Thursday 29 June 2023

Friday 30th June & Saturday 1st July 2023: Go With the Tiber Flow on Plate Day

It’s Northumberland Plate and Irish Derby weekend. The two races are now split up once again with the Curragh’s big race moved to Sunday, while at the same time there is British and Irish interest in the German Derby too.

We’re betting across Friday and Saturday, beginning at Yarmouth.

Friday 30th June 2023

3.30 Yarmouth (Handicap) – THEORYOFEVERYTHING

I really liked Tafreej last time and this isn’t a case of deserting him. He may go off favourite here but is likely to fine one too well handicapped for him in the shape of Gosden runner Theoryofeverything.

This is the horse I really fancied in last week’s Britannia Stakes but he was pulled out. A grey Frankel colt, Theoryofeverything won very well on debut at Doncaster and was put into a trial (Greenham Stakes) as the team thought he may be Group 1 class.

The ground was terrible at Newbury, as it was at Chester when he was beaten on his third start in a handicap. He was a strong favourite there and now, on better racing ground, he can show why.

6.00 Newcastle (Gosforth Park Cup – Handicap) – VINTAGE CLARETS

The Tapeta surface at Newcastle is a very fair one, which is why many top-class yards send juveniles here, but it is slow. With that, we aren’t obliged to look for those with strong course form but if they don’t have it then we will want to know that they can accelerate in deeper going.

The popular Mondammej may go well in this five-furlong event, while Fine Wine and Badri will also be popular. The one I like however is Richard Fahey’s Vintage Clarets.

Only a four-year-old, he is just about peaking now and it’s prevalent that he has shown the pace we’re looking for on soft ground. It’s also worth mentioning that he had an entry in the Rockingham over in Ireland on Sunday and he was only 10/1 for that. The excellent Paul Mulrennan rides.

6.35 Newcastle (Hoppings Fillies’ Stakes – Group 3) – AL HUSN

This is the first of Newcastle’s two Group 3’s over the weekend, in this case a 1¼-mile event.

There’s no doubt that if French Oaks winner Nashwa is at her best, she wins under Hollie Doyle. She was at her very best in the Nassau on fast ground however and she’s gone backwards ever since.

If she runs to an average of her form, she’ll be at around the 112-mark here which leaves her vulnerable to the improving Al Husn.

Roger Varian’s filly is up to 103 now and is improving sharply. More to the point, she may just be more capable of changing gears on this surface and at the prices we can afford to have a little dabble.

8.45 Newmarket (Handicap) – FIRST SIGHT 

The hat-trick chasing Peace Man is likely to be favourite in Newmarket’s finale, but Godolphin’s First Sight is liable to improve for going on turf at the July Course and gets the vote.

A hat-trick seeker himself, he’s been given a mark of 90 which I reckon he surpassed back in January and he should be significantly better than that now.

Saturday 1st July 2023

12.20 Newcastle (Festival Handicap) – RAATEA 

A strong six-furlong race, Newcastle’s opener is competitive with Animate, Aleezdancer, Batal Dubai and especially Coachello all capable.

Julie Camacho will now be remembered as Shaquille’s trainer of course, but she may also be responsible for the successful horse here in the shape of Raatea.

Though his win last time was on quick turf at Haydock, Raatea was an easy winner of this very race last year so loves the conditions. He’s 5lbs higher now but that was a simple victory and he’s in flying form.

12.55 Newcastle (Chipchase Stakes – Group 3) – TIBER FLOW

The six-furlong Chipchase wasn’t an easy race to handicap. Spycatcher (rated 106) went close here on All-Weather Championships Finals Day last year but more recently has done all his best work on the grass.

Brad The Brief reached a high level (114) in winning a Group 2, but is far from proven on this surface and has been off the track for 37 weeks.

Tiber Flow is the percentage call at a good price for William Haggas. On the same card as Spycatcher last April, this horse just lost out to El Caballo in the three-year-old race (now rated 111), before winning a Listed event.

More mature now, he should have improved from his fourth to Garrus at Newmarket and his second to Creative Force at Haydock. He has the form to win this, will get better yet and likes the surface.

1.50 Newmarket (Criterion Stakes – Group 3) – AUDIENCE

A number of horses are making comebacks at Newmarket on Saturday including Aldaary.

He is very classy and is a confirmed seven-furlong horse, but we have seen repeatedly that he’s not as good on quicker surfaces as he is on soft ground and he’s been off 14 months.

Berkshire Shadow has the Group 1 form but isn’t truly at that level, while Jumby is penalised and Pogo is an inexplicable price given how out of form he is.

The value shout is Audience for the Gosden team. He has some good form and reached a new level last time when winning easily. He was given 107 but in truth ran closer to 110 and he can now improve again.

