No preliminaries, we all know why we’re here…… Kick On!
1:15 pm – Buckingham Palace Handicap (Handicap)
“Cripes” as Bunter might say. Tricky or what? I have cogitated about this field for almost 40 minutes and only managed to narrow it down to a dozen. I don’t think the draw is going to matter much, and the rain which is expected won’t get there until 2:00 pm’ish, according to Aunty Beeb and her finger-out-of-the-window forecast. That means we can forget ground concerns. Statistically, the straight 7f at Ascot in big fields marginally favours hold-up horses, who can arrive off the pace, which will be possibly set by FIRST CONTACT, GIFTED MASTER, ALEXANDER JAMES and GLEN SHIEL.
The favourite and top-rated is John Gosden’s DAARIK. By the time Mr and Mrs Armchair-Punter have decided to have a bet, he will be shorter than 4/1 especially with Frankie on board. Frankly, I’d rather not have a bet than go 4s in a 24 runner handicap.
Best-bred is probably Dubawi’s gelded son MUTAMAASIK, who is the second-favourite at 7s. He is consistent having never lost a 7f race, but his price will probably contract further. I suppose I grudgingly like KAESO – but he looks as though he’s been backed for the best money already, as he is now 7s as well. Of the two at that price, I’d rather have the MUT. My longshot is with David O’Meara, SHELIR. He was a Listed 7f winner in Ireland for Dermot Weld last spring and then lost his way. He looked as though he’s had received a bit of TLC from his new trainer who also has FIRMAMENT and the Reserve SO BELOVED. I suspect it’s too late now, but if SO BELOVED does get a run he would have a little of my money.
MUTAMAASIK take 7/1 or better – SHELIR e/w
1:50 pm – Queen Anne Stakes (Group 1)
If I run the statistical ruler over the runners, I leave myself with a shortlist of MOHAATHER – SKARDU – SPACE TRAVELLER – CIRCUS MAXIMUS and DUKE OF HAZZARD. I can make cases for several others without using the stats, and of those, the strongest heart flutter is triggered by FOX CHAIRMAN. Let me be clear about TEREBELLUM. She ain’t GOLDIKOVA and that’s pretty well who you need to be to win this as a girl. She is also stepping up in class. Lots of girls do, they don’t all have to have my money though.
CIRCUS MAXIMUS is probably the classiest of these, having won the St James Palace Stakes (wearing blinkers for the first time), before a narrow defeat to Too Darn Hot in the Sussex Stakes. He went on to win The Prix du Moulin by a nose and was finally 4th in the Breeders Cup LTO. He will represent Aiden O’Brien’s fourth win in this race if successful – but he is 0/3 on a straight track. DUKE OF HAZZARD is quite a sexy price at 12/1 as I write and he too has improved for blinkers. He has always been highly regarded at home and was impressive in The G2 Celebration Mile at Goodwood LTO, where he produced a career-best mark. He needs a strong pace and if I have a concern it is Paul Cole’s lack of Ascot winners for the last seven years. The absence of a trainer’s Royal Ascot spoils also applies to Marcus Tregonning who hasn’t had a Royal Ascot winner since 2003, and he brings MOHAATHER to the fray. He won the Horris Hill as a 2YO, then came back and won the Greenham. He suffered a bad stone bruise and was off until the QEII (G1) where he ran on Heavy. He’s best on a straight track, and the ground might be OK. by then have had the sting taken out of it by some summer showers. SKARDU is best fresh and has claims based on decent runs in very decent company. He won The Craven Stakes, was 3rd in the Guineas and he’s never run worse than 4th in a G1. Check out values on a site like www.oddschecker.com, from which as I write, I can see that SKARDU is a best-priced 16/1 and William Hill is offering 5 places at 1/5 odds. Finally, FOX CHAIRMAN hasn’t raced for almost a year, but Andrew Balding has high hopes for further improvement, especially taking into consideration Fox’s luck in running. He won the Steventon (listed) LTO, despite losing a shoe; had a luckless passage when 2nd in the Hampton Court and again when a 4½l 3rd to Circus Maximus in the Dee Stakes. SPACE TRAVELLER might be considered a bit exposed and won The Jersey Stakes last year, he picked up a G2 at Leopardstown and seemed to hate The Breeders Cup Mile, but Richard Fahey has had time to freshen him up and his price seems too big by some 4 or 5 points.
SKARDU e/w (16/1 for 5 places) – DUKE OF HAZZARD e/w – CIRCUS MAXIMUS to beat all five mentioned above (insurance!)
2:25 pm – Ribblesdale Stakes (Group 2)
In a world gone mad, this race now effectively becomes an Oaks Trial as opposed to a race for Epsom also-rans, which it normally is. FRANKLY DARLING caught the eye and advertised her claims on the First Day of the Return; (there is something slightly Pol Pottish about the way we refer to the “Come back”). She bolted up – we often say “she caught the eye”, but in this case, it is absolutely true. She was visually exciting. Another Gosden filly also went into the notebook, wen winning the Lingfield Oaks Trial. The nearest racecourse in running style – sharp downhill, left-hand turn into the straight and slightly uphill to finish – MISS YODA was mar4ked down in may people’s books as being Group 3 at best, but mostly Listed. She is not Oaks material, and in the context of this race historically, this is where she would have come having been, for example, a disappointing 7th in the Oaks. So we’ve saved ourselves a lot of time! From that Lingfield race, ANASTARSIA got unbalanced coming downhill and into the bend – Ascot’s course will suit her better and the 50/1 is way too big.
