Category Archives: Royal Ascot

Preview: Royal Ascot Gold Cup 2020

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Three-in-a-row for Stradivarius? The defending champion bids for hat-trick glory in the Gold Cup this afternoon. But he’s facing a stiff test in an intriguing contest that will need him to be at his very best.

In short: Stradivarius looks vulnerable. It’s no rocket science to see why that is. Even though he looked as good as ever at Newmarket a fortnight ago when chasing home  Ghaiyyath in the Coronation Cup, the reality is that this was a much tougher race than John Gosden would have liked.

He was clearly ridden with a bigger day in mind in the closing stages, but that doesn’t distract from the fact that he ran some incredibly strong sectionals in the middle part of the race. Those must have hurt and could easily have left a mark as well.

While it was positive to see Stradivarius ran so well on his seasonal return over a trip possibly a little bit too sharp against top-class rivals, it also increases the opportunity, particularly with the rather short turnaround time, of having done too much that day with too little recovery time since then.

The pace in this renewal of the Gold Cup is another question mark. One can assume there’s a good deal of early speed here with quite a few potential horses keen to keep the pace honest. The excellent Kevin Blake makes some useful points in his assessment of the race on that part.

Stradivarius usually quickens at the end of a staying contest when tracking a moderate pace comfortably throughout. Will he be able to do the same in a strongly run contest over the Gold Cup distance?

With that in mind it’s obvious to me that Stradivarius is poor value at his odds-on price. This brings me to the questions who’s the rival that’s going to deny him the hat-trick victory?

The obvious option is Technician. Martyn Meade’s progressive colt enjoyed a particularly fruitful 2019: a listed-, Group 3- and Group 2 success, ultimately rounded up by the cherry on the cake, the Group 1 Prix Royal-Oak.

He thrives in the mud, hence connections will be delighted with all the rain that has arrived at Ascot. Will it be quite soft enough, though? Possibly. He’s certainly a fair price with the going change in mind.

A former Melbourne Cup winner has to be respected. And to this day Cross Counter‘s Flemington victory rates as one of the most pleasing ones I have ever experiences from a punting experience.

He wasn’t too far beaten in last years Gold Cup and subsequently in the Goodwood Cup, nonetheless was beaten fair and square both times by Stradivarius. A disappointing effort in the Irish St. Leger, followed by a another strong performance in the Melbourne Cup, shows he can be a little bit inconsistent.

Cross Counter was a hot favourite in Riyadh earlier this year, before another bid for the Dubai Gold Cup was on the agenda. It’s hard to know which Cross Counter we get today. He will need to be back to his best to land a blow, though.

Even though able to perform well with cut in the ground, his very best comes on a fast surface. Therefore I feel Nayef Road will struggle today, although his comeback at Newcastle was quite excellent.

Cross Counter stable mate Moonlight Spirit is the one that intrigues me most. Gelded over the winter and surprisingly bullish comments by Charlie Appleby (who’s usually rather reserved in the assessment of his horses) are clearly noteworthy.

But also the form of this generally low mileage 4-year-old points upwards. At the end of last season he won a Group 3 at Longchamp over 1m 7f in taking style before going down to Technician in the Prix Royal-Oak, albeit only in the final 100 yards of the race, after leading for a long time.

Soft ground won’t be a worry today, given those last runs, although the fact it won’t be quite as deep as those times at Longchamp is probably of benefit. The stamina question is out there in the open. We’ll have to find out today. His pedigree offers hope and the fact he clearly stayed long distances with plenty of juice on the ground already, offers even more hope.

At given prices, with potentially more to comer over the longer trips, I feel Moonlight Spirit is a little bit overpriced in an open enough contest.

Selection:
10pts win – Moonlight Spirit @ 11.5/1 SM

Preview: Royal Ascot 2020 – Tuesday

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No crowds, no hats, no queen arriving in her carriage at the scene – it’s gonna be a different Royal Ascot to what we’re accustomed to. But then you could say that about nearly everything these days.