2.05 Newcastle (Northumberland Plate – Heritage Handicap) – LAW OF THE SEA 

The £150,000 Northumberland Plate is always massively competitive.

Post Impressionist could prove to be well handicapped, Golden Rules has been well touted, Zoffee won the consolation race for this last year and was second in the Chester Cup, Nathaniel Greene has a good profile and Omniscient is an obvious type if he stays.

The suggestion however is Law Of The Sea. Since joining Ian Williams this horse has been unlucky. He was beaten under two lengths in the Chester Cup when not getting a run and should have won, while he found the ground too lively at Haydock but was beaten under a length.

At Royal Ascot he had to race extremely wide but was again beaten only two lengths and his consistency and class should mean another big run is coming here in the feature race.

Friday 23 June 2023

Royal Ascot Day Five: Saturday 24th June 2023 - Al Our Pal in Group 1 Feature

It has been an incredibly hard week for punters at Royal Ascot. Unperturbed, we go again on the final day during which we see the last of the eight Group 1 races of the meeting.

We begin with a juvenile contest that has given us Maybe, Churchill, Pinatubo and Point Lonsdale.

2.30 Ascot (Chesham Stakes – Listed Race) – PEARLS AND RUBIES

By whatever metric I chose to look at, the only horse that kept coming near the top consistently was Pearls And Rubies and she is therefore the sensible play.

The fillies could dominate in this seven-furlong juvenile event, with Content definitely next best on my list which means Aidan O’Brien really does have a bit of a grip on the event. It should be noted that three of the outstanding winners of this race we mentioned above were trained by O’Brien too.

3.05 Ascot (Jersey Stakes – Group 3) – ENFJAAR 

I do love the Jersey Stakes and though I’m sure the stats back up why the race remains a Group 3, in truth it often takes a Group 1 performance to win it.

Part of the reason for that is that this is a race for three-year-olds. At this stage of their careers, they may still be finding themselves and perhaps haven’t learned to sprint yet or stay a mile. The seven furlongs of this event is ideal for some of them.

Mr O’Brien features again with The Antarctic who can go well, as can the filly Olivia Maralda though many are questioning the well-being of Roger Varian’s runners.

Covey is the one for money. There is a little of the ‘Frankie factor’ at play there, but he is on a four-timer. A big step forward is needed from that horse to leave behind his rating of 100 and an even bigger one is needed from Enfjaar. I think it’ll come.

Assuming the Varian runners are OK – he’s had a good winner and a couple of seconds this week – Enfjaar can remain unbeaten and show his class. He was imperious on his second start at Chelmsford and while the opposition wasn’t up to scratch, he was in a different league and could be heading to the top.

3.34 Ayr (Land O’Burns Fillies’ Stakes – Listed Race) – NYMPHADORA

We pop up to Ayr for one on Saturday where I like the chances of Nymphadora in the Listed race ahead of the hot pot Royal Aclaim.

Amazingly, the thrice-raced three-year-old filly was sent off favourite for the Nunthorpe last year but she’s now had six runs overall and she simply isn’t at that level.

She is rated 105 now and while she can still climb above that, Nymphadora has risen steadily to 101 and she has plenty of speed.

3.40 Ascot (Queen Elizabeth II Jubilee Stakes – Group 1) – AL SUHAIL

This is another good renewal of the Group 1 six-furlong sprint, renamed this year yet again.

Kinross will once again have his supporters and he is a classy horse, though it remains true that he has looked more impressive when the ground has been softer than it is out there.

Highfield Princess was only just denied in King’s Stand on Tuesday and goes again. She’ll most certainly go close if she shows no ill effects.

Sacred was beaten only a length in this race last year and made an excellent start to this season in her prep at Lingfield, winning a Group 3 easily. She may be the one, but there is that niggling thought that she prefers a seventh furlong to truly show us her best.

Overseas raiders Artorius and Wellington are both classy types. They each have doubts though and may well be over bet come the day.

This all leaves us with Al Suhail. Godolphin have not had a good week and there have been questions asked about the form of Charlie Appleby.

In truth he’s had recent winners, some wide-margin ones too, while the stats actually tell us that many of those defeated are barely running below expectations.

Al Suhail is now consistent hitting the 116-120 sort of mark and he’s only just learning to sprint. A classy seven-furlong horse previously, he is showing more speed at six and this is a trick Charlie Appleby has used before, most notably with last year’s 1-2 in this race Naval Crown and Creative Force.

4.20 Ascot (Hardwicke Stakes – Group 2) – PYLEDRIVER

We’ve arguably seen better and deeper Hardwicke’s, but there is still some serious quality in this race.

Changingoftheguard and Grand Alliance renew rivalries, while Deauville Legend is a classy four-year-old but he may be more of a stayer and could be starting slowly in advance of another Melbourne Cup campaign.