Aidan O’Brien has a couple in ENNISTYMON and PASSION. As AOB has won three of the last six Ribblesdales, they are worth considering. PASSION might be one of those slow-starting horses that AOB can display the patience of Job over. The other has only had two runs but scored in a Leopardstown maiden first time up.
I think the way to manage this is to bet FRANKLY DARLING for the Oaks e/w now at 12/1. If she wins The Ribblesdale, she will be 2/1 or less for the Oaks. That means you have the places for nothing. I’d also back PASSION for this e/w and again for the Oaks e/w.
3:00 pm – King Edward VII Stakes (Group 2)
The blue-blooded MOGUL was a good kid, ate up and did all his homework, and now turns up here carrying many of Ballydoyle’s Derby hopes. However, as you will know we have already been carried away by KAMEKO’s 2000 Guineas performance – and Kameko beat MOGUL in the Futurity last November – by 10l. OK, he might have improved, and he might win this, but unless something dramatic has changed, I don’t think I need to back him today. There is nothing else here that looks like a value bet, so I suggest another glass of the chilled Widow and just pass me one of those delicious socially-distanced prawns, please.
3:35 pm – King’s Stand Stakes (Group 1)
The Kings Stand has only been a G1 for the last 12 years, and as you probably know, all of the winners were rated 111+, had a maximum of 29 career races and had run at G1 or G2 level. Thet just leaves BATTAASH – EQUILATERAL – GLASS SLIPPERS. All the money is for BATTAASH for Charlie Hills, but Jim Crowley’s 5f Ascot record is dismal, 2% Strike Rate, 6/43 W+P 14%, and BATTAASH himself has never won here… and yes I realise that is down to Blue Point beating him two year’s running. He also benefits from being 9lb in hand of his main rival (less 3lb sex allowance). He’s Odds On, difficult to oppose and nothing else seems to have a chance. Charlie Hills has EQUILATERAL and as he has been gelded over the winter, had the sun on his back in Meydan, and his figures off a break of less than two months are 5/6 and one place. The Prix de L’Abbaye winner, GLASS SLIPPERS will be there or thereabouts and I’ll use her for the exotics – I think the first three are mentioned here.
EQUILATERAL e/w – All 3 for a CFC and a Combination Trifecta
4:10 pm – Duke Of Cambridge Stakes (Group 2)
This used to be the Windsor Forest Stakes, a straight mile for fillies and mares. The French have got a great record in this and note should be taken of Frankie’s ride, WASMIYA. She was successful in 2019 at Maisons-Laffitte, and won a listed race at Baden-Baden beating Sir Mark Prescott’s Miss Celestial by 3½l. She was 1¾ lengths second to Spinning Memories in a Longchamp Listed race where she ran in good style. The favourite is JUBILOSO, trained by Sir Michael Stoute who has won this four times with seventeen runners. But she cost me money at Goodwood and indeed her last three races she has been beaten when amongst the short-priced market leaders. So either something was amiss – or her head wasn’t in it. That makes me want to swerve her. The form connection appears to be various lines through Billesdon Brook, with NAZEEF appearing to have the measure of both Jubiloso and LAVENDERS BLUE. She had her first Listed race at Sandown in the Snowdrop Stakes and despite a poor draw, beat dual Group 1 winner Billesdon Brook by three parts of a length with a 7lb advantage. John Gosden is sparkling, but it’s not a great price.
NAZEEF win – WASMIYA e/w
4:40 pm – Ascot Stakes (Class 2)
Applying the trends sets, we’re left with VERDANA BLUE – MOON KING – LAND OF OZ – DUBAWI FIFTY – COEUR DE LION – ROCHESTER HOUSE – CHARLIE D and BLUE LAUREATE
I can rule out a number of those, but my eye is taken all the time by the latter. BLUE LAUREATE’s trainer, Ian Williams, won this last year with Grand Visir, and BLUE LAUREATE has been aimed -and trained for – this race. He was third in the Cesarewitch Trial at Newmarket last year and had a good blow eight days ago at Haydock in a handicap over 2m. Providing this isn’t too soon, the extra 4f might allow him to get a decent rhythm going. Cieren Fallon, who just gets better and better, is in the plate. DUBAWI FIFTY is best fresh, and trainer Karen McLintock, has been talking him up. He was close-up in the Northumberland Plate first-time out last year and he was runner-up to Lagostovegas in this race in 2018 and runs off the same mark of 97. Everything looks set for another huge run in this tricky final race.
BLUE LAUREATE e/w and DUBAWI FIFTY e/w