Ascot hosts Ladies Day on the third day of the Royal meeting this afternoon and as yet, we have a fat zero in the winners column on the blog! Those that know how I work though know that it is not winners that matter, just the theory of maintaining a good discipline (which was lacking yesterday) and only backing value.
I made some serious misjudgements yesterday and my process of selections seemed to cater for 'good' ground with slight ease in it. Ultimately, with some record times almost getting beaten, the ground was clearly almost good to firm, and as such my anticipated value selections found some of the races to be over before they began. That said, only Reliable Man and Lay Time featured in a finish from all of my selections and neither would possibly have won in any case.
Time for an improvement!
2:30 Norfolk Stakes (Group 2) Cl1 5f
ANNUNCIATION looks the value call in a tough race to assess. I do not have a particular vast knowledge of 2yo types and rarely bet on this age group. My one rare flurry into this juvenile division last year resulted in a Super Sprint winner in Charles The Great at massive odds, so I am willing to try my hand once more!
The selection will benefit from having had a few races to improve his experience, and with the wet weather likely to have got into the ground, the speedy types may well be coming back to him at the death. Interestingly, Richard Hughes has jumped off the stables supposed more likely winner, which I think could be a tip in itself.
At very decent odds, he makes a good impression for each way purposes.
THE BET: ANNUNCIATION @ 13-1 (BETFAIR)
3:05 Ribblesdale Stakes (Group 2) (Fillies) Cl1 1m4f
This looks to be quite possibly the strongest renewal of this race for some years with the 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 7th, 9th and 11th from this years Epsom Oaks (Group 1) all in contention for this Group 2 prize. History shows us that since five fillies since 1997 have ran in the Oaks before winning this race, three of which had finished in the first four at Epsom.
Just to possibly help further, the prices of those five fillies for the Oaks were as follows:
1997 Yashmak (6-1) Oaks - Result 4th
1998 Bahr (5-2) Oaks - Result 2nd
2000 Miletrian (25-1) Oaks - Result LAST
2004 Punctilious (10-3) Oaks - Result 3rd
2008 Michita (8-1) Oaks - Result 7th
It is highly likely that this years contingent of Oaks runners will be split in the finish of this race by fillies that missed that engagement. Coming into the race much fresher and with an ability to handle these wetter conditions will give any horse who missed the Classic a sizeable chance.
Similarly to the Classics themselves, this race tends to generate hype and I thrive on finding bets that may have escaped from indulgent media reports.
Amongst those that did not feature in the Epsom Classic are Princess Highway and Momentary. Princess Highway indeed beat Oaks winner Was, but that rival was making her reappearance and I give no significance to this result. Dermot Weld her trainer has indeed only sent one runner to this event before and won, but with reports suggesting that she 'needs top of the ground' to show her full potential, she is passed over.
The other filly Momentary runs in the colours of the Queen and looks a very smart type. She beat the Epsom Oaks runner up Shirocco Star on her latest appearance, but did have a much simpler race plan than her rival did. Always prominent she powered towards the line with her rival needing to make up ground, she also had the rail and the help of a previous seasonal outing. All in all they are closely matched, but it is SHIROCCO STAR who I feel can improve on her Epsom second place and score here.
With this years contingent of Oaks runners having had longer to recover between these two big events, than in previous years, the likelihood is that one of them can prevail. Mahmood Al Zarooni trains a big player in Kailani, but his runners tend to go cold in the month of June and his recent form has proven so with just one winner from his last 23 runners. On account of this, his entrant can be ignored at the prices.
3:45 Gold Cup (British Champions Series) (Group 1) Cl1 2m4f
The highlight of the day from a prizemoney and prestige perspective but not as competitive as I would have liked. Backing favourites in the big races at Ascot has often proven to be very profitable in the stakes events and that is a bad omen for value seekers like myself.
Fame And Glory has the form in the book and should be able to attain a prominent early position. His staying capabilities have been proven having won this event last year in considerable style. There is a possible suggestion though that he has a couple of unexposed and talented rivals, and this could make it a sterner test of his true staying prowess this time around.
Saddler's Rock managed to even be outpaced last season over a 2m 2f trip before he powered home late on when rivals started to wilt. The suggestion was that he may benefit from even further, but having suffered an early season setback he comes into the race with only one previous run under his belt this season. The feeling is that he may not be as sharp as may be required and more than likely will struggle to defeat a proven Group 1 colt in Fame And Glory.
THE BET: S/FC FAME AND GLORY / SADDLER'S ROCK @ 4-1 (BET365)
4:25 Britannia Stakes (Heritage Handicap) (Colts & Geldings) Cl2 1m
A massive field have assembled for this 1m test on rain affected ground, which may see those bred to do well on a loose surface come to the fore. The other potential ingredient for a lost bet, is whether enough pace will be generated for the intended race selection to thrive on.
FROG HOLLOW is the confirmed choice in his first time blinkers. The Ralph Beckett stable have been going well in recent weeks and this horse has been desperate for a strong pace in his races, without getting one so far. This should prove more to his liking and being by Intikhab he will appreciate some cut in the ground and can be staying on late, given a trouble free run to the line.
THE BET: FROG HOLLOW @ 10-1 (BET365)
Note: Bet365 pay out on 5 places at 1/4 odds for each way backers.
5:00 Tercentenary Stakes (Group 3) Cl1 1m2f
The type of race that I thrive on during the course of your average Saturday afternoon, so there is no reason why I can't convert my Saturday exploits for midweek at Ascot and get amongst the winners.
The head of the market in this field look relatively accomplished to run well at this level with Wrotham Heath looking to shade favouritism (9-2). Tales Of Grimm (5-1) only has the benefit of one previous run this season and may lack a cutting edge on ground that will require some getting.
As a result, and it often pays not to look too far down the market in this race, the obvious improver over this trip and in the ground is the William Haggas trained MUKHADRAM. He is by no means a world beater but looks up to winning a race at this level, and with his current mark only 90, it is very intriguing that they are willing to ruin that good handicap mark for a Group 3 success.
His Dam is a half sister to two Group 1 winners and with the sire influence of Sharmardal an ability to run well in softer ground is almost assured. The trainer and jockey have also enjoyed a very positive partnership with their 3yo runners over the last five seasons, yielding an impressive strike rate of 14-39. 13-2 odds look worth a bet.
Grandeur for trainer Jeremy Noseda has a 6lb pull in the weights to get the better of rival Wrotham Heath and could prove to be the biggest danger. However, Noseda's runners seem to have gone off the boil and he has yet to obtain a victory in the month of June, which should be a huge worry for his backers.
THE BET: MUKHADRAM @ 13-2 (VC BET)
5:35 King George V Stakes (Handicap) Cl2 1m4f
With a large field assembled for this middle distance handicap it could prove more than a slight disadvantage for those drawn wide. Obviously class will prevail if there proves to be any hidden Group horses drawn wide.
However, with a possibility that there is no majorly outstanding horse lined up, it could well prove to keep faith with the Sir Michael Stoute trained URIAH HEEP at a big price (17-1 Betfair). This horse enjoyed soft underfoot conditions two starts ago when losing by a head to the then future Derby runner Minimise Risk.
That day he was carried off a true line and unfortunate note to beat his rival, and considering that was only his second start better was expected for a Group 3 at Chester next time out. He ultimately ran no sort of race despite being quite well backed and a combination of course and very soft ground probably was to blame.
On a slightly more improved surface and on a stiffer track I envisage a strong run and with Ryan Moore in the saddle I do not see a reason as to why he should be such a big price.
THE BET: URIAH HEEP @ 17-1 (BETFAIR)