Friday, 18 June 2021

Royal Ascot Day Five: 19th June 2021 - Nahaarr on Par in Diamond Jubilee

We were in danger of losing day four of Royal Ascot after heavy rain, and the surface will be hugely testing once again for the finale.

We could be going on the soft side of good at Newmarket too by the time racing gets going, where we begin with one selection which could go under the radar slightly amid the top-class fanfare in Berkshire.

1.40 Newmarket (Novice Stakes) – NOBLE TRUTH

Newmarket’s card gets going with what could prove to be a very strong two-year-old novice event. We have a mixture of good-looking newcomers and those with experience, the best horse in the latter category being Find who was in behind New Science last time.

We can’t know what to expect of Maamur, but impeccably-bred Charlie Appleby runner Noble Truth could be very good and may be a backable price.

2.30 Ascot (Chesham Stakes – Listed Race) – NEW SCIENCE

There are a number of horses that are hard to split right now; Great Max, Masekela, Reach For The Moon and Sweeping although they’ll all improve at different rates.

The one for money will almost certainly be Aidan O’Brien’s Point Lonsdale. He was excellent on debut, but was pestered throughout for the lead and had to probably pull out more than would normally be the case meaning his numbers are exaggerated and he may not improve quite as much as his main rival.

That rival is New Science who could be very good later in the season. This ground isn’t just about those who like juice, it’s about those who can get home and this horse will. He was exceptional on debut when winning very easily at Yarmouth and now looks to replicate Pinatubo who won this two years ago for the same connections.

3.05 Ascot (Jersey Stakes – Group 3) – NAVAL CROWN

Khartoum represents the O’Brien team here, coming down in trip after a handicap win but he’ll need to improve plenty.

Looking every inch a top-notcher at Newmarket in April was Mutasaabeq. He handles softer ground and clearly didn’t stay in the Guineas and may yet be anything.

Creative Force hit the top of the market for this race on Friday. Charlie Appleby’s runner has improved no end. Winner of all three starts this season, he’ll go forward again on the evidence of his easy Listed race win over six last time and only has to prove that he can stay the extra furlong.

Carrying the first-choice colours however is William Buick’s choice Naval Crown and I can see why. This horse beat an admittedly less than 100% Master Of The Seas in Dubai before failing by a neck to give Tactical 1lb in the Free Handicap.

He was then very free in the 2000 Guineas, losing ground at the end because of it, didn’t stay the mile and yet ended up only three lengths behind brilliant St James’s Palace Stakes winner Poetic Flare and Master Of The Seas.

3.40 Ascot (Hardwicke Stakes – Group 2) – LOGICIAN

A fine race in its own right, this is usually a strong trial for the King George and often the top trainers only enter horses they believe to be capable at Group 1 level.

Despite his obvious problems since winning the 2019 St Leger, Logician retains the faith of all at Juddmonte as well as John Gosden and we cannot lose sight of that.

The team were very happy with his comeback performance behind Al Aasy at Newbury and we should see a different animal now.

Ilaraab is a big improver, fillies Albaflora and Wonderful Tonight shouldn’t be far away and Hukum comes with a big reputation but O’Brien pair Japan and Broome may not be what they once were.

4.20 Ascot (Diamond Jubilee Stakes – Group 1) – NAHAARR

There are a number in with chances in a Group 1 race which in that sense often reads like a handicap. It’s way better than that though, with the runner-up from the last two years Dream Of Dreams set to go off favourite.

On private ratings, I get poor old Sir Michael Stoute’s horse second all over again! He had a brilliant prep at Windsor, but the real improver in the field is five-year-old Nahaarr who can now come of age.

An Ayr Gold Cup winner, he is climbing the ladder perhaps even faster than younger horse Starman who just beat him in the Duke Of York, and I reckon he’ll see this race out better than that particular rival too.

5.00 Ascot (Wokingham Stakes – Class 2 Handicap) – KING’S LYNN

King’s Lynn was seventh in the King’s Stand on Tuesday and could go in now being turned out quickly. He was blocked in his there, a move that possibly stopped him finished close to Battaash, he’ll be happier again over this six furlongs and has performed very well on soft ground before.

The other form horse is Pendleton and he must be considered the main danger. He hails from a proper stable, one capable of preparing sprinters for Group 1’s and he’s not done improving yet.

5.35 Ascot (Golden Gates Stakes – Class 2 Handicap) – IRISH LEGEND

In good time, Alfaadhel will prove to be a good horse and should go well in this if he handles the ground. Had it been faster, he’d have been the selection but, in the conditions, there is just so much to like about Irish Legend and he is taken to score at a very big price – if it holds for Hugo Palmer and Colin Keane.

