Friday, 19 July 2019

Friday 19th & Saturday 20th July 2019: Frankie the Star Catcher at the Curragh

It’s Irish Oaks weekend and we have a value punt in the big Group 1 race at the Curragh, though it’s backed up by plenty more opportunities across both Friday and Saturday as Newbury, Newmarket and Hamilton all host top class action.

Friday 19th July

3.40 Newbury (Rose Bowl Stakes – Listed Race) – AL AAKIF

As always it’s hard to know what to expect with these two-year-olds given that they have precious few miles on the clock at this stage, but while the likely favourite Repartee represents good connections and created a very favourable impression on debut, it could be argued he got the run of the race at York and may not come on as much as people think.

While he is clearly the main danger, he may not ultimately be as ready for this level as Al Aakif, William Haggas’ Acclamation colt who unseated his rider on the way to post before his debut and was then bumped at the start on his second racecourse appearance.

Despite this, he has recorded two very impressive wins already and clearly has a lot more to give as he matures, so in this good company a proper performance can be dragged out of him and it may prove to be another winning one.

8.10 Hamilton (Glasgow Stakes – Listed Race) – MACKAAR

Plenty of attention will go the way of Mark Johnston’s Persian Moon given that the Glaswegian trainer has won this race plenty of times in the past and is likely to have sent one he fully believes can get the job done once more.

Persian Moon is rated 101 and while that’s not too bad a level for a Listed race, it is eminently beatable and so given that his improvement appears to have stopped for now he looks vulnerable to a middle-distance improver.

Roger Varian won this race a couple of years ago with subsequent Group winner Defoe and he may do so again with this Mackaar, that potential improver in the field.  Rated lower than Persian Moon but progressing well, the son of Cape Cross was tried out as a potential classic hope and retains an entry in the Irish St Leger Trial next month and while he is unlikely to be a Group 1 horse, he may be good enough to win this.

Saturday 20th July

2.40 Newmarket (Aphrodite Stakes – Listed Race) – KESIA

We’re taking a bit of a punt here, partly based on value but also based on jockey bookings and potential.

On private ratings, John Gosden’s Sparkle Roll unsurprisingly comes out best among the fillies we can evaluate fully after her third behind Star Catcher in the Ribblesdale Stakes at Royal Ascot.  Her trainer has two in the race though with the other, Kesia, very much a lesser-known quantity having had just the one outing.

She did win that race very easily though and Gosden only puts these fillies in at this level when he knows they can handle it.  The real guessing game is regarding the jockey situation.

Kieran O’Neill and Nicky Mackay have both deputised to great effect for Frankie Dettori and Rab Havlin, but given that Mackay has ridden Sparkle Roll before and is based permanently at this yard one presumes he could have ridden the favourite had he wanted.  Instead he rides Kesia and it may well be a tell-tale sign that she is about more than just potential and in fact we could see some serious ability here today at a nice price.

5.10 Curragh (Irish Oaks – Group 1) – STAR CATCHER

Despite the O’Brien camp dominating the English classics in recent years, it is in fact English-based trainers who have done the same in this race and it could be the case once again in this year’s Irish Oaks.

Having said all that, our selection is not one born out of a preference for which territory the filly is trained in but more her obvious ability and potential for further improvement.

Star Catcher should have won at Newbury in May according to Frankie Dettori who just didn’t make enough use of her that day, something that was confirmed when she turned the tables on Queen Power in the Ribblesdale Stakes at Royal Ascot when she stretched away nicely to score for this column (advised at 10/1).

Staying is her forte, she has reached a level that for me is similar to that achieved by Pink Dogwood and Iridessa and given that she has improved in leaps and bounds and may go on again, she is the value call in this race.

The aforementioned Pink Dogwood was second in the Oaks behind yet another of John Gosden’s fillies, Anapurna, so he knows exactly where he stands in this division and it is, I feel, why Star Catcher has been supplemented.  The best home chance then may fall with Pretty Polly winner Iridessa for Joseph O’Brien though she is not a guaranteed stayer.

5.35 Newmarket (Class 3 Handicap) – QUTOB 

Richard Fahey sending a horse down to Newmarket and teaming it up with Hayley Turner makes for an intriguing combination, however in the case of Right Action he’s having the 37th run of his career and we know what to expect of him, his profile suggesting he’s a leading contender but not one with lots to spare in the handicap.

