After what has seemed like months, I am delighted to be finally returning to the saddle at Ascot on Friday. As I said in my blog last week, I had hoped to return to action at Kempton on Wednesday, but I decided to give myself that extra bit of time.
It felt good to ride work again last Saturday morning and my shoulder felt spot on, so its all systems go.
I’m starting back slowly with just the two rides at Ascot on Friday, but then ramp things up with a much busier day on Saturday.
Here are my thoughts on my rides…
FOX LEICESTER (2.00pm)
It’s great that I’ll be pulling on the King Power Racing silks for my first ride back and I’m looking forward to getting back aboard Fox Leicester. This looks the right race for him and being by Dark Angel the softer ground should help too. He has been a bit disappointing on his last two starts, but he is tough and hopefully can bounce back here. He was second to Lord North at Redcar on his last start as a juvenile at Redcar last season on soft ground and that form looks good now after watching that horse win last weekend’s Cambridgeshire.
KING POWER (4.20pm)
My only other ride is King Power, again for Andrew Balding and King Power. She’s a nicely bred daughter of Frankel who has been a bit disappointing in her five starts to date. Her best bit of form came when third on soft ground in the Lingfield Oaks Trial, so conditions shouldn’t be a problem. We have always liked her so it would be great to see her finally get her head in front here.
INTENSE ROMANCE (2.00pm – Rous Stakes)
This will be the first time I have ridden Intense Romance for Michael Dods who won this very race 12 months ago. That was her third win on the bounce and rounded off a really good season. The problem this time around is that she hasn’t been in the same form. She has been well beaten on the two occasions she has had her ground at Haydock this season which is a worry. Hopefully the return to Ascot will spark a return to form.
MORANDO (2.35pm – Cumberland Lodge Stakes)
My best chance of the day definitely looks to be Morando in the Cumberland Lodge Stakes. He has to carry a 3lbs penalty here after his Chester win earlier in the season, but that shouldn’t stop him. He loves soft ground, so I’d welcome any more rain to keep conditions as they are. I guess the biggest danger looks to be Sextant for Sir Michael Stoute, but Morando should be hard to beat here.
BATTERED (3.10pm – Challenge Cup Handicap)
A really competitive looking Ascot seven-furlong handicap where I ride Battered for Ralph Beckett. He won on soft ground when trained by William Haggas, so there are certainly grounds for optimism. I suppose it’s just a question of whether he is up to winning a race of this nature. It looks really tough with the likes of Ripp Orf and Raising Sand looking hard to beat.
DONJUAN TRIUMPHANT (3.40pm Ascot – Bengough Stakes)
If you can forgive Donjuan Triumphant his last two disappointing runs, you have to give him a big chance dropped in trip and grade – particularly if the rain comes. In fact, it cannot get soft enough for him and he seems to go well here. He was a good third in the Group One Champions Sprint here last October. On a going day, he could take some beating here. I’m hoping he will bounce back.
DI FEDE (4.15pm)
My last ride of the afternoon is Di Fede for Ralph Beckett. She goes well here at Ascot and won this race on similar ground last season. She is another who hasn’t been in great form so far this season and I’m hoping she can bounce back too. I guess I’d fear Beauty Filly of William Haggas’ who looks the one to beat.
LONGCHAMP SUNDAY – THE ARC
3.05pm – Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe
I’m not going to Longchamp on Sunday but will eagerly be watching Enable’s date with destiny from home. She is such a classy mare and it would be great to see her land that historic hat-trick. She and Frankie Dettori have built up an unstoppable partnership and I’d be surprised if anything can beat her. The obvious threat look the two three-year-olds Japan and Sottsass, but I’m not sure they can stop the wonder mare.
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