Royal Ascot 2017: Day 2 Preview, Tips

Royal Ascot 2017: Day 2 Preview, Tips

Day 2 at Royal Ascot features another Group 1 contest and probably the most fiendish handicap puzzle of the week; but it all begins – minus Her Majesty, required for chores at Westminster – with the…

2.30 Jersey Stakes (Group 3, 7f)

As ever, this is a difficult script to follow. As usual, the cast comprises non-stayers and class-droppers from the various Guineas races as well as class-risers and trip-stretchers from the sprint division. It is more often than not a new venture for the winner, so some degree of conjecture is required, a bit like a thriller where the culprit is oh so obvious after the fact.

Prime suspect in this particular Hitchcock drama is the mysterious Frenchman, Le Brivido, trained by the not-so-mysterious Andre Fabre. Monsieur F. was once untouchable when sending a raider across to Britain, but in recent years that aura of ultimate respect has dissipated a tad. Indeed, he’s had just one winner (Usherette, last year), from just six runners, at the Royal meeting in the last five years.

Le Brivido brings excellent credentials, on the numbers at least: he’s clear top rated by the official handicapper, and by Topspeed and by Racing Post Ratings. He was second in the French 2000 Guineas, beaten a short head and with three lengths back to the third. It is the best form in this race by a little way. But…

He has never raced over seven furlongs, and he has never raced on a straight track, and he has never raced on ground as fast as this, and he’ll have never raced off a pace as rapid as this. Back in the good old days, when things were a lot more straightforward, we would simply trust in M. F to know what was right. In 2017, and at the price, I’m not so sure. This lad was 16/1 and a bit of a surprise when nearly landing the Poulains, and why is he not contesting the St James’s Palace Stakes? Third there would read better than winning this.

Le Brivido can win, naturellement, but I’m trying to find one to beat him.

That one is almost as unimaginative, Dream Castle. Trading at a similar quote of 7/2, he’s not hard to find, but he does have a more proven if marginally less compelling profile. Fifth was his position in our Guineas, a placing that tells little of the tale of his run. He was badly checked in his stride having started a step slow, and ran on very well. Only beaten three lengths there – and value for at least a length closer proximity, he wouldn’t need to improve much to contest in an average Jersey. The step back in trip is not obviously a plus, but the almost guaranteed overly fast pace here is.

Pick of the unexposed class elevators may be Andrew Balding’s Beat The Bank, two from two at the trip and in his career. He’s proven over a straight seven on fast ground, and he has every right to move forward from what he’s shown so far. 25/1 with Skybet is worth the speculative play.

Bookie specials

Ladbrokes: Bet £20 on this race and get £10 free bet on 3.05

Skybet: Money back as a free bet if 2nd or 3rd in this race (max £20)

Paddy: Money back as a free bet if 2nd, 3rd or 4th to SP favourite (max £25)

Betfair sports: Free bet to same stake as any 3/1+ winner you back (max £25)

3.05 Queen Mary Stakes (Group 2, 5f)

This is Wes territory. In the eight renewals since 2009, Wesley Ward has won three of them, including the last two. He produces two-year-old sprint fillies like Britain produces four-year-old sprint colts… Of all the squad he’s brought over this year, he is said to be most thrilled and excited by Happy Like A Fool. She’s a short enough price at 7/4 ish but in a year where the domestic challenge looks notably weak, she’s a very likely victor.

WW knows exactly what is needed to win this race, and he couldn’t have been more ebullient about this filly. Indeed, after training her on the track last week he reported,

“She is great – doing super. She had a big work yesterday with Jamie Spencer and came out of that great. It is exciting.”

We’ve not exactly gone off piste so far – more nursery slopes – but we should have at least one winner from the first two races. If any bookie offers 2/1 as a concession, I’d suggest she’ll be nearer to 5/4 come post time.

For those who would rather play an each way loser – that’s generally my idea of the game! – Heartache is the one at 6/1 in places. Clive Cox is an eminent trainer of sprinters – think Profitable, Priceless, Reckless Abandon in recent years – and this daughter of Kyllachy won her only start to date by six lengths on firm ground. Sure, that was Bath and this is Royal Ascot, but she’s rapid and most of these are not especially. She’s drawn highest of all, in 20, with Happy Like A Fool in 18 and likely to attempt to blitz her field from gate to wire.

