21/6/17 – Royal Ascot Day 2

Overall, I think it’s fair to say the bookies will have been drinking a few bottles of champagne on Day 1. For us, it wasn’t the worst day thanks to a little bit of place money on Mutakayyef in the opener at 15/2, before Lady Aurelia absolutely blitzed them in the Kings Stand. Having put her up antepost at 6/1, it ensured profit on the day. You beautiful filly!

Royal Ascot 
2.30 – Jersey Stakes (Group 3) – 7f

Well we could have been gifted a much easier start to Day 2 than we’ve been presented with here. I did not find this one easy to solve at all. Dream Castle for Josie Gordon is a clear contender. He was 2nd to Barney Roy in the Greenham, and he traded very short in running that day at around the 1.05 mark. He just didn’t looked like he stayed, so it was a little bizarre to see him run in the Guineas over a furlong further next time out. Now that wasn’t run at much of a pace, so despite his 5th placed finish, the stamina doubts are still there for me. I think the Commonwealth Cup is the race for him, but of course Godolphin have Blue Point and now Harry Angel for that. Josie does have a good record when riding for Saeed bin Suroor though, but it was his stamina doubts that eventually put me off him. Daban brings 1000 Guineas form to the table, form which is clearly decent given the fact that Winter is an absolute certainty for the Coronation, and that Rhododendron ran very well in the Oaks. But with no fillies’ allowance in this race, I struggle to see her getting the better of Dream Castle. Glastonbury Song is interesting. He was well beaten in the Irish Guineas, but by all accounts he needs fast ground, which we’ve most definitely got here, and I think he’ll outrun his odds. But it’s Le Brivido for me. His French 2000 Guineas 2nd is by some way the best form on offer here. He was only beaten a short head by Brametot who of course has gone on to win the Prix du Jockey Club since. The drop back to 7f will not inconvenience him, in fact it may suit him, as he was only caught very late on by Brametot. He sets a lofty enough standard here, brings a narrow classic defeat back into a Group 3, and for me is the one they all have to beat. 

Selection: Le Brivido 7/2 (Boylesports/Betfred)

3.05 – Queen Mary Stakes (Group 2)

I have to say this doesn’t look the strongest renewal at all. Wesley Ward runs Happy Like A Fool, and by all accounts coming from Stateside, she’s a good thing here. Ward described her as “very special” after Lady Aurelia’s Kings Stand win too. I watched her debut this morning where she won very easily and it was abundantly clear that she’s got talent, and a lot of it. Wesley Ward has won the last 2 runnings of this race with Lady Aurelia and Acapulco, and he could very well make that 3 in a row. To be perfectly honest, the rest don’t seem to be anything special at all. Yes Heartache won well on debut, but Bath maiden winner certainly doesn’t scream Queen Mary winner. You could maybe make a case Mick Channon’s Neola on the back of her 1/2l 2nd to Main Desire though. If not for her setback, you’d have to think Main Desire would be a clear 2nd fav in this, so strictly on that form you’d have to give Neola a squeak. But for me I struggle to see Happy Like A Fool not winning this. Ward’s 2 year olds are usually a hell of a lot more forward than the British 2 year olds, he has a great record in the race, she fits the profile of his winners (once-raced maiden winner at Keeneland) and she doesn’t look to have much to beat. Burns them from the front. 

Selection: Happy Like A Fool 5/4 (General)

3.40 – Duke of Cambridge Stakes (Group 2) – 1m

I think I’ll start with last year’s winner of this, Usherette, who attempts to defend her title. Since then, she’s finished down the field in the Falmouth, before 2 3rds over in France. The French do tend to bring on their horses throughout the year, so you can expect her to improve further from her good 3rd in the Prix d’Ispahan. But I don’t really fancy her chances this time around. First is the fact that this looks a stronger race this year than the one she won last year. And secondly, and more importantly, is the ground. It was soft when she won this last year, and on her only run on good to firm, she bombed out in the Falmouth. She’s passed over easily enough. Godolphin do also have the favourite in Laugh Aloud. I really can’t understand why she’s favourite though. Yes, she won a Group 3 very easily on Derby Day, but that was a very weak race. Whilst she’s clearly still progressing, she’s going to need another considerable step up to take this. Like I said, she shouldn’t be favourite. That honour should go to Qemah. Like Usherette, she won at the Royal meeting last year when winning the Coronation Stakes, and then went on to win another Group 1 at Deauville in July. Yes, she was then disappointing in both the Matron Stakes and on reappearance at Lingfield, but I think there’s excuses for both performances. And whilst you would’ve expected her to win that Lingfield race, Mix and Mingle is certainly no mug, and is actually rated 3lb superior to both Usherette and Laugh Aloud. Add to the fact that Rouget’s often come on significantly for the run, and that Frankie didn’t ask her for a lot, I’d expect her to go close. But the bet for me has to be Smart Call. The ex-South African mare is already a Group 1 winner, having won South Africa’s biggest race, the J&B Met. And she won it very easily too. The handicapper rates her some way clear of these too at 119, with Qemah next best at 114. Now I’m not saying she’s a 119 mare, but I’d be surprised if she’s not at least as good as these lot. Her British debut last month at York was very encouraging too. She stayed on very well on ground she really wouldn’t have liked (good to soft). All the quotes from connections both before and afterwards were that she’d come on significantly for the run, as that effort at York came after 16 months off the track. Ryan Moore takes over and if she’s back to that form of the J&B Met, I think she’ll take the beating here. She’s a big price. 

