Spy is taking a short break and will be back on July 1st in good time for the Eclipse meeting at Sandown on July 3rd/ 4th.
ROYAL ASCOT – SATURDAY June 20th:
2.30: Ballydoyle’s reputation preceded her on debut as she started a warm order at the Curragh. Although staying on, that finishing spark did seem missing, so unless she has improved since (very possible in the light of the stable’s showing this week) enthusiasm for her here is somewhat tempered. Tonkinese looks a better prospect on form, having finished third to Air Force Blue on debut and won readily next time. Once again he does not exactly look blessed with speed, but gets a marginal vote.
3.05: After two wins in handicaps where his draw meant he should have been out with the washing, Mahsoob meets his opponents here on a level playing field and ought to win again. A 9lb rise for the latest York win fails to tell the full story and, Mahsoob is taken to register the hat-trick in what is likely to be his last foray in a handicap. He can confirm form with First Flight, whereas this is the sort of event in which Educate could run a big race.
3.40: Back to twelve furlongs, after two excellent efforts over ten furlongs this season, Postponed can gain his first win of the year. This is a strong line-up (connections may be rueing not having run in the Coronation at Epsom) but he is shaping up as a serious King George contender and can confirm that now by accounting for Eagle Top and Telescope.
4.20: Brazen Beau looks the one to beat on his record in Australia and judging by the beat of the jungle drums extolling is virtues. As the betting suggests Mustajeeb looks his biggest danger, although it is somewhat surprising to see a son of Nayef competing for sprinting honours. Due Diligence and Wandjina are interesting in a race that makes no betting appeal.
5.00: The wheel-spin that is the Wokingham does not get any easier with the passing of time. Watchable, Gamesome (shapes as if this has been the target all season) and Kickboxer are three suggestions against the field.
5.35: The enigma that is the Queen Alexandra rings down the curtain on a great week. Wicklow Brave has been trained for it – all his form is on easier ground however. Marzocco would appear to be his biggest danger but faces a trip well in excess of any so far encountered. It’s been a long time since Times Up tasted victory, although it could be argued his fifth in the Yorkshire Cup suggests all is not lost. We do know he will at least stay the trip.
ROYAL ASCOT – FRIDAY June 19th:
2.30: Illuminate is the big word here; but her form is nothing out of the ordinary so it requires a leap of faith to support her at this stage. With two American fillies in opposition – Laxfield Road, a wide margin winner on dirt at Keenland, and Back At The Ranch, a winner at Belmont – the French represented by Spanish Romance and Elegant Supermodel, and a host of home-trained fillies open to improvement, this looks like one to sit out.
3.05: Stravagante was as impressive winner as we have seen at Epsom on Derby Day when he produced a sustained run to pass the entire field to win the opening handicap. That was over ten furlongs; today’s extra two furlongs may not be ideal but if he stays he is a serious player. After two desperate runs this season, Ol’ Man River – described as being on the Derby short-list during the winter – is expected to show more now in a first time tongue-tie.
3.40: Hootenanny, Limato and Tiggy Wiggy promise to provide a thrilling finish to this sudden death sprint. Proven on lightning quick ground, Hootenanny is marginally preferred. There is always a chance that a blistering early pace may cut a throat or two and one of the three big guns may crack. In that case late-closer Tendu, who was desperately unlucky last time, may pick up a few pieces.
4.20: Found is primed to win this and apparently fancied to do so. That said she has not looked quite the filly this year that she promised to become when going into winter quarters. Maybe she is back in top form now in which case she ought to oblige. But obviously she is highly tested on all flanks.
5.00: Arab Dawn looks to have been laid out for this and on revised terms should gain revenge on Astronereus when third at Newmarket last month and confirm placings with Watersmeet. A good draw and the ability to handle the ground also bolsters his claims.
5.30: Here we have a tough finale for which Aloft represents the class act and will doubtless be a popular selection, particularly given his trainer’s past record in this. However, it may pay to take a chance with the progressive Yarrow who is bred for the trip, will handle the surface and under his able partner can hopefully overcome a poor draw.
ROYAL ASCOT – THURSDAY June 18th:
2.30: It looks like it’s Richard Hannon from Richard Hannon in the Norfolk. With his form being franked in all directions, King Of Rooks, so impressive at Sandown, has to be the call to beat Log Out Island.
