2.30 Ascot – Chesham Stakes (Listed Race)
There was much talk about the potential of Ballydoyle having been named after the world-famous training centre and she certainly didn’t fulfil market expectations when fourth on debut at the Curragh. Having said that, she is a full-sister to Misty For Me who was also beaten on debut and she came forward a lot on the back of that run. It should also be highlighted that Aidan O’Brien’s string is in much better form than when she ran at the end of last month and this looks a good race for her. The extra furlong will help her and I imagine she will be a lot straighter for her initial outing. She has Ryan Moore on her back which as we have seen this week is definitely an advantage and I think she has a strong chance of going close here.
Michael Halford sent Toscanini over for this race twelve months ago with the colt finishing second to Richard Pankhurst. This year he saddles another Godolphin-owned colt in the shape of Tonkinese who seemed to appreciate the step up to seven furlongs when winning impressively a couple of weeks ago at Leopardstown. The form of his first run has also worked out well with the two horses finishing in front of him being Air Force Blue (2nd in the Coventry) and Rockaway Valley both having franked the form. He was reported to still be a little green on his second start so there should be more to come from him and he looks another one with a big chance.
However, one who I think is overpriced is Simon Crisford’s RED ARTIST who had a nice introduction to racing when winning at Newcastle on Derby Day. An 82,000 guineas purchase at the breeze-up sales, he travelled well throughout and always looked like winning but Rob Havlin gave him a good ride and taught the colt plenty. He will obviously need to step forward from that run to get involved here but there was a lot to like about his first run and the extra furlong should be in his favour. Simon Crisford has already made a fast start to his training career and is currently operating at a 36% strike-rate. He has booked old friend Frankie Dettori to ride the colt and I think he offers some value at around the 10/1 mark.
3.05 Ascot – Wolferton Handicap (HANDICAP)
In terms of age, the group to follow in this race is certainly the four-year-olds, who have accounted for eight of the last ten winners of this race. There are no less than seven four-year-olds in this year’s line-up in Fire Fighting, Mahsoob, Ayrad, First Flight, Collaboration, Provenance and Mount Logan, so it looks as though the winner is likely to come from this group.
Another strong trend is the one regarding the draw and on the round course, it is little surprise that low draws are favoured with seven of the last ten winners coming from stall 8 or lower. It is often difficult to get a position from a wide draw and horses can use up too much energy getting to the front or racing too freely if they can’t get cover early on. Whatever the reason, the horses in prime position this year are First Flight, Ocean Tempest, Super Moon, Groundbreaking, Mount Logan, Dick Doughtywylie, Mahsoob and Ayrad.
The weight carried can often have a big effect on the outcome of the race and the ideal burden here looks to be 9st 2lb or lower. In the last decade, only three horses have carried in excess of that to victory so it looks best to stick towards horses with lower weights. When applying the trend to this year’s field, it eliminates the top four as they appear on the racecard, Fire Fighting, Fattsota, Niceofyoutotellme and Mahsoob.
Closely linked to weight carried, is the official rating of the horses and this seems to fit a similar pattern. In this case a rating of 105 or lower looks preferable with only two winners having defied this trend in recent years. That is bad news for the quartet just mentioned as they also fail on the official ratings stat.
In competitive races such as this one, it is best to side with horses in form and this view is reinforced by the fact that seven of the last ten winners, finished no worse than fifth on their most recent outing. Only five of this year’s field miss this pattern, so it may be best to steer clear of Fattsota, Ocean Tempest, Groundbreaking, Mount Logan and Dick Doughtywylie.
The final factor to consider is the betting and overall this is not a race in which it is best to follow the market leaders. With only two winning favourites in the last decade, it looks a big ask for those at the head of the market. At the time of writing, John Gosden’s Mahsoob heads the market so he may be the one to avoid.
FIRST FLIGHT – 6/6
Ayrad – 6/6
Mount Logan – 5/6
Saeed Bin Suroor’s FIRST FLIGHT tops the shortlist having fitted all of our trends and he has close form with the favourite, having finished just three-quarters of a length behind him at York. He gets a slight pull in the weights with that rival which should help him reverse the form and as that was his first run of the season, he is entitled to improve for it. He continues to progress nicely for his connections and from stall 1, he should be able to go very close.
Roger Varian’s Ayrad also matched all six of our trends and he arrives here in good form having won a Listed race at Goodwood last time. That was over 1m4f so he drops back in trip here but he has run well over the shorter distance in the past. He should be able to get in a good position from stall 8 and with Frankie Dettori booked to ride, he looks set for a bold showing.
