An early start to today’s live action as we cover all six races from Ascot as Champions Day takes centre stage.
The first contest on the card is the race over the longest trip as we witness The Long Distance Cup.
If these runners lined up last year Dermot Weld’s Forgotten Rules would be clear favourite.
As it stands however a below par run of performances for the Irish runner hasn’t seen it at its best and a return to its best isn’t guaranteed.
A fairy tale story would be Litigant finishing with its head in front after a masterful training performance from lesser known trainer Joseph Tuite saw it win The Ebor last time. It’s got vast room for improvement and looks a decent shout for a place today but wether or not it can hang at group level is a big ask.
Wicklow Brave has run some cracking races in defeat both in England and over in its native Ireland. Willie Mullins has his flat performers firing this season and if the ground stays soft it may be able to finally get it’s long awaited big race flat victory but I feel it might come up marginally short once more.
It may seem an obvious selection but current favourite Agent Murphy has been ultra consistent this season and deserves a victory at this level. I can’t see it finishing out of the top three and with the potential it remains above 5/1 it could be a decent each way bet to nothing.
Agent Murphy (E/W if 9/2+)
We shift from the longest distance race on the card to the shortest as the sprinters get their chance to shine I’ve six furlongs.
There may be plenty of runners but we still have a short priced favourite in the form of three year old Muhaarar. The horse has some great form this season and is definitely a worthy favourite and the one to beat but at a price around the 2/1 Mark it seems drastically short in a race that has such a plethora of sprinting talent.
Twilight Son is unbeaten in its career and showed it belonged at the top table when winning a Group 1 at Haydock last time out. It did what it had to do to win that day and I feel there’s room for even more improvement to come but Strath Burn (who makes the line up here) was mightily close that day so the Henry Candy runner might have its days for victory numbered.
The aforementioned Strath Burn, as with the favourite, hails from the yard of Charlie Hills. The horse showed undoubted promise when finishing behind Twilight Son but after having quite a few runs this season I’m not sure how much this three year old has left and although it could quite easily reverse the form with Twilight Son is another runner who’s price seems far too short at around 7/1.
A mention has to go to James Fanshawe’s The Tin Man who looked brilliant when winning over course and distance last time out and the Fanshawe team are flying at the moment. It deserves a crack at group company but I think this might be too much too soon.
With so many runners I’m going to go with two, of which the first is very lightly raced this year. Godolphin’s Lightning Moon has been somewhat disappointing in its two outings this year but if it can recapture it’s former two year old glory should have a chance. The horse definitely needs the rain to fall so I’m hoping the weather doesn’t dry the ground out and there’s still cut underfoot. If the horse has conditions to suit it could surprise a few people today.
My other selection is ridden by a jockey chasing the Apprentice Jockey’s Championship and Jack Garrity hopes Eastern Impact can help bring his win tally closer to the top and after a course and distance victory in a group race last time it should have a chance. I find form over the course a huge positive at Ascot and although the horse will have to step up from its previous effort it isn’t inconceivable to think place claims at least wouldn’t be out of the question for the Richard Fahey trained runner.
Of the remainder both Gordon Lord Byron and Maarek have to be respected especially with softer conditions but both are likely to have already had their racing hay days.
Great Minds is another that will be praying for soft ground and could do well at a big price and finally Marco Botti’s Naadirr wasn’t too far away from Eastern Impact last time and prices around 40/1 and upwards may seem a tad too generous.
Lightning Moon (E/W)
Eastern Impact (E/W)
The ladies get to shine in this contest as the fillies and mares line up for a one and a half mile race.
It seems mightily close in the market betting wise with three current joint favourites and another two horses just one point off favouritism.
At the head of the market sees two French raiders Sea Calisi and Candarliya. The Aga Khan owned Candarliya has never finished outside of the top three and has won five of its last six starts. Clearly the horse is very consistent and deserves a shot at a race like this but looking through its form and you have to question just exactly what the horse has beaten over in France. I feel this race is a step up on its previous form and it has to answer a few questions in regards to its likelihood to be able to mix it with this level of opposition. Undoubtedly the horse has talent and it’d be mightily disappointing if it weren’t to finish in the top three but a worthy favourite? I don’t think so and of the two French horses it’s actually Sea Calisi who I’d be more confident with.
Covert Love has had a tremendous season and it seems that Hugo Palmer may have found a slightly less competitive Group 1 race to contest than some of it’s previous contests. That being said however she has had a very tough campaign that have included some very hard fought races. How much the horse has left I couldn’t be certain and although it should at least place I think it’s tactics might not suit Ascot.
