It’s Ladies Day at Royal Ascot 2018 and Will has a preview plus tips.
2.30 – Norfolk Stakes (Group 2) (Class 1) (2YO only): This doesn’t look appealing as a betting medium and if Shang Shang Shang can reach the level of most Wesley Ward raiders then she’ll take a lot of beating here. It hasn’t been the best week for her stable but if she can reproduce her comfortable win in a 12-runner maiden at Keeneland she should take some catching. The National Stakes is a key form line here and Clive Cox’s Koncheck might come out best, although Kinks didn’t get a run there and could be better running from the front. Aidan O’Brien’s juveniles by and large have all run very well so it’s interesting he sends Land Force here after his third at the Curragh in a listed event. Last time out winners The Paddocks, Rumble Inthejungle, Charming Kid, and Glory Fighter all would not be surprise winners.
Advice: 1 pt win Shang Shang Shang (9/2 Paddy Power)
3.05 – 1m2f Hampton Court Stakes (Group 3) (Class 1) (3yo): Hunting Horn has had plenty of racing so far but his Prix du Jockey Club sixth is the best form here and if he is ahead of Key Victory (eighth that day) at the end here he ought to have a fighting chance of taking a seriously competitive race. Charlie Appleby’s Key Victory might improve a lot for a better surface and along with Dante fifth Nordic Lights and the deeply impressive maiden winner National Army.
Wadilsafa, who won decisively in a useful minor event at Newmarket over 1 mile, must improve but promises to enjoy this extra distance and he is also on the longlist along with Heron Stakes third Vintager.
Advice: 1 pt each/way Hunting Horn (6/1 general)
3.40 – 1m4f Ribblesdale Stakes (Group 2) (Fillies) (Class 1) (3yo): This is difficult to measure. Wild Illusion and Magic Wand’s Oaks form towers over the field and the latter particularly ought to enjoy being on a faster surface, but they have had 20 days to recover from a slog at Epsom and as Cracksman showed, that is no easy task. six winners since 1997 were being turned out again quickly after running the Investec Oaks but this year’s renewal was a particularly arduous grind. That could also count against Perfect Clarity, who was an impressive winner of the Lingfield Oaks Trial but who also couldn’t move her feet through Epsom’s ground.
Sun Maiden is an obvious choice and is a terribly exciting prospect after her romp in a Salisbury maiden by 12 lengths, but the second was a beaten favourite next time out by nine lengths as evens favourite so progression is needed if she’s going to justify favouritism and in an open race she can be taken on.
Since getting fast ground Athena has finished second in Newbury’s Oaks trial and broken her maiden at the seventh time of asking, and Aidan O’Brien’s charge could keep progressing here. This step upto 1m4f – especially around Ascot – could bring out more improvement (closely-related to Bracelet who won this race back in 2014 on her first go at the trip) and on a sound surface she’s looked like a new horse. Her second at Newbury over 10 furlongs to Sea Of Class rates as very strong form, with the winner having been a short price for the Oaks before she bypassed the race to win the Abdingon convincingly. Seven lengths back in this was Crystal Hope, who had impressively beaten the Musidora winner Give and Take and the Musidora third Highgarden (runs here) at Sandown.
Lady Of Shalott should be capable of better following her 4th to Perfect Clarity in the Lingfield Oaks Trial but she will need to improve a great deal and neither of Sarrochi or Sizzling make much appeal. Dancing Brave Bear, a staying on second in the Musidora, has place potential.
Advice: 1 pt each/way Athena (9/1 general)
4.20 – 2m4f Gold Cup (Group 1) (British Champions Series) (Class 1) (4yo+): A monster renewal of the Gold Cup with three top quality stayers and Stradivarius can crown himself the staying king in a race to watch and savour. AA rapidly progressive stayer since taking the Queen’s Vase here last year, he has since won the Goodwood Cup when beating last year’s winner of this, Big Orange, and afterwards he was a fine third when dropped down in trip for the St Leger. He was beaten that day by Irish Derby winner Capri and Crystal Ocean, who has won two group contests already this season, with Melbourne Cup winner Rekindling behind him. He ended the year with a fine third on British Champions Day, behind Order Of St George when the ground was extremely testing and the race collapsed late. This faster ground will play right into his hands compared to then.
His return in the Yorkshire Cup, when he had the race won before Frankie Dettori got serious with him, was a perfect tune up and the only worry might be stamina if this is a real test over 2m4f, but he has not failed on that count so far and a small field ought to suit with only Torcedor and Mount Moriah known as front runners.
