2.30 Ascot – Norfolk Stakes (Group 2)
Well the form of KING OF ROOKS could hardly have worked out any better with the horse he treated with distain at Sandown three weeks ago bolting up in the Woodcote Stakes before following up in the Coventry yesterday. A couple of the horses further back (Steady Pace and Areen) both ran big races in the Windsor Castle Stakes yesterday evening. Some might say that he was unsuited by Ascot on debut but I’m not sure there is much in that theory as a lot of Richard Hannon’s two-year-olds have come on significantly for the run this year. In terms of winning the race I find it difficult to look past Richard Hannon’s colt although taking 5/6 in a 2yo race at Royal Ascot is not really my thing.
With such a short-priced favourite there may be some value in the each-way market with most firms offering a quarter of the odds for the first three home.
One colt who impressed me on debut was James Given’s Jazz Legend who despite not attracting much pre-race support, won well at Haydock at the end of last month. A £170,000 purchase at the Doncaster breeze-up sales in April, the ground would have been slow enough for him on his first start and there is reason to think he will be better suited by faster ground here. The form of that run isn’t great but he was fast away at Haydock before quickening up in the closing stages and I think he offers some appeal at around the 16/1 mark.
we had a bit of luck with Zebstar when he won his maiden at 25/1 on the Sunday of the guineas meeting. Another product of the breeze-up sales, he was tough in the closing stages to hold off the challenge of Richard Hannon’s Dheban in the run to the line. The form in behind is starting to work out well with four horses having come out and won subsequently. The reports of this colt’s exploits on the gallops since his debut run have been very positive although they should be treated with a large serving of salt. He was in the London sale on Monday evening but was withdrawn as the owners feel they may not get another chance at Royal Ascot and he could also run well at around 16/1.
3.05 Ascot – Tercentenary Stakes (Group 3)
There may have been a stage earlier in the season when we might have questioned the strength of the Ballydoyle team this year but the first day of Royal Ascot underlined the horses that they have at their disposal. Here they saddle Cape Clear Island who would have finished much closer that seventh in the Prix du Jockey Club had he not been shuffled back through the field on the turn for home. He is less likely to encounter that sort of trouble here and having already turned in good efforts in Group company this term, he looks set to run well again here. A slight concern for me would be that Ryan Moore has opted to ride Sir Michael Stoute’s Disegno but I still fancy him to go close. He will have to overcome a wide draw in 14 but looks to have solid each-way claims at around the 10/1 mark.
The betting market often serves as a good indicator in this race with eight of the last ten winners having been sent off no bigger than 8/1. During that time we have had five winning favourites including the last two winners of the race. The colt who looks likely to fill that position this year is Roger Charlton’s TIME TEST who looked to be finally fulfilling his potential when winning the London Gold Cup at Newbury in May. His two-year-old form is also starting to look a bit better with Latharnach, who beat him at Sandown having finished second in the St James’ Palace yesterday afternoon. Obviously this is the first time he will have stepped into Group company and he will need to improve but he definitely improved for the step up in trip last time and can run another big race tomorrow.
In terms of the most likely danger, it is difficult to discount the chances of Richard Hannon’s Peacock who would have been three from three this season but for running into the subsequent Derby winner Golden Horn in the Fielden Stakes at Newmarket. He had no problem stepping up to ten furlongs last time and ran on strongly in the closing stages to beat another of today’s rivals Mustadeem by one and a quarter lengths. He obviously runs in the colours of The Queen which means he may be of added interest in the market and he is definitely the one to fear for favourite backers.
3.40 Ascot – Ribblesdale Stakes (Group 2)
The Irish have taken three of the last four renewals of this race and they look to have another strong hand this year with Jim Bolger’s PLEASCACH currently sitting at the head of the market. A winner on her final start at two, she has improved massively since stepping up in trip this season. She was beaten on her return to action in April but there was no doubting the winner when she ran away with the Blue Wind Stakes at Naas next time. Despite dropping back in trip in the Irish 1,000 Guineas last time, she got the verdict by half a length, after which her trainer suggested she would be taking on the boys in the Irish Derby. If that is the case then he must think a lot of her to run her here the week before and on all known form she looks the one to beat.
David Wachman’s Curvy also looks likely to play a role in the race having turned over subsequent Derby fourth Giovanni Canaletto in the Group 3 Gallinule Stakes last month. The filly is clearly progressing nicely having won on her last three visits to the racecourse and her Group 3 success has earned her a tilt at this higher level. On official figures she has 8lb to find with Pleascach and I think that is the sort of improvement she will need to show to be competitive year. Having said that the extra couple of furlongs should suit and she could be the one to pick up the pieces if the favourite fluffs her lines.
At a bigger price, John Gosden’s Gretchen makes some appeal having made a winning debut at Newmarket last month. The form is starting to work out well with the runner-up Forever Popular having come out and won since at Chepstow. Obviously this is quite a jump from maiden to Group 2 company but she is related to some smart performers including Duncan and Samuel, so there is reason think she could have that sort of potential. Her trainer is not usually one to run horses in these races for the sake of it and she could run better than her odds of 10/1 suggest.
4.20 Ascot – Gold Cup
The underfoot conditions could play a big part in this race with the participation of a couple of runners Tac De Boistron and Forgotten Rules dependant on the ground being safe. The latter in particular could be important as he currently heads the market at 5/2 having won his first four starts under rules. He stayed on well to win the Long Distance Cup over two miles at Ascot in October and having won well on his return to action when conceding weight all round, he looks of serious interest. He sets a good standard despite being in the infancy of his racing career and if he runs he is likely to be in the shake-up.