I’m very surprised that St Leger winner Simple Verse is such a generous price at 6/1. It’s great to see the BHA saw sense in ensuring she kept the race and although this is a drop in trip the emphasis on stamina at Ascot may be a bonus for this filly. If I wasn’t so taken with the horse I’m picking this would’ve gotten the nod from me and it has a great chance of picking up another Group 1.
The one I’m going with gets a crack at group company after two mightily impressive victories in listed races. John Gosden seems to have found the key to unlocking Journey’s potential and although a leap of faith has to be taken now tackling much better rivals I genuinely feel she’ll have the class to be able to readily compete. It may find one too good but if you can get an each way price I’m certain it can place if not win.
Journey (E/W if 9/2+)
The fourth race on the card surrounds the question of “will he or won’t he?” I’m sat here writing this as Gleneagles price begins to tumble as it apparently grows increasingly likely that connections will let it run.
Personally if you asked me wether or not we’ll see this years best miler I’d say no chance. The amount of times we’ve seen Ballydoyle wait until the last minute before pulling the horse out is ridiculous and if you can’t be certain of a run I just feel it’s hard to advise somebody to back it. That being said however in the unlikely event Gleneagles were to line up then it’d be the biggest sure fire bet of the day and although Solow shouldn’t be written off too readily it just doesn’t seem to have the star quality that Gleneagles has.
With both horses above evens I’m almost tempted to back both with the decision on Gleneagles participation likely to make one or the others price drop drastically.
I definitely see the winner coming from the top two in the market but I’m not going to pick either. One horse I’m positive will run is Clive Cox’s Kodi Bear who was my antepost selection for the 2,000 Guineas this year. Unfortunately it couldn’t make it to the course for this years classic contests but aims to make up for that by claiming some decent prizes at the end of the season. A demolition of subsequent winner Cable Bay shows the horse has a decent level of ability and will handle soft conditions if the ground remains on the softer side of good. It has to step up to trouble the main two but of the rest of its rivals I think it has them all beaten. Is it likely to beat Solow and Gleneagles? Probably not but with the uncertainty surrounding what will be the race favourite then 8/1 about a horse that looks set for a place seems a bet worth taking.
Kodi Bear (E/W)
The talk surrounding this race is all about the favourite. At around 11/8 it’s a very clear market leader and many peoples banker of the day. In all honesty I keep swaying on this horse, on one hand it’s only ever been beaten by Golden Horn, is in a less competitive event than most of its races and looks by far the classiest horse in the race. On the other hand however I doubt a drop to a mile and a quarter is beneficial, will Ascot suit it and how hard a season has it had?
If I had to nail my colours to the mast then Jack Hobbs “Should” win this with ease and is likely to make me look silly for going elsewhere. There’s no stand out reason that it should be beaten but I’m going to chicken out and look for a horse with each way value that could chase it home.
Found was very classy last season but hasn’t quite hit the high notes this year. A promising finish in The Arc last time out when finishing strongly shows she has the potential of winning a race like this but after that run is a drop in trip what she needs? I’m not convinced.
Of the remaining runners Vadamos is an unknown quantity and Ribbons (purely on stable form) have to be respected.
The one that catches my eye though is a horse I put up as one for the notebook after beating the likes of Fascinating Rock last time. Racing History definitely needs to progress to win in this sphere but as I eluded to earlier it doesn’t look the classiest of Group 1’s. The horse showed brilliant tenacity and battling qualities that day at Windsor and could find itself in the places.
Racing History (E/W)
We end today’s quality action with a cavalry charge Balmoral Handicap over a mile.
The current favourite is the Irish runner and Colin Keane ridden Sacrificial. It’s form at Ascot looks decent and has a great chance from a weight that doesn’t look overly daunting. It’s a very consistent runner who should run a good race on ground that will be on it’s side. This is why it’s one of two selections I have in the final contest.
My other selection will fly the flag for Godolphin who finished seventh in the Cambridgeshire last time out. A weaker race and carrying a low weight could see Musaddas finish even closer today and has a great chance.
Of the other entries Buckstay didn’t look like it was crying out for a mile when winning last time, Gabriel’s Lad shouldn’t appreciate the ground and Chil The Kite looks way too high in the weights.
One horse that might be worth a check in the market is Belgian Bill who, despite a lacklustre season, is way down the handicap now and a return to near its best could see it go close at a big price.