Of the bigger prices, Out Of The Flames has improved since beating Mrs Gallagher, though the latter has the chance to step forward herself on a sole victory from a single racecourse visit. Both are 16’s with a chance of going 20’s between now and race time.

Bookie specials on this race

Bet365: 1/4 1-2-3-4 plus risk-free bet to same stake if you back 4/1+ winner (max £50)

Betfair sports: Free bet to same stake as any 3/1+ winner you back (max £25)

3.40 Duke Of cambridge Stakes (Group 2, 1m)

Your first 30 days for just £1

Not a race I have a handle on especially, if indeed I’m close to the mark elsewhere. It was very difficult not to be taken with Laugh Aloud‘s performance at Epsom, where not everything went right for her. She looked a Group 1 filly in the making, and with no concerns about conditions – she ought also to be able to adopt her favoured unchallenged position in front – the only question is whether she can step up to this class. James Doyle will be keen to prevail in the Godolphin blue on this John Gosden-trained ‘outside ride’.

Last year’s winner, Usherette, also wears the Godolphin silks. It was soft when she won twelve months ago, and it’ll be borderline firm this time around. She’s been beaten in both prep runs this term and has form on good or quicker of 7163 in an overall string of 1171111633. Not for me the repeater.

Qemah is really interesting. On class, she’s the winner. She triumphed in the Group 1 Coronation Stakes, for three year olds over a mile, at the Royal meeting last year. But she was beaten in a weak Group 3 on her seasonal bow five weeks ago. The French do love a prep race so there’s every likelihood that no tears were shed after that even money reversal, and Jean-Claude Rouget is fast becoming the new Andre Fabre such is his knack for taking down the big pots.

Rouget is two from eight in recent seasons at Royal Ascot, both wins coming in the Coronation Stakes. His other Coronation winner was Ervedya, who was turned over last year when taking in the Queen Anne against older colts. Once bitten twice shy, perhaps, and the savvy man from the provinces (he trains down in beautiful Pau) has lowered his sights a year later.

Of the rest, Greta G is becoming the wise guy mare. A winner of the Argentinian 1000 Guineas, she gets weight for age as she’s still considered a three-year-old until July 1st (I think!). But before you lump on, it’s only one pound WFA, and her Classic win was on heavy ground. Frankie Dettori, international horseman if ever there was, takes the ride. I love a dark horse, but am seriously struggling to see how this filly isn’t 33/1. She’s 12’s.

Bookie specials on this race

Bet365: 1/4 1-2-3 plus risk-free bet to same stake if you back 4/1+ winner (max £50)

Skybet: Enhanced place odds 1/5 1-2-3-4

Paddy: Money back as a free bet if 2nd, 3rd or 4th to SP favourite (max £25)

Betfair sports: Free bet to same stake as any 3/1+ winner you back (max £25)


4.20 Prince Of Wales’s Stakes (Group 1, 1m 2f)

A really good looking renewal of the PoW Stakes. Two horses, Highland Reel and Jack Hobbs, are rated 123, with seven of the nine strong field rated 115 or higher. Highland Reel, a terrific mile and a half horse is just not at the same level over ten furlongs. Indeed, his record at this trip reads 2153827, compared with a twelve furlong record of 51142121271. As much as I love him, and as little of a shock as it would be if he is first past the post, I have to oppose him at this range.

Moreover, it looks as though Godolphin are playing the ol’ team tactics tit for tat by deploying a pacemaker in Scottish for their main hope, Jack Hobbs. Jack has been an infrequent visitor to the track in the last two seasons, his three runs yielding a commendable third to Almanzor in the Champion Stakes over this course and distance, and a win in the Dubai Sheema Classic over a quarter mile further.

The worry is his fragility. Two three-year-old runs on good to firm were excellent – runner up in Golden Horn’s Derby and then a facile victory in the Irish Derby – but he’s not encountered terra as firmer since, and has been pulled out on account of the ground more than once.

We then come to Ulysses, for whom it is very difficult to make a case solely on the evidence of the form book. Thought good enough to run in both the Derby and the Breeders’ Cup Turf last season, the fact remains he’s never bettered a brace of Group 3 victories in his career thus far. But… is Sir Michael Stoute, his trainer, not the master with improving horses as they get older? And does not his very presence in those races last term imply a higher level of ability in his home work? With question marks against the first two in the betting, I put my trust in Sir Michael to deliver this chap ready to run big on Wednesday. 4/1 is fair enough if you’re happy to roll with trainer patterns.