3.05: Time Test has matured since last season as was evident at Newbury on his reappearance when he built on the promise shown with a fluent success from a mark of 93 in a handicap. He is capable of progressing further and is expected to take this step up in class in stride.
3.40: Many will consider Pleascach to be the third leg of a favourite treble here but the Irish Guineas winner (who may have been fortunate to beat Found) now has to grind it out over twelve furlongs. Given it is no certainty this trip will suit she is surely short enough. Even if she does stay effectively, she still faces several on the upgrade, including Pamona and a much improved filly in Curvy, who chinned Derby fourth Giovanni Canaletto at the Curragh last month. Whatever happens with the favourite it is hard to see the last-named out of the frame here.
4.20: This year’s Gold Cup is a tough nut to crack. Forgotten Rules is obviously good – you could argue he won the equivalent of this in October when taking a strong Group 2 over this track. The big question marks however are his dependence on easy ground (will be watered overnight) and his ability to stay the trip (looks likely but until they do it you never know for sure). Conditions are not ideal, nor are they for Tac De Boistron. Mizzou is an interesting new kid on the block, as is Kingfisher who chased home Australia in last year’s Irish Derby. His trainer is brilliant at getting horses to relax, which is essential in order for them to stay extreme trips. Vent De Force may struggle to confirm Sandown form with Trip To Paris, who is creeping toward this level. He has a serious turn of foot that could propel him into the prize-money.
The last two races are highly competitive three-year-old handicaps peppered with possibilities. Assuming we see the true Time Test earlier in the day, Dissolution should be hard to beat in the 5.35.
ROYAL ASCOT – WEDNESDAY June 17th:
2.30: Last a winner at Goodwood in the Richmond, after a trio of thirds this season (twice behind Gleneagles) many consider the Jersey to be tailor-made for Ivawood. He must have a major chance but negatives are his low draw (at the time of writing not a plus) and a 5lb penalty, meaning his current price looks thin enough. As a juvenile he was physically ahead of most of his generation; whereas that gap has been bridged now. His ability remains a constant but he faces a serious improver in Hathal for one, who is fancied although connections will not want to see the ground too firm. Toscanini, Fadhayyil and Bossy Guest are others to consider.
3.05: As suspected the race Besharah won here on debut looks solid and has thrown up winners. She overcame a slow start and greenness to win impressively and faces her first serious test now. The draw could be a concern but she looks a quality filly. This cut-and-thrust affair is never an easy race to bag. Raw speed is represented by the American filly Bruised Orange and Rah Rah, both of whom could supply the biggest dangers.
3.40: Integral bids to follow up on last year’s victory and after her pleasing effort against the colts in the Lockinge looks a solid favourite. Cladocera and Euro Charline look her main dangers but on all known form they would struggle to beat Integral.
4.20: Our evidence for the claims of Free Eagle at this level are scant, but he has always appealed as a top class proposition. After his effort on unsuitable ground in last year’s Champion Stakes (in front of Western Hymn), he ended the season looking as if the sky could be the limit. Although he lacks experience, always highly thought of, he returns at the deep end as a deserved favourite. It is tempting to think he will win this in preparation for a possible tilt in the Eclipse.
5.00: As you would expect the Hunt Cup is fiercely competitive. Spark Plug is not entitled to beat Ayaar on Spring Cup form, but he was caught on the back foot that day and has since improved and made amends. He is stronger and more focused this year. However it threatens to be tight again, particularly with GM Hopkins who also enters the reckoning. The race does not stop there though, making this too hard to call.
5.35: This is a tough finale to the second day. I am inclined to oppose Always Smile, but nominating the winner is tough. The Listed race at York won by Sperry looks a good place to start. Unexposed Mothers Finest and Touchline tie in on various lines through the winner; Kodiva would have a chance on juvenile form although she is making her seasonal reappearance.
ROYAL ASCOT – TUESDAY June 16th:
2.30: If the market is to be believed it is France versus Hong Kong here. However, Solow and Able Friend may not be entirely bombproof for punting purposes. Impressive at the Meydan Carnival and a ready winner since, the bulk of Solow’s form is on easier ground. A prolific winner in the Far East and described as the best horse in Hong Kong, Able Friend will have no problems with the ground, although of course he is required to transfer that form now. Pressed, he would be the preference. Of the rest only Night Of Thunder has a realistic chance on form. We may see better from Cougar Mountain now he is equipped with cheekpieces, but even so he is climbing the north face without the equivalent of grappling irons.