I do like the chances of Hughie Morrison’s Vent De Force whose form ties in closely with a few of today’s runners, in particular Mizzou. The pair clashed in the Sagaro Stakes here in April and despite Luca Cumani’s colt getting the verdict that day, Vent De Force would have finished a lot closer had he not met trouble in running with two furlongs to run. He subsequently went and made all in the Henry II Stakes at Sandown, which has proved to be a good trial for this race over the years. The draw hasn’t been overly kind to him in stall 12 but he looks an improving stayer and looks a solid each-way bet at around 8/1.
However, in an open renewal of the race it might be worth taking a chance on the French raider BATHYRHON who looked as good as ever when winning impressively at Longchamp at the end of last month. I am not too concerned that he ran below form in Meydan earlier this year as the race was not run to suit. He was perhaps a shade unfortunate not to win the Prix Du Cadran at Longchamp in October when he was given a lot to do by Christophe Soumillon. The trip should be no problem for him and as long as he doesn’t get too worked up in the preliminaries; I think he is overpriced at 10/1 and could cause a small upset.
5.00 Ascot – Britannia Handicap (HANDICAP BREAKERS RACE)
There are several strong trends which we can apply to this race, the first of which centres around official ratings. The bracket to focus on is horses rated between 87 and 97 and they have accounted for nine of the last ten winners of the race. In terms of this year’s field this means that the top eleven as they appear on the racecard as well as the bottom two will need to defy a strong pattern.
Another important factor is recent form and it is interesting to note that nine of the winners in the last decade had finished in the first five on their most recent outing. The fact that only Fifteen Love in 2008 has managed to defy this trend in recent years would ring alarm bells for the nine runners who miss this trend including the likes of War Envoy, Dancetrack and Portage who all need to improve on their latest performances to have any chance of going close here.
In competitive handicaps such as this one, the race can sometimes go the way of less exposed horses which have had fewer runs. When we look at the recent patterns, all but two of the last ten winners had run no more than twice during the current season. When looking at this renewal of the race, there are sixteen horses in the field that fall at this hurdle including the likes of Bow And Arrow, Sahaafy and Sacrificial.
In terms of weight, the ceiling appears to be 8st 13lb as only two of the last ten winners carried more than this to victory. This means that once again the top eleven in the racecard are up against it, apart from Make It Up who has the benefit of his jockey’s 7lb claim to take him below the desired threshold.
The draw can often play a big part in these sorts of races and in the Britannia, it marginally favours the higher numbers as six of the last ten winners came from stall 15 or higher. Some of the fancied horses to be drawn low this year are Mutarakez, Malaf and Yorkshire Dales whilst it is not impossible to win from a low draw, they look to be up against it.
The final factor worthy of consideration is the betting and this hasn’t been the best race for following the market leaders, with only three winning favourites in the last decade. It is also a race in which outsiders have run well with four horses finishing with SPs of 20/1 or upwards. At the time of writing, Mutarakez heads the betting so supporters of his will be hoping that he can buck the trend.
CAPEL PATH – 6/6
Bartel – 6/6
Quick Defence – 5/6
We have two horses who match all six of the trends here with preference for Sir Michael Stoute’s CAPEL PATH, who finished second over seven furlongs here on his most recent visit to the racecourse. Prior to that, he got off the mark on his final start at two and whilst he has run well this season, he has yet to get his head in front. Having said that, he should appreciate the return to a mile and he has been drawn favourably in stall 23. He sits towards the bottom of the weights and with plenty of trends going in his favour, he looks likely to give a bold showing.
Ed Vaughan’s Bartel also comes out favourably having won on his last two starts including on his return to action at Kempton a couple of weeks ago. He too matches all six of our trends and having only had four runs to date in his career, he should be open to further improvement. He is also drawn on the stands side in 30 and looks a likely contender for the frame.
There are a host of horses who only miss one of our trends but the one of particular interest is Sir Michael Stoute-trained Quick Defence. He had been knocking on the door on several occasions before getting his head in front at Leicester a few weeks ago. Having had three starts this season he misses that particular trend but otherwise looks to have a lot going in his favour and could run well at a big price.
5.35 Ascot – King George V Stakes (Handicap)
The final race on day three is one of the more open handicaps and there are several improving horses that are in the infancy of their handicap careers.
Once such colt is Sir Michael Stoute’s Dissolution who got off the mark over nine furlongs in maiden company before following up on his handicap debut on his return to action in April. He was equipped with a visor for the first time at Newbury on his latest start and ran well for a long way, but in the end was no match for the progressive Time Test. The handicapper put him up 6lb for that effort as the front two drew well clear of the rest and he looks likely to give another bold showing here.
Luca Cumani’s King Bolete is also worth mentioning having notched the second win of his career at Newbury last month. The colt has only had four starts to date and despite going up 9lb for his latest win he should be open to further improvement. An expensive purchase as a yearling, the penny is now starting to drop with him and Cumani has a habit of doing well with this progressive type of horse. He will likely sit towards the head of the market and you can see why given his improving profile.
However, the winner could come from the yard of Michael Bell in the shape of TAPER TANTRUM who was far from disgraced when finishing third at Epsom a couple of weeks ago. The colt had been off the track for nearly a year prior to that but ran on well from the back to chase home the winner. He got shuffled back at Epsom and this more conventional track should suit him a lot better. He is also entitled to come on for the run physically and having won two of his three starts as a juvenile, he should be able to improve on his current mark of 85. He has been drawn well in stall 5 and if he can step forward from Epsom, I think he will go very close at around the 10/1 mark.