It’s Gold Cup day at Royal Ascot on Thursday, providing us all with one last chance to see the great Stradivarius at his favourite venue before he retires at the end of the season.
It’s another seven-race card, but we’re not betting in the Hampton Court Stakes this time in which the Queen’s Reach For The Moon runs.
The Gosdens will want a royal winner and will have prepared their colt to perfection no doubt, and I wouldn’t bet against him, but nor will I be playing him at odds on.
2.30 Ascot (Norfolk Stakes – Group 3) – WALBANK
David Loughnane is doing very well as a trainer and is no stranger to the big occasion.
His Walbank is the most impressive juvenile in this line-up for me and there’s no reason why he can’t use his impressive raw pace to see off this field over five furlongs.
Amo Racing’s son of Kodiac chased home Noble Style on debut, the horse I feel would have won the Coventry on Tuesday had he been able to take his chance.
Next time at York he was simply blistering in winning at York by seven lengths and he may be very hard to catch here.
The biggest danger on my book is Aidan O’Brien’s The Antarctic who is two from two in Ireland, while Andrew Balding’s Bakeel made a very pleasing debut and represents another each-way chance.
3.05 Ascot (King George V Stakes – Heritage Handicap) – SECRET STATE
We have a brilliantly competitive renewal of this mile-and-a-half, three-year-old handicap and it features so many excellent form lines.
It’s hard to know what to expect now from Mandobi, Franz Strauss, Schmilsson, Savvy Knight, Flying Dolphin and Deauville Legend – and they didn’t even make my shortlist!
Aidan O’Brien’s Newfoundland could be dangerous, while Inverness has form some top types. Surrey Mist chased home Israr last time in the London Gold Cup, a race which has produced the likes of Communique, Defoe, Headman and of course Bay Bridge.
Post Impressionist will be well backed having separated Eldar Eldarov and Honiton last time and he was second choice for me, just behind Charlie Appleby’s Secret State.
Secret State was second in the Wood Ditton first time up, the winner now being rated 99 after another easy win, before beating the aforementioned Honiton easily by 3¾ lengths and that horse is now at 99 and rising.
Last time the Dubawi colt took care of another subsequent winner at Nottingham and there’s no way his mark of 93 gets near to what his true ability is.
3.40 Ascot (Ribblesdale Stakes – Group 2) – LIFE OF DREAMS
The Ribblesdale is often known colloquially as the ‘Ascot Oaks’ and even without Emily Upjohn in the line-up, it has the look of a Group 1 about it.
This is a tight race at first glance, with the different form lines represented by Mukaddamah, Sea Silk Road, History, Magical Lagoon and Life Of Dreams all difficult to tie up. With that in mind, we really have to look for something to separate one filly from the rest and there just may be something.
In the case of Life Of Dreams, she was very inexperienced when she went up against Emily Upjohn in the Musidora Stakes but ran very well behind her in second place.
There was officially 10lbs between the pair at York, so given that the Gosden filly in reality is a 120 horse now after her slip-up at Epsom (117 officially), it makes Life Of Dreams a 110 filly at least and she could be better given that this is only her third start.
It’s not all about the numbers of course, but Charlie Appleby is a top-class trainer who knows how to get the job done at the highest level.
4.20 Ascot (Gold Cup – Group 1) – STRADIVARIUS
Three of them stand out in the Gold Cup on fast ground; three-time winner Stradivarius, the impressive-looking Kyprios and last year’s Derby runner-up Mojo Star.
It’s close between them on paper, while we also don’t know whether Strad is going backwards and/or whether Kyprios has more to offer at this extreme trip following a facile win over 1¾ miles recently.
On a mixture of private ratings, official ratings and speed ratings Stradivarius is the most consistent for me. On this ground, it could be that the great horse’s turn of foot will prove decisive in the straight and we may see an emotional fourth Gold Cup win for him on his farewell tour.
5.00 Ascot (Britannia Stakes – Heritage Handicap) – KING OF TIME
This is another fantastic Britannia Stakes. A 30-runner cavalry charge up the straight mile on fast ground and featuring an entire field of improving three-year-olds will be some spectacle.
The Queen’s Saga, Thesis, Jimi Hendrix and Yonafis were all considered, but Charlie Appleby has a strong hand here and may well go two places better than he did last year with his 28/1 shot Quintillus.
His Tranquil Night has a big chance. James Doyle’s mount is clearly going the right way and has form with the right horses. He is undoubtedly a fair way ahead of his handicap mark, and yet is second choice for the yard and quite rightly so.
Stablemate King Of Time (Will Buick) looks even better placed to score after his Newmarket success last time. He has the speed and the class, is three from three and looks like the proverbial Group horse in a handicap.
Both Godolphin horses are drawn high too, which is a bonus.
6.10 Ascot (Buckingham Palace Stakes – Handicap) – SILENT FILM
Yet another tough handicap, this time over the seven furlongs.
Some of the top horses here have ground issues, some have questions to answer over the trip and some don’t appear to be well drawn.
Montassib is potentially a blot, but he has some the issues listed. Silent Film however has plenty in his favour, especially given his form in Dubai and Bahrain earlier in the year.
His wins in the Middle East put him way ahead of his current official handicap mark. I’d be worried if he hadn’t done it in Britain before, but last year he was also a winner at Sandown ahead of Run To Freedom who is now rated 103 and he should prove more than capable.