Order Of St George won this in 2016 and went down fighting in a titanic battle last year. He sets an imposing standard and has turned up quietly with a pair of easy wins in the Vintage Crop and Saval Beg Stakes. If there was to be one chink in his armour, it could be that he goes best with cut as his record shows, and today’s faster surface is a more level playing field between our selection and him.
The race is completed by the presence of Vazirabad, twice a winner of the Prix-Royal Oak and also a winner of the Prix du Cadran last year, along with a three-time winner of the Dubai Gold Cup. He comes here for the first time following a good tune up when he beat subsequent winner Marmelo in the Prix Vicomtesse Vigier with plenty in hand (as he always does) and he has a tremendous each/way appeal at 6/1. Some may query his stamina and suitably for this ground but he’s a winner of the Cadran and a lack of potential pace should enhance his chances.
Desert Skyline should enjoy this step upto 2m4f, but he was beaten fair and square behind Stradivarius last time out at York even with a penalty and has also been well beaten by Order Of St George in the past.
Torcedor was a changed horse for front running tactics when spread-eagling the field in the Sagaro last time, but he won’t get such an easy time going half a mile further on fast ground and he was well beaten with fifth in this last year.
Sheikhzayedroad, Max Dynamite, Mount Moriah, and Scotland all have various amounts to prove.
Advice: Watch and enjoy
Just as difficult as the Hunt Cup yesterday but we won that so hopefully we can repeat the trick. The first two in our portfolio are hardly original choices and drawn next to eachother but they have outstanding form claims. George Of Heart was one of two horses to come from the back and take the first two positions in a 7-furlong handicap here; the winner that day was Society Rock, who would win upped in class at Goodwood and then take second in the Jersey yesterday. He looks as if he’ll improve for this extra furlong too, and if repeating the form he’s very well treated.
Curiosity made a fine start to his three year old season when going down by a neck to Symbolisation in a Newmarket handicap and that was boosted by the winner running fifth in the Irish Guineas and then the Jersey yesterday. If he steps forward he can hopefully make a late bid that is just as strong as our top choice.
Ostillo has just snuck in to add another string to Sheikh Mohammed Obaid Al Maktoum’s bow and he might prove to be their best chance. Possibly best known as the horse who was beaten by Without Parole at Yarmouth, he was eight lengths clear of the third that day and has since proven himself to be useful, making short work of the field on his handicap debut at Newmarket. A mark of 84 might have been lenient then but thankfully he’s snuck in there and Simon Crisford and Silvestre De Sousa have a terrific record together – they’ve won 25 races race together out of 84 at a very healthy 30 per cent.
Those who are greedy could do worse than to look at Aidan O’Brien’s James Cook. O’Brien won this in 2015 with War Envoy and all three of his contenders make some appeal although James Cook could be the most overpriced. A full brother to the magnificent Found, he made a good debut behind a subsequent Group 3 runner up at Naas and was then a convincing winner of a Leopardstown maiden from Latrobe, who has since finished second to group placed hunting Horn and finished second in the Gallinule Stakes. Things haven’t gone so well for him this season, but he didn’t handle Epsom on his return when he needed the run and one has to forgive his Dante run. A really strongly run stiff mile ought to bring out the best in him and it’s interesting he’s been tried at a mile now.
Bond Street and Landshark also took the eye.
Advice: 1 pt each/way George Of Heart (9/1 Bet365, 8/1 general), 1 pt each/way Curiosity (12/1 general), 1 pt each/way Ostillo (16/1 general)
5.25 – 1m4f King George V Stakes (Handicap) (Class 2) (3yo 0-105): Godolphin have won three of the last four editions and had the 1-2 last year – once again they have two strong chances. Cross County gave plenty of hope that he’d improve a lot for this this trip when finishing a good second to a very smart prospect at Sandown when giving a stone to the winner. However, they might have an even stronger chance in Dubhe, who was deeply impressive on his three-year-old debut at Sandown.
It was his first time going beyond a mile and it’s no surprise that he thrived for it – he’s out of Irish Oaks winner Great Heavens – and if anything, a step upto this trip is overdue given how long it took for him to engage overdrive. Once he did get rolling, he put four lengths between himself and Communique, who reopposes here after winning the uber competitive London Gold Cup going away. That form has already been boosted by runners from that race finishing first and fourth at Epsom’s Derby meeting along with two runners up spots so the
Joseph O’Brien’s Downforce is the second to make the staking plan. The son of Camelot was making his debut going further than 1 mile at Navan when scythed through the field going downhill and eventually found enough to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat. The further he goes the better and having a proper pace to crack at will help matters too.
Advice: 2 pts each/way Dubhe (12/1 Coral), 1 pt each/way Downdraft (365 Bet365)
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