Historically I’ve been burnt badly at the Royal meeting. I can’t remember the last time I left the week with the tiniest of profits. I’ll keep a low profile this week, that’s for sure, and instead enjoy the sport for the most part. I can’t help myself, though, and have two selections for day one:

1.50 – Group 1, Queen Anne Stakes, 1 mile

A rather wide open affair where I can make a case for half a dozen in the field which means some of the bigger prices are certainly attractive. Nonetheless I narrowed it down to less than a handful of prime candidates.

The obvious one is Circus Maximus: he has every chance to be an even better four-year-old after a prolific 2019 season. He’s been consistently running well, including when landing the St. James’s Palace Stakes twelve months ago.

He’s clearly the one to beat, although I continue to have a niggling doubt that there are days where h’s finding one or two horses too fast over the mile trip – let’s not forget he was once thought to have a decent shot at the Derby, given his pedigree.

Memories of Terebellum’s impressive Dahlia victory are still fresh. A lightly raced and progressive four-year-old, she should have enough ability to be competitive over a mile, but her price is way too short for me to get involved.

Completely overlooked appears Mustashry, though. Judged on his career-best Lockinge Stakes success from last year he would be the horse they all have to chase home, actually. A topspeed rating of 108 is a standout in this field.

Whether he can run to that sort of level again remains to be seen and his fitness has to be trusted. He ran better than the bare forms suggest in his subsequent defeats last year, before finishing his 2019 campaign on a high note thanks to a fine Group 2 success.

Mustashry is a consistent horse, albeit the oldest in the race, conditions and racing style should be a good fit in this renewal of the Queen Anne. He is certainly overpriced.

Selection:
10pts win – Mustashry  @ 14/1

………

3.00 – Group 2, King Edward VII Stakes, 1m 4f

We will find out if the hype around Mogul is real. Currently as short as 11/2 in the Derby market, he appears to be team Ballydoyle’s prime chance for the Epsom Classic. 

Mogul steps up to the 1m 4f trip for the first time, having raced entirely over a mile as a juvenile. Given his breeding he can be expected to improve significantly for the new distance. On the other hand he has to show significant improvement because he was no more than a fine juvenile, particularly by Aiden O’Brien standards.

He had four runs last year, the highlight a Group 2 success at Newmarket. However, Mogul’s best performance only awarded him a lowly 84 tospeed rating. That doesn’t sound like odds-on favourite to me.

His stable mate Arthur’s Kingdom can’t be underestimated as improvement is likely to come for the new trip as well. Papa Power and Pyledriver have shown good form on the All-Weather and it will be interesting to see how much more there is to come.

Undoubtedly the most intriguing horse in this lineup is Mohican Heights. After a successful debut at Leopardstown in May last year he changed hands for £520k.

Since then he won the Listed Stonehenge Stakes at Salisbury finishing really strongly to win by 2 lengths, when having recent Kempton Classic Trial winner Berlin Tango behind in third (who beat Pyledriver fair and square at Kempton.

Word is Mohican Heights has wintered well, progressed physically – which he had to – and with loads of improvement to be expected from stepping up in trip, given his pedigree – which makes it all the more remarkable that as a late may foal he was able to win on debut a hot Spring maiden over 7 furlongs – he has a prime chance in this race.

Selection:
10pts win – Mohican Heights @ 9/2

…….

What else is there to see on the opening Day of Royal Ascot? No further bets for me, but that doesn’t detract from the interest in some fascinating contests.

The King’s Stand Stakes is the obvious to mention. Battaash looks nearly impossible to beat in this. There is no Blue Point this time. He wasn’t quite his brilliant best when a beaten runner-up by that rival in this very race the last two years.

Truth told: Battaash can only beat himself here. A good Battaash is still well ahead of anyone else in this field. He is so much faster. That’s the question of the day: will he finally taste success at the Royal meeting?

The Ribblesdale Stakes is a slightly underwhelming event. Make no mistake, Frankly Darling is exciting on the back of her performance at Newcastle. But there is not much else here, is there?

