Our horse racing expert Andy Holding has seven tips for Day 2 of Royal Ascot.
16:20 Royal Ascot
One of the best races of the week in terms of pure class has rather been spoilt due to the late defection of Lord North and that development has left the door wide open for ARMORY (best price 5-2) to finally make the breakthrough at the highest level.
Placed in six Group 1’s in his 13-race career, Aidan O’Brien’s gelding began his season in the best possible fashion by landing the Huxley Stakes at the Chester in pretty authoritative style and with the numbers from that contest on the Roodee suggesting he wasn’t far off his best, this examination looks the natural step. Indeed, his final three furlongs 40 days ago were on-par with the five-furlong race won by El Astronaute, and with the distinct likelihood of today’s quicker ground playing even more into his strengths, the son of Galileo makes plenty of appeal at the morning prices to take advantage of his race fitness over his main rival, Love.
17:00 Royal Ascot
As ever, a wide-open renewal of this sought-after handicap and with one of the key factors to success being solid previous C&D form, both HAQEEQY (best price 8-1) and GROVE FERRY (best price 14-1) tick plenty of boxes in terms of historic trends.
The former ran out a highly-impressive winner of the Lincoln at Doncaster back in March and as future results have indicated, his performance carries even more significance now than it did on the day. After that silky success, the natural progression was to step him up to pattern level to see whether he could handle a better standard of opponent and although he ended up failing at his first attempt out of handicap company, he left the impression he still has a future in that grade. Noted travelling well in behind the pace at halfway, Jim Crowley pulled his mount out to challenge at the three-furlong marker but as events transpired, that manoeuvre ended up being ill-judged. Finding himself stranded out on the wing for too long was in stark contrast to how he was ridden to lead inside the final 100yds on Town Moor and in the end, he had to settle for a minor role. That said, with the likes of Sir Busker and Solid Stone upsides as he flashed past the line, he still ran to aa fair level despite things not quite panning out in his favour and he now gets the chance to put matters right on his return to the Berkshire venue.
The latter probably isn’t as classy as Haqeeqy, but he seems to be improving a rapid rate of knots since they last met and there’s every chance he will prove competitive from his high draw. Too keen for his own good in the Lincoln, Andrew Balding’s gelding was dropped out the back door in order to settle better on his latest encounter at Chester and those tactics ended up working to ate, as he came through very strongly of solid fractions to score with a bit up his sleeve. As the time figure suggested it might, the race on the Roodee has worked out well since with the likes of Dulas, Kynren, Ejtilaab, Another Batt and Ascension all winning next time out and having finished placed over today’s stiff track on each visit, the four-year-old makes plenty of each-way appeal with some firms offering seven and even eight places.
17:35 Royal Ascot
The high numbers certainly had a distinct advantage based on what happened here yesterday but, as we will get a couple more opportunities to see how things pan out over the straight track earlier in the day, it may be pertinent to take a stronger view on this 28-strong juvenile contest once all the information is a little clearer. Alternatively, the other strategy to adopt (for the purposes of this column), is to play one from each side of the draw, thus covering all options, and the two that are worth playing at the morning odds who have the strongest claims based on the figures and potential are ARMOR (best price 12-1) and DIG TWO (best price 9-1).
The former went into his opening contest at Doncaster with a tall reputation and he ended up coming out of his opening bow with an even greater one. Although there were only four runners on Town Moor, there was a strong gallop set from the outset and having travelled well throughout, Richard Hannon’s colt quickened nicely to seal the deal inside the final furlong. Hitting the line hard, the son of No Nay Never left the impression there was more in the tank if pressed, and with his final three-furlongs of 33.0 complementing his smart overall time figure, his performance had to go down as one of great promise. Saved to arrive here fresh at this meeting ever since, connections have decided to come to this slightly weaker affair rather than tackle the Group 2 Norfolk Stakes tomorrow (forecast rain might have had something to do with that decision) and even though his draw may turn out not to be the best, he still has enough class to acquit himself with great credit.
The latter has more experience than the main selection, but he too, has posted some decent figures based on the clock and, with his proven ability to stay six-furlongs seen as a positive thing over today’s stiff track, he’s likely to be picking up the pieces at the death. The way he handled Newmarket’s undulations on fast ground back in May also is a feather in his cap and his subsequent victory over Monday’s easy Nottingham winner, Little Prayer, at Chelmsford later in the month sets him up nicely for a tilt at this prize.
18:10 Royal Ascot
DREAMLOPER (best price 9-2) has had this race as her main target for some time and, providing she can enjoy a fairly trouble-free passage; there’s a decent chance Ed Walker’s long-term plan for his filly can come to fruition.
A tricky customer and extremely talented in equal measures, she has to be handled in a certain way in order to gain maximum results, but this race should really suit her run style and she rates a confident choice to be involved in the outcome. A big eye-catcher first time out at Haydock, she warmed up for a tilt at this prize with another solid effort over today’s course when just coming out on the wrong side of a terrific tussle with one of today’s chief rivals, Lights On. As the ground have been ideal for her that day, her performance has to be given extra credit, but with today’s conditions far more suitable, there can be little excuse for her not to go well and she deserves to be played accordingly.
BOLLIN MARGARET (NAP) (best price 10-3) looked a filly on fine terms with herself when scoring at Wetherby last week and with everything about that victory totally believable, she’s fancy to repeat
the dose. Setting out to make the running at the Yorkshire venue, Tim Easterby’s filly turned away a series of persistent challengers in the home straight and in doing so, she ended up posting a very smart time figure. Straight away, the form has worked out well with the third horse winning this week and running over a track that often complements front runners, she’s fancied to make all.