There’s no rest for the wicked, dear reader, and almost as soon as Day Three is over, it’s time to preview Day Four of Royal Ascot 2010.
We’re past half way now, and the somewhat mixed news is that there’s still plenty of time to recoup losses / lose profits…! Six races, headlined by the Group 1 Coronation Stakes demand our consideration, and here are my thoughts on what might constitute a decent wager.
Albany Stakes -A Group 3 for for young ladies, over six furlongs. There’s a bulging 23 runners this time, and luck will play it’s part, along with experience and improvement: all of which leads me to immediately swerve the race.
But, as ever, where’s the fun in that? So, taking a more scrutinizing eye to the field reveals some helpful means of rendering winner-finding more manageable.
Firstly, in the eight renewals of this contest, half of them (two each) have been bagged by Messrs Noseda and Channon, so their entries are of instant interest. Alas, as quickly as that door opens, it is pretty firmly slammed again: no runner from Noseda stable, and Channon’s sole entry, Hortensia, looks to have a mountain to climb.
OK, let’s try a different angle: no horse has had more than two starts prior to winning here, which removes seven, including Hortensia and also Julia Feilden’s Emma’s Gift (who looks outclassed, but whom I hope runs a stormer!).
It also rules out the form horse in the race, Radharcnafarraighe, from 2008 winning trainer Jim Bolger’s yard. His winner in 2008 was odds on, and this is no more difficult – in class and trip terms – than the Group 3 she won at Naas last time. Indeed, that race and her previous win at the same track, were exactly the same two events that the stable’s 2008 winner, Cuis Ghaire, took en route to victory here.
So, whilst it might seem contrary to look elsewhere, that’s what I’ll do, ever mindful of course that egg could very well land on Geegeez face…
The one I like is Mahmood Al Zarooni’s Al Sharood (try saying that after a few Pimms’!). Frankie’s up top and this one relished the trip when just getting the verdict at HQ last time. With the likely quicker pace here in her favour, she looks a decent each poke in an open race.
One interesting angle is that there have been a few maiden winners of this in its short existence, so don’t dismiss non-winners here. Keiren rides a Yankee horse in Tiz My Time. However, I suspect if a maiden is to grab this again, Aiden O’Brien’s Queen Of Spain will be a more likely victor.
She’s currently 40+ on Betfair, and for a speculative quid, that’s obviously interesting.
But, I’ll side tentatively with Al Sharood, with a saver on the unpronounceable Radharcnafarraighe.
King Edward VII Stakes – To call this a Group 2 for Derby also rans might be a little harsh, so I’ll whisper that. But here we have Bullet Train, Buzzword and gallant runner up at Epsom, At First Sight, reopposing in a field of eight. The remaining quintet include two very interesting improvers and, with a suspicion that a) the Derby was a tough race for those three and b) this is a case of ‘after the Lord Mayor’s show’, I’ll be looking away from the Epsom form.
In fact, although Storming Home (2001) and Papal Bull (2006) were able to overcome their Derby exertions, a number try each year, and their record is moderate considering their typical market rank.
Green Moon is stepping up in trip and class but, being a son of Montjeu, the trip at least should not be beyond him. Indeed, since being stepped up from a mile to ten furlongs, he’s unbeaten in three, and has been impressive each time, winning by a collective eleven and a bit lengths.
It’d be a real feather in the cap of Harry Dunlop (John’s other training son) if he could pull this off, and he must have a decent chance.
Monterosso is the other improver here, and comes from the stable of Mark Johnston, who was responsible for 2007 winner, Boscobel.Â Monterosso was well beaten two runs ago by Green Moon and, stepping out of handicap company for the first time, has a heck of a lot to do here.
Bizarrely, perhaps, John and Ed Dunlop also have runners here and, in what might be a real family affair, dad’s Waseet is worth more than a cursory glance at the odds. Although disappointing in two runs this season, he was second on this track last season in the Group 2 Royal Lodge Stakes, and if he’s trained on, he’ll have to show more. 40 on Betfair is again too big.
Overall though, I think Harry might grab this one, and his Green Moon looks sufficiently progressive to put an early dent in the Derby form.
Coronation Stakes -The 1000 Guineas rematch for classic fillies has brought together numerous runners from the respective Guineas races, though disappointingly none of the official winners. I say ‘official’, because disqualified first past the post, Jacqueline Quest, is here bidding to gain compensation for that stewarding decision.
‘Sir’ Henry said she wasn’t fit that day, and he wanted to wait for this race, so that being the case, she has to be taken seriously.
Countering that, though, is the fact that she was a 66/1 shot that day, and was showing significant improvement on previous form levels. Whether she can replicate that here is to be hoped, not expected.
This is another race in which Jim Bolger is looking to repeat a 2008 success, this time with Gile Na Graine looking to emulate Lush Lashes.
Barry Hills knows what it takes to win this, having sent out Ghanaati last year, and Maids Causeway in 2005. Sent From Heaven is his representative this time, and she has less than a length to find to turn the tables with Jacqueline Quest.
