It’s been a while since my last blog, Derby day to be exact, but I never bet much on racing between The Derby and Royal Ascot, and this year was no different. Really looking forward to the 2nd best week in racing, and hopefully we can get off to a good start.
2.30 – Queen Anne Stakes (Group 1) – 1m
Now the obvious place to start here is with Ribchester. The case for him is fairly simple. He’s some way clear of these lot on ORs, he beat Lightning Spear very easily on his last start in the Lockinge, clearly likes the course having won last year’s Jersey and finishing runner up to Minding in the QEII, and does go on fast ground. So I wouldn’t blame anyone for thinking he’s unopposable, but whilst I think he’s clearly the most likely winner I do think he’s worth taking on at the prices. First of all, is his draw, in 1. A low draw is not what you want on the straight mile at Ascot, and with all the other main contenders drawn mid to high, there’s the chance he could get a bit isolated on the far side. Secondly, whilst he does go on fast ground, there’s no doubting he’s much better with cut in the ground. He’d definitely be unopposable with any juice, but this is very quick ground and whilst he’s obviously the class horse, a couple of the others will relish these conditions. The first of these is Lightning Spear, who was 4l behind Ribchester in the Lockinge. That was of course on soft ground which Lightning Spear doesn’t like at all. However, even with the quicker ground, I can’t see Lightning Spear beating Ribchester. To be frank, even with his ideal conditions I just don’t think he’s good enough. Whilst the case can certainly be made for some EW thievery on Lightning Spear, but I much prefer the claims of Mutakayyef. He only ran 4 times last year, but did produce some top class form. He won his first 2 starts, first in a Listed race at York, before winning the Summer Mile here in July. He then went on to be 3rd behind Postponed and Highland Reel in the Juddmonte, and would have been closer had he not been hampered. And whilst he clearly stayed the 10f, I think it’s pretty clear a mile is his best trip. He then rounded off his season with a staying on 3/4l 3rd to the supermare Tepin at Woodbine, another high class piece of form. His reappearance this campaign was disappointing out in Meydan, but I think we can draw a line through that. He had no chance on that yielding ground, but it’s a long way to go to pull a horse out on the day so they sort of had to run him. Back with his optimum conditions here, with a decent enough draw, I’m very confident of a big run. Of course, Ribchester may just be too good, but I’d be very disappointed if he was out of the places. If he returns to the form of those runs in the Juddmonte and over at Woodbine, he’ll give Ribchester a proper race. The rest are not G1 level.
Selection: Mutakayyef 15/2 EW (Betfair)
Note: SkyBet (13/2) doing money back if he loses
3.05 – Coventry Stakes (Group 2) – 6f
Have to say this looks a right tricky one. There’s a lot you can give a chance to in this so it did take me a while to whittle this one down. There’s been a lot of talk about Wesley Ward’s Arawak in the last week or so. I had a watch of his debut, and whilst he won very easily, it was a bit of a nothing race with just the 3 runners, with the other 2 showing little ability. One thing that is key about his debut though was that it was at Belmont. Now you may say why is that an issue? Well, all of Wesley Ward’s best 2 year olds debut at Keeneland. All of them. The fact that he didn’t is perhaps a sign of what they think of him. Make of that what you will. Coolmore have bought into him since then, and whilst ‘the lads’ don’t get it wrong often, I’m happy to leave Arawak alone. I am a big fan of Jessica Harrington’s Brother Bear, who is 2-2 including a Listed race at the Curragh at the end of May. I wouldn’t put anyone off him, but there’s a couple I liked at decent prices. The first of those is Romanised. He won his only start to date impressively back in April, and the form of that has worked out well enough too. The 2nd, Brick by Brick, was disappointing when 4th behind the exciting Commander Grigio, but he went hard from the front and paid for it. The 3rd, Declarationofpeace, who runs in the Windsor Castle later on the card, pissed up in a Dundalk maiden next time. The 4th, Wolfofbagotstreet, finished 2nd to Murillo (also runs here) next time and the 5th, Another Batt, was 2nd behind Black Sails (Albany bound), before winning a Ripon novice race by 5 lengths. So he won a decent race there, this has been the plan ever since and I know Ken Condon thinks a huge amount of him. The other is Nebo for Charles Hills. Now he was sent off 25/1 for his debut win, but he couldn’t have been much more impressive. He absolutely tanked through the race, winning by 2 1/4 lengths from the Frankel colt Westerland. The form of the race is hot too, with the 2nd, 6th, 7th and 13th having all won since, and the 4th and 10th have both finished 2nd. Add to the fact that the race had been used in the past by Richard Hannon for Coventry winners including Canford Cliffs, I’m hopeful he’ll run a nice race. Of the rest, Murillo obviously has to be respected with Aidan’s great record in this race, but I think he’s a bit short for what he’s actually achieved. De Bruyne Horse looked very good when winning the Woodcote despite not handling the track, but the vast majority of the past winners of this race have had no more than 2 starts. I haven’t really been impressed by Denaar, and his form doesn’t amount to much. I very nearly backed Rajasinghe though, but I just thought the form of both Nebo and Romanised amounts to a little more. Split stakes win only on Nebo and Romanised.
