STAR PREVIEW: Royal Ascot Friday

Royal Ascot 2020, Day 4
Live on Sky Sports Racing HD from 12:30pm and ITV 1 HD from 1:30pm
Opening Show on ITV4 HD from 9:30am


An extraordinary day yesterday, with Stradivarius putting in a performance for the ages in the Gold Cup – painful as it was for the Star team (see Simon Nott’s riveting trading report). John Gosden’s champion stayer is ‘just’ six and whilst there will be tougher races than this one for him to face, he’s taken everything thrown at him so far, and we now have the exciting prospects of him either going for the Arc at the end of the season like other stayers have (Westerner, Order Of St George to name two) or coming back for a fourth Gold Cup, equalling Yeats’ record.

It was a great day for followers of the blog, as Paul and Oliver Cole produced a magnificent training performance to get Highland Chief ready for the Golden Gates Handicap, and a tremendous ride from Rossa Ryan saw him grab victory at the line, landing a 14/1 winner.

The luck wasn’t on our side elsewhere, with Regal Reality probably finding the ground too soft despite running a screamer, Monarch Of Egypt just denied, Modern News appearing not to like the surface, and Verboten and Starcat running too badly to be true in the Britannia – but we didn’t need it to be and we head to day 4 in front.

1.15 – Palace Of Holyroodhouse Handicap (Class 2) (3yo 0-105) 5f

A fascinating contest here as one of the new additions to the meeting. Art Power – who will be just fine with the rain – was a deeply impressive winner at Newcastle on his return when he shaped like a group horse and he’ll take all the beating, but 15/8 in a race of this nature makes no appeal. All week recent runs have been a help and whilst Keep Busy couldn’t get near Lazuli at Sandown in the Scurry Stakes, he was a comprehensive second (was three and three quarter lengths clear of third) with some good horses behind in the shape of Dream Shot and Al Raya (both rated 104), and if backing up OK after that then the handicapper looks to have treated him very fairly off 96 with Cieren Fallon huge value for his 3lb claim. Others that look fairly handicapped are City Walk, Maystar, Dancin Inthestreet, and Mighty Spirit.

1.50 – 6f Albany Stakes (Group 3) (Fillies) (Class 1) (2yo) 6f

All of the first eight in the market have been noted as horses to follow in #JuvenileWatch, so making a selection here was hard enough even before taking the ground into account. A softened surface and extra furlong has to go against Flying Aletha – despite her incredible natural speed and powerful finish at Gulfstream.

Golden Melody, who travelled much the best before winning easily at Haydock, has form with some cut in the ground and promises to improve for not only the original experience, but also to relish the test Ascot provides – along with what’s hopefully a strong gallop. This is not a race for mega staking, however.

A big shout out to Dandalla too, who made an incredibly striking visual impression at Newcastle in a race that’s produced two winners since. She may be underrated by the market, having travelled a good deal better than her opposition before stamping her class all over the race and she’s worth a lot of respect. Newcastle’s slower surface is said to compare well with soft ground elsewhere, whilst sire Dandy Man has strike rates of (17% on heavy and 9% on good to soft) and she’s near the head of the shortlist if she takes up her engagement here.

Setarhe, who was arguably the most visually impressive of six juvenile winners at Newmarket (Cirrus second) when being one of the only horses over the entire Guineas meeting to come from the back to take victory, would have been of serious interest on a quick surface but like many, she can be left alone today.

Mother Earth (A Zoffany filly out of 1m1f listed winner Many Colours) made a hugely striking debut at Navan when outsped going downhill before rallying to take second, and she has to be considered the main threat assuming she handles the ground.

2.25 – 5f Norfolk Stakes (Group 2) (Class 1) (2yo) 5f

It will be hard to beat Eye Of Heaven, whose Newmarket win got a considerable boost when third Tactical won the Windsor Castle (second Get It was fourth) but the fact Lipizzaner has run well on testing ground (and drops back from six furlongs, having done too much too soon according to time figures) could suit him a great deal and he may be the horse best suited by the rain which had made Ascot soft at the time of writing.

The Lir Jet looked fast enough to go with any two-year-old running this week when romping home at Yarmouth and was going to be the selection, but he relished fast ground with the wind at his back there and surely he’ll want a quicker surface. Imperial Force – second behind Coventry contender Creative Force in a good time at Newmarket – would be of interest but again the surface makes things difficult.

