Big field, long distance – it’s the Ascot Stakes over the marathon trip of 2 miles and 4 furlongs! Despite 20 runners in the line-up we have one clear favourite. David Simcock’s Ray Ward is well fancied to land the odds. It’s easy to see why. He acts on fast ground, stays the trip and and is potentially on a good mark. His prep run over sharp 10f couldn’t have gone any better either. Clearly, there’s plenty to like about Ray Ward.
Generally lightly raced Fun Mac may join Ray Ward at the head of the market come the start of the race. He was an ultra impressive winner on his seasonal reappearance. An 11 lengths winner in a class 3 Handicap – you don’t see that too often. Fun Mac goes on any kind of ground and has clearly potential for further improvement. A 14lb hike in the mark makes life tougher though and he’s untested over marathon trips.
Veteran Clondaw Warrior has been in fine form over hurdles in recent weeks. He won the November Handicap at Leopardstown last year, so is a good stayer on the flat as well as he is good over the sticks. Lightly raced Lycidas won a good 2m Handicap when last seen. There is more to come from him.
Irish raider Digeanta has the benefit of feather weight. He just made the cut as an 88 rated individual but has some good staying performances to his name. He wasn’t disgraced on his seasonal reappearance and could go well.
Godolphin’s Statutory is an improving stayer and ground independent. Main concern is the lack of a recent run as well as his high handicap mark. Another lightly raced sort is Asbury Boss. He shaped with promise in 2m contests in his last two starts. On only his third Handicap start, he is one to like.
Experienced stayer Broxbourne was in good form over jumps this season. He returns to the flat and is on a handy mark, only 1lb above his last win.
Top weight Hurricane Higgins will have a tough task off 9st 10lb but has been in fine form this year and is a classy stayer on his day. He won a Novice Hurdle last month and a good staying race on the Lingfield All-Weather in February after a long break. He proved to stay this sort of marathon trip in the past and acts on fast ground. He’s one who relishes these kind of tests with a big field where he can stay on from the back passing as many horses as he likes.
Boite has been third in the Group 3 Queen’s Vase two years ago, so has excellent Royal Ascot form. He couldn’t quite follow on from there but seems to find something back of his old best this year – he hasn’t been out of the money in four starts. Johnny Murtagh’s Hardstone has been prolific on the All-Weather and coped well with the step up in trip at Leopardstown earlier this month. More is required here, though.
Big Thunder would be well handicapped if he can stay the distance. Shwaiman is on an interesting mark if he can bring his recent Hurdle form now to the flat.
Verdict: A wide open renewal of the Ascot Stakes. Many horses seem to come right for the big race and you could easily make a serious case for half the field. I’m in the hunt for for a bit of value, though and my initial feeling has only hardened: Hurricane Higgins is overpriced.
Yes, he has quite a big task assigned as top weight, but horses with big weights usually do well here. HH finds ideal conditions at Ascot, is sure to stay, sure to be in good form, happy on the ground and usually likes these type of races. He is still as good as ever as he proved when winning first time out off a near three year long break at Lingfield earlier this year.
Hurricance Higgins @ 16/1 Paddy Power – 5pts Win