There were doubles on the day for Ryan Moore and Aidan O’Brien, who teamed up with Arizona and Cirus Maximus, while Danny Tudhope bookended the card with victory on Lord Glitters and Addeybb.
The rain yesterday put pay to a few chances, and it’s time to look for horses with soft ground form.
Not a day where I’m too strong on anything with a few big priced horses given good shouts.
2:30 – Queen Mary Stakes
Quite a few of these have only raced once and quite a few made winning debuts too.
Final Song won over course-and-distance on soft ground, so this filly by Dark Angel should handle conditions. The third from that race has since come out and won to boost the form. She may follow similar tactics to her debut when making all, and that could work on this sort of tacky ground.
Wes War has won this race three times and has a strong hand with Kimari and Anna’s Fast. The former won by 15-lengths on dirt, while Anna’s Fast won by 5½ lengths, also on the dirt at Keeneland. The question mark for them is handling soft ground on turf.
Ickworth (9/1) has won on both starts and she won nicely in a Listed race at the Curragh last month. That came on yielding ground, so shouldn’t mind the underfoot conditions and that put her very much on the map for this race. She showed a good turn of foot, so looks worthy of an each-way punt here.
Divine Spirit won in very taking fashion at Windsor on debut, obliging at odds-on. That was an eye-catching performance and was strong on the clock. She’s a daughter of Kingman and he won a couple of times with cut in the ground, so that shouldn’t be a problem. She’s on the shortlist.
One at a big price that has run two solid races in her career so far is Patridge. She’s filled the runner-up spot on both occasions but went down by a nose on debut at Salisbury before bumping into Dubai Station at Haydock earlier this month. She’s drawn in stall 21 and those coming down the middle/stand side may have a slight advantage following what we saw yesterday.
3:05 – Queen’s Vase
A race where Aidan O’Brien has the top two in the betting and he’s won five of the last ten renewals. Western Australia seemed to relish the step-up in trip at Navan. He looked like a potentially useful staying type for O’Brien and there’s no surprise seeing him topping the betting.
Norway steps up in trip following his second in the Chester Vase and eighth in the Derby. He didn’t have the best of trips in the Derby, so is worth a crack at this trip and is the mount of Ryan Moore, which is why he is so high in the betting.
Jalmoud (6/1) won the Listed Prix de l’Avre at Longchamp last month and the way he went about the business in that race suggested that this 1m6f test wouldn’t be beyond his capabilities. That was on soft ground, so once again that shouldn’t be an issue for this son of New Approach. He’s only had three runs, so is yet to clock up the miles, so could have more to offer in this race.
Nate The Great was third in the Lingfield Derby Trial, which Anthony Van Dyck won before winning Epsom. Soft ground isn’t an issue, but being a son of Nathaniel suggests this trip may stretch his stamina levels.
3:40 – Prince of Wales’s Stakes
It’s a shame connections have opted to run Masar in the Hardwicke because that would have topped this race off beautifully.
But, it’s all about two class fillies and one that should see Magical (15/8) notch another victory.
She’s won all three starts this season, including the Tattersall’s Gold Cup at the Curragh by seven lengths last month. In short, she’s a quality filly, who has travelled the globe and bumped into Enable at the Breeders Cup meeting in November.
Sadly, the ground has gone against Sea Of Class, who ran a blinder when last seen when second by a short neck to Enable in the Arc. This is her return to the track and must prove her fitness, but William Haggas did enjoy a winner yesterday, but this will the softest ground she’s raced on, which may not prove ideal.
Crystal Ocean won the Hardwicke Stakes at the meeting last year, so has form at the Royal meeting, but in Group 1 contests, he’s sometimes come up short – he was a neck second to Poet’s Word in the King George VI last July and then second to Cracksman on Champions Day. Giving weight away to the two fillies won’t be easy, plus he may be slightly better over 1m4f.
Waldgeist has to be respected arriving here on a clear-cut win in the Prix Ganay when beating Study of Man and Ghaiyyath. That win was on his return to action and if he brings that form to the table then he could well be worth each-way support against Magical.
4:20 – Duke Of Cambridgeshire Stakes
A wide-open race to call, but there are a couple at prices that could be made a case for.
I Can Fly was second here to Roaring Lion in the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes on soft ground and if she is able to replicate that performance here then she has sound claims. She steadily returned to form this season with a second in a Group 2 at the Curragh last time. That should have her primed and ready to go.
Rawdaa has bits and pieces of form and the best of it is over 1m2f, so this drop to 1m may not necessarily suit. Second to Lah Ti Dar in the Middleton has seen her go up 12lb in the handicap, so has forced connections hands. She’s consistently knocked on the door over this trip but did win over 1m2f on good to soft ground in October at Newmarket.