Selections: Romanised 16/1 (General) and Nebo 12/1 (General)
3.40 – King’s Stand Stakes (Group 1) – 5f
If I had written this yesterday, I would have ended up tipping a different horse to what my current plan is. Yesterday, it would have been Marsha. At the time she was the 9/2 2nd fav, and my argument would have been that she should have been fav based on her performance in the Palace House. Now she is fav, so I can no longer make that case and I don’t really want to be getting involved at around the 10/3 mark in a race that favourites don’t have a good record in. She definitely deserves to be fav however. That Palace House win carrying the 7lb penalty was in my opinion the best performance this year. She had a lot of these in behind that day, and there’s no reason to think they can reverse that form now she doesn’t have the penalty. That doesn’t actually leave that many in here. Signs of Blessing is one with a different formline however. He’s shown some proper form in the past, having finished 3rd in last year’s Diamond Jubilee and 4th in last year’s Champions Sprint. But those finishing positions don’t really tell the story. He was caught fairly late on both of those occasions, and I just don’t really think he stays 6f. His comeback run this year was huge as well, giving last year’s winner of this, Profitable, 11lb and a thrashing. That was massive. The worry with him is that he might just need soft ground, but I was willing to take a chance with the generous place terms on offer. Ardhoomey is another with a separate formline to Marsha, but whilst I wouldn’t be surprised should he run a big race, I can’t see him being good enough to win though I may have a small play EW on him in the morning. And finally, we have my absolute favourite, Lady Aurelia. Her win in last year’s Queen Mary was the best 2yo performance I have seen. Ever. It was unbelievable. Of course, Wesley Ward’s 2yo always seem to be more precocious than ours, so there’s a question to whether she’d progress at 3. Judging by her win at Keeneland in mid-April, I would like to think she has. I did put her up for this at 6/1 on the day of that race however, so I don’t see any reason to get involved again now.
Selection: Signs of Blessing 6/1 EW (SkyBet, 5 places)
4.20 – St James’s Palace Stakes (Group 1) – 7f 213y
This is a straight match between Churchill and Barney Roy, so I’m not even going to mention the rest as it’s a waste of time. And to be honest, there’s not a whole lot to say about the match either. Churchill won hands down at Newmarket. Yes, Barney Roy didn’t look completely at home on the track and will appreciate the flatter track here. But not everything went Churchill’s way either. And end to end gallop would have suited him much better. He won comfortably, and will win again. The only way the only way I will change my mind on this one is if right before the off Barney Roy is 4/1, a bookie goes 1/4 odds a place and the 8 runners hold up. That’s basically EW thievery of the highest order as he can’t finish out of the 3, and has a (very) small chance of turning the tables on his Newmarket conqueror. But otherwise, it’s a large bet on Churchill for me.
Selection: Churchill 4/6 (General)
5.00 – Ascot Stakes – 2m 3f 210y
I just want to start here by dispelling rumours that a low draw is important here, as it really isn’t at all. I saw some stats earlier (can’t remember where or I’d post them) that said a high draw is not only fine, but in recent years that the majority of winners and placed horses have been drawn high. So if anything, we should be looking for one drawn in double figures. Willie Mullins has won this in 2 of the last 5 renewals, and Ryan Moore rode both of those, so we should probably start with Thomas Hobson. Personally I can’t have him at all. He’s only the price he is because of his connections. He’s going to have to be very good to win this off a mark of 100 on his first flat start for just over 1300 days. All of his best form is with with cut in the ground too, so he’s easily passed over. I think both Who Dares Wins and Beyond Conceit won’t be too far away, but the one I like is Magic Circle for Ralph Beckett. He was unlucky in the Chester Cup when staying on well from a wide draw, and has won over 16.5f (2m 2 1/2f) before so we know he stays the trip. This extreme trip suits him no ends, with the only question mark being the ground as he has never raced on ground faster than good. But at the price, I’m willing to pay to find out.
Selection: Magic Circle 11/1 EW (Betfair/Betfred, 4 places 1/4 odds)
5.35 – Windsor Castle Stakes (Listed) – 5f
Wesley Ward’s pair have clearly got to be respected considering he’s won this twice since 2009, and of his pair I’d prefer Elizabeth Darcy. He’s the one bred for turf and also made his debut at Keeneland, which like I mentioned for Arawak, is important. But it’s Declarationofpeace for me. You could say it’s a negative that he runs here instead of the Coventry, but perhaps they didn’t think they could reverse form with Romanised, and hopefully that one will give Declarationofpeace a nice little form boost too. He was a totally different proposition on his 2nd start though, winning a Dundalk maiden by 6l, giving the Queen Mary bound Treasuring a good thrashing. He’ll do for me, though I will give a mention to James Garfield, who’s already been backed from 66s. He missed the break by a good 8 to 10 lengths, and somehow traded odds on in running before getting tired, which was understandable. It was nevertheless a very impressive debut to finish where he did after completely missing the break, and for those looking for one at a price, he’d be my pick.
Selection: Declarationofpeace 7/2 (General)