Mount Logan also makes the shortlist despite missing the form trend, having finished eighth at Epsom on his return to action earlier this month. He raced wide on that occasion so you can probably mark his performance up a little and otherwise, he looks to have a strong profile. Luca Cumani tends to do well with progressive handicappers like this and he shouldn’t be dismissed lightly.
3.40 Ascot – Hardwicke Stakes (Group 2)
With only seven runners you might be forgiven for thinking that the race may be a little disappointing, however it looks a top-class renewal of the race.
Last year’s winner Telescope returns in search of further glory having won well in Listed company at Newbury last month. He is perhaps a little unfortunate not to be unbeaten this season having been collared close home in the Jockey Club Stakes at Newmarket on his seasonal reappearance. On the whole, the five year-old is very consistent, having only finished outside of the first three once, which was at the Breeder’s Cup where he was fourth behind Main Sequence. I do have a slight concern that he is vulnerable to a really top-class horse but he definitely sets the standard here. Having said, the market reflects that and is currently around the 5/4 mark and there may be better options on the card.
John Gosden’s Eagle Top turned in a career best over course and distance last season when winning the King Edward VII Stakes by three and a quarter lengths. He bounced off the ground that day, although he couldn’t follow up in the King George next time. He is still lightly-raced and ran better than the result suggests in the Brigadier Gerard last time where his trainer was keen to point out beforehand that he wouldn’t be overly hard on the colt. He showed up well for a long way before getting a little tired in the closing stages and was only beaten two and a half lengths at the line. That should have put him spot on for this assignment and with the return to a mile and a half likely to suit, he looks likely to give a bold showing.
However, it might be best to side with Luca Cumani’s POSTPONED who is also sure to be suited by the return to 1m4f. Having chased home Cannock Chase in the Tercentenary at Royal Ascot last year, he improved during the rest of the season, winning a Listed race at Hamilton before turning in his most impressive display in the Great Voltigeur at York. He has been placed twice already this season over an inadequate ten furlongs, beaten less than a length on both occasions and should be cherry ripe for this outing. 1m4f on fast ground appear to be his ideal conditions and given how well he has run in defeat so far this season, I think he can take a big step forward here and stakes his claim as one of the leading older horses in the middle distance division.
4.20 Ascot – Diamond Jubilee Stakes (Group 1)
Given the record of foreign raiders in recent years, it is hardly surprising that Chris Waller’s Brazen Beau currently sits at the head of the market. The three-year-old has won two Grade 1s so far including last time when drawing away to land the Newmarket Handicap at Flemington. This is the same race that Miss Andretti and Takeover Target both won before coming to Royal Ascot and winning their respective renewals of the King’s Stand Stakes. Craig Williams, who is no stranger to racing in Britain comes over to take the ride and he looks to have plenty going in his favour here.
If we look at last year’s renewal of the race, there is no doubt that Due Diligence was the unlucky horse in the race having been denied a clear run, but he still did well to finish second behind the all-conquering Slade Power. The four-year-old has only had one start since then over seven furlongs at the Curragh in April where he made some late headway but was never a threat to the winner. That was over seven furlongs and on ground softer than ideal so I would expect him to come on for that run under more suitable conditions and he looks to have good each-way claims once again at around the 10/1 mark.
Another one who might be a little overpriced is Wesley Ward’s Undrafted who we saw over here last season when he finished fourth in the July Cup at Newmarket. He too would have preferred the ground to be quicker that day and he looks likely to get those conditions on Saturday afternoon. He hasn’t managed to get his head in front since then although there was plenty to like about his latest run when he was strong at the finish. He isn’t far from the best sprinters in America and deserves a place on the shortlist at around 12/1.
In terms of the winner, it might be best to side with Dermot Weld’s MUSTAJEEB who already has course form, having won the Jersey Stakes over seven furlongs here last year. He was dropped back to six furlongs on his return to action in May and stayed on strongly in the closing stages to win the Group 2 Greenlands Stakes. His connections have always thought very highly of him and with a strong pace likely to be set early on, he could be the one to swoop late and land the spoils.
5.00 Ascot – Wokingham Stakes (HANDICAP)
By far the strongest trend associated with this race is that all of the last ten winners had an official rating of no more than 106. Even multiple Group race winning sprinter Maarek could only finish sixth off an official mark of 108 in 2012, so it is not the sort of trend we should be looking to take on. Of this year’s field, the quintet of Intransigent, Louis The Pious, Lancelot Du Lac, Watchable and Ruwaiyan all sit above the mark and given the strength of the trend, I am happy to rule them out at this stage.
