STAR PREVIEW: Royal Ascot Saturday

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

I want to begin this preview on a note of thanks. Firstly, to all of you for reading these previews each and every day, to David Stewart for his tireless editing through the week, to everyone at Ascot for the logistical efforts involved in making the week work, to all at the BHA for managing to schedule a Royal Meeting at all – and it’s worth remembering that racing is one of only three sports taking place in the UK and Ireland at the moment – and the stable lads and lasses who never miss a beat. It’s been quite a week, and it ends with a bang – three Group 1 contests, two belting handicaps, and of course, the feature Juvenile race of the week.

Another winning day thanks to the superb performance of Dandalla – flagged in #JuvenileWatch and selected at 10/1 each/way – and also Golden Horde’s victory in the Commonwealth Cup, meaning that we go into the final day well in front.

12.40 – Silver Wokingham Handicap (A Consolation Race For The 2020 Wokingham Stakes) (Class 2) (3yo+) 6f

Two against the field in a wide open race that’s well worth it’s place on a belting card. There are no prizes for finding Aplomb, but he impressed with the way he shaped at Newmarket, finding a lighting quick five furlongs too sharp for him before running on strongly. This stiffer six furlongs – where he’s run extremely well on the two occasions he’s been here – will suit him down to the ground and on a line through Tinto his October effort makes him look well handicapped.

Open Wide hasn’t had a pace to run at in his two starts last season but is a very big price on the best of his form last season, which includes a second in the Stewards’ Cup (along with excellent efforts in smaller field handicaps at Goodwood again and over course and distance). The big worry here is the ground – he’s never run in the top three on anything worse than good – but he’s too temptingly priced off a fast pace.

1.15 – Queen Mary Stakes (Group 2) (Fillies) (Class 1) (2yo) 5f

There’s the obvious caveat here of just how much potential there is in this field, and of how the ground will be riding at this point (things are set to dry out after a testing Thursday). More Beautiful was an impressive winner on her debut at Naas (form boosted by Measure Of Magic winning at Tipperary yesterday) and just like powerful Gulfstream winner Campanelle (beat stablemate Royal Approval), she is seriously respected. However, there may be some value outside of the top two and Sacred, who had to wait for a gap to open before putting her maiden to bed in decisively at Newmarket from Sardinia Sunset, could be the answer. She had reopposing contenders and subsequent winners Happy Romance (sixth) and Risque (eighth) well behind there in a race that has worked out well (three winners from it) and if she handles the cut then everything else suggests she should go very nicely.

Back her up with Sands Of Time, an impressive winner at Lingfield when pinging the gate and making all by five lengths. This is obviously going to be tougher and one can expect plenty of pace pressure, but she was not pressured late on despite running powerfully mid race (went from 4f-3f in 11.14, and then 3f-2f in 10.93) where she finished with an efficiency rating of ‘A’ from At The Races and it might be worth taking the gamble that she’s able to sit and take a lead from others. In any case, her raw ability has earned her a spot here and whilst she’s bred for quicker ground as a daughter of Bobby’s Kitten by the Queen Mary second and Prix d’Arenburg winner Starlit Sands, Bobby’s Kitten is a heavy ground winner and if the rain stays away she won’t be racing on the worst of the ground.

Dickiedooda, a game winner over Grammata (also runs here) who travelled superbly in that contest, and Mark Johnston’s other winner Pelekai are seen as the biggest threats.

1.50 – Coventry Stakes (Group 2) (Class 1) (2yo) 6f

This looks a belting contest, even with the limit of seeing every horse just once. All the contenders are respected but the way Qaader finished his race at Newbury when stamping his class all over the field earns him the vote here. He travelled all over his rivals that day but the power he showed in the final furlong despite drifting left in the run – putting four lengths between himself and other joint favourite Running Back, with subsequent winner Perotto in third – suggests that he’ll be at his very best when things get tough here, especially in a well-run race.

The ground (whether tacky or just soft still) is a question mark for many of these but he should be better placed to cope with it as there’d been over 5mm of rain in the two days prior to racing and another 2-3mm on the afternoon when he made his debut at Newbury, and all things said he might be most suited by the test today.

Impressive Haydock winner Lauded handles good to soft at least and has to be the main threat; The way Admiral Nelson won his maiden at The Curragh under hands and heels shows obvious ability, and he’ll be even better over this trip as the pick for Aidan O’Brien, who has won this race no less than nine times.

