The fifth and final day of Royal Ascot, and thankfully we are in the fortunate position of not having to chase profits, so no desperate lumping, we hope anyway, unless the dreaded thought of not a bean from the first five races, but that doesn’t even bare thinking about! It has been intense so far, and the pressure has been on, hopefully if you’re reading this, you’ve made a few quid and are either playing with Billy Hills, Joe Coral, Paddy Power or Mr Ladbrokes’ money!
The Chesham Stakes is a listed race over the specialist seven furlongs open for two year old colts and fillies. The race has a long history of going over to the Irish Sea, and they have the favourite once more with the Jim Bolger trained Move to Strike. She hacked up in a six furlong maiden at The Curragh last time out and is respected, but she looks plenty short in a race where many others are open to further improvement. Such is my way, that I like to pick two in these open stakes races, and the first one I like is JALAA for the newly established Richard Hannon and Sheikh Hamdan partnership. He looked very promising on debut at Leicester and is bred to improve the further he goes, he is a half brother to a Dewhurst winner and carries maximum respect. Similarly CHILWORTH ICON, who I backed when winning a similar event at Epsom when going off around the 10/1 mark. Mick Channon two year olds are generally overpriced for seemingly ‘unfashionable’ connections, but she warrants respect. She looks a gutsy sort who would be fine in a battle, as seen last time out, and stable jockey Martin Harley opts for him of the stable’s five horses.
The Hardwicke Stakes is one of my favourite races at the meeting, and there is a horse I have been waiting all week to see in AIKEN for the ever successful George Strawbridge, John Gosden and William Buick team. He hacked up last time out at Chantilly, retaining his unbeaten record in a Group Two contest on soft ground. He is a course and distance winner at Ascot, going the right way; he looks open to further improvement. Four year olds have a terrific record in the race, with the last two being Harbinger and Await the Dawn, and on breeding, he should relish the test of conditions, unlike many of his rivals such as Sea Moon, Dunaden, and Quest for Peace. Memphis Tennessee could be the biggest danger after hacking up around Chester last time out, but the form doesn’t look much on paper.
I don’t want to talk about the Diamond Jubilee too much, because much like the Queen Anne Stakes, just admire and revere the sight of a superstar in full flight. BLACK CAVIAR is the best sprinter in the world, and looks for twenty two wins on the bounce bringing her immortal reputation with her. She looks different gravy to anything we have to challenge her with and she WILL hack up. Moonlight Cloud’s best form comes over seven furlongs, and the best of the rest looks to be SOCIETY ROCK trained by James Fanshawe. He won this race last year and will thrive on the soft conditions. He ran a good third at York on his reappearance, and will improve for the run, and the more testing conditions.
The Wokingham is the feature handicap on Saturday, and with £120,000 in the prize pool, it has brought out some top quality horses. Those towards the front end of the market generally have a good record, with the last three winners all being 15/2 or shorter, but I am looking elsewhere this year. Jonny Murtagh has a good record in the race, winning it the last two years, and he rides GRAMERCY for the Kevin Ryan. He looks to have a live each way chance, starting off his season over an inadequate trip at York, and that run has seen him lowered 2lb in the handicap and is now just 1lb higher than his fifth in this race last year. Winner Deacon Blues went onto win four group races in a row after that, with Hoof It, Anne of Kiev, Fathsta and other good horses in behind, the form looks strong. Similarly WAFFLE, another who ran well last year, narrowly edged out by Deacon Blues, has progressed with three runs so far this year, getting better with every one. The last was a solid second at York, and with the predicted good to soft ground, should give him his ideal conditions. The David Barron yard are in good form, and perhaps significantly, Fran Berry is booked to ride. Macs Power looks likely to give another strong account, similarly High Standing, but both looked handicapped to high evens, and although I think they should run well, not well enough.
The Duke of Edinburgh Handicap, wow; where to start? This looks beyond tricky, this is The Crystal Maze after eight pints; good luck. This is usually a bad race for those at the head of affairs; the pesky bookmakers have never had it so good. Camborne is up 10lb for a recent win, and is likely to be underpriced due to the recent stable success, especially if Aiken hacks up in The Hardwicke Stakes, similarly Harrison Cave and Anatolian will both suffer similar fates. Fiery Lad, Midsummer Sun, Cill Rialaig and Harlestone Times have little form on soft ground, and are unbackable. The two I prefer are MULAQEN and STAND TO REASON. Mulaqen ran in a really good race at HQ two weeks ago, running a good fourth, with good form in behind. It wasn’t the best ride that day, Paul Hanagan deputising for T O’ Shea and the softer conditions, he may have a better chance off an untouched mark. Similarly Ted Durcan gave Stand to Reason a lot to do last time out, and he stayed on well, but came up short. He is up in trip here, and that could bring the best out of him, he has form on soft ground which should further aid him, along with Jimmy Fortune booked to ride. At around the 33/1 mark CLASSIC VINTAGE could run a big race at a huge price. He usually runs well after a break, and has good form in big handicaps on good to soft or soft ground. Jim Crowley is in cracking form at the minute, and has won on the six year old before.
The last race, the Queen Alexandra Stakes, is a gruelling two and three quarter mile slog, and where you would assume it would be National Hunt connections that dominant, you would be surprised to learn they have a poor record. Therefore we look to avoid Simeon and Overturn at the head of the market and instead focus on PETARA BAY for Robert Mills and Jimmy Fortune. From a seemingly unfashionable stable, most of his horses go off at decent prices, but the stable has a profit of +£5 from just eleven runners this month, and Petara Bay has good claims. The eight year old goes best fresh, and running with a 329 day break is a positive. He ran a good fourth in the Northumberland Plate last year and then went on to win at Goodwood. He looks to be a dark horse in a field full of big names and big reputations.
2.30 Ascot – Chilworth Icon & Jalaa 3.05 Ascot – Aiken (Nap) 3.45 Ascot – Society Rock (Betting without Black Caviar) (NB) 4.25 Ascot – Waffle (Ew) & Gramercy (Ew) 5.00 Ascot – Mulaqen (Ew), Stand to Reason (Ew), Classic Vintage (Ew) 5.35 Ascot – Petara Bay
The Yorkshireman – Jack Milner @JJMSports