It was another engaging evening down Gloucester Road way for London Racing Club’s Royal Ascot preview last night.
Chair Alex Steedman (Racing UK) was joined on the panel by Declan Rix (ATR), Paul Binfield (PaddyPower), and Nick Smith (Head of International Racing, Ascot).
In what was a night full of opinions – what else?! – these are some of the comments from the panel on next week’s Royal Ascot fiesta of flat racing.
NS: The course is expected to be watered as necessary to maintain good, good to firm going for Tuesday (day one) of the Royal meeting. Depending on whether any rain arrives, further watering will likely take place on either Wednesday or Thursday evenings. If it is a dry week, the ground will be on the fast side by Friday/Saturday.
NS: All international runners have paid something to be here. There are no free tickets, though some travel/subsistence costs have been met. In every case, however, connections have stumped up at least half of the costs to be here.
[Editor’s note: this was fantastic to hear, as I’d expected the raiding party to have been more heavily subsidised than that. In the case of Able Friend, especially, it was noted that he could have earned the same amount for finishing fourth in a Hong Kong Group 1 as for winning the Queen Anne. And yet connections have opted for Ascot. Phenomenally sporting of them 🙂 ]
Queen Anne Stakes
AS: 6 of the last 9 winners won the Lockinge (Night Of Thunder), and 21 of the last 26 winners were 4yo’s (Night Of Thunder amongst others).
[Editor’s note: It is very unlikely that two geldings of the class of Solow and Able Friend have run in the same year in the Queen Anne. They’re racing on – as opposed to going to stud – because they’re geldings, so I’d be wary of the 4yo stat personally. Still, NoT looks the most likely of the domestic posse]
DR: This is a totally different test from Sha Tin for Able Friend. How he handles the straight at Ascot, and the stiff finish, versus what he’s used to in Hong Kong is open to question. Would favour Solow of the front two in the betting, but Night Of Thunder the each way play, assuming eight line up.
NS: Think Solow and Able Friend will finish 1-2, though not sure in which order.
PB: PaddyPower are worried about Round Two, who would be a bad result for them. (They’re taking a chance standing 5/2, according to Binfield). Finnegan at 8/1 is interesting.
NS: Wesley Ward doesn’t normally go for the Coventry, instead favouring the easier Norfolk Stakes. But he’s pitching Finnegan in at the deep end as the horse is the best horse Ward has (though not necessarily his best chance of the week).
DR: Round Two looks a likely winner, but no bet.
AS: War Department has a speedy pedigree, and could be interesting at a price. Doesn’t fancy Buratino.
King’s Stand Stakes
PB: “Sole Power is a good thing” (said only part tongue in cheek, Sole Power being owned by PaddyPower!)
NS: Brazen Beau more likely to go to the Diamond Jubilee on Saturday, though not impossible he’ll take in both. Shamal Wind’s trainer is worried about the stiff finish at Ascot. Tiggy Wiggy is more likely for races later in the week (Commonwealth Cup, Diamond Jubilee) but is still in this one too. She’d be interesting in receipt of the allowances (she gets nine pounds from the male older horses).
DR: Race sets up for a closer. Muthmir is quick but not sure he’s up to Group 1 class yet. Shamal Wind another closer, and up to this class.
St James’s Palace Stakes
PB: Gleneagles the most likely winner but not keen on taking odds on about his chance.
NS: Also prepared to let Gleneagles win at odds on. Can’t see Territories beating him. [STOP PRESS: Territories has been ruled out]
Unlikely Make Believe is good enough. Consort needs to find around ten pounds to win this – maybe he can, but he’s not a price to justify that kind of improvement.
DR: Make Believe got the run of the race when beating New Bay in the French 1000 Guineas.
Queen Mary Stakes
NS: Bruised Orange and Acapulco will represent Wesley Ward’s squad.
DR: Illuminate was a good winner of a Salisbury maiden that’s working out well, and she looks very fast.
AS: Besharah has twice impressed, and comes here on the hat-trick.
Prince Of Wales’s Stakes
NS: The California Chrome team know they’re taking on top class turf horses on their terms, and are realistic about his prospects. They don’t expect him to win but hope he runs well. William Buick rides. Western Hymn definitely heads to this race, and Frankie Dettori ride.