6.10 Ascot (Queen Alexandra Stakes – Conditions Stakes) – FALCON EIGHT

The Chester Cup is hugely competitive but Falcon Eight won it with a fair bit to spare. He was sent to that by Dermot Weld purely because of the trip and his trainer says the further he goes, the better he is which means there’s nothing for him in Ireland.

Over this near two-and-three-quarter-mile trip he is definitely the one, with Stratum next best and the likes of Stag Horn, Barbados and Morando all capable of challenging for places.

Thursday, 17 June 2021

Royal Ascot Day Four: Friday 18th June 2021 - Enjoy Novemba in June

There’s double Group 1 action on Friday at Royal Ascot as we see the latest renewals of both the Commonwealth Cup and the Coronation Stakes.

We have a selection for every race here, all of them good value for money.

2.30 Ascot (Albany Stakes – Group 3) – FLOTUS

These juvenile sprints have been very competitive all week and, in this case, I get a number of them close on the book.

Cachet and Hellomydarlin have ability, while Hello You and in particular Oscula can really make their presence felt at some stage.

The best of the bunch might just be Simon & Ed Crisford’s Flotus. After he won ever so impressively on debut at Goodwood, Simon Crisford seemed to be beaming about him and he’s not the sort of trainer who bigs up every runner of his.

On the day he put in the best debut speed performance of any horse in this race, he did it over the six furlongs and also on soft ground which is unlikely to be his favoured ground going forward.

He may just be a real class act, has Frankie Dettori on board this time and can now go about replicating his sire Starspangledbanner.

3.05 Ascot (King Edward VII Stakes – Group 2) – YIBIR

The ‘Ascot Derby’ as it is known doesn’t have the quality of the real thing at Epsom, but it is arguably much more competitive this time around.

Tasman Bay continues to improve and is interesting stepped up to a mile-and-a-half, while Title can get right up among the principals even at this level as he is obviously talented.

The Mediterranean of Aidan O’Brien’s has improved in lumps thus far and can continue to do so which brings him into things, while the most obvious one is probably Alenquer who won the Classic Trial at Sandown.

He may have improved and he finished just ahead of Yibir that day, but it’s easy to see the Godolphin horse reversing the placings.

First off; the form of the race is terrific. The pair in question had Adayar between them at the line who went on to win the Derby. The fourth horse Lone Eagle came into it as a Group 3 winner and has since landed a Listed race easily.

Alenquer and Yibir traded blows for the early lead and at the death. The former is bred for a mile-and-a-quarter, which he won over last time, while Yibir almost certainly wants this mile-and-a-half trip.

He hated Chester and the ground, didn’t want the soft conditions last time and has even been gelded now. On a line through his form with Magallan and others he looks potentially just one level above these rivals and can score.

3.40 Ascot (Commonwealth Cup – Group 1) – SACRED

This six-furlong three-year-old sprint is the most welcome recently added Group 1. This time round there isn’t an obvious one for me.

Money will come for Campanelle who has only been beaten over a mile, but she hasn’t always been overly impressive for me and Wesley Ward’s horses haven’t performed as expected all week. Dragon Symbol has been a revelation this season but could have hit a ceiling and may want softer going also.

Supremacy would be the selection of many and he can leave his bitterly disappointing seasonal debut behind perhaps, but we can’t ignore that it happened and you’d be taking a risk backing him.

At bigger odds to small stakes we go for Sacred. William Haggas’s filly was a close second in the Queen Mary last season behind Campanelle and has tons of speed. Despite that, she won the Nell Gwyn this season but didn’t stay in the Guineas, very predictably.

Sacred, getting 3lbs, Supremacy and Dragon Symbol may all bomb down the near side, bringing the best out of each other, and the best raw speed at the weights may just come from the filly under Tom Marquand.

4.20 Ascot (Coronation Stakes – Group 1) – NOVEMBA

We’ve gone successfully for a German raider already this season and this Novemba is a silly price.

The German form is always underrated, that we know for sure. The truth is that this horse won ever so easily from a good yardstick out of France last time at Dusselforf in the German 1000 Guineas, earning a rating of 115. That rating is genuine and she could be very hard to live with.

Many are at a similar level unless there is major improvement in one; Primo Bacio, 1000 Guineas winner Mother Earth, Pretty Gorgeous, Snow Lantern and the one we know little about, the talented improver Potapova. Alcohol Free is no lost cause either.

5.00 Ascot (Sandringham Stakes – Class 2 Handicap) - BELIEF

A frightfully tough handicap on paper, but if we’re very lucky we could back a William Haggas/Cheveley Park filly double with Sacred and in this race, Belief.