Selection: Smart Call 8/1 EW (Ladbrokes/Betway/Bet365/Coral)

4.20 – Prince of Wales’ Stakes – 1m 1f 212y

I’m going to start with Highland Reel in what is the richest race of the week. After Ballydoyle didn’t manage a winner on Day 1, I saw plenty of people on twitter speculating all is not right with the Aidan O’Brien string. Come on, it’s a bit premature to be saying that. Deauville, Murillo and Lancaster Bomber all ran very well. Yes, Churchill was very disappointing, as was Declarationofpeace. But I’ve seen people saying the yard is in crisis, and to be frank, that’s bollocks. Probably just annoyed they’ve done their bollocks. Anyway, on to Highland Reel. Like the O’Brien bashers, I won’t be backing him, for all that you can’t not love the horse. He’s got to be close to taking Giants Causeway’s iron horse tag. He goes all over the world, is a multiple Group 1 winner, rarely runs a bad race and is very difficult to pass from the front. The ground is most definitely in his favour in this, but I’m just worried about the trip for all he’s clearly got some pace. You don’t win a Breeder’s Cup at Santa Anita without pace. At 12f, I think he’s an exceptional horse, but at 10f I just think he’s a very good horse. At the prices, I reluctantly looked elsewhere. Jack Hobbs also commands huge respect. He’s a multiple Group 1 winner, having won the Irish Derby (by 5 lengths) and was very impressive in landing the Sheema Classic on World Cup night. He’s obviously a top class horse at his best, but I do have a few concerns about him in this. First is the ground. Whilst that Irish Derby win did come on good to firm ground, it is widely recognised that he probably needs softer ground nowadays after that injury he suffered in the Jockey Club Stakes on Guineas day last year. His impressive Dubai win came on yielding ground as well, which would back that up. Whilst I’m not saying he won’t go on the ground, I just think he’s much better now with a bit of cut. My other concern is the trip. He’s simply a better horse at a mile and a half. The other one at the head of the market is Ulysses. All I hear about this one is this “typical Sir Michael Stoute improver” shite. In all seriousness, he’s clearly got a decent chance. His Gordon Richards win was a good effort. Whether he’d have beaten Deauville had they not watered is another matter. But he did win and he won well. Having only raced the 8 times, he’s obviously still going to be improving too. My worry with him is I don’t quite think he’s got the ability of some of these. On his only 2 tries at G1 level, he was hammered in the Derby (forgivable) and a well beaten 4th in the Breeder’s Cup race won by Highland Reel. He’s clearly a good horse, but I have my reservations as to whether he’s good enough to win what looks a strong Group 1. Instead, I’m willing to take a chance on Decorated Knight. He’s now a 2-time Group 1 winner, and whilst they were weak Group 1s, he still won them. The one in Meydan was especially weak, but he got in a bit of trouble that day and did well to win in the end. The Tattersalls Gold Cup win though really impressed me. He beat Somehow and Deauville well that day, and they’re certainly no mugs. He wasn’t even meant to win that day either, as he hates soft ground, so I think he can be marked up significantly for that win. He’s obviously got to improve again here, but he’s come back this year in really good form and with his optimum conditions and trip here, I think he’s decent EW value. 

Selection: Decorated Knight 8/1 EW (Bet365/Betway)

5.00 – Royal Hunt Cup (Heritage Handicap) – 1m

Of course this race is a bit of a spectacle, but it’s a bloody nightmare to find the winner. I don’t think I’ve ever backed the winner, and I’m not expecting to do so this time around either. But I’ll throw a couple of darts at it, you never know. I can see the case for El Vip, but I’m not backing one at that price in a field like this. I’m not a fan of Fastnet Tempest either, as I don’t think he stays a strongly run mile. My first arrow is Bossy Guest. He was a big eye catcher in the Victoria Cup, only being beat 2l despite having no room from about 2f out. He’s run well here before, and whilst he hasn’t won for a while, I think he’s worth chancing. The other also came from that Victoria Cup in George William. Of course there are going to be hard luck stories in these big field handicaps, but he didn’t have much room either and did finish rather quickly. He’s only up 3lb for that and with a clear run shouldn’t be too far away. They are by no means confident selections, but there’s plenty of extra places available so I’ll split stakes and back them both EW. 

Selections: Bossy Guest 16/1 EW (SkyBet, 6 places) and George William 11/1 EW (Ladbrokes/Coral, 5 places)

5.35 – Sandringam Handicap (Listed) – 1m

Well this is no easier than the Hunt Cup is it. If we haven’t backed a winner before these last 2 races we could well be in trouble. I don’t have much of an opinion on this race at all, but I’m a big Tisbutadream fan so I’ll chance her. She’s 4-4 in handicaps including against older horses here last month, is clearly still progressing at some rate and back against her own sex, she must have some sort of a chance. Her half sister, Persuasive, won this race last year too. 

Selection: Tisbutadream 25/1 EW (Bet365, 5 places)


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