Tag Archives: Royal Ascot

King George Preview 2022

A small but certainly select field makes this edition of the King George an exciting renewal. Some of the very best older horses meet the leading lights of the 2022 Classic generation.

All eyes are naturally drawn to Westover: an unlucky third in the English Derby and subsequent runaway winner of the Irish Derby. He’s been seriously progressive this season and today is about telling us whether there’s even more to come.

Of course the rematch with Desert Crown was highly anticipated but won’t be happening for quite some time, it seems likely now. That doesn’t distract from the intrigue that surrounds Ralph Beckett’s colt.

The son of Frankel is hard to fault. A progressive sort, he created visually a strong impression at the Curragh when landing the Irish Derby where he also ran to topspeed 100 as easy as you like. He confirmed his strong Derby performance that saw him run to topspeed 106 despite the well documented trouble he encountered in the home straight.

What the Curragh form is worth remains to be seen. And another question mark remains: how does he cope with proper fast ground? Could he be found out for speed on this ground in a race with a possibly muddling pace? He’s a short enough price to find out.

The other three-year-old in the field is English Oaks runner-up Emily Upjohn.

Many will argue she was quite unlucky that day at Epsom. Perhaps she lost the race at the start, although, that is my view, she had every opportunity to win in any case, given the winner Tuesday didn’t enjoy the smoothest of runs either.

Prior to the Oaks the John Gosden trained filly was a runaway winner of Musidora Stakes and won in even more impressive style on her seasonal reappearance at Sandown. If not for the neck beaten effort at Epsom she’d be unbeaten in four career runs.

Yet, in my view she appears to be seriously vulnerable. The fact of the matter is the figures are against her. She ran to topspeeds 95 at York and 97 at Epsom. Circumstances play a role in these figures, yet they tell a story at the same time and Emily Upjohn had opportunities to prove she is top-class on speed ratings as well.

She may well do so today. In fairness, she looks progressing all the time. But she has to take another big step forward today.

Mishriff was certainly an unlucky horse in the Coral Eclipse earlier this month. Short of room at a crucial stage, he finished much the best and was only a neck beaten by brilliant 3-year-old Vadeni. Another day he wins the race.

He is top-rated in this field, up to 5lb clear on official ratings There’s good reason for it. A runner-up in the 2021 edition of the King George, just beaten by excellent Derby winner Adayar, he went on to land the Juddmonte International in great style a few weeks later.

He ran to topspeed 116 and 118 in those two races. He ran 108 at Sandown. there is a slight question mark whether he truly is in love with the 1m 4f trip. Most likely the race today will turn out a test of speed more than pure stamina, so it’s unlikely to be an issue.

Mishriff is the class-act in the field and if he can improve just a tiny bit from Sandown – not impossible, given he came off a break – he’s going to be hard to beat, I reckon.

I love to see Torquator Tasso here. It’s brave by trainer Marcel Weiss to take a chance on ground most likely too fast for last years Arc hero. Weiss also has been quite open in admitting Torquator Tasso won’t be 100% today. Defending his crown in Paris is the ultimate goal.

There are questions marks over the validity of his Arc victory because of the heavy ground that day. He was a shock winner. Nonetheless, he’s a multiple Group 1 winner regardless. Clearly top-class, he deserved to be in this field. As much as I would love to see him do the “Danedream Double” it’s difficult to see.

The two long-shots Pyledriver and Broome are given little chance in the betting. The latter is clearly the more interesting one, in my view. An excellent winner of the Hardwicke Stakes at Royal Ascot, he ran to topspeed 108 that day – that level of form entitles him to have a fair shot, today, especially on fast ground and his ability to go from the front.

Selection:

The market is tight but still underestimates Mishriff, who is clearly the best horse in the race. If he can run to the level of form he produced last summer in this very race and subsequently at York – and the Eclipse indicates he can – then he is simply too good for the rest in this field.

He has to give weight away to some smart younger horses, but he looks well capable of doing that in my book. On topspeed nothing in this field gets even close to him. I have him around a 5/2 chance as fair price. So there’s still a bit of juice left, albeit not that much.