Hukum was the ante-post favourite but we all know he’s better on softer ground, with Free Wind now challenging him for favouritism. She’s improving well but she is also arguably a tad better with juice in the ground.

The one people may have forgotten is Pyledriver. William Muir & Chris Grassick’s star hasn’t been seen since winning the King George over this course and distance last season. He is pure class and will head back to the Group 1 next month.

5.00 Ascot (Wokingham Stakes – Heritage Handicap) – KHANJAR

We’ll see another swashbuckling Wokingham here with 28 of them bombing up the straight six furlongs.

Orazio is the genuine favourite, but while he can improve he could be vulnerable to a horse laid out for this race a little more which brings in Khanjar.

William Haggas’ four-year-old was climbing the ladder last year and was sent off a confident favourite in the Ayr Gold Cup. It didn’t work out for him there, but after a nice prep at Hamilton recently he should be spot-on now and may outclass them off 97.

5.35 Ascot (Golden Gates Stakes – Handicap) – ZIRYAB 

The 1¼-mile Golden Gates is very competitive, but really in terms of potential and therefore having weight in hand there are few in the field as exciting as Ziryab.

The Gosden runner was second to Mostabshir at York where he finished ahead of Kathab and New Business, who has won since and is now rated 87 and climbing.

Ziryab himself won very smoothly next time out to prepare for this and he may be hard to catch having just scraped into the race at the bottom.

6.10 Ascot (Queen Alexandra Stakes – Conditions Race) – TYPEWRITER

The closing marathon race brings together the young and the old and that is providing us with our betting angle.

Stratum is a lovely horse for sure, as is Chester Cup winner Falcon Eight. Typewriter however is a four-year-old who is creeping closer to the sort of form needed to beat them. As the younger horse, he could improve past them now while Dawn Rising may want the ground a little damper.

Thursday 22 June 2023

Royal Ascot Day Four: Friday 23rd June 2023 - Noble to Recover in Style

We quickly reach day four of what has been an exhilarating week at Royal Ascot, with two more Group 1 races to focus on.

Five of our seven races today concern only the three-year-olds, meaning form that is still settling down despite what some of them have achieved.

We begin with even younger horses as the two-year-old fillies battle it out in the Albany over six furlongs.

2.30 Ascot (Albany Stakes – Group 3) – JABAARA 

A nice way to start. This race is wide open according to the betting as we are looking sure to be going around 4/1 the field come post time.

Simon & Ed Crisford’s Carla’s Way would be a genuine favourite if she holds on to her overnight spot at the head of the market. Her debut run three weeks ago was very taking as she made light work of her maiden fillies field at Doncaster.

James Doyle is on board and it would be nice to see him winning on the big stage, though he may have his work cut out to hold off Roger Varian’s Jabaara.

I was really impressed with her winning debut 34 days ago at Newmarket. She was very well backed that day but got into trouble and looked like getting no sort of run. She got herself out, showed a tremendous turn of foot and got the job done. She might just be the classiest filly in this race. Soprano and Navassa Island are also interesting.

3.05 Ascot (Commonwealth Cup – Group 1) – NOBLE STYLE

The first of two Group 1’s, this time over six furlongs and the market is being dominated by Little Big Bear which is hardly a surprise.

He demolished a good field in Ireland last summer and was given an extraordinary rating for a juvenile of 124. He didn’t stay in the 2000 Guineas, much like the reopposing Sakheer and Noble Style, but won comfortably enough at Haydock last time.

Albeit we could say his Haydock win was just a prep, but he was filly fit from the Guineas and he did not run to last year’s level. One could argue that his big run which gave him 124 was a real one-off, yet he remains at that level while others have officially slipped which may give punters the wrong impression. He’s very good, but he’s too short and is worth taking on.

Noble Style achieved so much on debut and in the Gimcrack last year. He was electric at York. He didn’t stay in the Guineas and was disappointing behind Shaquille last time in a lesser race.

He was the only horse not to race up with the pace at Newbury however and stayed on to be beaten three lengths. He had ran what turns out to have been the right way, he’d have won that in my opinion and he would be threatening the favourite in the market. As it is, he’s around 12/1.

It’s interesting to know that Charlie Appleby could have sent him to the Jersey Stakes over seven furlongs on Saturday.

He has decided he belongs at Group 1 level over the stiff six, despite having the underestimated Grade 1 winner Mischief Magic here and he is worth chancing in his new headgear. William Buick rides Mischief Magic, but Noble Style carries the first Godolphin colours. 

Sakheer is a very classy horse indeed and can go well, while Lezoo can’t be taken for granted along with Shaquille.

3.40 Ascot (Duke of Edinburgh Stakes – Handicap) – AL NAFIR

This is always a tough 1½-mile handicap. Teumessias Fox won well last time but had been prepped for the race, while Aimeric can do better along with his returning stablemate Nagano.