If the ground was to start riding good or quicker, then Creative Force would be the clear pick. He won his maiden at Newmarket (Saeiqa third, Dark Lion fourth) in the fastest time of any juvenile on that card with minimal urgings and the form has been boosted since by well beaten seventh Imperial Fora (second next time out) and eighth Northbound (won next time out), whilst runner up Imperial Force was an excellent third in the Norfolk Stakes.

Dark Lion, who was fourth behind Creative Force at Newmarket, cannot be ignored; he was all at sea for much of his debut and didn’t handle the dip whilst also running green, but he came home quickest of all, running 22.54s for the last 2f whilst Creative Force ran 22.67 and Ascot promises to suit him far more than Newmarket did to boot. If settling better off this quicker pace and proving more straightforward when making his challenge, then this son of Dark Angel (who has percentage rates of 11% and 11% on good to soft and soft ground) will be coming stronger than most.

The recommended strategy at 7pm on Friday is to back Qaader to win and have Creative Force as an each/way saver.

2.25 – Coronation Stakes (Group 1) (British Champions Series) (Fillies) (Class 1) (3yo) 1m

A fascinating renewal with every horse having some sort of chance. Quadrilateral compromised her chance in the 1,000 Guineas when she over raced early but she ran very respectably when third in the end there and if she improves from that she’ll hold a big chance. She was behind Cloak Of Spirits there, but Cloak Of Spirits was allowed to stride on at a front runners’ track and Quadrilateral can reverse that form.

A winner of the Fillies Mile when the ground was good to soft, the surface hopefully won’t be a problem for her.

Sharing, a game winner of the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf, has to be respected on that form through the runner up Daayeh and fourth Albgina (to a lesser extent) but she rolled off the turf at Santa Anita and this holding ground is a huge blow to her chances.

Run Wild’s mile form was very useful at the least before she took apart the Pretty Polly with a huge mid race move and she’s respected, but this is obviously much tougher and Ascot hasn’t been playing anywhere near as well for front runners this week.

Alpine Star’s tremendous late run to take the Debutante Stakes marked her out as a horse who’d thrive for a mile and more this year; On a line through So Wonderful (fourth) and Love (fifth) she holds an excellent chance here but it’s likely those horses underperformed that day which would leave that form just short, but she handles holding ground and the form of her Galway win over Santiago looks a lot better now.

So Wonderful ran a game race in the Irish 1,000 Guineas and has helpful form on yielding ground – at her best she can outrun her odds but she’s probably got less improvement to give than a couple of these, and that could also be the same for Love Locket, who was an impressive winner of what used to be the ‘trial’ for the Irish 1,000 Guineas (run at Leopardstown 11 days ago).

3.00 – St James’s Palace Stakes (Group 1) (British Champions Series) (Colts) (Class 1) (3yo)

If the ground is still holding, then 2,000 Guineas third Pinatubo would make more appeal than second Wichita, but Palace Pier has to be considered a major threat to the pair of them. There may not be very much between the three at all, so this doesn’t appeal as a betting race for all it’s sure to be a fascinating contest.

Threat and Positive, two of the leading juveniles last season, are respected even if the ground is a question mark for the pair of them, and there hasn’t been an explanation for Arizona’s lifeless reappearance in the 2,000 Guineas (where Royal Dornoch was also disappointing).

3.35 – Diamond Jubilee Stakes (Group 1) (British Champions Series) (Class 1) (4yo+) 6f

Plenty of narrative and intrigue to this renewal, where the starting point is Sceptical. The £2,800 Godolphin cast-off who has taken off for Denis Hogan following three wins this year after only breaking his maiden in November. His win at Naas in the Woodlands Stakes marked him as a sprinter who’s earned a shot at a fairytale story (and what a shame that Joey Sherdian can’t ride). He’s respected, but it’s a worry that this is the easiest/stickiest ground he’s encountered and this is also a significant step up in class for the now 5/2 favourite with Star, and whilst he’d be a wonderful result, he’s taken on for betting purposes.

Sprint Cup winner Hello Youmazin should be involved, especially if he can race more reservedly than he did here in the British Champions Sprint (raced with the choke out and was part of a very fast gallop on heavy ground), but this might fall perfectly for two of the older sprinters.