Although, intrigue is added by the addition of Miss Yoda, who won a rather poor Lingfield Oaks Trial, and steps down in trip. With a good run here she can enhance her credentials.

The one from Team AOB I’m most interested in is Ennistymon. She won a maiden only a week ago, needed every inch of the ten furlongs and looks set to show much more for the additional distance.

I leave you here with the 2019 Nunthorpe Stakes: wetting the appetite, with what was Battaash’s best performance, awarding him a 123 tospeed rating!

 

Royal Ascot Wednesday

Ascot Grand Stand, by Florian Christoph

Royal Ascot is upon us…. and I missed day one. Just returned from a three week long trip around Australia, work was calling on Monday right away and left no room for any form study, neither yesterday. Without a proper study I don’t throw bucks on the nags and rather enjoy the replays of the big races.

None bigger than the curtain raiser on the opening Tuesday which is the prestigious Queen Anne Stakes – somehow in my mind  the World Cup final for milers!

Maybe because I call myself Paco Boy’s Nr. 1 fan. His triumph in 2009 was such a special, memorable, eye-catching and simply beautiful performance – it left a lasting mark on me.

So of course I was keen to see who’d get up in this years renewal. Ribchester the big favourite after landing the Lockinge in superb style. Not quite as impressive this time, but in the end with authority, the Godolphin inmate ran all his rivals down.

Only one of many brilliant performances on the day. Lady Aurelia bolting up in the King’s Stand and Barney Roy got his first Group 1 win under the belt, while Churchill found this possibly one too many a race.

……

2.30 Ascot: Jersey Stakes, Group 3, 7 furlongs

A hot race that will inevitably end up in a split of the field I believe – pace drawn close to both sides of the rails should ensure a fair enough contest…. hopefully.

It’s hard to make a call what site to favour and what eventually happens in this race, but on pure form you have to very keen on French raider Le Brivido, runner-up in the French Guineas. Drawn in ten he will have every opportunity to make a choice but might early on and no doubt with only two starts to his name he looks bound to improve.

However I fancy second favourite Dream Castle a lot. Drawn in 19 could be a problem, but doesn’t have to be. Fact is this son of Frankel is riddled with talent as he showed on debut when winning impressively, followed up by an incredibly eye-catching performance in the Greenham.

He was argubly unlucky in the 2000 Guineas subsequently and clearly is better than the bare results suggests. He pulled in the first half of the race, was then hampered and a clear run denied at a crucial stage, yet finished strongly.

He has had only three career starts, so there is every chance for more to come as the fast ground and the drop to 7f won’t be a problem, in fact a fast race over this sort of trip should be ideal.

Selection:
10pts win – Dream Castle @ 4/1 Bet365

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4.20 Ascot: Prince Of Wales’s Stakes, Group 1, 1m 2f

Despite the trip possibly short of his optimum, Highland Reel from the front over 10f on fast ground at Ascot could be difficult to peg back, I feel. He a high-class individual and bounced back to his best in the Coronation Cup at Epsom.

I feel his biggest challange won’t come from Jack Hobbs, who got the better of him in Dubai because the drop in trip in combination of quick ground is a much clearer disadvantage for the 2015 derby runner-up in my mind at least.

Most likely to enjoy these conditions is Sir Michael’s classy Galileo colt Ulysses, though. His seasonal reappearance at Sandown was pleasing and the form franked by runner-up Deauville.

He’s yet to score at the highest level however had his fare share of problems which means after eight career starts he might still be able to find a bit of improvement. I’m slightly concerned about him being too far off the pace in this race, on the other hand – but that’s the risk to take.

Selection: 
10pts win – Ulysses @ 4/1 Bet365

Due Diligence to conquer the Diamond Jubilee

Due Diligence

Diamond Jubilee Stakes (Group 1)

The Aussie colt is a big runner for obvious reasons. He may well be too good. But Due Diligence looks a tasty price, given that he is the one in this field with the real potential of massive improvement in him. We clearly haven’t seen the best of him yet.

