The Britannia Stakes at Royal Ascot featured a number of contenders here with Afaak and City Of Joy looking the primary players. Afaak was in front of his old rival that day and also finished ahead of MOUNTAIN ANGEL (Best price 9-2) when the duo met at Doncaster six weeks ago. The latter could gain revenge as he has missed Ascot and could arguably be fresher for today’s test, while he was only overhauled in the closing stages of that truly-run handicap and still looks attractively handicapped.
Bookmakers have taken few chances with GUSTAV KLIMT (Best price 7-4), but the son of Galileo looks another from the Ballydoyle production line to keep onside. A subdued debut effort at the Curragh back in May became a distant memory a fortnight ago when the step up to seven furlongs coincided with a comprehensive defeat of the talented Would Be King. The first time tongue tie appeared to do the trick that day and he looks a colt of immense promise worth supporting here.
It may not be the populist view, but there look sound reasons for believing HARRY ANGEL (Best price 6-1) can beat the mighty Caravaggio in today’s tremendous renewal of the Darley July Cup. Regular readers will recall I was sweet on Clive Cox’s exciting sprinter in the Commonwealth Cup at Royal Ascot and a furlong from home all appeared to be going swimmingly, even if the foreboding presence of Caravaggio was beginning to loom large in the wing mirrors of the selection. Harry Angel didn’t have enough in the tank to withstand the late thrust of his Ballydoyle nemesis that day and I wonder, in hindsight, if rider Adam Kirby regrets becoming embroiled in a protracted speed war at the head of affairs with Intelligence Cross who was surely only present to act as a spoiler. Given the gallop Harry Angel went early on, it was to his eternal credit the son of Dark Angel managed to maintain his speed to the line and he could make the warm favourite pull out all the stops again if Kirby can somehow conserve some energy for the dying moments.
The Stuart Williams stable have emerged from a quiet spell in style this week and ROYAL BIRTH (Best price 11-1) could be worth a wager to repeat last year’s victory in this £100,000 sprint. The gelding was hampered at a crucial stage on the all-weather at Chelmsford on his latest start so was unlucky not to win, but he arrives in good heart courtesy of a fine run and there is a good chance this race will set up nicely for him. The selection is an example of an all-weather performer loving the straight track at Ascot and he is taken to continue his fine record at the Berkshire venue.
This looks a straightforward opportunity for last year’s winner MUTAKAYYEF (Best price 8-13) to defend his crown in a race lacking in depth. Only Queen Anne Stakes winner Ribchester denied the six-year-old a precious Group One success at the Royal meeting and the selection displayed a sharp turn of foot to comprehensively land this event 12 months ago. With the exception of the admirable and talented Sovereign Debt there looks precious little to concern Mutakayyef and his stable enjoyed a terrific time of it yesterday.
Jeremy Noseda landed a nice handicap at Newmarket yesterday and ABE LINCOLN (Best price 8-1) could be ready to finally justify some of his trainer’s faith today. The selection is equipped with the first-time cheekpieces in the hope they harness the talented four-year-old’s undoubted ability. Abe Lincoln wasn’t disgraced when extremely well backed in the Royal Hunt Cup on his first start for 12 months and, although his racecourse appearances are infrequent, he boasts a good deal of class and could gain compensation for some frustrating defeats, not least when narrowly beaten in the 2016 Britannia and here over 7f by Castle Harbour a month before.
The Hardwicke Stakes form is beginning to work out well and this race looks BARSANTI’s (Best price 1-1) to lose if he can reproduce the level of performance which carried him into second in the Group 2 at Royal Ascot. That form represents a clear career best for the five-year-old who has already won at today’s venue and only a stop-start tactical affair should stop him scoring given his yard have enjoyed a good week and their charge enjoys his optimum conditions.
VICTORY BOND (Best price 8-1) represents a stable which have enjoyed plenty of success in this event in the last decade and this prestigious handicap has been a target since finishing an eye-catching third to Here Comes When in a strongly-run mile handicap. The return to 10 furlongs should suit and the prospect of a strong pace could assist a horse which can be keen in his races.
The return to today’s trip looks a wise move for the imposing BIG COUNTRY (Best price 10-1) who didn’t appear to get home over 12 furlongs at Haydock in a well-contested handicap last Saturday. He is certainly shortlist material given the way his York win last month has worked out and this race has been won by apprentice-ridden horses in the past so Ray Dawson’s inexperience may not be a negative
Roger Federer is currently proving that age is but a number and connections of TAKE COVER (Best price 5-1) will certainly endorse that view. Their veteran sprinter showed plenty of vim and vigour at Ascot behind Lady Aurelia in the King’s Stand Stakes last time despite that track traditionally finding him out and he should relish this return to the Knavesmire on route to another trip to Goodwood later this month. The selection’s draw doesn’t appear too bad and he could have too much brazen speed for the likes of Judicial and Goldream.