The first is One Master, who was just beaten by Donjuan Triumphant in the British Champions Sprint (a beneficiary of the strong gallop), that coming after she won the Prix Foret on Arc weekend just 13 days beforehand. Third in the Queen Anne last season, she’s extraordinarily adaptable and a strong gallop here should give her every chance of closing to best effect, whilst holding ground ought not to be a problem for her. William Haggas has been in good recent form even if some of his seasonal debutants haven’t hit the mark so far.

The quicker the ground the better for Dream Of Dreams, who came within a head of denying Blue Point history in this last year. He disappointed three times after in the July Cup, Sprint Cup and British Champions Sprint. Gelded over the winter, on his best form ( a smart defeat of Glorious Journey and The Tin Man in the Leisure Stakes last year) he’s entitled to be very seriously involved in this and whilst this is a seasonable debut, he won on his return last season and the booking of Ryan Moore indicates there’s no messing about today; he bombed out twice on ground worse than good last season but has run well on soft ground in the past.

4.10 – Wokingham Stakes (Heritage Handicap) (Class 2) (3yo+ 0-110) 6f

Summerghand had no pace to run at when a fast finishing second behind Tinto but that surely won’t be the case today and he’s got to have a big chance if he gets the breaks. Stall 14 gives James Doyle tactical options if the field goes to a particular side (stand side was place to be in Commonwealth Cup) and it’s a matter of fingers crossed for him when the gaps arrive (one hopes.)

It can sometime be wise to have two against the field in these handicaps and none can certainly make a compelling handicap case for Mr Lupton. The phrase ‘group horse in a handicap’ has been used a lot this week but Mr Lupton does have plenty of group class form, including a fine win in the Greenlands Stakes last May and also a very respectable fourth in the Abernant Stakes on his return at Newmarket. Dropping 3lbs in the weights for that seemed a generous move by the handicapper and the 3lb claim of Conor Murtagh helps his hand even more, whilst he has two listed seconds and also a Group 3 win on soft ground (although he goes on any surface). He’s also very tactically versatile to boot (won from both rear and also front) and looks too big to ignore.

Bielsa, the mount of Star ambassador (and winner of the first race yesterday) in Silvestre De Sousa was apparently brought by King Power Racing with this contest in mind and the very progressive five-year-old has to be respected although the market has found him too in a race where you shouldn’t be put off any contender.

4.40 – Queen Alexandra Stakes (Class 2) (4yo+) 2m5f

The traditional curtain closer, but not a race of much betting interest. Alan King could cap off a brilliant week with Who Dares Wins, a high class dual purpose horse who took the Northumberland Plate at Newcastle and who stays at least 2m4f well, whilst last season’s Ascot Stakes winner The Grand Visir has to be respected too. The market has them priced about right and whilst Nate The Great can progress for Andrew Balding, it’ll take a good effort to beat the top pair.

RECOMMENDED BETS (scale of 1-100 points)
BACK Aplomb 1 pt win in 12.40 Royal Ascot (Silver Wokingham Handicap) at 4/1 with
BACK Open Wide 1 pt each/way in 12.40 Royal Ascot (Silver Wokingham Handicap) at 14/1 with
BACK Sacred 1 pt win in 1.15 Royal Ascot (Queen Mary Stakes) at 9/2 with
BACK Sands Of Time 1 pt each/way in 1.15 Royal Ascot (Queen Mary Stakes) at 14/1 with
BACK Qaader 1 pt win in 1.50 Royal Ascot (Coventry Stakes) 1 pt win at 4/1 with
BACK Creative Force 1 pt each/way in 1.50 Royal Ascot (Coventry Stakes) at 8/1 with
BACK Quadrilateral 1 pt win in 2.25 Royal Ascot (Coronation Stakes) at 9/4 with
BACK One Master 1 pt win in 3.35 Royal Ascot (Diamnd Jubilee Stakes) at 4/1 with
BACK Dream Of Dreams 1 pt each/way in 3.35 Royal Ascot (Diamond Jubilee Stakes) at 15/2 with
BACK Summerghand 1 pt each/way in 4.10 Royal Ascot (Wokingham Handicap) at 15/2 with
BACK Mr Lupton 1 pt each/way in 4.10 Royal Ascot (Wokingham Handicap) at 20/1 with

PROFIT/LOSS SINCE JAN 1 2017: PROFIT 292.65 points
(Excluding Cheltenham 2021 antepost, Premier League ante-post, Six Nations Outright, Six Nations Specials, Cameron Brown Football Bets, Derby bet)