The one to side with however could be Al Nafir. Charlie Appleby’s runner was improving nicely throughout last season. His season culminated with a fine win over some quality animals at Newmarket and he’ll have improved plenty in the 259 days since we last saw him.

4.20 Ascot (Coronation Stakes – Group 1) – MEDITATE 

Our second Group 1 is the mile race for the three-year-old fillies. With Mawj suffering a setback, her 1000 Guineas rival and Irish Guineas winner Tahiyra now dominates the market at odds on.

If she runs to her best – she is rated 118 – then she will of course be hard to beat. It’s strange though that she reached that level very quickly, running close to that on her second career start then remaining there for two more Group 1 runs.

There have been no major steps forward (yet) and something could get to her level as the season progresses. Given then that we should not be concerned with winning strike-rates but only overall profit, at these odds it’s worth taking her on.

Aidan O’Brien’s Mediate was behind Tahiyra in two Guineas’. But, on lightning-fast ground at Keeneland in the Breeders’ Cup she ran to a mark of 114. Now that she has proper fast conditions again, natural improvement would take her right up towards Tahiyra’s level and 8/13 versus 5/1 provides us with the opportunity we’re looking for.

5.00 Ascot (Sandringham Stakes – Handicap) – COPPICE

In the last two runnings of the Sandringham we’ve seen the classy, potential Pattern fillies come to the fore and that could be the case once again.

All the better horses are drawn high, which is also where the quicker ground is. Among them are Dream Of Love who has a big one in her, Jackie Oh and especially Coppice who looks very well treated indeed and could be heading to Group company.

5.35 Ascot (King Edward VII Stakes – Group 2) – KING OF STEEL

All we have to go on here is the most recent Derby form really, with King Of Steel being the obvious standout horse in the race after his Classic second behind Auguste Rodin.

Arrest most likely won’t like the ground and there may be nothing coming out of the pack.

6.10 Ascot (Palace of Holyrood House Stakes – Handicap) – FRANKNESS

We finish with a five-furlong sprint, one in which Andrew Balding’s Frankness could be overpriced to give the yard another Royal Ascot winner. Harry Davies takes the ride on the recent Goodwood winner.

Royal Ascot Day Three: Thursday 22nd June 2023 - Eldar Eldarov To Be the Ultimate Gold Cup Champion

It’s Ladies Day on Thursday at Royal Ascot, at least in a colloquial sense. More officially it’s Gold Cup Day on day three of the meeting and what a belter of an afternoon it promises to be.

We have selections in all seven races once again, beginning with the flying two-year-olds in the Norfolk.

2.30 Ascot (Norfolk Stakes – Group 2) – AMERICAN RASCAL

A potentially lightning quick Norfolk Stakes to start us off.

Elite Status was outstanding on his second run for Karl Burke four weeks ago at Sandown and he’s unbeaten in two. He is also my second choice here. It’s too hard to ignore the speed of American Rascal however who is the selection.

Wesley Ward may be controversial for some, but he has 12 Royal Ascot winners for a reason and he’s certainly due another one. This horse was blistering over 4½ furlongs at Keeneland in April and he may be just too hard to catch.

Noche Magnica is worth watching, while it’s competitive in behind between the likes of No Nay Mets, His Majesty, Devious and Mon Na Slieve.

3.05 Ascot (King George V Stakes – Heritage Handicap) – BURGLAR

It could be a very good day in the handicaps for John & Thady Gosden. They train both Inquiring Minds and Burglar for Anthony Oppenheimer, the latter being fancied off a mark of 92 having once been entered in the Derby.

Charlie Appleby’s Tagabawa could be well in if handling the turf, Perfuse is a real improver and Bertinelli won the London Gold Cup (see the 5.35).

3.40 Ascot (Ribblesdale Stakes – Group 2) – AL ASIFAH 

The selection here is a very short price but, in the hope that she either drifts or can be used in multiple bets, we still have to mention her.

At the risk of sounding like the archetypal armchair critic, though I very rarely castigate jockeys, no rider is more guilty of sitting still on a horse and looking like they’re pulling a cart, only to be beaten, than Jim Crowley.

On Battaash, Mohaafeth and of course Baaeed however he has been able to do that and win in style and he did it again on Al Asifah just eleven days ago when she won with such ease in a Listed race at Goodwood.

That was only her second in start, in decent company too, and it was barely a piece of work. She’s a star. Unless something goes wrong, she can take the race she was supplemented for ahead of the likes of Infinite Cosmos, Bluestocking and Village Voice who is overpriced for place punters.

4.20 Ascot (Gold Cup – Group 1) – ELDAR ELDAROV 

A peak, pre-injury 2021 Subjectivist, a Kyprios or a classic Stradivarius would have this race won.