Glenn Coco and Daddy’s Daughter are both obvious dangers too and any money coming for them may be significant, however the one who is now (belatedly) on the right path is Charlie Hills’ Qutob.

Having been given six chances, the son of Acclamation was always consistent but had not won a race.  He was gelded in early June though and returned to the track earlier this month a different animal, scoring comfortably at Chelmsford City.

That run, had he been asked more of a question, could have marked him up as a horse rated around 86/87 and with plenty more improvement to come, so running in this off 84 makes him a well handicapped individual.

Thursday, 11 July 2019

Friday 12th & Saturday 13th July 2019: Besh the Bookies in the Falmouth

We have a very busy weekend of action in store with pattern races at Ascot, Chester and York while Newmarket closes its July meeting on Saturday with the Group 1 July Cup.

The big one features just too many variables for us to have a bet, though Ten Sovereigns could come back to form and Glorious Journey is way over-priced each-way, but we start with Friday’s action and four quality bets across three premier tracks.

Friday 12th July

2.25 Newmarket (Duchess of Cambridge Stakes – Group 2) – DIVINE SPIRIT

An important juvenile fillies’ race, formerly known as the Cherry Hinton Stakes, and one in which it may pay to take a chance on a filly who didn’t enjoy herself at Royal Ascot in the shape of Godolphin’s Divine Spirit.

She made what for me was easily the best debut of these, and being by Kingman and trained by Charlie Appleby there’s no reason to think she won’t progress at the rate we expect of juveniles at this level and if she does, she can prove to be better at this six furlong trip than likely favourite Daahyeh.

Roger Varian’s runner won the Albany Stakes last time and so is a justifiable jolly on paper, but we know how good she is now and I feel she’s at a level that can be overtaken, as are Raffle Prize and Celtic Beauty.

3.15 York (Summer Stakes – Group 3) – ARCHER’S DREAM

At first glance this race looks like a complete basket case for a Group 3; hugely competitive with 17 improving fillies that are all capable of showing more than they have thus far.

Given the flat track and quick ground here, the race should really suit James Fanshawe’s unbeaten Dream Ahead filly Archer’s Dream though who looks the real deal and wasn’t suited by conditions last time, despite dead-heating for a win at Salisbury.

Again with the conditions in mind we should see a solid run from Perfection who rates second-best, while Shades Of Blue remains of interest and can run into a place.

3.25 Ascot (Class 3 Handicap) – AMERICAN GRAFFITI

Apart from the fact that he has won two in a row and is clearly improving, the interesting thing about American Graffiti is that he was also entered up overnight at Newmarket and Charlie Appleby could have easily kept him at home.

He instead comes here to a race which is eminently winnable for him.  His success at HQ last time out was way easier than it looked and he could really be heading places, while Pontefract winner Hortzadar may appreciate this stiff test and both Breath Caught and Wafy are solid enough candidates too.

3.35 Newmarket (Falmouth Stakes – Group 1) – BESHAAYIR

A competitive Group 1 affair and one in which we may get some slightly false value.  I Can Fly is decent but is probably priced-up based on her stable (Aidan O’Brien), while favourite One Master has had more chances than her younger rivals and could be slightly flattered by her Group 1 third last time.

Veracious continues to edge towards a top-level victory and Qabala can prove herself eventually having just been denied in the 1,000 Guineas, but there’s no arguing with the level of form Beshaayir has shown and she can keep getting better yet, especially given more of a test which she has here under Frankie.

Saturday 13th July

2.40 York (Silver Cup – Group 3) – WEEKENDER

It’s a big day at York and given the quality of the handicaps, this high-grade Group 3 race could almost go under the radar.

Some may not want quick ground so could perhaps be blunted somewhat, leaving the likes of Gold Mount, Raheen House and Sea The Lion all as genuine contenders but maybe not at their very best which could play into the hands of John Gosden and Rab Havlin.

Their Weekender has rock solid course and distance form and won ever so easily at Chelmsford last time.  It’s clear he is getting better and is set fair for a career-best now, something that if it indeed arrives would make him too good for this field.

2.55 Newmarket (Superlative Stakes – Group 2) – KING’S COMMAND

A fascinating juvenile contest with precious little form on offer, but it’s not form in the book we tend to look at in these races as much as roar ability and potential.

