2:30 Norfolk Stakes:
Day three of the Royal Ascot festival gets underway today with the Norfolk Stakes, a 5f sprint for 2 year olds so lets get right into it.
This group 2 is a highly competitive race with no standout star in it. It should come down to a battle between the US raider McErin, the Declan Carroll trained Santry and the National Stakes winner Havana Grey. Pilkington and Koditime are others that could outrun their odds.
Wes Ward’s 2yo Happy as a fool was runner up here yesterday and looks to go one better today with his raider McErin. This horse won nicely on debut in the states over 4 and a half furlongs.
He was found wanting though when upped to 5f at Churchill Downs on his next start – He’s sure to show lots of early pace in this race and it’s only a matter of whether he can hold on from the front. There is a strong challenge from the U.K team though.
Santry has impressed in both of his wins and should go close but the one who I think can put it up to McErin and possibly even win this is Havana Grey. This horse really impressed me when winning the National Stakes at Sandown on it’s last start.
The form of that race has worked out, the 4th from that race won here earlier in the week. Karl Burks yard was under a cloud for a month or so because of a virus but his horses have come back in great form.
I think that’s a great sign and I think that this horse could even be much better today. McErin and Santry will prove tough to beat but the one I really like is HAVANA GREY each way at odds of 8/1
3:05 Hampton Court Stakes:
Another big field for this group 3 race due to be run over 1 mile and 2 furlongs. This race looks a three way battle between Orderofthegarter, Benbati and Mirage Dancer. Ordeofthegarter has disappointed in both of her runs this season. He could only run midfield in the French 1000 Guineas last time out but has the potential to be a better horse over this trip for Aidan O’Brien. Benbati ran a stormer of a race when 5th in the Epsom Derby. He stayed on really at the finish then.
I’m not too sure about the drop in trip for him today. I think he looks a type who will improve for much further. I think he could well be a St Leger horse by the end of the season. He has a chance today but this might just be too sharp. Mirage Dancer is the dark horse in this race.
He put in a taking performance when winning a maiden at the backend of the season. He still looked green when making his seasonal reappearance in the Dee Stakes at Chester when 4th. He was keen early and It didn’t look like the track suited but put in a great performance to get as close as he did.
The winner of that race ran 2nd in the Epsom Derby since then. That was only Mirage Dancers 2nd ever run and I think he would have come on in a big way for that run. His trainer Sir Michael Stoute skipped the Derby mainly because the horse might not handle the track.
This track should be right up his street though and if he wins Stoute would become the most winning trainer at Royal Ascot ever. Taj Mahal ran a cracking race in the French 2000 Guineas from the front. He was game and found back really well to come 4th. The step up in trip could well help him today.
He’s an outsider that I like but MIRAGE DANCER is the one I like.
3:40 Ribblesdale Stakes:
This race is for 3 year old fillies and is due to be run over 1 and a half miles. The filly that clearly takes the eye here is the Sir Michael Stoute trained Mori. This filly out out of the mighty Frankel and Midday who was an incredible mare.
This horse badly needed its 1st run but showed lot’s of promise then. He just did enough to win over 1 mile 2f at this track last month. She was very green but she managed to still win. She put in a similar performance last time out when winning over the same trip at Goodwood.
She still looked green and looked to be crying out for a step up in trip. She goes up 2f in trip today and I think it really will be the making of her. She’s only done enough to win on both of her last starts but today I think we’ll see a much better performance from her today.
Alluringly is the danger based on it’s 3rd to Enable in the Epsom Oaks. She ran a fine race then and looks to have a great chance today also. Astronomy’s Choice has only had two runs but like Mori this one will love the step up in trip. Naughty or Nice the Irish raider is another with a solid chance. She’s unbeaten in two starts.
I think they are all decent fillies for the future but today MORI is the one to be on.
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4:20 Ascot Gold Cup:
This is the feature race of the week and it is really tough stamina test. It’s been won by the likes of Celeric, Classic Cliche, Double Trigger and four times by the great Yeats. A lot of these will not see out the marathon trip of 2 mile and four furlongs and others will be out classed.
The horses that I believe to have the best chance in this race are Order of St George, Big Orange, Simple Verse and Sheikhzayedroad. Big Orange has been a great stayer for the Bell yard and won the Goodwood Cup over 2 mile last season. He made a great return to action this season when winning a group 3 at Sandown. He’s a classy front running stayer but he is unproven over this far. It’s going to be tough for this horse to hold on for so long today. I wouldn’t rule out a place though.
Simple Verse won the St Leger a few seasons back and is a decent mare. All of her best form is over 1 mile 6f but her trainer believes she will stay. If she does she’ll run a big race but it’s a big if that she does stay. Sheikhzayedroad was a 5l 3rd in the this race last year. He’s a very consistent horse and he always runs his race.
He’s a guaranteed stayer over this trip and he made a really pleasing return to the track this season at in Meydan back in March. He has been put away since with this race in mind and I think he looks the value in the race each way at 12/1. Order Of St George though is the one he and the whole field have to beat.
This horse was very impressive when winning this race last season. A lot of people thought this former high class 1 mile 4f horse would not stay last year but like stablemates Yeats and Fame and Glory he saw it out really well and this trip was the making of him.
He’s 2lb worse off with Sheikhzayedroad this season but I don’t think that will be enough to reverse the placings. This horse is hit and miss over a shorter trip as seen in the Irish Leger and on reappearance. Both of those runs came over 1 mile 6 though and that trip is too sharp for this horse now.
This is his trip and this is his race. I really think he has a tremendous chance and is my banker of the week.
Sheikhzayedroad is the value each way but ORDER OF ST GEORGE at 10/11 is my idea of the winner of this.
5:00 Britannia Stakes Handicap:
This race is one of the most tricky races of the week to find the winner of along with the last race on today’s card. If you haven’t made money already today with your bets I recommend not to go chasing it on these last two races. This race is pretty much stick a pin in them and see what happens. Most of these are very closely matched on form and the weights bring them even closer. Son Of the Stars, Afaak, Horroob, Keyser Soze, City Of Joy,
The Grape Express and Senator all have lively chances but the one I’m going to go for each way is the Pat Smullen ridden COLIBRI at odds of 14/1.
This horse hacked up at Brighton two runs back and was very unlucky in running last time out in a similar handicap at Sandown. I think this horse has more to offer than most of these and this horse has a great draw.
Son Of the Stars and Afaak won’t make it easy though.
5:35 King George V Stakes Handicap:
This is a wide open race and any number of these could win. Homesman, Atty Persee, and Master Singer all have decent chances in this race but I’m going to side with the Mark Johnston trained Sofia’s Rock. Mark Johnston has won this race five times in the past and looks to have a great chance with this runner and also Mister Manduro.
I prefer Sofia’s Rock though to that one. This horse is a really tough genuine front runner and has no worries with the ground or trip unlike others.
This horse has a nice draw and should be able to easily get to the front early on. Jim Crowley stole the race from the front on it last time out and I think he can do the same again today.
This will be tougher but this colt is progressive.
Majoris and Twin Star are two 40/1 chances not without a hope but SOFIA’S ROCK is my selection for the final race on day 3.
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