Tuesday 16 June 2020

Royal Ascot Day Two: Head the Man to Upset Japan

We’ve already seen some excellent performances at this year’s Royal Ascot and there is a lot more to come.

A fairly obvious type may be the one to be on in the Hampton Court, and while it’ll take an above average performance to beat Coolmore’s Japan in the Prince of Wales’s Stakes it seems there is one in the field that can indeed pull that out of the bag.

There are just three non-handicap events on day two despite the elongated day, however all provide good betting opportunities beginning with a horse who has produced an excellent display in what was clearly a better than midpoint 2000 Guineas and now has race conditions to suit even more.

1.50 Ascot (Hampton Court Stakes – Group 3) – JUAN ELCANO

We’ve seen before with the likes of Benbatl, though that was after a Derby rather than a 2000 Guineas, that tougher types can come out of the classics and reach a new level in this race when finally getting the mile-and-a-quarter they want as three-year-olds and Kevin Ryan’s Juan Elcano can add his name to the honours board.

A winner on very soft ground on debut as a juvenile in a race that has worked out well over time, he followed up with a very fine effort when runner-up in the Group 2 July Stakes at Newmarket in conditions that would have been a lot quicker than ideal for him.

Even quicker was the Champagne Stakes at Doncaster where he was close-up again in third, but at 66/1 the son of Frankel began this season with a new career high when landing fifth place in the Guineas behind the likes of Kameko and Pinatubo and now he can fulfil his potential under Andrea Atzeni.

The likely favourite is the Queen’s horse First Receiver, admittedly one with a big chance for Sir Michael Stoute and Frankie Dettori after a taking maiden win at Kempton, though he seems too short given what he’s actually achieved while the other on the shortlist is Roger Teal’s Kenzai Warrior.

3.00 Ascot (Prince of Wales’s Stakes – Group 1) – HEADMAN

In fairness this race does revolved around Aidan O’Brien’s Japan and on bare form he has nothing at all to prove.

Third in the Derby last year before winning the King Edward VII at this meeting, the Galileo colt then went on to land the Grand Prix de Paris as well as a very good renewal of the Juddmonte International at York before finishing a great season with a fourth behind Waldgeist and Enable in the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe.

While that is top-notch, he has managed those wins with a variety of class and guts and has never really stamped his authority on a first-grade race in the manner of a horse marking himself out as the undisputed number one.

Enter Headman then, a Kingman who has always been highly thought of and made a debut at Newcastle to rival some of the best.  After taking the London Gold Cup last spring, he won two Group 2 races in France before being thrown into the Irish Champion Stakes and it was always felt that he may not be ready.

Despite that, as well as hitting trouble at the start and not enjoying the day, he ran a solid Group 1 effort in a very good field and would seem to be the heir apparent at this distance making him look value in the betting here.

Last year’s Cambridgeshire winner Lord North beat the likes of Elarqam at Group 3 level last time, is climbing the ranks quickly and can land a blow at this level, while soft ground specialist Addeybb won at the meeting last year and has taken out two Group 1’s in Australia this year already.

Neither former top-class miler Barney Roy nor top filly Mehdaayih can be discounted in a race of very high quality, but it would be no surprise if we’re looking back later in the year on some top battles between Headman and Kameko at this distance who I think are the best two from the older and younger generations.

4.10 Ascot (Windsor Castle Stakes – Listed Race) – MIGHTY GURKA

Even in a normal year you’d be hard pressed to say you have a cert in the Windsor Castle, and this year there is even less evidence to go on.

Plenty are in with chances but knowing that on the straight track here it may pay to be towards the stands side, impressive Lingfield winner Mighty Gurka comes into the equation and for some reason looks like being allowed to go off at a double-figure price.

Archie Watson’s Sepoy colt is stepping down in trip here but if anything, it seems that will suit him, while Tactical and Aidan O’Brien’s Chief Little Hawk are also bound to be popular.

Look out for an improved performance from Yazaman too, who’s effort at Yarmouth may have been underestimated leading to him being somewhat overpriced for this affair.

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