Drawn on the near side, Belief is getting exactly the conditions she wants now. A close look at her easy novice win at Thirsk along with the form and ability of the others shows that the race was underestimated and with it, her handicap rating. She’s well in and should have a great chance.

5.35 Ascot (Duke of Edinburgh Stakes – Class 2 Handicap) – GRAND BAZAAR

Aaddeey will be all the rage here and it’s easy to see why, but a proper look at Grand Bazaar’s form paints a picture of a horse who is in the perfect race.

He’s had plenty of chances, but over 1m4f on good/fast ground he has improved every time. He’s a few pounds better on bare form than Global Storm who was well backed and ran well here in the Copper Horse this week and he stands a proper chance.

6.10 Ascot (Palace of Holyroodhouse Stakes – Class 2 Handicap) – BOOMSHALAA 

If ever a Royal Ascot race had the look of a lottery, it’s this one! 25 runners, all young and improving three-year-olds, a five-furlong dash and at least 6/1 the field at the time of writing.

The best speed for my money so far however has been shown by Boomshalaa of Roger Varian’s yard and he is a tentative tip, but a tip all the same, for the lucky last.

Wednesday, 16 June 2021

Royal Ascot Day Three: 17th June 2021 - Noon to Star on Thursday

It’s Gold Cup Day at Royal Ascot, but the big event is not really a betting race for me. The brilliant Stradivarius has the likes of Trueshan to worry about who really could take the crown, but he always pulls something out of the bag.

I’m desperate to see him win, but I can’t punt him at evens which leaves us with these six selections after a wonderful day yesterday.

2.30 Ascot (Norfolk Stakes – Group 2) – NAKATOMI

We’ve managed to work the draw really well this week, but we may get the chance to somewhat ignore it in this major speed test for the juveniles.

There are 16 lining up here with the stalls placed in the centre, giving the horse in the 4 gate a chance and that is Wesley Ward’s Nakatomi.

The Qatar Racing horse, ridden by Oisin Murphy, isn’t Ward’s first choice according to the betting but he showed the sort of blistering pace at Keeneland on debut that the rest may not be able to live with. There may even be improvement on that.

Ward’s other horse Lucci was next on the list, again based on debut speed, while York winner Project Dante looks best of the home team to me.

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

Mohaafeth was a major shout for the Derby but was pulled out on account of the ground. As long as it’s good or faster on Thursday he should run and can show in this grade why many of us think he’s heading right to the top for William Haggas.

At the risk of spewing out some overused racing parlance he absolutely hacked up at Newmarket in May, never getting out of third gear to score by a wide margin in Listed company.

It’s thought that this mile-and-a-quarter is his rightful trip, the field isn’t too hot in all truth and it’s encouraging from a betting point of view that Movin Time, as short as 3/1 at the time of writing, doesn’t look up to this level. Famous last words!

One Ruler has not had anything close to ideal conditions since last year’s Autumn Stakes, a race he won well. The heavy ground got him beaten by Mac Swiney (top class horse) in the Vertem Futurity, he was too slow for the Guineas and didn’t stay in the Derby yet finished sixth in both classics.

One Ruler is talented and should be all the better in this race, but his 4lb penalty may be enough to ensure he can’t get to a fully motoring Mohaafeth on this occasion.

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

Aidan O’Brien’s Divinely is only 5/1 for this but needs serious improvement. That’s always possible, but from a handicapping point of view she might just provide us with a target to hit as the winner of this race should honestly be better than her.

Dubai Fountain ran so well in Group 1 company on very soft ground last year and won the Cheshire Oaks in May, though most believe she was actually second best in that race.

There was a similar situation at Newbury in the Trial Stakes in which Eshaada made it two from two. Natural improvement is expected from Roger Varian’s filly however Gloria Mundi was agonisingly close for the Gosden team and the way that race worked out means it would be no surprise at all if she reversed the placings this time.

That leaves us trying to pre-empt how good Sir Michael Stoute’s Noon Star is. I was more than happy with her as an Oaks filly after she won at Wetherby and with the dust now well and truly settled on her Musidora Stakes run it still appears she could be top level.

Well fancied, she chased home surprise winner Snowfall at York and of course that filly went on to land the Oaks in spectacular fashion. True, Snowfall has improved massively, but Noon Star was a clear best of the rest on the Knavesmire having been bumped, hung and ran around a bit. Rain would be welcome and she would have a major chance at Group 2 level with the experience under her belt.

5.00 Ascot (Britannia Stakes – Class 2 Handicap) – QUINTILLUS

The horses for money have been Mithras, Air To Air and Raadobarg, however this could go to a big outsider for a very successful yard.

