Saturday afternoon sees the main middle-distance summer showpiece, the King George VI & Queen Elizabeth Stakes at Ascot and we have a tasty bet for the big one itself as long as the ground comes in our favour.
It’s not all about the King George though with the quickest juvenile fillies around going in the Group 3 Keeneland Stakes as well as a big field of handicappers contesting the £150,000 International Stakes at the Berkshire track.
Up at York we’ll be witnessing the long-awaited return of one-time classic hope Elarqam in the York Stakes (Group 2), Mark Johnston and his team desperately hoping for a return to form before the son of Frankel gets back on the Group 1 trail.
We kick off with a pair of good value punts on Friday’s racing at Ascot though, both of which looking great value; here are the weekend’s best bets:
Friday 27th JulyEmbed from Getty Images
3.35 Ascot (Valiant Stakes – Listed Race) – BESHAAYIR
Having been tipped up on these pages before but having disappointed her backers, William Haggas’ three-year-old filly was stepped up in trip to a mile last time in an Ascot handicap and finally showed what she is capable of with an authoritative victory.
She won that race ever so impressively despite drifting across the track and there is still plenty of improvement left in her in conditions she likes. The main danger may well be Pontefract winner Clon Coulis who should also appreciate this fast ground, however our filly carries quite some confidence into the race.
4.10 Ascot (1m4f Handicap) – ATTY PERSSE
Roger Charlton’s four-year-old was well fancied to restart his career with a first time out win in the Old Newton Cup at Haydock and, though he was beaten that day, the Frankel gelding stayed on nicely for third and will have improved a fair bit for that run.
His overall profile is one of a horse who can keep improving well beyond the reach of today’s rivals, though First Nation in the same colours can himself do better this year but will be doing this without the benefit of a run.
The Charlton yard know their stuff when it comes to these middle-distance and staying types, as we’ve seen with Withhold of late, and so once again the yard will be very confident.
Saturday 28th JulyEmbed from Getty Images
3.15 York (York Stakes – Group 2) – ELARQAM
Owners and trainers don’t get it right all the time, we know this, and we have the issue of this horse going up in trip to 1m2½f for the first time but Elarqam really could end up making his price of anything odds-against look silly.
If you asked the average punter how many times Elarqam has run, especially given that he’s from the Mark Johnston yard, they would take a guess at 6 or 7 I’m sure. It is in fact 4, making him a very inexperienced horse but one with tons of improvement still to come and especially now he’s going up in distance.
His performance in last autumn’s Tattersalls Stakes at Newmarket (Group 3), arguably on unsuitable ground, was excellent as in its own way was his fourth to Saxon Warrior first time out this season in the 2000 Guineas where he was beaten half a length by Derby winner Masar and beat Eclipse winner Roaring Lion home.
That form is rock solid and he was always going to go up in trip, so a performance of around 120 and right in the Group 1 category would be more than enough to take care of Euginio and Forest Ranger and if he manages it, his price for the Juddmonte International will tumble.
3.40 Ascot (King George VI & Queen Elizabeth Stakes – Group 1) – CRACKSMAN
There has been a lot made of Cracksman’s participation in this race, or the potential lack of it at the time of writing, for although he has been declared at the overnight stage his owner is still not keen to run unless the ground eases somewhat.
On that score we trust the trainer and so the deal here is that if Cracksman does run, we back him. I am of the view that it was as much the 1m2f trip that got him beat behind Poet’s Word at Royal Ascot as it was the very fast ground while, although he prefers a little juice, he simply wants more of a stamina test than his Prince of Wales’s Stakes conqueror who was more suited by overall conditions that time.
Cracksman slammed Poet’s Word in last season’s Champion Stakes and although that was also a 1m2f race, it was run in stamina sapping conditions and it’s worth noting that Cracksman got upsides with two furlongs to go before making his staying power really count.
He may not be as good as that on faster ground, but the mile-and-a-half trip could make all the difference as well as the fact that John Gosden noted that his stable star was too busy looking at the fillies and not concentrating on racing at the Royal meeting so some improvement is expected anyway.
If he fails to run, Sir Michael Stoute’s other runner CRYSTAL OCEAN could be the one to be on rather than Poet’s Word, again because he will see out the trip much better than his pal though his price wouldn’t be much to write home about if Cracksman defects.