It’s Ladies Day on Thursday with the Royal meeting’s centrepiece – the Ascot Gold Cup – holding sway.
The ground was very fast today and so watering is planned for Wednesday night. Just how much water goes on and what it does to the going will have a major impact on some races tomorrow – particularly the showpiece.
On an already tricky card, this doubt about the going makes the scrutiny of each race no easier
2.30 Norfolk Stakes (Group 2 – 2yos – 5 furlongs)
On paper this looks a shoot out between the Richard Hannon pair of King of Rooks and Log Out Island. Both these two had the same owner earlier this season but after impressive wins have been sold to Qatar and Dubai interests respectively.
King of Rooks’ form of his last win has been advertised this week by the performances of the beaten Steady Pace, Areen and most notably Buratino. It would be dangerous to take that totally at face value though no matter how impressive he was. The winner very much had the run of the race compared to the other three – and there can be no doubt that Buratino is massively improved since.
Buratino’s form behind Log Out Island earlier this season is also no real reflection on his prowess now. There was much to like about Log Out Island’s victory though – and the time was very good.
In the run up to Ascot last week it seemed clear that team Hannon wanted to keep this pair apart. It was always going to be difficult for Godolphin to run Log Out Island in the Coventry on Tuesday though where they had other interests.
Owners must have had the final say in him running here and I think a stiff 5 furlongs is probably right for Log Out Island anyway.
I don’t see a lot between this pair but the price on Log Out Island at 11/4 is much the most attractive and he’s my pick to prevail (with his rival close to Evens in comparison)
If there’s an outsider lurking it could be James Given’s unbeaten Jazz Legend. This trainer’s charges usually improve for their debuts and he’s by the same sire (Scat Daddy) that Wesley Ward’s US juvenile stars are usually by
3.05 Tercentenary Stakes (Group 3 – 3yos – 1ml 2 fur)
Roger Charlton used the same Newbury handicap that his star Al Kazeem won as a 3yo to unleash Time Test this season. He certainly looked up to Group 3 standard there and will take some beating. His price is ludicrously low on what he has achieved though.
Bocca Bacciata, a filly from Ireland, has probably achieved most and is probably better value. I am worried that she might prefer easier ground though so much of her chance will depend on what watering is done
Unlikely I’ll be betting on this heat
3.40 Ribblesdale Stakes (Group 2 – 3yo fillies – 1ml 4fur)
While there are some nice types for the future here, the Irish 1,000 Guineas winner Pleascach is the clear standout.
That win was almost certainly over a trip short of her best. Jim Bolger nominated the Irish Derby as her target after such is the esteem she is held in (described as the best mile and a half filly she has trained)
There may have been a bit of salesmanship in those comments as she was subsequently snapped up by Godolphin.
I still think she is someway above these and has to be the selection although betting at odds on isn’t really my thing.. Curvy and Pamona are nice types who both seemed a bit of time to find their strides last time – I’m not sure if Ascot with its short straight will be the ideal track for either
For a recommendation I’m going to combine her with my fancy in the first race
1.5pts win double (Ladbrokes slightly best as I write)
Log Out Island 11/4
4.20 Gold Cup (Group 1 – 4yo+ – 2ml 4fur)
The ground situation is crucial here as favourite Forgotten Rules is a doubtful starter if it’s deemed too quick.
Until we know if he’s in or out it’s hard to analyse this race.
I have backed Vent De Force ante post and think he’ll run a solid race nonetheless. He was hampered behind Mizzou and for me there isn’t much between the pair.
Mizzou is a shorter price though and I’m just a little concerned that after connections nominated Sandown as his next target after his Ascot win, he then didn’t turn up for that race
The last two races on the card are both handicaps with 3yos only and littered with improving types who could be ahead of their handicap marks.
A low draw seemed best in today’s Royal Hunt Cup so that must have a slight advantage in the Britannia at 5.00. (Again though watering could have an effect on this)
Rotherwick was the only one to try and give ‘handicap good thing’ Jack Hobbs a race on his debut. A drop in trip here maybe not quite what he needs though.
Mutarakez got going very late before winning with a bit in hand at Haydock and does looks a Group horse in the making. By not winning too far he has only gone up 6lbs for that win and could still have some room for manoeuvre off a mark of 101. He is top of my shortlist from those at the front of the betting with 10/1 currently available
At a big price I am also drawn to Room Key who might have finished closer at Sandown last time but for traffic problems. He was thought highly enough of to start off his season in the 2,000 Guineas but has enough quality about him to make me think his mark of 101 is workable for a horse who still has some improvement in him. It’s the high draw in 27 that may be an issue here but at 40/1 I would be prepared to take a small chance.
It’s no surprise on a race as hard as this that many firms offer 5 places and a couple are already ¼ odds 123456!
The final race is not much easier. A win for Time Test earlier in the day would be a boost for his Newbury victims Dissolution, Dutch Uncle and Space Age. Of the principals I prefer the progressive King Bolete however who I suspect has some pounds in hand of his current mark of 89. Taper Tantrum looked a winner waiting to happen at Epsom 12 days ago but that’s plenty soon enough to be running again.
Of the bigger odds, top weight Rocky Rider catches the eye with the excellent Edward Greatrex claiming 7lb off his back. He’s pedigree is full of stamina and so I can see improvement coming at this trip.33/1 is worth a squeak each way
Best of luck!