Royal Ascot Picks: Andy Holding's Thursday Racing Picks

After winners at 14/1 and 6/1 yesterday, Andy has more selections for today's action at Royal Ascot
Andy Holding
Thu, June 18, 10:03 AM

Today our picks come from Royal Ascot in the UK and from British racing expert Andy Holding.

Race 3 (09:25 EST) - Pick: Final Song (8/1 ML) - Click here to bet with TVG

FINAL SONG (best price 8/1) went really well until her stamina ran out in over a strongly-run mile in the 1000 Guineas, but that represents form at the very highest level and now dropping back down to what could turn out be her optimum trip, the daughter of Dark Angel is fancied to outrun her double-figure quotes.

In fine fettle during the winter over in Dubai, Charlie Appleby’s filly was sent off a wild outsider in the first fillies’ classic at HQ just over a week ago and over a furlong down, she looked like she might cause a big upset (sent off 100/1). Once meeting the rising ground, however, she couldn’t quite match the big players who just simply saw out the trip better on the day and she had to settle for an honourable fourth. A winner on her debut over today’s course on soft ground, followed up by a cracking effort in last season’s Queen Mary suggests she’s fully at home on the slopes of the Berkshire venue and having also bagged a favourable draw next to the stands’ side rail, the classy filly looks set to punch above her weight.

Race 4 (10:00 EST) - Pick: Battleground (11/4 ML) & Bright Devil (11/2 ML) - Click here to bet with TVG

Plenty in here who will no doubt improve significantly in time and although BATTLEGROUND (best price 11/4) definitely falls into that category, he’s still taken to back up his hugely promising display at Naas on debut.

Relatively easy to back at the Co Kildare venue 10 days ago, partly due to his coffin box draw in stall 18 of 18, the son of War Front was soon on the back foot having to drop in from his position out on the wing. Still having plenty to do at the halfway point, Aidan O’Brien’s colt began to find his stride in taking fashion in the hottest part of the race and keeping on all the way to the line, he ran home under a considerate ride to finish a never-nearer fourth. In terms of pure form and time figures, the race in question wasn’t off the scale by any stretch of the imagination, it was just his performance in terms of his future prospects that was so engaging. Likely to have come on a bundle for that initial effort, this tall, rangy colt should also benefit for an extra furlong looking at his distaff side and with his handler having landed this prize three times in the last decade, it would come as little surprise to see this middle-distance type for next season put himself on the role of honour.

The one thing we don’t know about Battleground, or any of these in truth, is whether he will handle rain-softened ground, so it might not be the daftest policy in the world to have another bullet to fire just in case the main pick doesn’t shine. Of those who have already got their head in front, BRIGHT DEVIL (best price 11/2) makes most appeal at the morning odds considering he beat what looked a smart field at Newmarket on paper without no semblance of a fluke.

Although sent off at 25-1, he went through the race without showing any signs of an inferiority complex and, having made most of the running down to the bushes, he lengthened well going in and out of the dip to pull clear of the well-fancied Godolphin runner Magical Land. Additionally, his time figure he produced was pretty good – much the best of his rivals here today – and he appears to have a nice way of going. Hailing from a yard that struck with the first two-year-old winner of the week, Andrew Balding’s colt should give a good account if handling the expected change in conditions.

Race 6 (11:10 EST) - Pick: Finest Sound (3/1 ML) & Grove Ferry (20/1 ML) - Click here to bet with TVG

Just the 24 to go to post instead of the usual 30, but there looks to be a potential blot on the handicap in the shape of FINEST SOUND (best price 3/1) and he rates a strong choice to repeat victory by Ostilio for the same connections in this race two years ago.

Third in three consecutive maidens during last season, including the red-hot one behind Kinross at Newmarket, the son of Exceed And Excel underwent both a gelding operation and wind procedure during the off period in order to correct any physical and mental aliments and on the evidence of his comeback success at Haydock two weeks ago, the decision to move his metaphorical goalposts seems to have worked the oracle. The way he moved through what turned out to be a well-run affair at the Merseyside suggested he was in a different league to his opposition and just a flick of the reins resulted in him scampering clear to the tune of five lengths. Clocking a fair time figure into the bargain, the fine-looking three-year-old also came home in a similar time frame to the sprinters earlier on the same card and with handicapper subsequently doing his best to try and derail his future progress, it is little wonder connections are keen to bring him out again in order to try and exploit his old mark. The one question mark surrounding his chance, being by Exceed And Excel, is whether he will cope the rain-softened ground, but at least he handled good-to-soft ground well enough 10 days ago, so there is a crumb of comfort on that score.

One who shouldn’t have issues with the ground if it went on the easier side is GROVE FERRY (best price 20/1) and he looks set to continue the fine run of form for his stable. A dual winner last season, the son of Excelebration proved he handles soft ground really well when scoring in tidy fashion at Salisbury this time last year and looking as though he needed every yard of the six-furlong trip that day, it came as no surprise to see him repeat the dose over further on his final start of the campaign at Epsom. Back to the fray after a gelding operation, Andrew Balding’s inmate was expected to be better for the run after a 330-day break and although that ultimately proved to be the case, he pleased all concerned with a game effort in what looked a very competitive handicap at Lingfield on the all-weather. Although he’s not proven at the trip, the way he’s been finishing off his races over seven furlongs suggests he won’t have too many problems and housed in what appears to be a favourable draw given how the earlier part of the week has panned out, this likable three-year-old is by no means the worst 20-1 you’ve ever seen.

Race 7 (11:40 EST) - Pick: Africans Dram (15/8 ML) - Click here to bet with TVG

If the numbers are to believed regarding AFRICAN DREAM’s (best price 15/8) effort in a novice event at Newbury on her seasonal comeback, John Gosden’s filly has got away with daylight robbery to get in here off a mark of 80 and although she’s hardly been missed in the market, there’s still an argument to be made she still just about represents value around the 2-1 mark.

Off the mark at the second time of asking in a fair novice event at Lingfield back in March, the daughter of Oasis Dream was fairly easy to back on her turf debut at the Berkshire venue just over a week ago and although she ended up having to play second fiddle to Stylistique in the end, her performance had to go down as a commendable one in defeat. Travelling well throughout, she kept the well-fancied favourite honest all the way to the line and with the time figure very much suggesting it was a race of some substance, the initial thought for the casual observer was we might have witnessed two performers destined to be regulars in many pattern races further down the line. Whether that transpires only time will tell, but either way, the handicapper certainly agrees with the lightly-raced filly due to go up 16lb in future and she’s strongly fancied to press home her seemingly massive advantage providing the ground doesn’t deteriorate too much (was good-to-soft at Newbury and dam was a debut winner on soft at two).

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