Due Diligence was runner-up in this very same race last year. It’s not an easy task for three year olds to race against seasoned top class sprinters, so this was a massive performance. Off the track until his reappearance at the Curragh in April, he didn’t run particularly well but wasn’t right that day as it turned out soon after.

Back to sprinting, with quick ground and a fast pace very likely to suit, one can expect him to peak here today, given how Aiden’s run this week. If he can improve from his three year old form, he has a massive chance to go as close as it gets.

Due Diligence @ 13/2 Coral – 5pts Win

Preview: Royal Ascot – Friday Selections

Home Of The Brave

King Edward VII Stakes (Group 2)

Ol’ Man River is hugely talented but something has been amiss this year; tongue-strap is fitted now. He looked like as horse with breathing problems, so this gear can help sometimes. But I’m concerned, and not prepared to back him at short odds.

Favourite Stravagante was seriously well handicapped at Epsom, steps up in Grade here and has surely more to offer. Not so sure, though, whether he really wants this trip. Ballydoyle’s second string Father Christmas is seriously well bred but not for 12f. That says he looked slow over shorter. Festive Affair and Balios may not appreciate the step up in trip. Magic Dancer should have the stamina but also has loads to find on form.

I give John Gosden’s Mr Singh another chance. He looked potentially smart when winning a hot Handicap at Newbury. Subsequently disappointing at Goodwood, which was a strange race. He was green that day, and the form looks good with the winner a subsequent Derby third. He needs pace and fast ground. Second point is given, first one unclear. Trip looks fine.

Mr Singh @ 12/1 Paddy Power – 5pts Win 

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Commonwealth Cup (Group 1)

Couple of fascinating runners here. Obviously speedy Hootenanny is well fancied. Won at Royal Ascot last year and proved to stay a mile at the Breeders Cup. How good he’s coming back as a three year old dropping back in trip, we’ll see. His prep run against very poor opposition didn’t tell us anything. Tongue tied for the first time, I’d be slightly concerned.

Another clash between Anthem Alexander and Tiggy Wiggy. Both with good form this year. I feel the Hannon filly is the slightly better one. Her 1000 Guineas run is a massive performance, given the sectionals she clocked. She might be fighting with Hootenanny for the lead though. Let’s see how that works out.

I restrict myself to one bet in this race and that has to be Home Of The Brave. Mentioned him as an unlikely eye-catcher after the 2000 Guineas. He failed to stay the mile which is no surprise given his pedigree but ran with loads of credit. He confirmed his excellent Listed success over 7f on his seasonal reapperance when he clocked a very fast time. He run the last three furlongs in hand stopped 33.80s and did that easily – this lad has serious speed!

Drawn towards the rail in box two, have to wait and see how it pans out with so much pace on the other side. But I’ve no concerns about the in trip and think there is a huge performance due.

Home Of The Brave @ 18/1 Paddy Power – 5pts Win

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Coronation Stakes (Fillies’ Group 1)

People makes excuses for Found; a bit too many for my liking. This is tougher than the Irish Guineas in my mind and she is a silly price in my book.

The French filly Ervedya was a second behind her last year in a big Group 1, but ridden differently now and more mature, I’m sure she’s the better one. She won the French 1000 Guineas in utterly impressive style. Ground is the issue, though. Nothing in her form nor pedigree suggests that she wants it fast.

That’s the opposite for Bolger’s Lucida. Her runner-up effort in the 1000 Guineas was a monster performance. She fell out out of the gates but travelled well, made a bit too much too early and therefore hit the front too early. Nonetheless she went just down to Legatissimo, no disgrace to finish 2nd, well clear of the rest of the field. The winner in contrast had the run of the race, covered all the time, with gaps opening at the right time.

The sectionals confirmed how strong Lucida’s run was. On another day when things are not working to the textbook for the winner, she’s going to prevail easily. If she can follow on from the Guineas, here with conditions to suit, she’s hard to beat.

