It’s Gold Cup Day at Royal Ascot, but the big event is not really a betting race for me. The brilliant Stradivarius has the likes of Trueshan to worry about who really could take the crown, but he always pulls something out of the bag.
I’m desperate to see him win, but I can’t punt him at evens which leaves us with these six selections after a wonderful day yesterday.
2.30 Ascot (Norfolk Stakes – Group 2) – NAKATOMI
We’ve managed to work the draw really well this week, but we may get the chance to somewhat ignore it in this major speed test for the juveniles.
There are 16 lining up here with the stalls placed in the centre, giving the horse in the 4 gate a chance and that is Wesley Ward’s Nakatomi.
The Qatar Racing horse, ridden by Oisin Murphy, isn’t Ward’s first choice according to the betting but he showed the sort of blistering pace at Keeneland on debut that the rest may not be able to live with. There may even be improvement on that.
Ward’s other horse Lucci was next on the list, again based on debut speed, while York winner Project Dante looks best of the home team to me.
3.05 Ascot (Hampton Court Stakes – Group 3) – MOHAAFETH
Mohaafeth was a major shout for the Derby but was pulled out on account of the ground. As long as it’s good or faster on Thursday he should run and can show in this grade why many of us think he’s heading right to the top for William Haggas.
At the risk of spewing out some overused racing parlance he absolutely hacked up at Newmarket in May, never getting out of third gear to score by a wide margin in Listed company.
It’s thought that this mile-and-a-quarter is his rightful trip, the field isn’t too hot in all truth and it’s encouraging from a betting point of view that Movin Time, as short as 3/1 at the time of writing, doesn’t look up to this level. Famous last words!
One Ruler has not had anything close to ideal conditions since last year’s Autumn Stakes, a race he won well. The heavy ground got him beaten by Mac Swiney (top class horse) in the Vertem Futurity, he was too slow for the Guineas and didn’t stay in the Derby yet finished sixth in both classics.
One Ruler is talented and should be all the better in this race, but his 4lb penalty may be enough to ensure he can’t get to a fully motoring Mohaafeth on this occasion.
3.40 Ascot (Ribblesdale Stakes – Group 2) – NOON STAR
Aidan O’Brien’s Divinely is only 5/1 for this but needs serious improvement. That’s always possible, but from a handicapping point of view she might just provide us with a target to hit as the winner of this race should honestly be better than her.
Dubai Fountain ran so well in Group 1 company on very soft ground last year and won the Cheshire Oaks in May, though most believe she was actually second best in that race.
There was a similar situation at Newbury in the Trial Stakes in which Eshaada made it two from two. Natural improvement is expected from Roger Varian’s filly however Gloria Mundi was agonisingly close for the Gosden team and the way that race worked out means it would be no surprise at all if she reversed the placings this time.
That leaves us trying to pre-empt how good Sir Michael Stoute’s Noon Star is. I was more than happy with her as an Oaks filly after she won at Wetherby and with the dust now well and truly settled on her Musidora Stakes run it still appears she could be top level.
Well fancied, she chased home surprise winner Snowfall at York and of course that filly went on to land the Oaks in spectacular fashion. True, Snowfall has improved massively, but Noon Star was a clear best of the rest on the Knavesmire having been bumped, hung and ran around a bit. Rain would be welcome and she would have a major chance at Group 2 level with the experience under her belt.
5.00 Ascot (Britannia Stakes – Class 2 Handicap) – QUINTILLUS
The horses for money have been Mithras, Air To Air and Raadobarg, however this could go to a big outsider for a very successful yard.
Charlie Appleby and Godolphin aren’t really associated too often with 25 and 28/1 shots, which Quintillus is at the time of writing, but he has what it takes to win this three-year-old handicap.
A very brief look at his form won’t inspire you, but a closer look especially at his run at Chelmsford shows the sort of talent he would have if he didn’t run so green. He’s been gelded, has a little more experience and should be much more straightforward now and on that basis is overpriced given what he could be.
5.35 Ascot (King George V Stakes – Class 2 Handicap) – MARSHALL PLAN
If the boys in blue do win one major handicap with an outsider, their confidence in another similar outcome will go up and we hope it’s proven to be correct!
Marshall Plan, owned by Godolphin but this time trained by John & Thady Gosden, is a similar price to Quintillus in the Britannia and again is simply overpriced.
His first two races were more than good enough, but it’s his form with Mandoob who he is ahead of that takes the eye, Brian Meehan’s horse having handsomely franked the form of their clash at Lingfield back in April giving this horse the look of a very well handicapped one.
6.10 Ascot (Buckingham Palace Stakes – Class 2 Handicap) – ALDAARY
It could be an equally good day for Shadwell if they win this seven-furlong handicap with Aldaary. William Haggas could have gone for the Jersey Stakes with this horse, he’s that good, with the forecast rain very much in the favour of a seriously well handicapped course and distance winner.
Watch out for Persuasion, especially if we remain on fast ground.