Many at this stage look of very similar quality such as Year Of The Tiger, Juan Elcano, Mystery Power and Maxi Boy but the one that may just prove to be a class above is Charlie Appleby’s King’s Command.

Making his debut on the July course over six furlongs, he led from out wide with little cover before being headed two out, didn’t get a clear run and then ran on superbly to re-take the lead close home.  He will have matured, will come on a ton and will love this extra furlong so rates a fairly confident bet.

4.00 Ascot (Summer Mile – Group 2) – WADILSAFA

Another of this weekend’s hugely competitive races, but while there are plenty in with chances on the book our horse looks like the one who hasn’t yet shown us his best form and can take his career up to the next level now.

Wadilsafa is a Frankel colt who has always been held in high regard and who crept through the ranks to eventually take a Listed race in great style last season.  He’s gone on again since then and was second on unsuitable soft ground last time at York and is now ready to put in his best work, hoping to prove he can be a Group 1 performer.

Matterhorn has serious ability and can do some damage, Beat The Bank has an obvious chance but is penalised, Accidental Agent is a Group 1 performer, Zaaki is two from two this year and Tip Two Win may yet win another race at this sort of level showing how competitive an affair this is, but at around 12/1 our horse is good enough value to be backed to smallish stakes.

Friday, 5 July 2019

Friday 5th & Saturday 6th July: Take Note of the Hidden Message at Sandown

It’s Eclipse day on Saturday and, even given the belated reappearance and step down to ten furlongs, Enable should be a few pounds better than Regal Reality and Magical but is not a backable price given the circumstances.

We begin our betting journey on Friday however as a couple of value selections have presented themselves at the Esher track, beginning with a well-touted juvenile.

Friday 5th July 2019

2.20 Sandown (Dragon Stakes – Listed Race) – EXPRESSIONIST

The Godolphin colt was well fancied for his assignment at Royal Ascot but didn’t shine on that occasion, something that has led to him being a better price in this than he should be by rights.

His debut run at Ascot is the best early form on offer here and he’s entitled to go on from that, so he is forgiven his run in the Norfolk given that he missed the break and didn’t get a clean run.

Mark Johnston’s Makyon is interesting coming down in trip but it remains to be seen whether or not that’ll bring about any improvement, while Al Raya can also go well for trainer Simon Crisford.

3.25 Sandown (Gala Stakes – Listed Race) – ELARQAM

Having backed him on the day and always been a fan of his, I would not be sorry to see Royal Line come back and win this after his heroics in the November Handicap when last seen at Doncaster.

The truth is though that I’m surprised to see so many people tipping him up given that the softer conditions and the mile-and-a-half trip were both up his back ally then, while the testing nature of Epsom had also helped him previously so this sharper mile-and-a-quarter looks against him.

Elarqam, as we’ve pointed out here before, is heading close to the level he should be at with his run behind Addeybb at Royal Ascot a very good one albeit rather blunted given the soft ground.

He’ll be better this time for a faster surface and can take this ahead of Royal Line, with Extra Elusive and Oasis Charm also likely to be involved at the business end of the contest.

Saturday 6th July 2019

1.50 Sandown (Coral Charge – Group 3) – GARRUS

As time wears on it is increasingly confusing to see Aidan O’Brien’s Sergei Prokofiev so over-bet, because while he comes from a brilliant stable his numbers simply don’t add up to his prominence in the market and it looks the case once again in this speed event.

Instead the value call is Garrus, a former Jeremy Noseda charge now with Charlie Hills who has a good grasp of what it takes to win the best five-furlong races right now given that he oversees Battaash’s prep each day.

His two wins this season haven’t even shown him to best effect yet, but this likely faster pace should and he can take this under James Doyle from old-timers Caspian Prince and Muthmir.

2.40 Haydock (Lancashire Oaks – Group 2) – ENBIHAAR

An interesting contest and one in which it’s no surprise to see John Gosden with a strong hand given that he’s won the race seven times since 1997.

His Highgarden has a fair chance and, given the fast conditions, could even have the beating of likely favourite Dramatic Queen over this trip having won a Group 3 at the end of last year and she clearly looks as though there is more to come as time goes on.

