Our horse racing expert Andy Holding has seven tips for Day 3 of Royal Ascot.
14:30 Royal Ascot
So far, the Wesley Ward two-year-olds have yet to live up to expectations at this year’s meeting and with the possibility of rain due to fall prior to this opening contest (not as much as anticipated overnight), that has to cast series doubts over whether either of his two representatives will be fully effective.
Two who shouldn’t have too many issues on that score are PROJECT DANTE (best price 15-2) and KORKER (best price 16-1) and they rate solid alternatives to those down the front end of the market. The pair have already met, courtesy of their clash at York a month ago, and in what turned out to be a well-run affair, it was the former who just gained the day. Showing bright speed throughout, Bryan Smart’s colt exhibited a willing attitude to fend off a series of challengers and on the evidence of the visual aspects of the performance and subsequent findings on the clock, he ran to a fair standard on the Knavesmire. Housed towards the nearside in stall 16, he has the likes of potential front runners Andreas Vesalius, Lucci, Little Earl, and Second Wind next to him to give him a decent tow into the business end and based on his pure ability and form from his debut, hope is high he can provide his connection with another Ascot two-year-old winner.
Korker, like several others since that York heat has gone on to prove the value of the form and his victory at Carlisle can only be seen as a positive in terms of extra experience and conditioning. Having handled softish ground to good effect on both his two starts to date, any rain that falls will enhance his prospects more than most and at his double-figure morning quotes, Karl Burke’s colt makes equal amount of appeal. Add into the equation Perfect Power who quickened like a smart juvenile at Hamilton last time out, and there’s a decent chance a horse housed in a Yorkshire base will take this prize.
15:05 Royal Ascot
Having withdrawn Mohaafeth from the Derby at the final hour due to supposedly unsuitable ground (only just on the easy side of good), one can imagine connections of the short-priced favourite will be spending most of the day looking towards the skies, so with that in mind, William Haggas’ colt is worth swerving on account he might not be so effective by the anticipated ease underfoot.
One who would welcome rain is THE ROSSTAFARIAN (best price 14-1) and he’s fancied to show significantly more than what he’s achieved so far this season. Unsuited by the combination of track and fast ground when a creditable sixth in the Craven Stakes at Newmarket on his seasonal bow, Hugo Palmer’s colt was rather surprisingly pitched into the white-hot heat of the Irish 2000 Guineas at the Curragh last time out and despite looking mildly threatening at the halfway stage, he only managed to huff and puff his way to a mid-division placing. That said, he was forced to challenge away from where the main action took place, so it probably pays to cut him a little bit of slack when considering he was up against the likes of Mac Swiney, Poetic Flare and Lucky Vega. Up in trip, which is likely to suit, and down in grade, the son of Starspangledbanner may have a better chance than his morning odds imply and he’s worth a small each-way interest to highlight that viewpoint.
16:15 Royal Ascot
Stradivarius bids to go into the history books (alongside Yeats) by winning this race for the fourth time and it looks as though the racing gods are looking down on him as Ascot missed most of the forecast heavy showers last night. That said, there is another band due to hit the track at some stage today, so how much falls by race time will determine his fate. Similar to Stradivarius, TRUESHAN’s (7-2) chances are very much in the hands of the weather but should the rain come between now and 4.20, he may be worth a roll of the dice.
A rapid improver in the staying ranks last season, Alan King’s gelding’s meteoric rise culminated with him exhibiting a spectacular display over today’s course in the Long Distance Cup on Champion’s Day back in October and with the soft ground the key contributor to his wide-margin success, connections will be praying for a wet day in the Berkshire area. Warming up for a tilt at this prize with a perfectly respectable performance behind the classy Japan over an inadequate trip at Chester last month he should be close to fever-pitch for his first attempt at Group 1 level and with his pilot, Hollie Doyle, continuing to thrive on the big arena, the stage is set for the pair to once again, shine brightest of all.
17:00 Royal Ascot
There’s little doubt Jamie Spencer excels over today’s straight course better than most and having seen AIR TO AIR (best price 13-2) given and appreciate an Ascot-type ride at Doncaster last time out, George Boughey’s gelding looks tailor made for the demands of this event.
A smooth winner over seven-furlongs at Newmarket in soft ground previously, there were a few unknowns going into that competitive race on Town Moor a month later, but he answered all the concerns with aplomb. Always travelling sweetly in the hands of the Irishman, the son of Toronado seemingly won with any amount in hand and on the evidence of that display, he still has the potential to be extremely well handicapped. Based on what we saw here yesterday, the low numbers (far side) are very much back in the equation and providing he ends up being on the right side of the draw regarding pace, this talented and improving chestnut has every chance of being bang there when they dishing out the medals.
Others for the shortlist including the likes of Summer Peto, Aerion Power and Dubai Honour who have all proven they can run a fast time over a mile at some stage during their careers.
17:35 Royal Ascot
The one box continues to be a bone of contention here on the round track but, as the wide draw hasn’t been so effective as in previous years, there’s a decent chance TASHKHAN (best price 11-1) could easily end up being the joker in the pack for the Northern raiders.
Transferred to the Brian Ellison stable after landing a maiden in Ireland for Emmet Mullins, the son of Born To Sea made his debut for new connections in a hot handicap at York’s Dante meeting. Held up towards the rear in what turned out to be a slowly run affair, he understandably found himself a little outpaced as the tempo finally increased three out, but once in top gear, he came home to really good effect to force a photo with one of today’s rivals, Kondo Isami. Dropped back in trip for his latest venture at Haydock, one might have expected his to come up short, but as it turned out, he proved a totally revelation. Unlike the race on the Knavesmire previously, this time the pace was
strong from the outset and it allowed this progressive stayer to come through very strongly in the final half a mile. Indeed, his final three-furlong splits compared very favourably up against the sprinters on the same card, indicating he’s a fairly useful tool once in top gear. With that in mind, it will be very important for today’s pilot, Ben Robinson, to try and hook him off the inside fence turning for home in order for his mount to gather up plenty of momentum, but providing that proves to be the case, there’s more than a fair chance they can be involved in the finish.
Looking at the rest, there are cases to be made for plenty, none more so than top weight SIR LAMORAK (best price 4-1). His silky-smooth victory at Leopardstown when last seen was achieved in a better time figure than stable companion – particularly his backend sectionals – and following that run, there was talk that he might even go for the Derby via one of the UK trials. Unfortunately, that scenario failed to materialise but it might turn out to be a blessing disguise as fair as his chances in this race are concerned. First and foremost, his handicap mark is unaffected and secondly, if he is to make up into the Group horse that many expect (was one of the favourites for the Group 2 King Edward VII Stakes), he really to be going close to justify those thoughts. On that basis, he has to enter calculations as a cover bet despite his relatively short odds.