3.05: This year’s Coventry is likely to go to Ireland. Round Two looks speedy but the Ballydoyle operation has a good line to him through Washington DC. It is therefore likely that stable confidence in Air Force One is not misplaced. His debut win has been franked in a race that is working out well and is taken to score. The American representative Finnegan is stepping outside his comfort zone over this extra furlong and will find this a different sort of test altogether from his latest win over the minimum at Pimlico. Improvement is required from the rest. Age Of Empire was impressive at York and another step forward (not impossible) would see him in contention. After a promising debut, Sir Roger Moore will have his day down the line but his draw combined with his inexperience means he will raise an eyebrow or two if he wins.
3.40: Shamal Wind is the fly-in-the-ointment here against sprinters that otherwise are no strangers to one another. Muthmir is not entirely convincing on fast ground; outside the obvious, Rangali (sure to improve on his latest run behind Muthmir) could be the one to consider at a price.
4.20: It is hard to look beyond Gleneagles who should add this to a brace of Group 1 successes so far this season. The presence of the French Guineas winner Make Believe makes it interesting but he looks to have something to find. Consort is the wild card and looks likely to develop into a top class performer given time. He has earned his place but this may come a little too soon. Belardo could only be considered if the ground altered to soft – something that is very unlikely.
5.00: There is a strong contingent of unexposed Irish contenders here – spearheaded by Clondaw Warrior. Fit from a recent spin over hurdles, Elishpour would not be a million on French form and looks a typical Tony Martin plot for something like this, although firm ground could be a worry. Asbury Boss is another to take the eye. Whilst holding chances, the home team looks exposed.
5.35: Ard San Aer, Ruby Notion, Washington DC and Soapy Aitken look the four principals here. Although a winner on soft last time, don’t be fooled that it is essential for Ard San Aer who looks pretty speedy and has a good draw. He looks overpriced.
SATURDAY JUNE 13TH:
Sandown: 2.55: Although he can get fiery beforehand, Waady was impressive on this track in April (holds Profitable on that run) and did his prospects no harm when fourth to Ascot-bound Adaay at Newbury next time when starting slowly. Reunited with Dane O’Neill, who knows and understands what makes him tick, he faces easier opposition here and can make it count. Once-raced Likely is hard to evaluate but will need to be at the top of his game to win this after an absence of a year.
4.05: After his debut win at Leicester (beat a subsequent winner) Classic Win now takes the handicap route. Apparently he has improved since and, despite my aversion to this once great stable these days, word suggests he may be the exception to the normal rule.
York: 3.45: Before heading for better things, recent Godolphin acquisition Scalzo is expected to justify the move in the Class 2 sprint handicap confined to three-year-olds. Already short enough in the betting I am prepared to watch him win.
Chester: 4.15: Given half a chance by the handicapper, you can set your watch by Spirit Of Law. Back to a winnable mark now if one includes his rider’s claim, and approaching his time of year, after promise at Epsom last week he ought to go well in this competitive handicap from his good draw. That said an easier task would have been preferable for this six-year-old.
FRIDAY JUNE 12TH:
Sandown: 3.50: But for pulling too hard last time at York, Field Of Fame would be a confident selection here based on his promising third to Mahsoob at Newbury. Although beaten by the same rival next time (point of fact ran well considering he was too free), he faced a Group horse in a handicap so there was no disgrace in defeat, but he will need to settle here to be taken seriously.
York: 3.40: It’s been three years since Mehdi last tasted success, something that tempers any confidence in this sprint handicap. Third here at the Dante meeting over course and distance, he ought to be on the premises once more.
NEWBURY THURSDAY JUNE 11TH:
Newbury: 2.20: Plenty of debutants line up with attractive pedigrees in the opener, but of course as we all know that is often only half the story. Given the improvement Richard Hannon’s newcomers are showing after their first outing it would be no surprise to see Papa Luigi go in, but, saddled with an unfavourable draw (which his experience and Ryan Moore may be able to negate) a chance is taken with House Of Commons who is reputed to be useful.
3.25: Encore L’Amour’s recent second to Lady Of Dubai is just about the best form on offer here but the subsequent Oaks third did win with plenty of authority that day, meaning her claims are far from cut-and-dried. Of greater interest is Speedy Boarding, a tidy winner last time (very much expected) despite the fact her stable was not firing. Lightly raced and well thought of, she can take this leap in class. A decent showing from Journey (second to her last time) in the 2.50 will boost her claims.