Her stablemate Enbihaar is even more interesting though.  Her form behind Ghostwatch last year reads well, though she was inexperienced and that was over 1m6f, she beat Klassique on her reappearance rather easily at Listed level this term and was narrowly denied by Dramatic Queen at York last time.

She shapes as though she’ll improve more than her narrow conqueror and will want this drop in trip, so she looks fair value to make this John Gosden’s 8th Lancashire Oaks.

3.00 Sandown (Coral Distaff – Listed Race) – HIDDEN MESSAGE

It goes without saying that Beyond Reason is very interesting on her comeback, though she may need it, while Andrew Balding’s Encapsulation can continue to improve and will be justifiably very popular in the betting ring.

John Gosden’s Muchly is another filly on the up and is one who beat the selection well at Ascot earlier in the season, but race conditions could be just right for our filly now and she looks a very big price to land the odds.

Back at Ascot she wasn’t fully ready and got way too far back before staying on very eye-catchingly into fourth place, three lengths behind Muchly.  In France last time she took a step forward but in a typically slowly-run French race she again couldn’t show her true worth, though was beaten just 1¾ lengths at Group 2 level.

These eight runners, importantly including Main Edition and Beyond Reason who like to go forward, should ensure the pace is at least reasonable and so we should see the true Hidden Message this time and given her expected greater maturity she can come out on top under jockey Oisin Murphy.

4.45 Sandown (Coral Marathon – Listed Race) – MEKONG

We went for this fellow on his last run but he was never happy that day at York and is worth another shot at odds that if anything offer us more value this time.

He has close form with Ghostwatch and chased home Dee Ex Bee over this course and distance back in May, with a repeat of that form let alone natural improvement meaning he’d be a few pounds too strong for this line-up.

Dermot Weld’s Falcon Eight could head this market and there’s no doubt he has a good profile; an improving four-year-old who has had only four runs.  His third in a Group 3 in September and second last time out at Listed level both read OK but they don’t scream that he’s strong enough to beat Mekong yet.

Royal Ascot winner Cleonte is next best as another who could have further improvement in him.

Saturday, 29 June 2019

Saturday 29th June 2019: Madh About Prenderghast’s Chances in the Derby

It’s a packed day of flat action either side of the Irish Sea on Saturday as Newcastle host their biggest annual meeting, the Northumberland Plate Festival, while over at the Curragh it’s also Irish Derby day.

Competitive handicaps and pattern races are also being held at Newmarket, Windsor, Chester, York, Lingfield and Doncaster and frankly there is a plethora of proper summer racing producing between it some fine betting opportunities up and down the country.

We’re going for a mixture of great betting value and what we hope are as close to racing certainties as you can get on a Saturday, beginning with the Group 3 at Gosforth Park which features one of the sprinting stars of the season so far: 

2.25 Newcastle (Chipchase Stakes – Group 3) – LAUGH A MINUTE

With Glorious Journey now out of the way (see below), this six furlong sprint on paper is dominated by Curragh Group 2 scorer Mr Lupton of Richard Fahey’s yard and previous Diamond Jubilee favourite Invincible Army of James Tate’s.

In terms of being turned out quickly, running on what will be standard-to-slow Tapeta because of the heat, racing under a penalty and the very stiff six furlongs to be encountered there are enough doubts about the top two in the market and it could be the progressive Roger Varian horse that scores here instead at a nice price.

The form of Laugh A Minute’s win at Doncaster last summer along with his second at Deauville reads very well, and while he hasn’t quite hit those heights yet this season he has been running OK and is sure to peak in this race given the stable’s form.  He gets the vote at around 9/2 under the excellent Andrea Atzeni.

3.10 Chester (Class 2 Handicap) – MAWAKIB

Roger Varian’s improving colt seems to go on any surface and he is well drawn in this race to continue his progression over his favourite intermediate trip of seven furlongs.

He skipped Royal Ascot to come here but still has some fancy handicap entries for later in the summer, though it may not be too long before connections are forced to think about going for some black type with him if he continues winning, something I see as a major probability on Saturday.

3.15 Newmarket (Criterion Stakes – Group 3) – GLORIOUS JOURNEY

After he was sandwiched between The Tin Man and Dream Of Dreams at Windsor on his last outing, yours truly was desperate to back Glorious Journey at Newcastle in the Chipchase Stakes but instead Charlie Appleby has sent him to this seven furlong race on the turf.