Charlie Appleby and Godolphin aren’t really associated too often with 25 and 28/1 shots, which Quintillus is at the time of writing, but he has what it takes to win this three-year-old handicap.

A very brief look at his form won’t inspire you, but a closer look especially at his run at Chelmsford shows the sort of talent he would have if he didn’t run so green. He’s been gelded, has a little more experience and should be much more straightforward now and on that basis is overpriced given what he could be.

5.35 Ascot (King George V Stakes – Class 2 Handicap) – MARSHALL PLAN

If the boys in blue do win one major handicap with an outsider, their confidence in another similar outcome will go up and we hope it’s proven to be correct!

Marshall Plan, owned by Godolphin but this time trained by John & Thady Gosden, is a similar price to Quintillus in the Britannia and again is simply overpriced.

His first two races were more than good enough, but it’s his form with Mandoob who he is ahead of that takes the eye, Brian Meehan’s horse having handsomely franked the form of their clash at Lingfield back in April giving this horse the look of a very well handicapped one.

6.10 Ascot (Buckingham Palace Stakes – Class 2 Handicap) – ALDAARY 

It could be an equally good day for Shadwell if they win this seven-furlong handicap with Aldaary. William Haggas could have gone for the Jersey Stakes with this horse, he’s that good, with the forecast rain very much in the favour of a seriously well handicapped course and distance winner.

Watch out for Persuasion, especially if we remain on fast ground.

Tuesday, 15 June 2021

Royal Ascot Day Two: 16th June 2021 - Gosden Team to Dominate on Wednesday

It could be a wonderful day for John & Thady Gosden on Wednesday as we continue with a full round of selections for the second day of Royal Ascot.

2.30 Ascot (Queen Mary Stakes – Group 2) – QUICK SUZY

It’s been hard to read the American form, though Wesley Ward always does well in these speed dominated races.

It’s been equally difficult to match up times, speed figures and actual form as far as the rest of the field goes, but the only one solid in all categories is Quick Suzy who also comes from a good draw.

Gavin Cromwell’s filly has clocked up a few miles having already run three times, but that experience could prove to be really useful for her in this 22-runner field. She hasn’t had a chance to run on proper fast ground yet, but it may just bring about a new level of form and she is a nice price too.

Desert Dreamer, Twilight Gleaming and Mas Poder were best of the rest.

3.05 Ascot (Queen’s Vase – Group 2) – KEMARI 

This is the race that Charlie Appleby had his eye on for Adayar who ultimately won the Derby. He may yet have the winner of this event in his yard anyway in the shape of big improver Kemari.

Having only made his debut in mid-May we know there is the veritable ton of progression to come from the son of Dubawi, while his first win came at Yarmouth just 15 days after his initial run and was incredibly easy.

Based on the time, the form of that run, the need for him to step up to this 1m6f trip and by using a good comparison in the shape of the yard’s former young stayer Brundtland, it appears Kemari can get to a level now the others can’t quite reach.

Law Of The Sea can continue to get better for the Godolphin team, Wordsworth is no.1 for the Aidan O’Brien yard and Stowell is another Gosden horse and another big improver who can come of age now.

3.40 Ascot (Duke of Cambridge Stakes – Group 2) – INDIE ANGEL

Strong favourite Lady Bowthorpe chased Palace Pier home last time in the Lockinge and deserves her place at the head of the market. She may not quite reach that level again, but she’s still bang in there based on the form of her Dahlia Stakes win at Newmarket.

That day she just about wore down Queen Power, in opposition again, and Lavender’s Blue with the three very close.

Just behind them however was Indie Angel. That day the Gosden horse raced all on her own, got rather caught out on the wing and wasn’t asked for too much of an effort once it became clear she was booked for fourth.

She is right up there with the principal runners, is improving all the time and also receives a 3lb weight pull given that Queen Power and Lady Bowthorpe are penalised. She’s very interesting at a nice price, as is Fooraat who can get to this level in time.

4.20 Ascot (Prince of Wales’s Stakes – Group 1) – LORD NORTH 

The favourites have flip-flopped this week with 2020’s star three-year-old filly Love now replacing last year’s winner of this race Lord North at the head of the market.

Love is superb, we know that. While she was awesome in the Oaks and the Yorkshire Oaks, we can’t forget that she took the 1000 Guineas as well last season and so the drop to a mile-and-a-quarter should be fine for her.

She’s been off the track since August however and is fallible. Lord North reached a peak in this race last season when winning a strong renewal comfortably, he was good thereafter and on his one appearance this season looked very smart once more when taking the Group 1 Dubai Turf in March.