EPSOM JUNE 6th:
2.00: Stravagante has hinted he could be capable of considerably better on all his runs to date and gets his chance in this handicap from a mark of 89. This rating is reasonable based on what he has achieved so far but he needs to pull out more to beat some more experienced rivals.
2.35: With a good draw, lining up with best form, and the likelihood of improving on his latest win now returned to six furlongs, Nelspruit (a winner on Goodwood’s switchback) is the logical selection here.
3.10: Considering the prize-money on offer the turnout for this year’s Coronation Cup is little short of a disgrace. Were it not for Prince Khalid Abdullah this would have attracted little short of Group 3 contenders at best. Dolniya and Flintshire are the only ones whose names sit comfortably in the line-up. Preference has to be for the filly, who should confirm Meydan form with Flintshire, whom she has beaten twice so far this year.
3.45: As it is designed to be, the Dash is fiercely competitive. Cutting to the chase, well-drawn Perfect Muse seems to have as good a chance as any. Arguably a tad unlucky last time at Goodwood and with a good apprentice booked, she should go well.
4.30: And so to this year’s Derby, a race that does not look one of the best renewals. Racing is all about opinions and those who are prepared to swim against the tide often have the most success. First things first: I feel Golden Horn is an extremely doubtful stayer. The decision to run here in preference to the French equivalent looks a poor one. It is no good saying he was not stopping at the end of the Dante – that was over an extended mile-and-a-quarter, whereas the Derby will be run at a breakneck pace over nearly two furlongs further. There is nothing in Golden Horn’s pedigree to suggest this will suit. Jack Hobbs could easily overturn the form from York but his wins to date leave him with something to find. The message for Elm Park (who will not like the track and could only be considered if the ground changed to soft) is far from positive. Of the rest, Giovanni Canaletto is something of a talking horse, whilst his stable seem to have greater faith right now in Kilimanjaro. Neither appeal. Perhaps this is the year to throw up a big price winner. In that case Storm The Stars seems to be coming to hand and will at least stay; and Moheet, a horse I have always liked but that is discarded by Frankie Dettori in favour of the favourite, shapes as if he will stay and could run better than current odds suggest.
EPSOM JUNE 5th:
2.00: Two days of pulsating racing starts with a tricky enough event, appropriately enough on Oaks day, for fillies. Several are capable but it depends which filly consents to turn up. The front two in the betting look dicey. Odeliz is making a meal of winning and so far the signs are that Lightning Thunder will never recover the sort of form that saw her finish second in the English and Irish Guineas last year. Bold Lass, Crowley’s Law and Don’t Be are all in form but face a hike in grade. From the side-lines Victoria Regina makes more appeal, whilst, although statistics are against her as a three-year-old, Arabian Queen should improve for this step up in trip and could run well in a race that presents punters with no apparent edge.
2.35: Against fair but exposed rivals, Seagull Star looks an interesting contender in his first attempt at a handicap. Considered a Group horse last year, a mark of 93 looks fair. Last seen at Royal Ascot, there is obviously a fitness doubt so any market support would be a positive.
3.10: Now that his right trip has been established Arod could be worth one more spin of the coin in this Group 3. Both his runs this campaign entitle him to win this and, having finished fourth in last year’s Derby, we know he handles the track. This is his chance to shine.
4.30: Featuring the English Guineas winner and a consistent performer at this level as well as several improving fillies, this year’s Oaks looks a quality contest. It is tempting to believe that Jack Naylor (did someone think they had a colt?) has better form (in front of Legatissimo and Together Forever last season) and achieved more when fourth at the Curragh in the Irish Guineas than Legatissimo did when scoring at Newmarket. There is also a doubt about Legatissimo staying the trip here and, despite bullish noises emanating from her camp, she looks a filly to oppose. Lightly-raced Crystal Zvezda was impressive at Newbury and the news for her since has been encouraging. Her turn of foot could prove crucial. Several of the opposition might struggle over this trip; one filly that should relish it is Lady Of Dubai, who appeared to thrive over ten furlongs at Goodwood and has not too much to find with some of the principals on juvenile form. However, she looks more of an each-way player. Jack Naylor has the form, looks an ideal candidate over this trip and can come out on top. Crystal Zvezda and possibly Lady Of Dubai can follow her home.