I’ve no reason to doubt Appleby’s expertise and so the money will still go down, despite the fact that on paper this looks more competitive.  There are doubts about many rivals though including Limato, so given that this horse is on the upgrade he really should be good enough under James Doyle to register another Group 3 success.

3.30 Curragh (International Stakes – Group 3) – ADDEYBB

The hero of the Hampton Court Stakes at Royal Ascot is turned out quickly to avoid what looks to be a prolonged spell of very dry ground in England, and while it is not as soft as ideal at the Curragh and we perhaps can’t expect him to peak once again, the fact is he may not need to.

A run to within 4 or 5 pounds of his best should suffice here and clearly connections think he can deliver that, with the improving three-year-old Buckhurst of Joseph O’Brien’s fancied to give him most to do ahead of his father’s entrant Blenheim Palace.

Addeybb is in the form of his life and the plan would seem to be to get one more pattern win into him before putting him away for an autumn campaign during which he may yet grab his maiden Group 1.

5.20 Curragh (Irish Derby – Group 1) – MADHMOON

Aidan O’Brien said publicly that he was a little easier than normal on his Derby hopefuls during the trials in May, so there may be more to come from them which was evident in the performances of Circus Maximus and Japan last week at the Royal meeting.

In performing the way they did though both in prep runs and in the Derby itself, Broome and Anthony Van Dyck look as though they are open now to slightly less improvement so while the Ballydoyle master once again dominates this field, he may not win it in the end.

Preference is for 87-year-old Kevin Prendergast’s Madhmoon.  Having beaten Broom comfortably last season and again when running second at Epsom, a track he appeared not to handle like so many, it seems on form he only has the favourite to beat and that is more than possible now.

His run in the 2000 Guineas when racing on completely the wrong part of the track reads well and over this more conventional layout he looks good value to turn the tables on Anthony Van Dyck and provide his trainer with a long overdue Irish Derby success.

5.50 Newcastle (Class 4 Handicap) – HOWMAN 

With any luck the combination of Sheikh Mohammed Obaid, Roger Varian and Andrea Atzeni will already be on the board on this card but they may also end their day in good style in the closing handicap over a mile-and-a-quarter.

Howman hasn’t been seen since finishing seventh at the glorious meeting at Goodwood last summer but before his problem he’d been a most progressive type, winning at Lingfield and Yarmouth in the style of a horse really going places.s

There is little doubt his trainer will have him spot-on for his belated return to the track and also that, given time at least, he will prove to be capable of far more than his current handicap mark of 81 meaning he looks potentially very well-in against a field of similarly aged but more exposed handicappers.

Windsor Cross and Rose Tinted Spirit are among those who could chase him home for minor prize money.

Saturday, 22 June 2019

Royal Ascot 2019 Day Five: Space to Give Jersey Opposition the Blues

The last day of Royal Ascot features one more Group 1 race and it’s a fascinating one with Blue Point looking to follow up Tuesday’s King’s Stand win, however it is hugely competitive with around five horses hard to split for me so that one is a watching brief.

Suddenly today the Oaks/Derby card three weeks ago seems to be what we need to concentrate on with Coronation Cup, Woodcote Stakes and Surrey Stakes form lines being potentially crucial and they’ve provided us with three value bets.

They are complimented by a selection from Newmarket where a real progressive novice has a chance to get his head in front on a day when Godolphin could rule.

2.30 Ascot (Chesham Stakes – Listed Race) – PINATUBO

Another competitive renewal of the Chesham Stakes here, a race in which we have to keep an eye on breeding as much as form given that this stiff seven furlongs will take some getting for these two-year-olds at this stage of the season.

Paul Cole’s Highland Chief was brilliant on debut back in April at Newbury, and while winning over five furlongs back then seemed a real achievement given his lineage, it may be that the very soft ground was to his advantage and the form hasn’t really stood out.

Aidan O’Brien has had a typically good week and there has been a big word the whole time for this Lope Y Fernandez who is said to be the real deal.

The son of Lope De Vega made a very impressive debut at the Curragh and at the rate of progression we usually see with these juveniles he would arguably be the one here, however that progress can sometimes be slower with potential middle-distance types and so he may not be as good as that quite yet.