Her overall form level is much more robust than ‘Sir’ Henry’s filly, and I think she looks a potential winner. Quite why she’s 16 and 18/1 is beyond me, and that is excellent value to my eye.
That said, market watchers will point to the fact that all of the last ten winners were 8/1 or shorter. This brings in the likes of Lillie Langtry, Lady Of The Desert and Music Show.
Having burnt my fingers badly on the last named when she was beaten by the draw in the Guineas, and then seen her beaten by fractions in the Irish equivalent, I’m reluctant to go in again. But I maintain that she’s a smart filly, and this might be the chance she needs to prove it.
One of her two vanquishers that day, Anna Salai, bids to get her pretty little neck in front, having won just one of her four runs to date. The other three runs resulted in second places, and Billy Bunter horses – always seeking seconds – are not my idea of punting propositions.
If she wins, fair play. Not for me.
Lillie Langtry was a fine juvenile last season, and was beaten less than a length in that Irish Guineas on her seasonal debut. Given how badly Ballydoyle horses have been needing the run, it can be expected that she will come on for that effort. That being the case, she could easily reverse form with her conquerors there.
However, she has less scope than some of these and doesn’t present great value, particularly in the context of the disappointing overall performance of O’Brien 3yo’s so far this season. As I’ve mentioned previously, I’ve a suspicion that they may not be as good this year as normal.
Lady Of The Desert represents the French Guineas form, and wasn’t beaten far in that event, a comment that – as you’ve read – applies to quite a few of these! And I haven’t even mentioned Tabassum (tough to win on seasonal debut), Evading Tempete (wily trainer, interesting each way Frenchie), or Puff (nice winner on seasonal return, not seen since).
So, who to win? Well, I’d love Jacqueline Quest to win, but I won’t back her; I think Sent From Heaven is excellent each-way value, and I will be backing her; and Music Show might finally get in front, but I won’t be backing her.
As it’s so open, I’m going to side each way with Sent From Heaven.
Wolferton Handicap -A Listed handicap for older horses, over a mile and a quarter. Sir Michael Stoute has won this twice, including with a 25/1 shot, so let’s start with his entry, Kingdom of Fife. Carrying topweight might seem like a burden too far, but Stoute’s Perfect Stride was within two pounds of topweight last year when winning under 9-05.
In a typically trappy contest, you can expect a decent run at a reasonable price from this one. Oh, and the horse is owned by the Queen, so hats off should he come home in front.
The elephant in the Wolferton Handicap room is a horse called Rainbow Peak, who currently trades at the ostensibly preposterous odds of 6/4 on Betfair. I say ‘ostensibly’, because who’d back a horse at those odds in a 16 runner Royal Ascot handicap?
Well, let’s look at the animal’s form. Three runs last year garnered three wins, the last of which was in a competitive handicap over this distance at Newbury. He’s had just the one run this term, when a head second to Fareer in a Listed contest. Fareer won the Britannia Handicap here last season, but was seen off by a margin (twelve lengths) in the Royal Hunt Cup earlier this week, and his mark looks spot on.
Rainbow Peak was beaten by him that day at a time when the Jarvis horses was bullet-proof. Whilst his stable continues to strike at an excellent rate, he’s not in the same kind of form now as then, and he was nibbled at in the market that day too.
His handicap mark of 107 looks fair rather than ‘a snip’, and I’m more than happy to pass him over. I’m also equally happy that he makes the market for anything else we might fancy.
Eight of the last ten winners were four year olds, and one of the other two was a five year old, so I’m happy to strike out anything older than that. In fact, just considering the 4yo’s leaves six of the sixteen contenders, including Rainbow Peak.
Mark Johnston’s globetrotting Eastern Aria has a lot going for him. He would have despised the slow pace and sodden underhoof conditions in Germany last time, and back in handicap company (albeit good handicap company), over a trip where he already has four wins.
His last run in a turf handicap over 1m2f was when just over a length second to Mawatheeq at Doncaster last backend. His usurper that day went on to run second in the Group Champion Stakes and is now a Group 1 horse. Eastern Aria, ridden by Frankie Dettori, is available on Betfair at 20/1 as I write!
Queen’s Vase – A Group 3 over two miles, and traditionally one of the weaker Group races at Royal Ascot. But, with no winner returning bigger than 11/1 and a ridiculous FIVE of the last ten winners being trained by Mark Johnston (!), it might be a good opportunity to find a winner.
Johnston’s horses are trained for stamina, and they are fit. Fitter than the flea who won the World Flea Fitness Championships, in fact. He relies on just one horse to bring home the bacon – or at least the Vase – and that is the Frankie-ridden (not flea ridden!) Corsica.
Corsica has a mirror image form line to Johnston’s 2009 winner, Holberg: three wins and a last time out third place. Like Holberg, and the four previous Johnston winners, Corsica is stepping up significantly in distance. His fitness edge and a touch of class (he won a Listed contest two runs back) will probably be enough here.