10pts win – Mishriff @ 10/3

Saturday Selections: 9th July 2022

On a roll. A hat-trick of winners over the last three days. Flotus won the Group 3 Summer Stakes at York in lovely fashion.

It couldn’t have gone any better: the filly broke well, led the field, although others tried to go with her. Halfway through the race I thought she may have done too much too early. But she kept going all the way strongly to the line. She proved the best filly in the race. Class prevailed.

Hard to believe how rapidly and dramatically the tide can turn in this game as long as you make good decisions, believe in your method (IF it’s a solid and proven method) and show consistency in the effort put in day in day out and most importantly the quality of decisions made.

Already five winners in the first week of July, that’s one more than in the entire individual months of April or May. Right now things are flowing, so to speak. But the pendulum can swing as quickly the other way again, I know all too well.

So I’ll try to stick (not always easy) to the Golden Rules regarding emotions: never too high, never too low. Because three losers on Saturday and the world looks a little bit gloomier again.

3.35 Ascot: Group 2 Summer Mile, 1m

A close one: there isn’t much between the main principles in the field on official ratings, RPR’s or topspeed – the outcome will depend on the form on the day, on pace and possibly on who gets first run round the Ascot mile.

Modern News, My Oberon and Perotto met only a fortnight ago at Windsor in a tight finish with not more than ¾ of a lengths between them as My Oberon finished strongly to get up on the line.

I felt that day Perotto could be marked up for his front-running effort when he possibly over-raced a bit in the early stages. I was hugely impressed how he fought back so gamely once headed, even after being slightly hampered over half a furlong from home. He simply didn’t give up.

He’s no star but a rock solid individual, who has sometimes lacked sharpness out of the gates but clearly responded well to front-running tactics the last time. Cheek-pieces added seem a logical move and hopefully help him to be sharp early. A prominent position on fast ground at the round course is an advantage in my book.

He acts well on fast ground, clearly stays a mile as seen when winning a strongly run Britannia last year and should go well. He’s not the likeliest winner, but certainly overpriced while better fancied horses are priced up according to reputation more so than substance, I feel.

Chindit in particular, who looks a wrong favourite. He hasn’t even cracked a 90 topspeed rating in his last six starts.

10pts win – Perotto @ 12/1

…….

4.45 Ascot: Class 3 Handicap, 1m

Washraa is clearly well handicapped on the basis of her seriously impressive Sandringham Stakes run. She travelled like a good thing, looked likely to come with a big challenge over two furlongs out, but clipped heels, stumbled badly and lost every chance, yet finished in impressive style, nonetheless.

Of course it’s hypothetical how much she would have found with a clear run. Though, I’m pretty certain she would have gone seriously close. She can race off the same mark here, which offers a great opportunity to resume the winning habit she showed in two starts before Royal Ascot.

She improved nicely since her seasonal reappearance, hinting talent already as a juvenile and should have too much talent for this slightly easier race than the rivals she encountered at Royal Ascot.

10pts win – Washraa @ 3/1

…….

5.20 Ascot: Class 4 Handicap, 7f

Out From Under is a strong favourite. Only a pound up for his recent very strong Newmarket effort is possibly lenient. At prices I must select the talented filly Tarrabb, though. I reckon she is better than her official rating of 80.

Whether she is already better now, after three career runs, is the key question. She looked raw and very much learning on the job in all her races, nonetheless won really well on debut, wasn’t disgraced when beaten as runner-up subsequently after pulling hard, and lost her race at the gates at Thirsk.

She still very much caught the eye that day in particular, making good progress from the back of the field but not getting a clear run. It’s reasonable to assume she is ahead of her mark. Straight Ascot seven looks an ideal, simple test for the filly.

10pts win – Tarrabb @ 8/1

Friday Selections: 8th July 2022

Two lovely winners at good prices the last two days – the ups and downs of the game…. funny how it all goes. Last night at Epsom Hector Loza went from the front and never really looked in danger once he kicked on. 13.5 was always a big price for a potentially seriously well handicapped horse if he was right.

He was. And he was a massive price for all the right reasons. Easy said in hindsight, of course. Often enough these type of horses finish bottom last (and i made a habit of backing them). But he clearly showed in his recent starts still some appetite for the game. No habit of starting slowly. Also a lovely, confident, positive ride by Jack Duern. His 3lb are highly valuable.

