A real variety of performers from all different backgrounds have landed this valuable and prestigious 1m handicap over the last decade, but the one thing they all had in common was previous solid track form over the straight course at the Berkshire venue, so that’s very much the starting point when trying to whittle down the likely candidates for this year’s renewal.

The Victoria Cup, run over seven furlongs back in early May, has been one of the key form guides over the years, and this season’s race won by Flash Fire has a fair chance of providing the winner this time around. Of those vanquished that day, EARTH DRUMMER (best price 25/1) was one of several that really caught the eye (Buckstay and The Warrior the other pair) and as the trip was some way short of his best, there’s every chance he may find the necessary improvement required to play a leading role in one of the big handicaps run at the Royal meeting.

Previously with David O’Meara, the son of Dylan Thomas ran many fine races for his old connections, including a creditable runner-up effort over today’s course behind Halation at the Shergar Cup meeting last August and a close-up eighth in the Cambridgeshire despite being drawn on the wrong side of the track. Changing hands over the winter, David Loughnane’s inmate starting life in his new barn in decent fashion when finishing third to useful Gabriel’s Kaka at Chelmsford, and it’s best to ignore his poor performance at Thirsk next time out as the ground totally went against him on the day.

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On to the run at Ascot, and it’s this effort which really does suggest the six-year-old has a great chance of being in the mix. Held up off sound fractions, he was noted making smooth headway to sit just in behind the speed approaching the two-furlong marker, when he ran into a wall of horses which continued to stop him in his tracks until his winning chance had gone. Once out in the clear (last 50 yards), he finished off his race so strongly, it’s fair to suggest he would have had a large say in the final outcome with a clear run. As that contest was chock full of all the best 7f-1m handicappers around at present, he’s clearly more than capable of holding his own against similar opponents – especially with an extra furlong to cover.

Although he needs quite a few to come out at time of writing (number 49 on card), there’s a good chance there will be plenty of natural wastage between now and June 15 and even he if doesn’t manage to get a run, investments will be returned by bookmakers who return funds on all horses balloted out in these events.
Earth Drummer - 1pt e/w @ 25/1Lost -2pts