Ballydoyle saddle the favourite, Mikhail Glinka, and whilst they did win the race in 2007 with Mahler, they had two beaten at less than 10/1 last year; their sole runner beaten at 8/1 in 2008; 7/2 beaten in 2006; 7/2 favourite beaten in 2005; 5/2 favourite beaten in 2004; no runner in 2003, but the 10/3 favourite beaten in 2002; and, 8/1 beaten in 2001.
I’d overlook MG on the basis of that alone. He’ll be over-bet and likely under-perform.
There are only two other trainers to win this in the last decade and they are Sir Michael Stoute and Saeed bin Suroor (two wins apiece). Godolphin are not entered this time, but Stoute has Total Command here.
He’s beautifully bred, by Sadler’s Wells out of Wince, but that pedigree smacks of middle distances rather than long, and in four runs to date he managed a solitary Class 5 maiden win. His 2000 winner, Dalampour, achieved that on the back of a Class 4 maiden win at Newmarket, but he was far better bred for the job than Total Command.
Obviously, it won’t be a shock if Total Command steps up massively to win here, but I am solid on Corsica and make him my bet of the day.
Buckingham Palace Handicap – Seven furlongs, 30-odd runners. Good luck. I’m not betting in this race, and I suggest you tread carefully too. With the eight winners so far having odds of between 8/1 and 33/1, you’ll get a decent return if you can find the winner. But isn’t that also true of the National Lottery?!
Five of the eight winners were four or five years old, but there were also winners aged six, seven and eight! Attache won in 2003 off 9-12 but unscrupulous won in 2004 off 8-05!
However, on balance those weighted lower than nine stone have had the best of things so far, with six such weighted winners from the eight contests.
The Cumani-Fallon horse, Day Of The Eagle, will probably go off favourite and has a progressive profile and a light weight. If he was twice the price I might be interested. Besides, this race doesn’t typically fall to an ‘obvious’ sort.
Frankly, I’m clutching at straws to suggest even a Lottery-esque punt. But in the spirit of the piece, I’ll side with Michael Dods’ Kiwi Bay. A winner over a mile last time, but with two seven furlongs verdicts in the bag too, Kiwi Bay very rarely runs a bad race and ought to at least give us a run for our money in a race where many won’t even do that!
Special mentions for Julia’s Spirit Of Sharjah, who has a definite chance (and will carry about three of my pounds in support), and Everymanforhimself, who is far and away the most aptly named runner.
Best of luck if you’re playing in this race!
Now then, as you’ll probably know, I’m in Tromso in the North of Norway (in the Arctic Circle, in fact). It’s very beautiful and I’m hoping to have a couple of days R&R, so there will be no Saturday preview.
Instead, I’ll give you a few thoughts on the major races here:
Chesham Stakes – Sonning Rose is bred for the 7f trip, which is a tough one for juveniles at this stage of their career. Trainer has a decent record, and he ought to run well.
Hardwicke Stakes – A very good race, and Harbinger looks the horse to back. Just shy of top class, as this Group 2 implies, but still progressive, he’ll take a lot of beating. Alainmaar was impressive at Lingfield when I saw him. He abhorred the track and still won. Progressive is the right term for him too, and he might be each way value.
Golden Jubilee Stakes – Cracking renewal, impossible to fathom! Winners at 20/1 and 33/1 twice in the last four years mean you probably want to take something each way at a price here.
The one which might be worthy of a decent speculative is the ‘Sir’ Henry trained, Lord Shanakill. I was really hoping they’d drop him back in trip from the mile he contested last time out, as he’s a very smart sort who looks like he’s not been getting home. He pings the lids in his races so shouldn’t get left.
In fact, he’s already won a Group 2 over six furlongs, and is very much a forgotten horse here. Moreover, his only defeat in three tries at the distance was when third at Royal Ascot in the Coventry Stakes. Given how much improvement he showed as a 3yo last year, 50/1 is just a stupid price now. I reckon he might get piled into and go off something like 12’s. I’ve been wrong on these things before, however!
Wokingham Handicap – Four and five year olds hold sway here from the older guard, and Noverre To Go, a winner last time and drawn high (which I suspect is favourable) will have a chance.
Queen Alexandra Stakes – Longest flat race, won by a 12yo last year. That says it all for me. It’s a bit of a joke race to finish such a high class meeting. I’ve given Munsef a very hard time on my blogs over the last few years, and I hope he digs me back by winning this. Frankly, Caracciola, who is now trying to win this as a 13 year old is not out of it either!
So that’s it. Royal Ascot 2010 will close not with a bang but a whimper, as Conrad might have observed if he’d backed another loser in the Queen Alexandra.
I hope it will be a lucky week’s racing for you, and that we’ll all have some excellent memories to take forward with us.
I’ll be back towards the end of next week. In the meantime, if you need to email me for any reason, please do bear with me.
p.s. do keep your winner / loser stories coming in the comments section. We’ve heard from a few lucky punters so far. How about a few ‘nearly but not quite’ stories…?