June started so badly with those 18 consecutive losers; July started in a rather pleasant way with four winners already. I wouldn’t mind this good spell of form to continue for a while.

……….

2.40 York: Group 3 Summer Stakes, 6f

If the effects of a tough race at Royal Ascot having left too many marks than Flotus should be hard to beat today. The filly looks still improving after a productive juvenile campaign, having ran seriously strong races in defeat the last two times this season.

Obviously her third place finish in the Commonwealth Cup rates the best piece of form in this race. She was bang up with the pace and raced pretty hard in the early stages. She couldn’t bring it quite home, but that’s no shame in such a quality Group 1 sprint.

Arguably even more impressive, in my eyes, was her desperately close runner-up effort at Haydock behind smart Sense Of Duty. The winner has franked the form in no uncertain terms and overall it looks an incredibly strong piece of form.

Flotus fought all the way to the line after attempting to lead wire to wire while Sense Of Duty was held up. I really loved how Flotus kicked on again at the final furlong marker after being heavily challenged. Great attitude!

Trip, ground and track are of no concern today. She poses the fastest speed rating in the field and has confirmed her form this season in excellent style.

There are a few dangers in the field, Gale Force Maya probably the biggest one if she could repeat her latest strong performance. She ran a fast topspeed, a clear career-best, but I wouldn’t trust her to do it again.

Hala Hala Athmani looks improving. Only her fourth start, she can do better. But drawn on the opposite from where most likely the pace will come is far from ideal.

Also on the up is Benefit, a recent Listed race winner. Zain Claudette may improve from her seasonal debut at Ascot. She was a Group 3 winner as a juvenile. But she’s got something to find even at her best with Flotus.

10pts win – Flotus @ 3/1

Saturday Selections: 2nd July 2022

3.35 Sandown: Eclipse Stakes, 1m 2f

The race promised so much at the beginning of the week. It has significantly lost in excitement with the loss of some key horses that were expected to run and now go somewhere else for supposedly easier options.

It’s still a good race with six proper thoroughbreds going head to head. Let’s not forget only a few weeks ago Bay Bridge was thought to be the next coming of baby Jesus.

Today he’s a 7/2 shot. I was tempted for a moment when even bigger yesterday afternoon, but can’t get over the fact that his Sandown performance is simply overrated in my view, given the better horses that day weren’t fully tuned up most likely.

Even if taking the performance at face value he achieved a 102 topspeed rating – although it’s not unreasonable to assume he could have ran a bit faster – is far from the best on offer in this field today. He also had every chance at Ascot in my view and failed.

Mishriff is the highest rated horse in the race and a proper star. He’s only returning from a break, though. I doubt the test today, given how the race is likely to pan out, will suit.

Alenquer produced a career best at the Curragh. I rate that performance highly. He could be underestimated today again and probably doesn’t get the credit he deserves. I do wonder about a possibly slow pace for him, though. On fast ground it counts against him.

The two most likely to fight it out in my view are the three-year-olds. Superstar juvenile Native Trail has done little wrong this season . I don’t understand the perception that he is not as good a three-year-old as he was a juvenile when he clearly is. He simply meets stiffer competition this year.

He still impresses me, I must say. His Newmarket performance can be marked up for a variety of reason but he was the best horse in the race in my view and simply unlucky the way the race developed.

He put things right at the Curragh. It wasn’t a flashy performance but he did it in the upmost professional manner. He’s given enough indication to believe a step up in trip can work.

How is the fast ground to suit today? And what about the pace? He can take a bit of time to get going. Not ideal in what shapes like a muddling affair.

It’s the conundrum of the day: pace. Or a lack of it. Who is going to do the donkey work? Most if not all of these want to have something to chase after. This will be a sprint finish.

As unoriginally as it is, the fastest horse is French Derby winner Vadeni. His 109 topspeed rating from Chantilly rates even higher given he was nearly pulled up half a furlong from home.