3.00 – Hardwicke Stakes (Group 2) (Class 1) (4yo+) 1m4f

Anthony Van Dyck can have a big season ahead of him and he did win the Lingfield Derby Trial on soft ground, but he’s looked at his best on a fast surface and doesn’t appeal witht the ground riding as it did. Indeed, it would be a surprise if he took his chance. Elarqam’s second to Lord North in the Brigadier Gerard Stakes was a brilliant comeback, the form of which was followed up on yesterday; He’s have a favourite’s chance if he got 12 furlongs as he handles soft ground with aplomb (third to Addeybb and Magic Wand in Wolferton on soft ground at last year’s meeting, then slammed Addeybb in SkyBet York Stakes) although it’s unknown if he wants a slog at this trip.

Last year’s winner Defoe wasn’t at his best in a very strong Coronation Cup but the run style of this race – especially without such a big mid race move made on a front runner’s track – ought to suit him more and he’s the biggest threat. Fanny Logan handles cut and is probably still improving after a nice comeback at Haydock although she was just outstayed at the end there and it’s likely this’ll be an even tougher test of stamina.

Hamish, the winner of the Melrose Handicap who then followed up over the same course and distance on soft ground next time, will improve as a four-year-old and enjoy the ground – he appeared to have no problem with heavy ground when just outstayed by Trueshan at Newbury in October – and he’s got to be respected.

Communique may need it better than this and disappointed at Newmarket when given a good opportunity last time, Spanish Mission is unproven on ground with this much give in it, Alounak is respected but has the same concern, whilst Eagles By Day and Desert Encounter don’t appeal on that score either.

3.35 – Commonwealth Cup (Group 1) (British Champions Series) (Class 1) (3yo) 6f

A really strong renewal here to enjoy. Pierre Lapin impressed in the Mill Reef and has a bright future, but this is a complete unknown in ground terms and that’s also the case for Lope Y Fernandez, who would have been the selection on a sound surface. The ground is also a big negative for Kimari (over 6 furlongs here) and Mums Tipple.

Golden Horde has only run once on soft ground but his Morny third (heavy) at Deauville is some of the strongest form here and there isn’t a single juvenile run of his that doesn’t entitle him to be seriously involved. Assuming he’s trained on – and the vibes from his stable are positive – then he can play a serious hand and Clive Cox had Tis Marvellous run well on his seasonal debut in the King’s Stand on Tuesday.

Millisle showed a fine attitude and good turn of foot to win a listed event at the Curragh last August before finishing a short head second in the Dick Poole and then blazing a trail to take the Cheveley Park Stakes; She was a disappointment in the 1,000 Guineas when seventh after losing her positon mid race, but it may well be that she’s a sprinter and the form of her Cheveley Park success entitles her to be seriously involved; Ascot’s six furlongs ought to suit her down to the ground and she rates the main threat.

A very interesting outsider of Aidan O’Brien’s is Royal Lytham, who was impended in the Coventry last year, then showed a great attitude to take the July Stakes and then was third in the Phoenix Stakes behind Siskin and Monarch Of Egypt; With a return in the Irish 2,000 Guineas under his belt, he’s very much of interest and 18/1 could really underestimate him – the form of the Irish Guineas was done no harm by Monarch of Egypt’s big run in the Jersey and whilst Royal Lytham wasn’t unlucky in that same way, perhaps a return to Ascot’s 6 furlongs will help him.

Pistoletto made a fair return in the Committed Stakes but looks exposed and probably wants it faster; Southern Hills didn’t enter the stalls there, but having won the Windsor Castle at last year’s Royal Meeting as a maiden he’s obviously got ability and that renewal has worked out OK, for all the stalls could be a worry.

Dubai Station, who was probably lucky but showed a good attitude when taking the Pavilion Stakes (Ventura Station sixth) needs respect as a soft ground winner who was third in the Norfolk Stakes last year.

Shadn, a gutsy winner of the Criterium de Maisons-Laffitte on very soft ground last year, is interesting here with the Balding team in such great form. Royal Crusade ran Threat to a head in the Champagne Stakes in September before not appearing to love the ground in the Prix Thomas Byron. He’s a horse of promise but he may also want it faster.

Les Houges ran French Guineas winner Dream and Do to a neck in the Prix Miesque at the backend of last season and may not be the wort longshot whilst Aberama Gold and Royal Commando didn’t make appeal on both ground and form basis respectively.