As it stands, the top-level stayers’ division needs a new star this year and as such this race has an open look to it at first glance.

Echoes In Rain needs a big step forward, while Courage Mon Ami is one for the future but could find this a little too hot.

Yibir (Charlie Appleby) is very intriguing. Should he get back to his mile and a half peak then he may just win, but there naturally has to be a big doubt over whether or not he can over this 2½-mile trip.

Subjectivist is back now and will have been given every chance by Charlie Johnston. There is no writing him off, but it is genuinely doubtful as to whether he can get right back to his very best.

Aidan O’Brien’s pair are hard to split. Broome is rock solid and has form with Subjectivist, while Emily Dickinson could be a star but her profile suggests she’s happier on much softer ground.

Coltrane has improved so much even as a six-year-old for Andrew Balding and is right there with a chance after his Doncaster Cup win and his prep here in May. He is the biggest danger to the selection, but Eldar Eldarov is that choice and he could be the star we’re looking for.

The Queen’s Vase winner here last year, he relished an even bigger test of stamina when smoothly winning the St Leger at Doncaster in September. Giving away weight and not being 100% for his return, he ran a blinder when only narrowly beaten in the Yorkshire Cup and now we will surely see him at his very peak.

Trueshan also runs in what could be a classic.

5.00 Ascot (Britannia Stakes – Heritage Handicap) – THEORYOFEVERYTHING

The Britannia is a hugely tough race for punters, given that the width of the straight mile is covered with unexposed and improving three-year-olds.

Highbank and One Nation may outrun their odds, while Just An Hour is going the right way too. The one I like however is the Gosden horse Theoryofeverything.

Third to Isaac Shelby on his second start in the Greenham, both there and when a very strong favourite at Chester he hated the deep ground and wants a sounder surface. He’ll get that here and will get to Group level before long, making his mark of 94 look very lenient.

5.35 Ascot (Hampton Court Stakes – Group 3) – BOLD ACT 

This is the ten-furlong Group 3 race for the three-year-olds. It often throws up a mix of improving, lightly-raced types and those having come out of the Classics.

I get eight of these runners within 8lbs of each other on private ratings. We have some coming from handicaps, some from top conditions races, some comfortable at the trip and some dropping back from a mile and a half.

With all information available taken into account, Charlie Appleby’s Bold Act may just be the one. He represents the always reliable London Gold Cup form, a race in which he was only a neck second to an Aidan O’Brien horse giving him 4lbs.

Bold Act won a Kentucky Derby qualifier in the spring, but Charlie Appleby said then that he’d give his horse a trial which suggests there was an outside chance he could make a Derby over here.

Waipiro, Epictetus, Torito, Caernarfon, Canberra Legend, Exoplanet and Drumroll are all interesting for various reasons, too many in fact to fit on this page.

6.10 Ascot (Buckingham Palace Stakes – Handicap) – UNFORGOTTEN

We finish with the seven-furlong handicap in which one-time Lincoln hope Unforgotten can get the big win his talent deserves.

The Gosden horse was just learning the ropes back on turf last time and it is to be remembered that he was expected to be rated 100+ three months ago now, so his 97 underestimates where he’s at. Montassib is also dangerous.

Wednesday 21 June 2023

Royal Ascot Day Two: Wednesday 21st June 2023 - Adayar the Prince in Day Two Feature

A tremendous renewal of the Prince of Wales’s Stakes is the highlight on day two of Royal Ascot, but we get going with a flying five-furlong race for the juvenile fillies.

2.30 Ascot (Queen Mary Stakes – Group 2) – RELIEF RALLY

This is all about furious pace. Naturally, it’s a close one too and it is so hard to compare the form and ability of once and twice-raced fillies going over the minimum distance.

Money will be around for Beautiful Diamond and Got To Love A Grey for Karl Burke, a stable which knows how to win this race.

Born To Rock (Jane Chapple-Hyam) made an excellent debut four weeks ago and must be seriously considered, but preference in the end is for Relief Rally.

William Haggas’ filly made a lovely debut as far back as April and will have improved plenty since, especially given that she was also an April foal. She backed up that win with another using up minimal effort last time out and she will use her experience well.

3.05 Ascot (Kensington Palace Fillies’ Handicap) – TARRABB

A very tasty looking one-mile race on the round course for the fillies, one in which much of the cash will be going the way of Joseph O’Brien’s Yerwanthere.

She was unlucky in running in a Listed race last time, but she wouldn’t have won it and will still need to improve in these handicap conditions.

The suggestion is the quick and talented Tarrabb. Rated 91, she got to that level a full ten months ago and there is no doubt that she will have improved a good amount since then.

She has had a pipe-opener but has had this as her target, she has won here before, seen out the mile before and has a better turn of foot than many. William Buick rides.