He did break a blood vessel that day, but all appears fine now and his form stacks up with the filly. It’s Gosden again then, the two big guns perhaps being clear with the rest all of a very similar ability.

5.00 Ascot (Royal Hunt Cup – Class 2 Handicap) – HAQEEQY 

Another race, another strong chance for the Gosdens. In fact, they have two big opportunities in this fast and furious straight mile in the shape of Magical Morning and Lincoln winner Haqeeqy.

Magical Morning might be good enough if fit enough, but Haqeeqy loves these conditions and is likely still some way ahead of the handicapper as heads almost inevitably for Group company later in the season.

We should see a strong run from Astro King, while had Irish Admiral been drawn on the near side in this strongly-run mile he would also have entered calculations for sure.

5.35 Ascot (Windsor Castle Stakes – Listed Race) – GOLDEN BELL

We’ve not exactly been all over the Wesley Ward horses so far, but this Golden Bell possibly has just too much pace and would even have been favoured without the 5lb fillies’ allowance.

If she breaks out nicely under John Velazquez she may just prove too hot for them, while somehow she is four times the price of her stablemate and Frankie Dettori’s mount Ruthin. Watch out too for Flaming Rib, Armor and Tipperary Sunset in a very quick race.

6.10 Ascot (Kensington Palace Stakes – Class 2 Handicap) – MOSTLY 

On what just might be a big day for the Clarehaven operation of John & Thady Gosden, Mostly can finish it all off with a win in the one-mile Kensington Palace Stakes.

Although it’s not a prerequisite, every contender here is four years old and all have similar improvement in them. For her part Mostly has had both of her career wins at Kempton, but she’s been more than competent on the turf so far and is ready to reach a new level over the mile.

Angel Of The Glen, Dreamloper and the well fancied Lights On of Sir Michael Stoute’s are also in contention.

Monday, 14 June 2021

Royal Ascot Day One: 15th June 2021 - Hills Star to Batt is Out of the Park

Day one at Royal Ascot looks like an absolute cracker. We begin with three Group 1’s and a Group 2 on Tuesday, and while we could see something a little special from the world’s leading miler Palace Pier, he’s not a betting opportunity at long odds-on.

We do however have an interest in all six of the other races on the card, beginning with some of the best juveniles on the planet.

3.05 Ascot (Coventry Stakes – Group 2) – DHABAB 

Those drawn near the stands side appear to have a well-defined advantage on the straight course these days, though there are enough fancied horses and therefore enough pace on the far side to even this up somewhat.

Over that side is American horse Kaufymaker. Wesley Ward is very keen on her and he knows exactly what it takes to win two-year-old races at the royal meeting.

That said, the Coventry isn’t really his bag and even with her undoubted ability and 3lb pull, it’ll be difficult for a filly against these colts.

Aidan O’Brien’s The Acropolis won nicely last time and may improve plenty, but the most taking debut run for me was that of John & Thady Gosden’s Dhabab.

In terms of his reputation, his debut win at Leicester and the genuine speed he showed he appears to be the best in the race. He’s drawn well and should get help from speedy type Berkshire Shadow on his side of the track.

We shouldn’t read too much into Frankie Dettori riding the stable’s other horse Tolstoy, with John Gosden stating early that Rab Havlin would ‘keep’ the ride on this son of No Nay Never who will surely be well backed overnight.

3.40 Ascot (King’s Stand Stakes – Group 1) – BATTAASH 

The fastest horse in the world, last year’s winner Battaash, had to have surgery over the winter and was in danger of missing this meeting.

His excellent and trustworthy trainer Charlie Hills however has reported him to be back to his best in the run-up to this and if that’s true then we have an unusually generous betting opportunity.

The York track record holder always does very well first time out, that’s been proven. Even if he is some way below his best in this race, he should still be good enough to score.

Despite that, prices of more than 2/1 are available at the time of writing for a horse who dominates his division in a similar way to Palace Pier, who is around 4/9 for the opener.

Tim Easterby’s Winter Power was so good at York, but a three-year-old filly has quite a task on in this event and the out-and-out speed test she passed on the Knavesmire doesn’t really equate to what’s needed here.

She remains next best on the list however, while July Cup winner Oxted may appreciate this drop to five furlongs after some disappointing runs and can grab a place. In behind, there isn’t much to choose between Acklam Express, Extravagant Kid and Que Amoro.

4.20 Ascot (St James’s Palace Stakes – Group 1) – HIGHLAND AVENUE

This race has been a basket case to handicap as, all things considered, so many are very close in terms of what’s expected.

