STAR PREVIEW: Royal Ascot Thursday

Royal Ascot 2020, Day 3
Live on Sky Sports Racing HD from 12:30pm and ITV 1 HD from 1:30pm
Opening Show on ITV4 HD from 9:30am


After a first day of frustration, we had an excellent second day thanks to wins for Lord North and Fujaira Prince, as well as an excellent each/way run from Vale Of Kent in the Hunt Cup, meaning we go into day 3 just in front. Most of our picks ran to their best and more – so we’re looking for the same luck today.

1.15 – Golden Gates Handicap (Class 2) (3yo 0-105) 1m2f

A fascinating addition to Royal Ascot and a race that would be worthy of inclusion at any meeting. There is obvious interest in Acquitted (second to Palace Pier at Newcastle on return) and Hypothetical (fourth in Classic Trial at Kempton) but it’s impossible not to be tempted into backing Highland Chief each/way.

He was one of the earliest juvenile winners of last season when he clawed back victory on his debut at Newbury over five furlongs; afterwards he was sent to the Chesham Stakes, when he ran well – showing signs of greenness when getting near the front – and was left behind by none other than Pinatubo and Lope Y Fernandez. Nobody needs telling what those two have achieved, and Highland Chief was a good two and a half lengths clear of Sun Power (neck second in listed contest afterwards). He wasn’t seen until the Royal Lodge when he disappointed there, but he was “riven with ulcers” according to co-trainer Oliver Cole and he now reappears as a 14/1 shot, which is surely a big price even in this field if he retains previous ability. As a half-brother to two winners at ten furlongs or further – being out of a ten furlong winner – one would hope he’d find this trip to his liking. If that’s the case, he can make a bold bid here.

1.50 – Wolferton Stakes (Listed Race) (Class 1) (4yo+) 1m2f

A well upto scratch renewal of this contest where Regal Reality is the call. Fox Tal was ahead of Regal Reality in the Champion Stakes when the two last met but that took place on testing ground after a gruelling season for Regal Reality, who started his campaign last April with a fine third in the Bet365 Mile before embarking on a busy campaign. The highlights of that campaign included an impressive win in the Brigadier Gerard Stakes and an excellent third in the Eclipse when not beaten far behind Enable and Magical.

That’s the best form in this field – over 10 furlongs at least – and it’s worth taking the risk that he’s ready to go on his reappearance (beaten on seasonal debuts twice, but did win at Glorious Goodwood off a 71 day break).

In hindsight Sir Dragonet didn’t run badly on his comeback in the Devoy Stakes at Naas but he shaped there like a horse who’d be much happier going back upto 12 furlongs, and bigger threats could come from John Gosden pair Crossed Baton and Dubai Warrior, whilst Ralph Beckett’s Aloe Vera, an impressive winner of the Height Of Fashion stakes at Goodwood, is a promising horse for the oncoming season.

2.25 – Jersey Stakes (Group 3) (Class 1) (3yo) 7f

A strong renewal given the curtailed season. A well run seven furlongs over the straight mile could be just what’s needed to bring the best out of Celestin and Monarch of Egypt here, and they receive the joint vote. Celestin was unfit and poorly placed when suffering an odds on defeat at Chantilly on his reappearance, but he was much sharper when fourth in the French 2,000 Guineas, again despite the pace not being red hot that day. That ought not to be an issue here with a stiff finish to suit, and he’d have to be given a decent chance based on his proximity to Victor Ludorum, The Summit and Alson.

Monarch Of Egypt may be a forgotten horse when it comes to the Irish 2,000 Guineas, having been on the bridle when a domino effect ended his chances before he’d even had a run, but the way he travelled there suggests that we might still see the same horse who gave Irish 2,000 Guineas winner Siskin such a good race in the Phoenix Stakes last season and if he’s in that sort of form then he’s going to be a threat to all. If the ground keeps riding on the quick side, his prospects would be enhanced over this trip and maybe he wasn’t quite suited by Newmarket when he disappointed there twice last season.

King Leonidas has impressed a huge amount on his two starts, putting aside a promising rival whilst giving 7lbs last time, and a literal reading of Molatham’s defeat of Wichita gives him an outstanding shout. Of those at a bigger price, Mister Snowdon looks one to keep on the right side of. His wins were achieved in very fast times.

3.00 – Chesham Stakes (Listed Race) (Class 1) (2yo) 7f

As always, a fascinating renewal especially with the shortened season meaning we’ve all seen these horses just once. Modern News did all his best work at the finish when taking a well-run and well contested maiden on 1,000 Guineas day at Newmarket and he shaped like a horse who promises to be suited by Ascot, especially with its more conventional finish compared to Newmarket. We’ve seen only the one horse run from that maiden (Cooperation, fifth) but his subsequent second puts a reasonable light on his win and we’ll surely see better from him under today’s conditions.