In terms of age, four and five-year-olds look to be the group to follow, having accounted for eight of the last ten winners. They have all but five of the field running for them in this year’s renewal, which suggests they could yet improve upon their fine record. Those who miss out are the two seven-year-olds Louis The Pious and Dinkum Diamond as well as the trio of six-year-olds Intransigent, Ruwaiyan and Robert Le Diable.
When looking at the weights carried by previous winners, it looks like the upper limit is 9st 2lb as only three winners in the last decade have carried more than that to victory. If we apply that to this year’s renewal, it cuts the field in half with Interception the last one to miss the cut. However, Dinkum Diamond fits into the preferred bracket as he will be ridden by Edward Greatrex whose 7lb claim takes the weight carried down from 9st 4lb to 8st 11lb.
In a race as competitive as this, it probably isn’t best to take a chance on a horse returning to form and the facts back that up, as all but two of the last ten winners had finished in the first four on their most recent outing. This once again splits the field in half but some of the ones to fail on that count include Watchable, Zarwaan and Intrinsic.
The draw can often play a vital role in races with field sizes such as this one and the stats suggest that a low draw is best, with six of the last ten winners coming from stall 15 or lower. Those with high draws here include the likes of Intrinsic, Tatlisu and Algar Lad and whilst horses have won from high stalls in the past, it is probably best to stick with those on the low side.
The final factor to mention is the betting and it is little surprise that favourites don’t have a great record, having only landed two of the last ten renewals. In big-field races such as this one, horses do not always get a clear run and horses can run well and finish out of the places. Huntsmans Close currently occupies the top spot at the head of the market and given the trends, it seems best to look elsewhere.
DIVINE – 6/6
Basil Berry – 6/6
Related – 6/6
In a typically open renewal of the Wokingham, we have three horses who match all six of our trends.
David Simcock’s Related comes in here on the back of winning at Kempton on the all-weather back in March. The five-year-old held on well that day to land the spoils although he has been raised 6lb on the back of that effort. He has snuck in at the bottom of the weights and although he is as big as 33/1 in the betting, he could outrun those sizeable odds.
Basil Berry has course and distance form having won at Ascot on his latest start when getting up to deny Major Jack right on the line. Chris Dwyer’s four-year-old is clearly on a steep upward curve having won at Wolverhampton the time before and he comes here in search of the hat-trick. He has only gone up 3lb on the back of his latest effort which shouldn’t be too much of an inconvenience and arriving here in form, he could go close once again.
However, I marginally prefer the chances of Mick Channon’s DIVINE who was fourth in Listed company at Windsor on her last visit to the racecourse. Prior to that she had bolted up on her seasonal reappearance which was also at Windsor and she won with three and three-quarter lengths to spare at the line. She is clearly in great form at the minute and given her strong trends profile she could go close at around 25/1.
5.35 Ascot – Queen Alexandra Stakes
The final race of the meeting is the Queen Alexandra Stakes run over a marathon distance of 2m 5f and 159 yards.
Two of the last three renewals of the race have gone the way of top Irish jumps trainer Willie Mullins and I find it hard to see past WICKLOW BRAVE who represents the stable this year. A high-class performer over hurdles, he ran away with the County Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival, winning by eight lengths in the hands of Paul Townend. He has had two starts on the flat since then, winning comfortably on both starts over two miles and one mile, six furlongs. Obviously, the extra six furlongs is something of an unknown but he has won the race with similar performers in the past and this horse is arguably the classiest of the lot. He races in the same colours as the 2012 winner Simenon and he looks as though he will give Ryan Moore the perfect end to an unbelievable week for the jockey.
In terms of what might follow him home, despite now being nine, Ed Dunlop’s Times Up may be able to give him something to think about if he can get back to somewhere near his best. A dual winner of the Doncaster Cup, he turned in a good effort last season when third in the Lonsdale Cup at York but hasn’t really gone on from that effort. He drops markedly in class here and could offer some each-way value if bouncing back.
John Gosden’s Marzocco is at the other end of the age spectrum and could be a progressive stayer at the age of four. He ran well in the St Leger last term finishing fifth and was narrowly denied a victory at Ascot by Michael Bell’s William Of Orange in the Noel Murless Stakes. He didn’t show much at Meydan last time but this looks more realistic and with blinkers back on, he could be the one to spoil the Mullins party.