He’s got a proper turn of foot, can quicken off a slowish pace, and looks a thoroughly uncomplicated ride. The fast ground is the one worry I have. It’s new to him. There’s a significant difference between French good ground (as connections called the PDJC ground) and Sandown fast.

But with the 3-year-old weight allowance in addition to the possibility of more improvement, I can’t look past him, especially at a price that should be probably a point shorter I think.

10pts win – Vadeni @ 9/4

………….

1.50 Sandown: Group 3 Coral Charge, 5f

Equilateral is the a clear top rated choice on any measure for me. The bounce factor is a question mark, however that is already more than reflected in the price. If he’s fine after a huge effort at Royal Ascot and gets a clear run I can’t see him getting beaten.

Equilateral returned from a long lay-off in the King’s Stand Stakes. He travelled beautifully through the race, tracked Nature Strip from over two furlongs out and naturally failed to match the superstar sprinter. He finished a highly credible 5th, though.

That performance was worth a 102 topspeed rating. Just another one in the list of 100+ performances he produced in this career. He looks still strong and fast on the basis of this run and is considerably overpriced.

10pts win – Equilateral @ 11/2

……….

2.25 Sandown: Class 2 Handicap, 1m

It pains me that I can’t back Checkandchallenge  because I was really keen on him after his eye-catching Guineas run that was much better than the bare form suggested. I absolutely loved his Newcastle victory too.

At 4/1 on properly fast ground I can’t have him off 108, though. He may be too good and can overcome it, but I have the impression the fast ground won’t be to his advantage.

There is one alternative I have been tracking the whole year already: Trais Fluors. Admittedly the latest Windsor performance has given me pause for thought and I am a little less excited to jump on board. He looked laboured that day. So a clear risk to back when backing him today: what’s his form?

However, the positives outweigh the risks in an open race where he’s certainly handicapped to go close if he finds back to the form previously shown in three runs this season.

He caught the eye on all three of those runs. Desperately unlucky at Thirsk, not a clear passage on his seasonal debut at Newbury before and he made a huge impression from off the pace dominated by those up or closer to it at Redcar, finishing the second half of the race the fastest.

Down to a mark of 85 he’s given a proper chance. He won last summer over course and distance on fast ground off 92. He ran to topspeed 91 that day.

Back at Sandown with De Sousa in the saddle he has a good chance to outrun his price. Whether that’s good enough to win in this hot contest remains to be seen. He needs a bit of “luck” from off the pace. I have him a better shot nonetheless to deliver today.

10pts win – Trais Fluors @ 10/1

……….

6.50 Carlisle: Class 6 Handicap, 5f

Twice Adaay has been knocking on the door a couple of times this season over 6 furlongs. She caught my eye in May at Ripon when she moved forward into a prominent position after slightly sluggish start. She lost her position before the two furlong marker as she got behind a wall of horses. She was short of room over one furlong from home again, but finished well enough and easy on the eye.

The drop to the minimum trip is sure to suit, especially with rain forecast. Her best performances came over five furlongs with cut in the ground, so conditions will be perfect.

She is down to a mark off 55, a single pound above her last (and only) winning mark when she took a 5 furlong contest at Beverley last July. She seems to give her best running also on these slightly tricky specialist tracks, as she possesses good balance and should enjoy Carlisle in the rain.

Having ran to topspeeds of 58 (on fibresand though), 56 and 54 on turf, she is reasonably well handicapped, with 5lb claiming Laura Coughlin offering additional assistance.

10pts win – Twice Adaay @ 8/1

………….

7.00 Nottingham: Class 5 Handicap, 6f

Lightly-raced Bibulous makes plenty of appeal here, even though I envision he might be even better over an additional furlong. I still believe even over 6 furlongs he can be better handicapped than the current mark, and his recent finish at Chepstow is a good indication for this notion.

The June race was his seasonal reappearance after a light campaign as a three-year-old with only three runs including an impressive victory at Kempton over 6 furlongs.

At Chepstow he travelled at the rear of the field after a restrained start. He looked to go pretty well, was eventually switched to the stands’ side over two furlongs out where he started his run home. He didn’t have an instant change of gear but it also appeared he didn’t quite enjoy the undulations and especially downhill portion of the course.