Two at prices I’m quite keen on are:
Anna Nerium (14/1) who won the Group 3 Prince Elizabeth Stakes at Epsom last time, which saw her go one better than her effort in that race 12-months previously. This daughter of Dubawi handles cut in the ground and that success showed she still has plenty to offer, especially in the manner she put the race to bed. Last August, she won the Group 3 Superior Stakes on soft ground beating Dream Of Dreams. I like the way she sees her races out and should be given a patient ride before showing that devastating turn of foot.
The other runner may be slightly chancy, but there are plenty of positives to why she’s backable despite her big price. Nothing went right for Di Fede (16/1) at Chester on her return when completely blowing the start, which put pay to any chance she had. At the end of the day, you can put a line through that form, yet it’ll have sharpened her up ahead of this outing. She was a winner in Listed company on soft ground over 7f in October and she holds some solid form here at Ascot. That win, a second in a Listed race on the round course, plus a neck third to Urban Fo in a handicap last May. For her price, there are plenty of ticks in boxes, so she shouldn’t be ignored.
5:00 – Royal Hunt Cup
No pressure in finding the winner like I did last year with Settle For Bay. David Marnane’s charge goes once more in the race and has been laid out for it, but is 6lb higher this time around. He did win it in authoritative style that day and his last run showed a glimpse of him returning to form, but I’m happy to pass him over this time around.
It could be a case of watching earlier races on the straight course to see if there’s any bias in terms of the ground.
New Graduate bolted up at Ripon last time out, but this is a completely different kettle of fish. Now rated 105 could still be on the low side given how well he won and Frankie Dettori is a noteworthy booking for James Tate. The lack of experience could catch him out though.
If Di Fede runs well earlier in the day, then that could see support for Clon Coullis, who beat him here in July. He has form on soft ground and over this straight course, so wouldn’t be ruled out.
There are two at prices I’m happy to chuck a dart at.
Circus Couture (33/1) returned to form with a win at Nottingham two-weeks ago when visored for the first time. That made sure he got the penalty to make sure he got into this race. Look back to this race last year when he was third at 100/1 proves he’ll relish this helter skelter gallop early on before coming through late. When trained in Italy, he won on heavy ground, so won’t mind even more rain.
I’ve managed to talk myself into backing the monkey that is Mitchum Swagger (40/1). It’s hard to ignore that some of his best efforts have come on soft ground, so that’s definitely in his favour. Last season saw him win a Listed race at Newmarket off 102. With Thore Hammer Hansen on-board taking 5lb off, he’s back down to that mark, which means he could prove well treated.
His form on soft ground includes a third in this race in 2016 and reads 12327438. At his price with conditions in his favour, he’s hard to ignore, especially with him drawn near Zhui Feng, who will look to set a quick early tempo, which will hopefully see Ralph Beckett’s runner settle and find a good rhythm.
Chief Ironside would be on the shortlist too.
5:35 – Windsor Castle Stakes
This is another race that proves a head-scratcher, especially given their early season form is on quick ground. Working out who will handle the soft ground and what their form actually amounts too is proving difficult.
Temple Of Heaven has done nothing wrong on both starts and showed a good attitude to get the job done at Newbury last month. If he wasn’t hampered, he may have been more of a clear cut winner, but that showed he was willing to battle.
The two Wes Ward runners have had one start each and of course, they were dominant winners in their native America. Foolish Humour’s win did come on good ground, so may handle cut in the ground, but question mark about what their form is worth are there.
Dylan De Vega built on debut promise behind Temple Of Heaven to score at Beverley. Richard Fahey’s a useful trainer with juveniles and last won this race in 2010. The way he shaped on his second start suggested this stiff test would suit, especially off a quick gallop. He’s hard to ignore.
Archie Watson trained the winner of this race last year and Illusionist (28/1) could be one going under the radar. I’ve read some experts saying quick ground would suit him better, but he’s by Hot Streak who won twice on soft ground in a Listed race and the Group 2 Temple Stakes. A runner-up on his first two starts then did what he had to at Bath last time when shedding the maiden tag. His three runs give him experience, plus efforts at Bath and Lingfield would mean a juvenile should learn plenty. A small stake on this progressive type wouldn’t be the worst of punts.
I was quite taken by the way Ivatheengine (33/1) won at Windsor on his second start. The form of his debut second is working out nicely – Flippa The Strippa has since won a Listed race and runs in the Queen Mary, Lili Wen Fach has won and finished second, plus Gold Venture is another winner from that Novice Auction Stakes. On his debut, he looked a bit green, missing the break and then finished strongly. At Windsor, it was a case a very professional job. The son of Ivawood showed plenty of speed and looked quite a nice specimen for the future. It was interesting he was bought on Monday for £120,000 and has his first start for Paul Cole. If handling the ground, then he wouldn’t be easily passed over.
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