3.40 Ascot (Duke of Cambridge Stakes – Group 2) – PROSPEROUS VOYAGE 

I was really hope that Laurel would run in this race but alas, a number of classy fillies have come out at the final declaration stage leaving a half-dozen or so of them closely matched.

Grande Dame, Prosperous Voyage, Jumbly, Queen Aminatu, Honey Girl and, if she’s on a going day, Potapova, are all capable of landing this event.

The strongest one is Prosperous Voyage. Put simply; she is an unpenalised Group 1 winner who won last time out and she may just outclass this field.

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

We don’t have a huge field here, as is often the case in such high-class events, but we really do have a ton of quality even without the presence of Desert Crown who was withdrawn.

Aidan O’Brien has started well and his Luxembourg is the likely favourite. He was good last time in beating Bay Bridge, who reopposes here, finally maturing after finishing 2021 as the Futurity Trophy winner though he did win the Irish Champion in between.

He isn’t the most consistent horse at Group 1 level and he may be vulnerable, while Bay Bridge gives the impression that he’s getting there after losing out in Ireland and France.

He just about beat 2021 Derby winner Adayar in the Champion Stakes last year, though Charlie Appleby’s horse was having only his second run in a year.

My Prospero is good but shouldn’t be winning this, while Mostahdaf hasn’t yet broken through at the top level but is a much better horse than his price would suggest.

Going back to Adayar; he may prove ultimately to be the classiest of this bunch. A good Derby and King George winner, he is being primed for a ten-furlong Group 1 win, he already has the form in the bag to go close and he will peak around now.

For good measure, he won his prep race comfortably from Anmaat who has won a Group 1 race since.

5.00 Ascot (Royal Hunt Cup – Heritage Handicap) – PEROTTO

A Royal Hunt Cup featuring the usual massive field means this will be difficult, but not impossible as one horse stands out at least on the numbers.

That horse is Perotto. Only a five-year-old and therefore not past his peak, Perotto reached a mark of 110 in 2021 and ran to around 106 last season.

Formerly with Marcus Tregoning, he has now been sent to Roger Varian for whom he made a decent start on soft ground in May. He comes into this race match fit and off a mark of 96, some 14lbs below his highest, and he could simply be very well handicapped under David Egan. Ghaly is best of the rest.

5.35 Ascot (Queen’s Vase – Group 2) – GREGORY 

The Queen’s Vase is always intriguing. Having produced Estimate, Stradivarius and Eldar Eldarov among others, it’s usually a top race.

This year’s renewal is not as deep as normal, but that’s great news for the Gosden team as their Gregory looks to be ahead of his opposition.

Two from 2 after an easy win at Goodwood, he looks the best horse in this race and seems sure to stay the extra couple of furlongs.

Chesspiece, who is now with Godolphin, Circle Of Fire and Peking Opera can all challenge for places.

6.10 Ascot (Windsor Castle Stakes – Listed Race) – BARNWELL BOY

The Windsor Castle is a tough way for punters to finish the card; another juvenile race run over the minimum distance of five furlongs.

If contenders haven’t shown immense speed as yet it’s hard to recommend them, while even if they have it could be that there is minimal improvement to come from them.

Johannes Brahms will of course be fancied for the O’Brien yard but his breeding doesn’t scream five furlongs, while Maximum Impact is good but has had one more chance than some other major contenders.

Barnwell Boy was blistering on debut for Charlie Johnston and, with some improvement likely, he gets the nod to round off the Ascot card in style.

Monday 19 June 2023

Royal Ascot Day One: Tuesday 20th June 2023 - Princess to be Crowned at Royal Meeting

It’s back! The indulgent racing buffet that is Royal Ascot begins on Tuesday, featuring no fewer than three Group 1’s. We kick off immediately with the Queen Anne, a very high-class event indeed: 

2.30 Ascot (Queen Anne Stakes – Group 1) – MODERN GAMES

This really is an exceptional race. Front-runner Mutasaabeq is not one to be allowed an easy lead, while Chindit managed second in the Lockinge Stakes. The three that the opener should concern however are Native Trail, Inspiral and Modern Games.

Inspiral will be many people’s idea of the winner. The Frankie factor may destroy her price, but she is very classy indeed, won at this meeting on her seasonal debut last year and gets the handy 3lb sex allowance. She is awesome and will win Group 1’s, but she may be vulnerable against the very best after a such a long time off.

The Godolphin pair are her dangers. Native Trail was a 2000 Guineas runner-up, a good Irish Guineas winner and a rock-solid Eclipse third last season. He is ready to rock and roll now and would win many a renewal of this event.

Modern Games is seen as being slightly ahead of him in the pecking order and it could just be that, while others may get past him in Britain later on, his match fitness could play a crucial role and he may be very tough to get past.