However once balanced he rattled home much the strongest suggesting that there’s more to come on a slightly more conventional straight sprint course. He remains on the same 68 handicap mark, which is more than fair I reckon. He already ran to a 67 topspeed last season. Any improvement will see him hard to beat.

10pts win – Bibulous @ 5/1

Royal Ascot Selections – 15th June 2022

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

This is going to be the coronation of Bay Bridge, right? It feels like it, reading all the previews and various opinion pieces this morning – the Sir Michael Stoute trained colt only has to turn up, do a lap of honour in the pre-parade ring and Group 1 glory is his.

Now, who am I to dare and say I know better than fabulous experts like Simon Rowlands who is quite strong about Bay Bridge in his piece. No question about it, Bay Bridge is a potential superstar.

His Brigadier Gerard victory by five lengths easy as you like – awarded a 102 topspeed rating; he could have ran faster that day, if he would been asked to do so. These are the signs of potential superstar. No denying.

But from a betting perspective I have to be cynical and try to see if there are any holes to be found in the odds-on shot. And there certainly are.

For one: Bay Bridge steps up to Group 1 company for the first time. He hasn’t been to Ascot before, certainly not encountered a unique atmosphere as the Royal Ascot meeting provides, and whether he truly can be at his very best on proper fast ground remains to be seen.

These are only small question marks. And I am pushing it hard to find faults. Nonetheless, this edition of the POW – albeit small in field size – is highly competitive. And I feel there is value in the market behind Bay Bridge.

The Japanese Derby- and Sheema Classic winner Shahryar is proven top-class. Perhaps more so over the 1m 4f trip, which makes him vulnerable on fast ground in small field, potentially. Regardless, he’s one to respect.

The only filly in the race, Grand Glory, looked strong in two starts this spring. Fast ground is a question mark, but she clearly performs really well over 10 furlongs.

Lord North ran a fine race in defeat at the Curragh recently. The Tattersalls Gold Cup was an ultra-competitive affair and he ran to topspeed 104, not too far off a 107 rated performance when winning the Dubai Turf in March, or a 104 when runner-up in the Winter Derby, and also not far off his career best 110, suggesting he’s still running close to his best form at the age of six.

Undoubtedly the main rival for Bay Bridge I see in Joseph O’Brien’s State Of Rest, though. He’s had a number of tough races this year already, and that’s a question mark. Most recently at the Curragh when finishing one better than Lord North. But connections say the colt thrives on racing and is a hardy sort. He clearly must be, if you read through his form.

In my view he enhanced his reputation with the third place effort in the Tattersalls Gold Cup. He travelled much the best approaching the home straight, perhaps was asked a little bit too late for full effort, though. That gave the eventual winner Alenquer an advantage. State Of Rest finished the last three furlongs fastest and on another day wins the race, I believe.

The 4-year-old seriously impressed me on different occasions. His Saratoga Derby victory last year, doing it in a canter, despite having to overcome some trouble; his gusty Cox Plate success. The brilliant win at Longchamp in the Prix Ganay six weeks ago.

And he looks still improving. Topspeed 102 at Longchamp, 107 at the Curragh. Yes, this isn’t always a totally accurate reflection of performance, but it’s one I do trust to the most part.

With that in mind State Of Rest sets a high standard that Bay Bridge first has to run to. Not to forget that State Of Rest is probably at his best on fast ground. Exactly what he encounters today.

Therefore at given prices I can’t miss out on backing the proper Group 1 horse against a favourite where all potential improvement is more than factored into the price already – before we have truly seen it delivered on the race course.

10pts win – State Of Rest @ 8.4

………..

4.20: Group 2 Duke Of Cambridge Stakes, 1m

It was impossible not be totally in awe with the way Bashkirova won at Ascot. She didn’t have the perfect race but found a way to win. Despite hanging a bit she kicked clear in the closing stages in impressive style, running to a 108 topspeed rating.

She improved nicely from an excellent seasonal reappearance at Goodwood, when a close runner-up after a fine juvenile campaign that saw her win three of four starts. She look still improving and I reckon might enjoy this more conventional track even more so than Epsom.