Battleground can come back to form, Thunder Moon is very good but may appreciate it softer, La Barrosa will love the conditions and can join the top rank while Chindit has proven himself and will again be competitive.

Sir Michael Stoute’s Maximal was tipped here to win on Derby Day but was pulled out and he can improve plenty over this trip – he certainly has very strong form. The 2000 Guineas form is represented by winner Poetic Flare and Lucky Vega but this race on the round mile will play out differently.

John Gosden won this in 2018 with Without Parole and nearly repeated the trick a year later with King Of Comedy, both horses having taken the Heron Stakes first.

He’s trying that route again with nice unbeaten type Mostahdaf and that form may be the line to concentrate on. The soft ground wasn’t ideal for the top runners that day, but Mostahdaf got the job done and is now primed to take on the best.

A smidge behind him that day having given away 3lbs was Charlie Appleby’s Highland Avenue however and he is fancied to turn the tables. He was very good over nine furlongs at the Craven meeting, could have gone for the Guineas and now over a quicker, turning mile can prove his worth at the top level.

5.00 Ascot (Ascot Stakes – Handicap) – GOLDEN RULES

If the Gosdens are to miss out in the St James’s Palace Stakes, they may yet rack up yet another win in this tough two-and-a-half-mile handicap.

Their Golden Rules is stepping up markedly in trip but right from the very beginning of his short career he’s been screaming out for a test.

Over a longer distance and on fast ground he is very well capable of reaching a mark somewhere around 105, making him look particularly well handicapped in this event off just 93.

5.35 Ascot (Wolferton Stakes – Listed Race) – SOLID STONE 

Forest Dean can improve on turf and would go close without a 5lb penalty, while Felix and Patrick Sarsfield are also solid overall.

Given that we’re set to run on genuine quick ground though, Sir Michael Stoute’s five-year-old Solid Stone stands out. He won despite racing all on his own last time at Windsor, putting up a performance that would have given him a winning chance here anyway.

What’s more extraordinary is that in not having company he clocked a very good speed figure and with more typical Stoute improvement to come, he may just have too much tactical speed for the line-up now he’s in a more competitive environment which will bring out the best in him.

6.10 Ascot (Copper Horse Stakes – Handicap) – ARTHURIAN FABLE

Willie Mullins runner Saldier, a Grade 1 winner over hurdles, will be all the rage here and that’s to be expected. He may yet go and win this easily, but strictly on the numbers he really does have to take a very big step forward from his last flat start off this handicap mark.

Better value for the closer is Brian Meehan’s Arthurian Fable. His best form last year was over this 1m6f trip on fast ground, with his good fourth at Newmarket to open this campaign having been achieved in very wet conditions. He’ll be a different proposition now and can get the job done under Jim Crowley.

Thursday, 10 June 2021

Friday 11th & Saturday 12th June 2021: Bank on the Latest Generation at Sandown

This truly is the calm before the storm! Royal Ascot is very nearly upon us and we’ll have a ton of information at the ready for that during the week, but for now there remain plenty of weekend betting opportunities.

Friday 11th June 2021

4.00 York (Ganton Stakes – Listed Race) – AFAAK

We have just the one bet to small stakes on Friday and it comes in the one-mile Listed race. At a glance, this looks more like one of those run of the mill conditions races, the type used by trainers to get a win into some rather ‘out of sorts’ types.

There are some great achievements in among the form of this bunch, but most of it is either out of date or hasn’t been achieved in these quick conditions.

Azano may well prove to be the best of the bunch, his you couldn’t be confident he’ll show his best over this trip. Duke Of Hazzard, Qaysar and Space Traveller are all dangerous on paper but the smart play may be Afaak.

Charlie Hills’s admirable handicapper is seven now. He goes well fresh, won the 2019 Royal Hunt Cup first time out, and has always struggled having landed big races with his rating.

That rating doesn’t look so lofty now, but he remains thoroughly capable of running to a mark of 100+ and will be the one suited best by the race conditions, meaning at potential double-figure odds he can be backed.

Saturday 12th June 2021

1.05 Sandown (Handicap) – SILENT FILM

Run To Freedom is the one for money here having beaten Highland Avenue last season when last seen. He may well improve again, but he’s done all of his good work on the all-weather at Kempton and so doubts remain about the favourite first time out for the campaign on turf.

The most interesting runner in the field is Charlie Appleby’s Silent Film. The New Approach gelding is having only his fourth career start and is nowhere close to having run his best races yet.

He wasn’t great at Wolverhampton last time, but the extended mile on the Tapeta wasn’t his bag and so the drop back to seven furlongs on the grass should prove to be perfect.