4.10 – Queen’s Vase (Group 2) (Class 1) (3yo) 1m6f

Many of Born With Pride’s supporters will have been disappointed by her comeback at Kempton when she never really landed a blow after being slowly away but this could suit her much better and she’s definitely worth giving a second chance to on the promise of her debut listed win. On that occasion in the Montrose Stakes she showed an excellent attitude to get the better of Peaceful, who has since dominated the Irish 1,000 Guineas – with wide margin Pretty Polly winner Run Wild behind in third to boot.

That’s strong form – and she should be able to improve in spades – and her breeding gives plenty of encouragement for this trip. By Irish Derby second Born To Sea, her dam Jumooh has produced Raheen House (high class performer and pattern winner over 1m4f-2m) Sea Of Faith (dual winner over 1m5f) and Shraaoh (winner of Schweppes Sydney Cup) so this ought to put her in much better light and we know the ground is fine too.

Aidan O’Brien pairing Santiago (beat subsequent winner at Listowel on soft/heavy ground) and Nobel Prize (Second in Leopardstown maiden on soft, then rallied under pressure to take Naas maiden over a mile at backend of last season) must be respected given the yard’s record in the race (six wins).

Berkshire Rocco is probably the most exposed runner in the field but he’s very much respected on the basis of his third in the Zetland Stakes and second in the Lingfield Derby Trial and so is Al Dabran, who won the Winkfield Stakes before running good races in the Prix des Chenes and Prix de Conde at the end of last year.

On Guard was a game winner of a Yarmouth novice stakes who should step forward from that and Punctuation should be happier back up in trip, having been unsuited by dropping down in the Newmarket Stakes after a wide margin win at Kempton, so neither of these can be discounted. London Arch and Cloud Thunder look outclassed on what they’ve shown so far with neither having real form with cut.

4.40 – Duke Of Edinburgh Stakes (Handicap) (Class 2) (3yo+ 0-105)

A strong renewal as ever but the ground has thrown a cat amongst the pigeons here. Jim Crowley cannot put a foot wrong and his booking on the obviously progressive Durston looks a coup for David Simcock and Highclere Thoroughbreds. A soft ground winner at Chester in decent company last June before being very unlucky not to win at Glorious Goodwood when beaten just a head by subsequent St Leger second Sir Ron Priestley (would end the season rated 108), he ended last season a creditable third behind two group horses in the shape of Technican and Morando in the Geoffrey Freer. A mark of 100 looks daunting at this level but if anything it may underestimate him, and he makes the most appeal of the market leaders. It’s also very interesting to note that David Simcock, whilst winless since racing returned, has had three runners produce huge runs this week and if this son of Sea The Moon runs to his best he can go very close.

The other horse of note could be Indianapolis. He didn’t cut too much ice on his return at Newmarket but the ex-Ballydoyle five-year-old has proven to be a useful handicapper for James Given and had a very productive season last year, finishing fourth in the Old Newton Cup, winning the Shergar Cup Challenge before taking a valuable class 2 handicap at Leicester on heavy ground to end the season. That came off a mark of 97 – he’s only 2lbs higher here- and the ground could be a real leveller.

RECOMMENDED BETS (scale of 1-100 points)
BACK Keep Busy 1 pt each/way in 1.15 Royal Ascot (Palace Of Holyroodhouse Handicap) at 15/2 with starsports.bet
BACK Golden Melody 1 pt win in 1.50 Royal Ascot (Albany Stakes) at 10/3 with starsports.bet
BACK Dandalla 1 pt each/way in 1.50 Royal Ascot (Albany Stakes) at 10/1 with starsports.bet
BACK Golden Horde 1 pt win in 3.35 Royal Ascot (Commonwealth Cup) at 4/1 with starsports.bet
BACK Royal Lytham 1 pt each/way in 3.35 Royal Ascot (Commonwealth Cup) at 18/1 with starsports.bet
BACK Born With Pride 1 pt win in 4.10 Royal Ascot (Queen’s Vase) at 5/2 with starsports.bet
BACK Durston 1 pt win in 4.40 Royal Ascot (Duke of Edinburgh Stakes) at 9/2 with starsports.bet
BACK Indianapolis 1 pt each/way in 4.40 Royal Ascot (Duke of Edinburgh Stakes) at 11/1 with starsports.bet


PROFIT/LOSS SINCE JAN 1 2017: PROFIT 283.15 points
(Excluding Cheltenham 2021 antepost, Premier League ante-post, Six Nations Outright, Six Nations Specials, Cameron Brown Football Bets, Derby bet)