Lucida @ 7/2 Ladbrokes – 5pts Win

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Duke Of Edinburgh Stakes (Class 2 Handicap)

Dabadiyan is a huge price and rightly so judged on his recent form – but less than 12 month ago he was still able to be competitive in Listed company. Before that he had a rather decent stint at Meydan. He was competitive in Handicaps of big marks and even finished with loads of credit in two Group 2’s.

Quick ground and 12f seems ideal for him judged on his best. A mark of 100 looks still high enough but if he can find back to form he’s able to run a race. I expect him to overcome his draw and to be very prominent. Since he stays a bit further as well he might be still there when others are really hurt. He might as well finish stone last.

Dabadiyan @ 66/1 Ladbrokes – 2.5pts E/W

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Queen’s Vase (Listed)

Very hard to know who’s going to stay this trip, However I’m pretty certain that Star Rider won’t lack the stamina for 2 miles; she might however lack class. But lightly raced she is, done well to win a Chelmsford maiden over 13.5f, found the drop in trip not what she needs at Goodwood subsequently. On rating she has loads to find, but there is stamina all over her pedigree.

Star Rider @ 66/1 Ladbrokes – 2.5pts E/W

Preview: Royal Ascot – Thursday Selections

Twilight Son

Wednesday turned out to be a pretty horrible day from a betting point of view. I guess you could say Bossy Guest was an unlucky loser in the first. A better pace and he probably wins it. Can’t fault the horse, finished well enough. The rest of the day…. well, it didn’t get any better, That’s probably fair to say. So let’s look ahead. There is great racing on tomorrow.

>>Comprehensive Preview for the Gold Cup: Read Here <<

Tercentenary Stakes, 1m 2f

Excellent renewal for this Group 3. Favourite Time Best is a very exciting colt. He won a good Handicap at York recently; couldn’t done that in any better fashion. He’s lovely bred and has all the right credentials to win this race. Only slight concern is the fast ground which he never encountered before.

Main dangers should come from Peacock and the only filly in the race, Irish raider Bocca Baciata. The former one is a Paco Boy son and has improved nicely this year from a fine Kempton run on his seasonal debut, over a runner-up effort behind subsequent Derby winner Golden Horn, to an authoritative Listed race success at Newmarket when upped in trip last month. He stays 10f and acts on quick ground. Good chance.

The Irish filly won a really good 10f race at Navan earlier this year, which is extremely strong form. She lacked the speed in the Irish 1.000 Guineas afterwards when dropped in trip, though. But she travelled really well that day and back up in trip must be taken seriously. Although it’s never easy against the boys.

Couple more could feature, like progressive Disegno or even Mustadeem, who may find this race more suitable than when second behind Peacock in a trappy affair.

One shouldn’t forget to mention the Dermot Weld’s runner Don Camillo. Lightly raced and progressive on the All-Weather, he won a Dundalk maiden in great fashion and travelled all over older more experienced rivals in a Handicap off a mid-90 mark the next time. He was outstayed eventually but should have learned plenty.

He was thought to be good enough to warrant an entry for the US Triple Crown series, though he didn’t take it up eventually. Nonetheless quite well bred, by a Breeders Cup Classic winner, Don Camillo is likely to relish the fast conditions at Ascot. With further improvement to come, he’s a very lively outsider in this field.

Don Camillo @ 33/1 Stan James – 5pts Win

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Ribblesdale Stakes, 1m 4f

Irish 1000 Guineas winner Pleascach is a warm favourite for this Fillies’ Group 2. She steps up markedly in trip, though is expected to take to it without a problem. She won over 10f earlier this year and the Guineas was run as a real test of stamina, which suited her. She’ll take plenty of beating if she runs to her official rating.

Second favourite Pamona was a bit unlucky in a Listed event recently. But she doesn’t strike me as a filly who wants much further than 10 furlongs. The same goes for progressive Curvy, who was able to beat a well fancied stable mate the last time.

Aiden O’Brien’s Wedding Vow has been a disappointing favourite in the Lingfield Oaks trial. She didn’t get the run of the race there and seemed to lack focus in the closing stages. Blinkered for the first time she could be much sharper here. But she is still a maiden and her form is far from special.