At Epsom in April, he was carried right and only just missed out on a second win, while looking at the overall form of that performance makes it possible that he runs to a mark of around 95+ here which makes him well handicapped off 89.

2.15 Sandown (Scurry Stakes – Listed Race) – STEEL BULL

First Edition has a solid each-way chance for Clive Cox, while likely favourite Atalis Bay won at Nottingham before chasing home Winter Power at York which is the best recent form on offer.

Very interesting at the odds however is Irish runner Steel Bull. His season-opener at Naas was very poor, probably due to the ground, but last season a couple of forays to England brought about exactly the sort of performances we want to see.

In September he was a close fifth in the Flying Childers, and before that at Goodwood where speed really matters, he blasted his way to a fine Molecomb Stakes win. With natural improvement back on a good racing surface he may prove too good for these under Leigh Roche.

2.50 Sandown (Handicap) – LATEST GENERATION

There seem to be gaps here between the top three on private ratings which is always nice to see as a punter. Dogged is solid enough, but is some way behind potential favourite King’s Knight. If all is well with Simon & Ed Crisford’s Latest Generation however, they may all be struggling to keep up.

Their three-year-old Frankel colt made a great debut when not beaten at all far by One Ruler and Maximal. He then comfortably beat Stay Well, now rated 90 after an easy Windsor win, Moktasaab who is favourite for a race on Friday and Side Shot (see below).

He went off only 5/1 for the Autumn Stakes won by One Ruler last season and 9/2 for the race at Newbury won by Derby third Hurricane Lane this, so we can tell just how high he ranks.

Down to a mile he can rediscover his best form, nay improve on it, and as a tough type he should actually be suited by going up against the older horses and receiving plenty of weight.

3.20 Chester (Handicap) – SIDE SHOT

This is a mile-and-a-half race at Chester, so a Mark Johnston horse ridden by Franny Norton has to be considered dangerous and indeed Love Is Golden is the one feared. This trip can bring about more improvement from a horse going the right way overall – Side Shot.

He is just about the outsider of the field at time of writing, albeit in a very tight market, with his form and speed figures being enough to make us thinks that the trip could be well worthwhile for the Gosden team and Rab Havlin with their only runner on the card.

3.40 York (Handicap) – AKIDO 

Another sprint race, another Irish entrant and another betting opportunity. In a very competitive six-furlong event finding something with weight in hand is all-important. Charlie Hills pair Dark Shift and Jadwal could be thereabouts, the latter certainly, but Akido may well be the one to be on.

Ger Lyons’s Dandy Man three-year-old reached a good level last time at Dundalk and only had to be encouraged along to do it. There is plenty more in the locker and he could be very well handicapped indeed for this race.

5.40 Leicester (Novice Stakes) – PULCHERIA 

This is a four-runner, two-year-old novice stakes the prices for which aren’t published as this is written. There could yet be a betting opportunity however.

We mention Pulcheria on the proviso that Mark Johnston’s Madame Ambassador is given favouritism after her runner-up effort on debut, giving us a backable price about the Charlie Appleby horse.

Madame Ambassador’s form is possibly not good enough to stop one of these regally bred types from Godolphin over seven furlongs on this sort of ground, so a debut win becomes likely. William Buick comes here to ride this rather than the likes of Silent Film at Sandown.

Friday, 4 June 2021

Friday 4th & Saturday 5th June 2021: Go For Mo in Derby

It’s an incredibly busy weekend of flat racing action. Friday sees Epsom Downs host the Oaks and the Coronation Cup, while it’s Derby Day on Saturday as well as Belmont Stakes Day over in New York.

Friday 4th June 2020

4.30 Epsom (The Oaks – Group 1) – ZEYAADAH

This looks to be a good quality Oaks renewal. Favourite Santa Barbara may or may not stay, that much is hard to judge, but she did run very well in the 1000 Guineas on only her second ever run.

Of the other Aidan O’Brien runners, Snowfall rather nicked the Musidora but is entitled to come on from that, while Divinely has been very well backed since being short of room in defeat at Lingfield but the form isn’t strong there anyway and she may be best on softer ground.

Teona didn’t give her true running at York behind Snowfall and may improve more than most with the right amount of stamina in her pedigree, while Ocean Road is too big a price for each-way backers.

Dubai Fountain landed the Cheshire Oaks last time, but not as much improvement is expected from the Mark Johnston filly as from some others while stamina and quicker ground may also catch her out.

Very unlucky in behind her last time was Roger Varian’s Zeyaadah and she is the pick of the bunch. She was caught on heels for what seemed an age at Chester, losing many lengths and not being able to get out. When in the clear, she showed a great turn of foot to almost run Dubai Fountain down and crucially proved her stamina in seeing out every yard of the 1m3½f trip right to the line.