Backing up so quickly is always a concern, but if she runs to the same level of form she’s hard to beat today, I firmly believe. Thanks to that Epsom performance she owns the fastest topspeed in the field, by quite a bit. The competition in this Group 2 contest today is solid but not frightening.

Saffron Beach carries a penalty and never ran to anything better than topspeed 90. She’s a Group 1 winner and ran with credit at Meydan. I don’t see the appeal at current odds, though.

Mother Earth is hard to trust these days. Primo Bacio hasn’t won since impressing at York last May, but never looked able to bring that sport of form to the next level subsequently.

German raider Novemba has obvious claims judged by her Coronation Cup performance from last year. Her runner-up effort behind Real World last October is also noteworthy. She was desperately disappointing on her return three weeks ago though. Sibila Spain perhaps wants a longer trip, especially on fast ground.

Everything brings me back to Bashkirova. Perhaps beside the quick turnaround, the wide draw is another slight concern as well as potentially a lack of pace, unless Novema and Saffron Beach do the donkey work. Nonetheless, she looks a cut above these.

10pts win – Bashkirova @ 3/1

Saturday Selections: 7th May 2022

2.20 Ascot: Listed Buckhounds Stakes, 1m 4f

Can you trust Al Aasy? I can’t. No doubt he is – in theory – the best horse in the race. His official rating and 2021 form is testament to this fact. However, it’s undeniable that his sudden form loss toward the end of last season is a major concern.

Possibly dropping down to Listed level on his seasonal reappearance is an ideal pipe opener to build confidence thanks to a relatively easy assignment. If his enthusiasm is back he’ll win this race running backwards.

At the given prices I absolutely must take him on with all the justified doubts, though. In fairness, this field is light in terms real quality. Third Realm has some nice form in the book and ran multiple times to low topspeed ratings of low 90’s, but never beyond TS 92 and all his form comes with cut in the ground.

The only other one who has ran to topspeed ratings of note is Stowell. He’s an obvious choice at given prices. By no means a sexy individual, one who’s more a grinder than flashy accelerator, but one who offers still some upside as a 4-year-old.

Stowell has match fitness on his side after a solid seasonal reappearance at Newbury last month. He’s a course and distance winner and ran with a lot of credit when third in the Queen’s Vase as Royal Ascot. He ran to TS 94 that day, it’s the second best on offer in this field the favourite aside.

I think he’s fast enough for the 1m 4f trip, especially on Listed level against this sort of opposition – if the potential class act Al Aasy isn’t anywhere near as good as he used to be.

This lad strikes me as a rock solid horse and he’s a overpriced in this field today.

10pts win – Stowell @ 4/1

………..

5.15 Ascot: Class 4 Handicap, 6f

I said after his latest disappointing performance at Wolverhampton to keep faith for the day he returns to turf. – so I’ll stick to my word and continue to have financial interest in Chief Little Hawk.

The gelding messed up at Wolver three weeks ago, though, left the impression that he has more to give if things fall right – once again. But Wolverhampton was never going to be the right track for him. Straight 6 furlongs at Ascot on turf should suit a lot better.

Chief Little Hawk was a big eye-catcher for me at Southwell on his penultimate run. As mentioned then, the way he finished in the closing stages from the back of the field in a race dominated by the two pace setters wasn’t what you normally would see from a 40/1 shot.

He wasn’t even hard ridden in the final stages of the race, yet was the third fastest finisher from two furlongs out, according to sectionals – underlying the visual impression.

Since moving yards away from Aiden O’Brien over to Jamie Osborne Chief Little Hawk has rarely been fancied in the betting. He was long odds most of the time, and still managed to finish 4th, only 1.5 lengths beaten as a 50/1 outsider, in a class 2 Handicap at Newmarket of a mark of 94 last August.

He has fallen significantly in the ratings in the meantime. He is now down to an official rating of 80 and runs in a class 4 Handicap on turf for the first time. Given Chief Little Hawk ran to topspeed 83+ on three occasions in the past, I feel he could be really well handicapped.

Obviously this is a massive field, stall 20 is a question mark and the jockey form is poor. But he’s a price I am prepared to run the risk.

10pts win – Chief Little Hawk @ 9.5/1