The value in the race most likely sits with Godolphin’s double winner Pinatubo.  Charlie Appleby’s Shamardal colt will love it here and has the form in the bag. Having won very well on debut he followed up in the Woodcote Stakes on Oaks day while never really being happy on the track, also winning much more snugly than the winning distance would suggest and he could just prove to be a class above.

3.05 Ascot (Jersey Stakes – Group 3) – SPACE BLUES

With any luck it’ll be a quick double for Godolphin and Charlie Appleby who also runs King’s Stand winner Blue Point later on the card in the Diamond Jubilee, their Space Blues being probably the most likely winner of the Jersey Stakes.

Another winner on Oaks day, he too probably didn’t like the track too much at Epsom and he was a mightily impressive handicap winner at York before that.  His progression is huge and it’ll keep coming which suggests he should win this given that it is not as competitive a renewal as we’ve been used to.

John Gosden’s Angels Hideaway has been tried at all sorts of levels and distances, but ultimately we know she is a Group 3 winner over six furlongs while she also finished fourth in the Guineas, so her quality at this level is undeniable.  The fact she was put in her place last time by Space Blues though only heightens my confidence in the selection.

3.20 Newmarket (Novice Stakes) – WINGS OF TIME

At forecast prices of 7/2 and 9/2, I can’t help thinking that Charlie Appleby’s horse could go off a little overpriced here under his 6lb penalty.

Having been gelded over the winter he was always going to improve plenty but needed the run at Wolverhampton, where he didn’t enjoy it and had his run blocked yet still got there cosily enough.  He will be a different proposition here and under the excellent Kerrin McEvoy he can see of Cadre Du Noir and Majaalis.

3.40 Ascot (Hardwicke Stakes – Group 2) – DEFOE

Despite being a Group 2 this race always produces high quality, quite often when Sir Michael Stoute decides to run one in advance of the King George which is back here at the end of July.

They can’t all be Harbinger’s and Crystal Ocean’s though, so while Mirage Dancer has just the right profile for this race he wasn’t the Newmarket maestro’s number one contender as he apparently thought long and hard about sending Crystal Ocean to this race once more before rerouting him to the Prince of Wales’s Stakes, so a chance is taken that he is not quite a top level horse which he’d need to be to win this.

Last year’s Derby winner Masar is a more than welcome addition back to the ranks.  Charlie Appleby did a great job to get him to win the Blue Riband, something that shouldn’t have been a great surprise after he routed a good Craven Stakes field but we occasionally get funny results at Epsom and it could just be that he’s actually a few pounds lower down the ranks than the numbers would suggest.

He’s having his first run for 385 days as well so while it’s great to see him back, I couldn’t back him at 3/1 against such a quality field.  That field includes John Gosden’s Lah Ti Dar who gets the 3lb fillies’ allowance.  Her form against Rawdaa this season reads just OK in the context of this race and she was well beaten last time so she too is just about passed over.

Defoe was tipped on this column for the Coronation Cup at Epsom and so his win there was obviously no surprise to us.  That Group 1 victory had been coming for a long time and he could get even better yet with different tracks, ground and running styles never being much of a concern to him.

He’s the versatile one in the field, he’s the one with the highest-class recent form and he remains good value at around 4/1 so he is backed to follow-up with another prestige success for Roger Varian and Andrea Atzeni.

Friday, 21 June 2019

Royal Ascot 2019 Day Four: Private Secretary to Be Our Private Betting Aide

It’s double Group 1 delight on day four of Royal Ascot as the Commonwealth Cup and the Coronation Stakes take centre-stage.

The unofficial ‘Ascot Derby’, the King Edward VII Stakes, is very interesting as well as we get to see a clash between one high up in the Derby and one who was due to run but bypassed the race.  We have four great value bets in total, starting with one at a huge price in the opener:

2.30 Ascot (Albany Stakes – Group 3) – LAST SURPRISE

Wesley Ward once again has the favourite here in the shape of the lightening-quick Nayibeth, but while she is by a mile-and-a-quarter winner it’s always worth bearing in mind that Ward gets most of his success here at five furlongs, this horse winning over 4½ on debut in the States meaning this six could prove to be too far.