Criterion probably needs soft ground to show his best. Spielberg on the other hand has his perfect conditions and, “on his best form, he should win”. [Editor’s note: he’s 12/1 NRNB with bet365 – I’m on]
PB: Likes Free Eagle, and is pleased Cal Chrome has come over to play.
Royal Hunt Cup
PB: Ayaar has been smashed up with his firm. Was 12/1, into 7/1 yesterday. Looks sure to go off favourite. Suggest punters wait for the draw before getting involved though.
AS: Speculative Bid won over a mile at Doncaster and may not be finished yet; while Ascription may also run well.
NS: Chil The Kite interesting: he finished with lots in the tank when second in last year’s Hunt Cup after getting no sort of run, and has been jobbed up for this. [Editor’s note: interesting case, and 25/1 does look big, draw unknown notwithstanding. Plus it might be better to wait until firms go five – or even six – places]
DR: First Flight and American Hope both have track and trip form and are interesting on that.
Ascot Gold Cup
NS: Given the ground, really not sure that favourite Forgotten Rules will run. Brown Panther could be one of the bets of the meeting.
AS: Clever Cookie may not run on rattling fast ground either. Mizzou looks pretty solid at 7/1 NRNB – very progressive type, with Ascot form at up to two miles. Has to show he stays further, but value at the prices. [Editor’s note: I really bought into the case for this one, especially with the chance of the favourite not running. Loaded up at 7’s last night, fairly recklessly…!]
DR: Really likes the chance of Simenon each way at 20/1. A keeping on fourth last year, he looks overpriced.
NS: Delighted with the field for this inaugural running. Really top class race in prospect. Vibes are very strong around Hootenanny, which is one of Wesley Ward’s best chances of the week, according to the trainer. They’re very confident, apparently.
DR: Anthem Alexander is really pleasing the Lynam team. Sure she’ll beat Tiggy Wiggy if both line up. Muhaarar might just be a bit of value though. Thinks Limato’s bubble burst last time. [Editor’s note: I thought he got bogged down in the ground and was otherwise excused by his trainer’s poor form at the time]
PB: Taking Tiggy Wiggy at 6’s over Limato at 4’s.
AS: A left field play might be Home Of The Brave, a Starspangledbanner colt with lots of speed. Won European Free Handicap over seven before failing to stay in the Guineas (sixth).
DR: Looks sensible to concentrate on the two Irish fillies, Found and Lucida, with preference at the prices for Lucida.
NS: Couldn’t have Found at the prices. Think Ervedya is “one of the bets of the week”.
AS: Sir Michael Stoute has won five of last nine, and runs Telescope, the seven length winner of the race last year. “If Telescope wins fair enough, but I’ve backed Postponed”.
DR: Telescope has to be taken on at 5/4. Eagle Top and Postponed are players against the favourite. Slight preference for Postponed.
PB: Paddy will be looking to lay Telescope in a big way.
NS: Thinks Telescope will win but unexcited by the price.
Diamond Jubilee Stakes
NS: “Brazen Beau is possibly the best sprinter in Australia” and better than Takeover Target. Has an amazing turn of foot. Light campaign with this in mind. Very, very good horse and probably different class to these.
PB: Mustajeeb is apparently Dermot Weld’s “bet of the week”, and is interesting e/w at 6/1.
DR: Keen on Mustajeeb. Always looked a sprinter but was good enough to win Jersey Stakes at the last Royal Ascot over seven, and finish 3rd to Kingman in a heavy ground Irish 2000 Guineas over a mile.
AS: Telmeyd is believed to be a Group horse running in a handicap. That looks material in a race thin on the ground with improvers. [Editor’s note: this lad, 14/1, does indeed look progressive but note his propensity to miss the break, which would be terminal in a race like the Wokingham, regardless of having seven pounds in hand.]
DR: Gamesome looks a player, and comes to the race in form, something plenty of others don’t.
PB: Has been made aware that a London Racing Club member owns Highland Acclaim – Oisin Murphy rides – and they’re hopeful of a big effort.
NS: Trainer Olly Stevens is really confident about his Gamesome’s chance.
Bets of the Week
AS: Mizzou Gold Cup / Postponed Hardwicke / Telmeyd Wokingham
NS: Ervedya Coronation Stakes / Back At The Ranch Albany
PB: Eagle Top Hardwicke / Integral Duke Of Cambridge
DR: Simenon e/w Gold Cup
£100 win Hootenanny / £100 win Anthem Alexander, both in the Commonwealth Cup