Perhaps the best bet in the race, though, is Decorated Knight each way. Roger Charlton’s son of Galileo has won two of his last three races, both in Group 1 company, and has a record at ten furlongs of 2111. He’s won four of his last five and acts on very fast turf, he’s joint third top rated, is versatile as regards pace, and he’s 10/1 in a place. He’ll do.

Bookie specials on this race

Bet365: 1/4 1-2-3 plus risk-free bet to same stake if you back 4/1+ winner (max £50)

Betfair sports: Free bet to same stake as any 3/1+ winner you back (max £25)

5.00 Royal Hunt Cup (Class 2 Handicap, 1m)

A thirty strong field line up to blaze down the straight mile in this inscrutable weight-for-ability guess up. This is a vanity heat from a punting perspective, and it takes a big man to walk away. I’m walking away. Probably.

For what it’s worth (very little, I’ll have been lucky not good if it cops), these are a few things that may – or may not – be relevant:

– Pace looks to be exclusively middle to high

– Horses dropping back in trip from nine or ten furlongs, and 20/1 or shorter are 4/30 (11 placed) +29 in last twenty years

– Four and five year olds have won 17/20 (85%) from 71% of the runners. They’ve also had 80% of the places from that same 71% population.

So, just for fun, high drawn four or five year old dropping back in trip… gives two Godolphin runners, G K Chesterton and Blair House. The former wants to be on the speed: that’s not really a recipe for success in a race where the last four good to firm winners came from way off the pace. The latter hasn’t run for almost a year, and may race closer to the pace than ideal, but he’s 25/1 and capable.

Fastnet Tempest is my idea of the most likely winner, but not sufficiently likely for me to invest at 10/1; while 40/1 Cote d’Azur would be landing a notable Hunt Cup double having bagged the Thirsk version two starts back on good to firm, and could be the one for a penny win/place given his price.

Bookie specials on this race

Bet365: 1/4 1-2-3-4-5 plus risk-free bet to same stake if you back 4/1+ winner (max £50)

Skybet: Enhanced place odds 1/5 1-2-3-4-5-6

Betfair sports: Free bet to same stake as any 3/1+ winner you back (max £25)

5.35 Sandringham Handicap (Listed, 1m)

In spite of perennial twenty filly fields, this has been a top of the market race in recent times. Indeed since Ascot reopened in 2006 after the Royal Ascot at York sojourn, only one winner has returned longer than 11/1. Nevertheless, John Gosden’s ante post favourite, Gymnaste, is bidding to become the first winner since 2001 to be rated lower than 90 – and only two in that time have been lower than 94. That doesn’t mean she can’t win, of course, but rather that she maybe hasn’t demonstrated the class to best this type of field.

Wesley’s Con Te Partiro (9/1) is a very interesting runner. She’s by a sprinter out of a sprinter, but in her most recent three runs – including on the Breeders’ Cup undercard – she’s shaped like she’s crying out for a mile. She’s a rare closer for Ward and, if settling, she’ll relish conditions. I’m not certain she’ll see the trip out – it’s a stiff mile at Ascot after all, and she’s been racing over shorter around tight turns in the States – but she may be mis-handicapped off 102. Spencer is the perfect pilot for her.

Rain Goddess is the other I want in my corner. Although Aidan O’Brien’s three-year-old handicap record is unspectacular (1/10 since 2009, his only runner in this last of 17 in 2009), this daughter of Galileo – who else? – was never at the races over seven furlongs in the G3 Fred Darling two starts back, but she’ll be far more at home with this drop in grade and rise in distance.

More pertinently, perhaps, she has since run fifth in the French 1000 Guineas where she may have been unsuited by the slow pace. As an Aidan O’Brien/Ryan Moore contender, she’s very unlikely to be sent off at her current quote of 12/1. She merits each way support.

Bookie specials on this race

Bet365: 1/4 1-2-3-4-5 plus risk-free bet to same stake if you back 4/1+ winner (max £50)

Betfair sports: Free bet to same stake as any 3/1+ winner you back (max £25)

And that rounds out the opening dozen races. Good luck with your Day Two wagers!


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