Roger Varian’s Daahyeh won well at Newmarket on debut, beating Raffle Prize there who came out and won the Queen Mary Stakes this week.  That form is rock solid but it’s also possible she had to put in quite a shift to win that and therefore won’t improve as much as one or two others, something always worth keeping in mind.

Godolphin’s Silent Wave put in a very similar performance herself at Goodwood but gave the impression she would definitely move on and up more significantly than Daahyeh so she is the main danger, but a chance is taken at a big price on Last Surprise who I feel has been underestimated.

Winners at Lingfield are usually not rated as highly as they should be so Last Surprise may be better than most people think anyway, while having had to race wide before very stylishly putting his race to bed showed the daughter of No Nay Never to be a very good filly and with Frankie now on board she can go very well from a good draw.

3.05 Ascot (King Edward VII Stakes – Group 2) – PRIVATE SECRETARY

A small and select field featuring a mix of proven Group 1 form and plenty of top-level potential.  From the former category is Japan, placed third in the Derby for Aidan O’Brien and sure to be a short-priced favourite here.

The positives are that his form from Epsom is by far the best on offer in this race and, given that his run in the Dante was just to bring him on, he in theory could progress to be the best of the Ballydoyle horses from that classic in time.

That said, he had a hard enough race there and they don’t always react well to that in this contest, so his form for now may just about level out which brings in the potential of John Gosden’s colt Private Secretary.

Gosden had originally intended to leave the son of Kingman in the Derby but it was decided he needed more experience before hitting that level, hence his run in the Listed Cocked Hat Stakes.  The bare form of his win there is nothing special, but he cruised into it on the bridle to win it cheekily eased down and we will see a very, very different horse here.

Pondus could prove to be the real deal eventually and has been entered in the King George by James Fanshawe, so at a fair price he could grab a place.

3.40 Ascot (Commonwealth Cup – Group 1) – JASH

This race is badly missing Calyx who would have been electric to watch, but that doesn’t mean it’s short of quality at all.

Advertise was a very good two-year-old and it was always clear to most of us that he wasn’t a Guineas horse, so he can perhaps get back on track over this trip although the company he’s keeping here may prove too hot.

Hello Youmzain is undoubtedly very good but he’s priced up partly on having beaten Calyx at Haydock, a small race in which John Gosden’s star was injured and so there is still actually something for Kevin Ryan’s colt to prove.

The race may come down then to last season’s Middle Park Stakes 1-2, Ten Sovereigns and Jash.  The former won that day, just, with both horses having their third run.  He too was never right for the Guineas but ran well enough, and on a line through the likes of Skardu and Madhmoon we can guess what sort of level he can reach now that he has his correct trip.

Jash can go forward from his seasonal reappearance over an unsuitable seven furlongs having scraped home at Newmarket.  He is primed to peak here and his profile is very much one of a Group 1 horse, while we can’t ignore that if this field stays down the usually favoured near-side then he is essentially six stalls better off than his main rival and is around 4 times his odds.

4.20 Ascot (Coronation Stakes – Group 1) – JUBILOSO

Aidan O’Brien’s Hermoso has been excellent for the yard and is now a dual-1000 Guineas winner.  The level she reached at Newmarket was little better than she’d already achieved during a busy juvenile season though and while she seemed to improve at the Curragh, she did benefit from getting the run of the race and the best draw, just as Phoenix Of Spain did in the colt’s race who failed here the other day.

She may not be as hard to beat as some may think, with French 1,000 Guineas winner Castle Lady being of a similar standard and retaining the potential to improve a little on better racing ground.

The most interesting one in the race for certain is Sir Michael Stoute’s very easy novice winner Jubiloso.  She’s impeccably bred, looks made for this race and is well rested having had 32 days off since winning at Newbury.  She needs to take a big step forward but she almost certainly will and her great stable has been doing what they do best this week, peaking them for Royal Ascot.

Thursday, 20 June 2019

Royal Ascot 2019 Day Three: Gosden Glad to Have Star and Strad

Given the fantastic way Ascot drains after heavy rainfall, we should not expect genuinely soft ground for Gold Cup day and as such the various pieces of form in each race should hold up to close scrutiny.

The draw is as important as ever in certain races and the top trainers and jockeys are in blinding form this meeting, so with some confident views taken we can get stuck into these four bets on day three of the Royal meeting.

