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.