Battleground, the first foal out of Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe heroine Found, ran a lovely race on his Naas debut, finishing well for fifth down the outside there. It’s a big vote of confidence that Aidan O’Brien sends him here, and this seventh furlong ought to suit, so he’s obviously highly rated, although we may just see the best of him down the road (albeit that’s the case with the whole field).

Bright Devil belied odds of 25/1 when making all against the near rail on his Newmarket debut, showing a fine attitude and nifty tactical speed, when the favourite was forced to challenge six/seven horses wide. This extra furlong ought to suit him just fine and he’s respected although there may be more competition from the gate this time.

It’s very interesting that Mark Johnston runs Golden Flame and March Law, second and fourth in one of the few seven furlong maidens run so far at Haydock (and Clarendon Cross third) but First Prophet (a smart winner on debut at Newbury when drawing clear with the runner up, as described in #JuvenileWatch) is of greater interest.

3.35 – Gold Cup (Group 1) (British Champions Series) (Class 1) (4yo+)

There isn’t much that threatens dual winner and returning champion Stradivarius on ratings, and whilst the four-year-old Technician is very much respected, John Gosden’s charge is taken to complete the hat-trick. His return in the Coronation Cup – a strong renewal in itself – was hugely encouraging and that fitness edge could be crucial.

Technician, a winner of the Prix Chaudenay at last year’s Arc meeting when Moonlight Spirit was second (Nayef Road seventh) and then a gutsy winner of the Prix Royal-Oak, can take high rank in the staying division this year, whilst last year’s fourth Cross Counter could find this more suitable than the extremely valuable Saudi Arabian handicap he ran in when Mekong (getting 8lbs that day) was second and Prince Of Arran (getting 5lbs that day) was third.

He can reverse that form today although Stradivarius has held him multiple times and there’s no obvious reason for the result to be any different here. Nayef Road was a game winner of the rescheduled Sagaro Stakes (Prince Of Arran third, Withhold a disappointment in seventh) and could outrun his price but this could be all about Stradivarius.

4.10 – Britannia Stakes (Heritage Handicap) (Colts & Geldings) (Class 2) (3yo 0-105) (Straight Mile) 1m

Don’t discount anything in this but two jumped out. Starcat was put into the 2,000 Guineas on just his second start, and that he ran so well for such a long way suggests he’s got huge natural ability – and certainly enough to give him real prospects off 94 here (Indeed, he was the planned suggestion for the Jersey Stakes.) The big worry is stall 1, but he can’t be left unbacked.

Verboten shaped with promise when seventh in the Vertem Futurity Trophy and was desperately unlucky not to win at Lingfield on his comeback when held up and drawn 10 on one of the sharpest courses in the country over 7 furlongs. The first three were drawn 3, 8 and 4 (with the eight horse having been pushed up early) and Verboten ran the fastest two furlongs in the entire field that day, indicating he’d have won over a mile; he now gets that on a stiff track and his draw of 18 is a positive based on results so far on the straight mile.

4.40 – Sandringham Stakes (Handicap) (Fillies) (Class 2) (3yo 0-105) (Straight Mile) 1m

There’s no way one could take 6/4 about any horse in the Sandringham, no matter how well handicapped they are, so African Dream can win unbacked at the prices. All week those who’ve had a recent run have thrived in the handicaps and Declared Interest looked as if she had more to given when running out an impressive winner at Chelmsford on her return.

Admittedly Harry Bentley did a good job of being well positioned there but the way she drew clear in the last furlong or so was impressive and she had plenty in hand from the second Rideson (a maiden admittedly, but a consistent one) and third Indie Angel was a previous winner who raced with the winner early and was eventually beaten six lengths. It looks more than fair form for the grade and if she can handle what will have to be a sharp leftward move from Harry Bentley at the start today then she makes more appeal than most.

RECOMMENDED BETS (scale of 1-100 points)
BACK Highland Chief 1 pt each/way in 1.15 Royal Ascot (Golden Gates Handicap) at 14/1 with starsports.bet
BACK Regal Reality 1 pt win in 1.50 Royal Ascot (Wolferton Stakes) at 11/2 with starsports.bet
BACK Celestin 1 pt win in 2.25 Royal Ascot (Jersey Stakes) at 6/1 with starsports.bet
BACK Monarch Of Egypt 1 pt win in 2.25 Royal Ascot (Jersey Stakes) at 9/2 with starsports.bet
BACK Modern News 1 pt win in 3.00 Royal Ascot (Chesham Stakes) at 11/4 with starsports.bet
BACK Verboten 1 pt each/way in 4.10 Royal Ascot (Britannia Stakes) at 15/2 with starsports.bet
BACK Starcat 1 pt each/way in 4.10 Royal Ascot (Britannia Stakes) at 17/2 with starsports.bet
BACK Declared Interest 1 pt each/way in 4.40 Royal Ascot (Sandringham Handicap) at 17/2 with starsports.bet


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