2.30 Ascot (Norfolk Stakes – Group 2) – EXPRESSIONIST

We have another speed feast on our hands here featuring what are currently the fastest juveniles anywhere in Britain or Ireland currently.

If the soft ground did happen to hold up then likely clear favourite Sunday Sovereign would have an outstanding chance, not just because of underfoot conditions but because he also beat Coventry Stakes winner Arizona comfortably on his second start.

Aidan O’Brien’s colt improved a lot after than run though and needed the sixth furlong on Tuesday, so Paddy Twomey’s colt looks a little short in the market with the form not to be simply taken at face value.

The one to appeal most of all is Charlie Appleby’s Expressionist, a winner over this course and distance on good-to-soft ground some 40 days ago who is certain to improve a ton in this race.

He was lightning that day, comfortably beating a horse who is now a double winner and under James Doyle he can defy both his low draw and his rather high price.

3.05 Ascot (Hampton Court Stakes – Group 3) – SANGARIUS

We’ve some great form to assess in this race and there are simply too many horses to mention who all have thoroughly decent chances on the book, but the reality of a situation like that is when there are so many with good profiles you can’t help thinking that they can’t all be outstanding and so it’s best to stick with the one’s who’ve already done it at a high level.

Aidan O’Brien’s Cape Of Good Hope won the Blue Riband Trial at Epsom earlier in the season and came on a little bit from that when running fourth in the French Derby (Group 1).  Further improvement would of course see him go very close here and his stable are flying, but there’s a nagging feeling that we’ve already just about seen what he has to offer for now and so others could improve past him.

John Gosden’s Kick On didn’t enjoy his own trip to France and it’s better to draw a line under that run, as before that he’d shown plenty of good early season form.

A good winner from the front in the Feilden Stakes, he stepped down in trip but up in ability when running 7th in the 2000 Guineas from the wrong side of the track, beaten only a length by Skardu (4th in the St James’s Palace Stakes this week) and half a length by Madhmoon (second in the Derby).

His form for me is the best in the race on that evidence, but he won’t necessarily come on much more having had to put it all in there and this will be his fourth run in just over 60 days.

The standout with an eye on the (hopefully very near) future then is Sir Michael Stoute’s Sangarius.  Touted as a Group 1 horse and originally aimed at the Guineas, he swept clear at Doncaster last year to win a Listed event on just his second start and hated the ground on his reappearance behind King Ottokar.

Since then he has run third to King Of Comedy in the Heron Stakes, a race in which he hung badly and was most likely inconvenienced by the very quick ground and mile trip, so remembering that King Of Comedy really should have won the Group 1 St James’s Palace Stakes here on Tuesday his form is spot-on and he has loads of improvement to come at this trip which has been the plan since the start of the season.

3.40 Ascot (Ribblesdale Stakes – Group 2) – STAR CATCHER

Sparkle Roll went off favourite for the Musidora, Fanny Logan ran very well in the Cheshire Oaks and Anapurna (not entered here) won the Oaks so it’s fair to say John Gosden still has a very strong hand when it comes to three-year-old middle-distance fillies.

In Star Catcher he may have one who can give him another Royal Ascot winner too; far from the finished article and lightly raced, she scored nicely in April on her second start before improving markedly to run today’s rival Queen Power close at Newbury.

She will go on again from that and could prove to be the best of this bunch, especially as the logical two against her have a negative factor in common.

Time and time again, those who’ve run in the Oaks take a backwards step when coming out so quickly and so while Fleeting and Frankellina are both lovely fillies, they may secretly be feeling the effects of the efforts needed at Epsom to run third and sixth respectively and might not be at their best.

4.20 Ascot (Gold Cup Stakes – Group 1) – STRADIVARIUS

The big race of the day but the simplest one to assess.  Given the quality involved and the extreme distance, if Stradivarius is as good as ever then he has to win this so any price odds-against is fair and he can be taken.

In winning the Yorkshire Cup for the second time he was better than ever visually, and on the numbers he was actually a couple of pounds better off year-on-year before heading to this race.

Dee Ex Bee is definitely the main danger but his form leaves a lot to be desired when examined closely, while French raider Called To The Bar rather than the well-touted Cross Counter may be next best and is great value for a place.