3.05 Ascot (Coventry Stakes – Group 2) – ASADNA

Racing Twitter has become the cesspool that other parts of that platform often are this week, some comments concerning spectacular 12-length debut winner Asadna.

Many feel that you can’t go to Ripon and then win a Coventry, but that means some are willing to back a course or a reputation rather than use stats, facts, figures and logic.

George Boughey’s colt was genuinely awesome on debut and may just be too good for these racing down the stands side. On the other side, Aidan O’Brien’s River Tiber is a big danger of course while Brucanero Fuerte and American runner Fandom are also of interest.

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

Another hugely fast and furious King’s Stand is on offer here. There may not be much between Twilight Gleaming, Coolnagatta, Marshman and Cannonball, while Manaccan has a strong place chance.

The two stand-outs for me where the fillies Dramatised and Highfield Princess.

Karl Burke’s Dramatised was outstanding at Haydock in the Temple Stakes and of course will improve. She’ll need to take a very big step forward to beat Highfield Princess however, assuming she is at her best.

The triple Group 1 winner was penalised in the Duke of York last time but ran a stormer in second. Fully ready now, she will be hard to catch under Jason Hart.

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

Chaldean and Royal Scotsman will be fancied by many given their Dewhurst and 2000 Guineas form. Paddington too was impressive in the Irish 2000 Guineas last time and seems to be improving. We may need to look elsewhere, however.

Maljoom was unlucky last year, while the likes of Palace Pier and Without Parole showed that you don’t need to be a Guineas horse to win this.

Not every three-year-old miler is ready for the Guineas and it’s true what they say about the Classic being like the final run of the two-year-old season; they need to be race-hardened to win.

That’s not the case so much at this time of year and others improve to get involved which is where Mostabshir comes in for the same trainer(s) responsible for Palace Pier and Without Parole.

After an excellent debut win, Mostabshir was given a trial which didn’t go well. After some rest, he turned out at York last time where he utterly demolished his opposition for John & Thady Gosden. The form of that race has also been backed up.

He looked every inch a Group 1 performer to me that day and he can improve enough to get past what for me, haven’t been the best three-year-olds so far.

5.00 Ascot (Ascot Stakes Handicap) – BRING ON THE NIGHT

I wouldn’t put you off a couple of bets in this highly competitive 2½-mile handicap. Willie Mullins’ Bring On The Night is the ultimate selection as it is genuinely hard to ignore his chances.

He was favourite for this race last year when he was narrowly beaten by Coltrane, very well fancied for the Gold Cup this week, and though we’ve not seen him since he remains well handicapped under Ryan Moore.

He is a short price though, so if you want a recent race-fit and solid stayer Law Of The Sea could be one to concentrate on. He was an unlucky loser in the Chester Cup and handled fast ground well last time.

5.35 Ascot (Wolferton Stakes – Listed Race) – KING OF CONQUEST

I went through various metrics looking at this field, some factual and some subjective including form, comparative form, ratings, rate of improvement etc.

After all of that I still got Highland Avenue top of my list, very narrowly from King Of Conquest. While James Doyle can get on the right one for Godolphin now and again, it’s interesting that Buick stays on King Of Conquest and it’s hard to know how fast he is improving after four wins in a row.

At the advertised prices, you could back both of Charlie Appleby’s runners and you may not go far wrong. Francesco Clemente, Poker Face, Cadillac, Royal Champion, Bolshoi Ballet, Saga and Buckaroo are all close in an intriguing race.

6.10 Ascot (Copper Horse Handicap) – RULING DYNASTY

For most of the media and punters heading into this week, this race has been all about Willie Mullins. He runs Vauban who could be very well handicapped, while he also jocks up Frankie Dettori on Absurde.

Both should go well, but the fast-improving and lightly raced Ruling Dynasty represents another major chance for Charlie Appleby to score and his price is tempting.

Friday 16 June 2023

Friday 16th, Saturday 17th & Sunday 18th June 2023 - Burke Aiming for French Classic Success

It’s another Classic weekend as the French Oaks, or Prix de Diane, takes place at Chantilly. At home, the action is plentiful but shorter on quality than normal as we head ever closer to Royal Ascot 2023 which begins on Tuesday.

We begin three days of betting action with bets at Sandown, York and Goodwood on Friday.

Friday 16th June 2023

2.40 Sandown (Maiden Stakes) – INNER CITY

A very interesting seven-furlong maiden for the juveniles and potentially a classy one too.

Rednblue Sovereign could put his experience to good use, while many will fancy then well-bred royal runner Crown Estate to improve plenty having had a bad start in his maiden, little luck in running and having to chase home Ancient Wisdom who could be a real star for Godolphin.

