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.