8.23 Doncaster (Handicap) – MONBAHER

Sir Michael Stoute is notoriously patient with his three-year-olds so we may not yet see the improvement many expect from likely favourite Evaluation here, while Wor Willie can improve but perhaps not enough.

The solid and value one in the line-up is the Gosden’s Monbaher. He’s been rather in and out so far, but has tons of improvement in him over this sort of trip and even on the form of his sixth behind Nagano he has a major chance at these weights.

Saturday 5th June 2021

2.00 Epsom (Handicap) – CAMELOT TALES

This mile-and-a-quarter handicap could be tailor made for Simon and Ed Crisford’s Camelot Tales. By Derby winner Camelot and out of a Shirocco mare, he should not only handle this track but will also see out every yard of the trip.

Ignoring his last run on the all-weather at Newcastle where all wasn’t right, the form of his Redcar win when nowhere near the finished article is fascinating.

That form is superb in the context of this race based on the subsequent runs of the horses he beat comfortably, he’s bred for the job and his price is ridiculous considering he may be a stone well in.

2.35 Epsom (Princess Elizabeth Stakes – Group 3) – MAAMORA

This isn’t the highest quality renewal, but that could play into our hands. Nazuna is dangerous as improvement is possible this season, while Statement just doesn’t quite look up to the job as yet.

The Crisford’s Maamora however is rock solid. The five-year-old should peak this season and will be all the better now for her opening run of the campaign, just her second in 16 months. Her past form entitles her to win this and she looks decent value to get the job done.

3.10 Epsom (Diomed Stakes – Group 3) – MAXIMAL

Of the main contenders considered here, Sir Michael Stoute’s Maximal is the only three-year-old but experience isn’t an issue considering the battles he’s had.

The Galileo colt should like it here, but hated the ground when a good second behind El Drama at Chester who at that point was a single-figure price for the Derby. Before that he had a run-in right to the line with live Derby chance Hurricane Lane, but this looks more his trip and he can now show his true class.

Prince Eiji is probably best of the rest, ahead of Bell Rock.

4.30 Epsom (The Derby – Group 1) – MOHAAFETH

Aidan O’Brien dropped a bombshell by leaving only Bolshoi Ballet in this race from all his contenders, a move that goes some way towards telling you what they think of a strong favourite who took down the top two trial races in Ireland this spring in taking fashion.

He has all the right attributes and could give Galileo yet another win in this race, but he’s too short a price and nothing is guaranteed in the Derby.

For various reasons Third Realm, John Leeper, One Ruler and Adayar may run well but come up short, while Mac Swiney was a winner of the Vertem Futurity last season and the Irish 2000 Guineas last time and will be plenty of people’s idea of the winner.

The two I like at the prices given their class are Hurricane Lane and Mohaafeth. The former is three from three now and has done nothing but improve. In his last two races he has battled hard to see off Maximal at Sandown and then Megallan in the Dante at York, trainer Charlie Appleby reportedly being very happy with him since.

We should see a good amount of improvement from him and his rider William Buick thinks he’s a certain stayer.

Mohaafeth is a mystery. Initially coming from the handicap route, he improved no end in May when taking a Listed event at Newmarket in incredibly easy fashion.

He ran all over his three opponents at seemingly half speed before leaving them behind at what can only be described as a canter. There is simply unfathomable potential in him and he is very much bred for this being by Frankel, who does well at this trip, out of a Sea The Stars mare and at the odds he is very much work backing to land a huge Derby win for William Haggas.

8.58 Belmont Park (Just a Game Stakes – Grade 1) – ALTHIQA

Charlie Appleby has sent Althiqa and Summer Romance over to New York to take on Pocket Square, formerly trained in England, and Blowout among others.

Althiqa is the one fancied at the weights, the firm turf and quicker mile at Belmont looking right up her street and she can grab a value-boosting Grade 1 win under Mike Smith.

11.49 Belmont Park (Belmont Stakes – Grade 1) – ESSENTIAL QUALITY

Regardless of the ‘winner’ potentially now being thrown out of the Kentucky Derby in which we backed Essential Quality, it transpires that having been caught wide at two crucial points the Godolphin colt covered 8½ lengths more than Bob Baffert’s horse there and remains the best sophomore in the country.

He is by Tapit who has such an amazing record in this race, meaning confidence is high that he can take the last leg of the Triple Crown before coming back to a mile-and-a-quarter for the rest of the season. Rombauer and Rock Your World are the main dangers.