Our horse racing expert Andy Holding has ten tips for the final day of Royal Ascot and a NAP at Haydock.
15:05 Royal Ascot
At least with all the rain finally arriving, we know where we stand in advance going into the last day of the meeting and, with the prevailing conditions having come right for both KHARTOUM (best price 17-2) and LIGHT REFRAIN (best price 14-1), they are worth playing against the field.
The former turned out to be a bitter disappointment when well down the field in the Craven Stakes at Newmarket on his seasonal bow, but he managed to bounce back to something nearing his best on a much softer surface at Naas last time out. Settling nicely towards the rear of the field at the Co Kildare venue, Aidan O’Brien’s colt quickened up smartly in the latter stages to score with a bit up his sleeve and with the runner-up, Visualisation, going on to advertise the form in a big way subsequently, he looks well worth another attempt at pattern level.
The latter just came up a little short on her first try at Group level but as the race in question at Haydock looks a very strong piece of form (Dragon Symbol second), she’s well worth another chance. Noted going well just in behind the speed two out, William Haggas’ filly became outpaced at the pace really cranked up at that juncture and although she kept on willingly enough in the latter stages, she couldn’t quite make up the lost ground. On the positive side with regards to today’s contest, she did shape as though an extra furlong wouldn’t go amiss and with an overall body of work on soft ground as good as any in today’s field, the daughter of Frankel would be a popular winner for Her Majesty.
15:40 Royal Ascot
ALBAFLORA (best price 11-2) received an unnecessary aggressive ride in the Coronation Cup at Epsom on her latest start, so she can be forgiven to a large degree her slightly tame finishing effort, and if you are prepared to overlook that display and concentrate more on her scintillating victory over today’s C&D previously on soft ground, then Ralph Beckett’s filly comes bang into the equation.
Well-backed beforehand on her first attempt in Group 1 company, the daughter of Muhaarar was forced to use up plenty of petrol in the hottest part of the race when the eventual winner Pyledriver turned on the heat and although she momentarily looked dangerous coming out of Tattenham Corner, she ultimately paid for those exertions in the latter stages. Prior to that respectable effort at the Surrey venue, the four-year-old grey and taken apart a useful field at listed level under similar conditions she faces today and providing she’s ridden a little more circumspectly with a view to allowing her turn of foot to be fully effective late on, there’s a decent chance she can give her handler his second winner of the week if stall 2 (now becomes 1 effectively) doesn’t pose too many problems.
Another who won’t mind the conditions is HUKUM (best price 6-1) and he’s worth a small involvement to find out whether he belongs in this sort of company. Winner of the competitive King George VII Handicap here last season, Owen Burrow’s proved a little too keen for his own good in the St Leger on his final outing, but the mere fact he deserved his place in a race of that magnitude, said plenty about the regard he’s held in and the level of improvement he found in a short space of time. Beginning this campaign looking as though he needed the run first time out, the son of Sea The Stars proved a totally different proposition next time at Goodwood and by landing that competitive little listed contest, he also rubber-stamped his suitability to a soft underfoot surface. A strong stayer at the trip – something which can’t be levelled at one or two of his rivals here today – the classy-looking four-year-old has all the attributes to give a good account.
17:00 Royal Ascot
How the draw will pan out is difficult to predict at time of writing, but providing those housed towards the far side aren’t too inconvenienced, both PENDLETON (best price 17-2) and FRESH (best price 8-1) have the right sort of credentials to take a hand in the finish.
The former just came out second best of a battle royal with the latter over today’s C&D a month ago, but considering that was his first run for 560 days, his performance still has to go down as a thoroughly commendable one. Sent to York for his latest outing, Michael Dods’ gelding was expected to play a significant role in a competitive 5f handicap with that all-important run under his belt and having raced prominent from the outset, he stayed on best of all to claim the prize. No worse than fifth in 13 career starts, it’s noticeable that most of his best efforts have come when there’s been plenty of dig in the ground and having run well on both to his starts over today’s stiff track, he ticks more boxes than a polling station on election day.
His old rival also proved his suitability to today’s course for second time with that narrow-margin victory 43 days ago and he’s been purposely kept fresh by connections ever since. Racing in the first-time tongue-tie that day, the way he scythed his way through the pack from the back of the pack to claim the spoils close home bodes well for his return visit and having showed a preference for soft ground in the past, James Fanshawe’s gelding rates a must for the shortlist.
17:35 Royal Ascot
ALFAADHEL (best price 11-2) oozed class when scoring with plenty in hand at Lingfield last time out and with Roger Varian’s colt already harbouring ambitions of making up into a pattern-race performer further down the line, a mark of 98 appears more than exploitable on his first start in handicap company.
Shaping well on his debut at Newbury back in April, the son of Night Of Thunder has improved immeasurably since and his two subsequent performances over two furlongs further have come with a touch of class. Making light work of his opposition at Chester a month ago, the chestnut was even more impressive on the all-weather last time out and with the numbers over his victory of the useful and subsequent winner Sir Rumi very good, it’s clear he’s now ready for something more substantial. Drawn wide, Jim Crowley has the opportunity to hunt for the better of the ground out wide and being one of the few in the field who has exhibited a smart turn of foot, hopefully he will be able to show his true worth at the business end.
18:10 Royal Ascot
Now the ground has changed quite dramatically in the last 24 hours, the longest Flat race in the calendar will become an even greater test than normal, so with the mind, THE GRAND VISIR (best priced 15-2) should turn out to be in his element.
A former winner of the Ascot Stakes back in 2019, the seven-year-old has by and large been a pretty consistent performer at a higher level since and although he proved no match for two top-class stayers from France last time out, the mere fact he finished a creditable third in a Group 2 shows he’s no back number. Runner-up to Who Dares Wins in this race last year, the son of Frankel filled out the same position behind one of today’s main rivals, Falcon Eight, in the Chester Cup a month ago and with the ground more suitable for him rather than his old rival, he has a fair chance of turning around the form around a track that clearly plays into his strengths.
CALLING THE WIND (best priced at 50-1) looks to have a stiff task based on the official ratings, however, as today’s ground is likely to be a great leveller and he’s run extremely well on all his three visits to the Berkshire venue, he’s worth a small interest at a big price.
A winner on his first attempt here last Summer, Richard Hughes’ gelding just found one too good when returning to the track on his final start of the campaign and as the time figure of that five-runner race was pretty good for the grade, his performance has to go down as a career high. A bit disappointing on his latest outing at Newmarket, he’s probably better judged on his useful effort behind two progressive types earlier in the month and if the son of Authorized rises to the occasion as he often has done here in the past, there’s a fair chance he can punch considerably above his weight.
FOX HILL (NAP) (best price 11-4) ran with great credit in a pretty hot race for the grade here last time out and a repeat performance should see Eric Alston’s filly very hard to beat.
A comfortable winner in the first-time cheekpieces at Redcar the time before, a big run was expected at a track where she’s gone well in the past and although she ran perfectly respectably in filling out third spot, time may tell she faced an impossible task up against two big improving sprinters. With seemingly nothing of that magnitude up against her here this evening, the daughter of Foxwedge, who has solid form on all types of ground, rates a confident choice to add to her winning tally.