Ancient Wisdom of course is one of Charlie Appleby’s, as is Inner City. He made frankly a better debut than Crown Estate and will improve just as much as him for the run. The level they are capable of getting to might just be a bit much for newcomer Caviar Heights, though he’s worth watching in the market too.

3.00 York (Fillies’ Handicap) – DISTINGUISHED LADY

While International Girl, Crazy Luck and Pink Crystal have the ability to win this, the strongest form line here revolves around three-year-olds Distinguished Lady and Radio Goo Goo, the latter looking for a four-timer.

David Evans’ Radio Goo Goo broke well and had the run of the race at Chester it has to be said, while Distinguished Lady had to come from the back of the pack. She stayed on very well to get within half a length from four stalls wider and is now 1lb better off.

On a very different, straight track she can organise herself earlier and she’s improving hand over fist anyway. She looks well handicapped.

5.21 York (Handicap) – WOR WILLIE

The fact that five-year-old Wor Willie needed his seasonal reappearance and was short of room on his final 2022 start has meant his handicap mark has stayed reasonable.

Had he won at Ayr in September, which was eminently possible, he’d be lining up here off a mark of around 89. As it is, he’s been dropped to 85 and is an improver overall. He may yet improve even more and end up back here for the Ebor for the top-class Michael Dods but, first thing’s first, he can win this off a fair mark.

6.40 Goodwood (Handicap) – GET BACK GET BACK

It’ll be very interesting to see if there is money around for Harry Fry’s Get Back Get Back. Though not seen on turf on the Flat for some time now, it would be fair to say he’s simply a more mature and better horse than when seen running for Clive Cox and he could be very well handicapped too.

Saturday 17th June 2023

2.50 Sandown (Scurry Stakes – Listed Race) – TAJALLA

After two wins from two runs spread out over a year, we don’t yet know what level Tajalla can reach but he does look very promising and speedy.

It seems Lady Hamana may be able to break well and get near the rail, while Tajalla too won’t be too far away which on this track may count for plenty even if his stall isn’t perfect. I’d think Tajalla will be aimed at Group sprints as the season progresses, but will most likely have to win this first.

Great State is the form horse and may do best in behind.

3.05 York (Grand Cup Stakes – Listed Race) – ISRAR 

We go over the Ebor course and distance for this Listed event, one in which Roberto Escobarr’s penalty makes things very hard though he is still a solid place prospect.

Quickthorn remains more than capable after his heroics here last year and at this level generally, but these days he may find Israr too hot to handle and he is selected for the Gosden team, Shadwell and Jim Crowley.

3.20 Chester (Handicap) – TAFREEJ

This could be an ideal chance for the likely improver Tafreej to score for William Haggas. In a race in which any number of horses may want to lead, some of them having to cross over from wide draws, his own gate position in 8 won’t matter and he can settle in behind what is likely to be a strong pace.

With that pace likely to collapse, Tafreej looks the most likely horse to benefit up the straight ahead of Royal Dubai who is next best.

3.55 Chester (Handicap) – CAPONE

Both Malakhana and Grand Canal may want to be up there early, though the former especially may not like particularly fast ground if it turns out that’s what we get.

Franny Norton has been booked to try and nurse Oman round successfully but the recent form simply isn’t there, while Capone looks much better placed for Dominic Ffrench Davis and Ben Curtis to swoop late on and score so he is the selection.

4.00 Sandown (Maiden Stakes) – KATHAB

This could prove to be quite a hot maiden race. A Dublin Lad definitely has promise while Westerton, The Goat and Cracksking are all capable horses too.

Kathab made the best debut of this bunch in the Wood Ditton in April and was third at York last time. The winner Mostabshir is now 6/1 for the St James’s Palace Stakes, runner-up Ziryab and fourth-placed New Business have won since and it seems it is Kathab’s turn now.

Sunday 18th June 2023

3.05 Chantilly (Prix de Diane – Group 1) – NOVAKAI 

We’re used to British and Irish trainers sending horses to France for softer ground, but we’re taking a chance here that they’ve got it wrong this time.

The going heading into Friday for the French Oaks is good-to-soft with the weather set fair for the weekend, the highs being 30 degrees. Unlike Saint-Cloud and Longchamp, the Hippodrome de Chantilly doesn’t sit right on the river either so it’s a fair assumption that it may dry to at least what we’d call ‘good’.

With that in mind, Karl Burke’s Novakai is hugely overpriced. Taking into account what these horses had achieved at the same time in their respective careers on ground that isn’t deep, she stands out.

We can also add in that in her last two runs she has finished runner-up to Commissioning in the Group 1 Fillies’ Mile, the clear winter 1000 Guineas favourite, and to Soul Sister in the Musidora who went on to win the Oaks.

Her form entitles her to much more respect, with conditions perhaps catching out Blue Rose Cen, Caroline Street, Never Ending Story, Jannah Rose and Running Lion who are the dangers.