If you want to take on the top notch Bolger filly – and I am prepared to do that – you better don’t underestimate John Gosden’s charge Gretchen. Only a one time raced maiden winner to date, one should really watch her debut run at Newmarket, where she made a very big impression on me.

She was green – naturally – slowly out of the gates too, but then settled well and made gradually progress. I liked the way she went through the gears travelling on the outside to increase the heat step by step. She was only pushed out, never saw the stick, but won a useful maiden in authoritative style in the end.

This filly looks exceptional from a physical point of view and is equally bred to be a star; she is open to any amount of improvement. John Gosden must think allot of her to throw her in at the deep end here, but if she can overcome inexperience, she must be one who is able to give the favourite something to think about.

Gretchen @ 11/1 Paddy Power – 5pts Win

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Britannia Stakes, 1 mile

As always in these big Handicaps, the race may be decided where the pace is coming from. It’s hard to break it down in this field I’ve to admit – it could go either way.

Two horses stand out from a value perspective in this huge field: Certainly it’s Mr. Halford’s lightly raced Portage. I missed the 14’s but still think 12/1 is rather big – as long as he gets a run; he’ll be hard to beat by any horse here. I come to this rather bold conclusion because I believe this lad is extremely well handicapped.

He earned glowing reports from his trainer after winning a Curragh maiden second time out towards the end of last season. It’s pretty strong form but he was always sure to improve for the step up to 1m. He reappeared at the Curragh over 1m in a hot Handicap in May, taking on some older, experienced and seasoned horses. He travelled really well, made eye-catching progress but never got a run on the inside and was eased eventually.

It’s rare to see in Ireland, but here the Handicapper has been lenient. He dropped Portage by 2lb! Of course I might be wrong but to me this individual looks a good 10 to 15 pounds better and could easily turn out to be a Stakes performer.

Second horse to highlight is another Godolphin charge: Emirates Airline. He absolutely demolished a 1m maiden field at Chelmsford on his seasonal debut and followed up at Newmarket in a good Handicap over 10f with a fine performance. He was very keen early on – that’s why the hood is added this time – and was let lose by his jockey soon after the start. He just got outstayed in the dying strides.

The drop in trip back to 1m will suit him I feel, so should the likely fast pace in this race. It should keep him settled and occupied throughout. I fancy him to outrun his big price tag.

Portage @ 12/1 Coral – 5pts Win
Emirates Airline @ 33/1 Coral – 5pts Win

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King George V Stakes, 1m 4f

Surprisingly many of these 19 runners look vulnerable from a pure stamina point of view. Only four distance winners in the field, which one could rather easily oppose on form, while the rest tries the trip for the first time in most cases and only very few seem actually suited by the 1m 4f distance. That says two individuals stand out for me in terms of the improvement like to come for the new trip.

First one is Dartmouth – he is out of a Group 3 winning Galileo mare, so should be capable of getting 12 furlongs. He finished 4th in the legendary 10f Sandown Handicap which made Jack Hobbs a temporary favourite for the Epsom Derby. He subsequently won a Handicap himself; same place, same trip. Positive tactics worked and he just held on to win in a photo.

He’s far from flashy but looks one who’ll be better with time as well as when stepping up in trip. His revised mark off 83 seems more than fair. In fact it might underestimate his true potential given his sexy breeding.

As an alternative, but equally sure to improve for 12 furlongs, I select Maxwell. He’s not a quick horse by any means, but has been progressive this season, starting with a success on the Wolverhampton playtrack over 9f. He followed up at Salisbury on his Handicap debut when upped to 10f.

Both times he was going away in the final 100 yards or so, clearly indicating his superior stamina reserves. There is indeed enough stamina on his dam side to support the visual impression and I expect him to improve for the new trip. A mark off 86 doesn’t need to be the end for him.

Dartmouth @ 14/1 Paddy Power – 5pts Win
Maxwell @ 20/1  Paddy Power – 5pts Win