid at the head of the betting; while I won't be able to resist a tiny tickle on Here And Now. But tiny is what it will be: there will be more feasibly winnable battles in the coming days.

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Good luck!

Matt