We’ve reached the mid-way point of the Royal Ascot meeting for 2020 and already we’re seeing some very interesting trends. There seems to be a bit of track bias for a start, but secondly – Jim Crowley can do no wrong. He has already saluted on four winners and has chances to increase that tally again today.
Day three boasts the coveted Gold Cup. For the first time in a long time, there will be no Ballydoyle representative after Kew Gardens was withdrawn last week. It leaves John Gosden and Frankie Dettori almost unchallenged to claim their unprecedented three-peat of the Gold Cup.
Golden Gates Handicap
This is a wide-open field so correctly getting the winner, as has been the case in the opening race on each day, can be tough. MAORI KNIGHT, a son of Camelot, improved for the step up to this trip at Haydock earlier this month but he faded late. He is a colt out of the Richard Hughes’ stable who is expected to improve and wit the track upgrade, I’m expecting him to be ridden smartly by David Egan. ACQUITTED will be the lips of plenty after a stunning chase down at Newcastle, beating out the fancied Palace Pier on resumption and looks well placed to make a tilt here. HYPOTHETICAL has contested a Group 3 and a Listed race so the step down in class to handicap bodes well. He was classy in a Kempton Classic Trial and with Frankie Dettori aboard this promising John Gosden-trained three-year-old, it looms as a winning combination.
VALUE: MAORI KNIGHT
Wolferton Stakes (Listed)
We last saw FOX TAL finishing fourth in the G1 Champion Stakes over this distance last campaign and although beaten by 3.25 lengths, it boasts the strongest form coming into this race. He’s been eased in grade among many lightly-raced four-year-olds and comes from the Andrew Balding stable who have been landing winners left, right and centre since the resumption of racing in the UK. Among the contenders to Fox Tal is SIRDRAGONET who went around at Naas in March before the Irish season was interrupted but is expected to be cherry ripe for Aidan O’Brien’s stable and Ryan Moore in the driver’s seat. Nobody would be surprised if leading jockey Jim Crowley chalked up his fifth win of the carnival ontop of REGAL REALITY who was behind the selection here in October but has place claims on his best efforts.
WIN: FOX TAL
VALUE: ALOE VERA
GROUP 3 Jersey Stakes
Last September we saw MOLATHAM accounted for by subsequent 2000 Guineas runner-up Wichita in a Listed race at Doncaster. Now facing the mile, his lack of racing may concern some – though it is a class horse who will be around the mark closer to the jump. There is a big case for the John Gosden-trained KING LEONIDAS who looks more than capable of making his mark at this level with Frankie Dettori getting the ride. He featured at Newmarket a fortnight ago and won in fine fashion, despite being lobbed with a 7lb penalty. CELESTIN ran well in the French 2000 Guineas to finish fourth by 2.5 lengths and the drop in distance here will suit.
WIN: KING LEONIDAS
Chesham Stakes (Listed)
MODERN NEWS made a successful debut over 6f at Newmarket to win by a neck and the son of Shamardal has to be respected with a bit more distance added which should suit. However, what doesn’t bode well for Modern News is that Aidan O’Brien has entered BATTLEGROUND as his only runner with his best handler in Ryan Moore in the saddle in a race he usually stacks. He finished fifth in a maiden at Naas last week but there is a big hype around this horse who although green, is highly rated by the stable. He stayed on well over an inadequate 6f, and when Churchill won this race for Ballydoyle in 2016, he had only a debut defeat to his name. BRIGHT DEVIL has got pace and showcased that on debut over 6f and he could surprise if he can see out the trip.
VALUE: FIRST PROPHET
Gold Cup (Group 1)
The biggest race at Royal Ascot, the Group 1 Gold Cup is also part of the British Championship Series so it carries weight for a number of reasons. On paper, this looks like STRADIVARIUS’ race to lose. Aiming for a third-consecutive Gold Cup, John Gosden and Frankie Dettori will team up to make history in their bid to become a three-time winner of this race. His reappearance run at Newmarket over a much shorter trip suggests he retains all his ability and he can confirm last year’s superiority over Cross Counter.
Aidan O’Brien has won seven of the last 14 renewals of this prestigious G1 and with KEW GARDENS having been ruled out last week, he would have gone very close to edging out Stradivarius. As such, there will be no battalion from Ballydoyle represented in this race which feels quite strange.
CROSS COUNTER doesn’t fill me with great hope on form and perhaps what’s worth following is the Prix Chaudenay at Longchamp last year, where TECHNICIAN beat MOONLIGHT SPIRIT. The latter gave a great sight from the front end that day and is expected to have developed even further during his winter break and bodes as a great each-way bet. Technitiation might be the one to trouble Stradivarius, but this looks like one-way traffic.
VALUE: MOONLIGHT SPIRIT
Britannia Stakes (Heritage Handicap)
FINEST SOUND had a strong two-year-old season, going on to place on all three appearances as a juvenile, and he looks even better as a three-year-old judging on his impressive come from behind win at Haydock. A 5lb penalty shouldn’t be of any worry and will be right in the thick of it at the post. STARCAT failed to impress in the 2000 Guineas but is interesting on his handicap debut. ENEMY made an encouraging return to action at Yarmouth, staying on powerfully over 7f, and he makes plenty of appeal with an extra furlong.
WIN: FINEST SOUND
AFRICAN DREAM is dominating the market and could just as easily move into evens by the time of the race. She lost narrowly to Rockfel runner-up at Newbury last week with 7lb. The stable thinks she’s able to counter the quick turnaround and this time around, John Gosden’s charge gets the bottom weight. SOFFIKA can improve her opening mark of 97 with the step up in trip. She was last seen in August finishing second in the G3 Sweet Solera Stakes over 1400m and was beaten by 1.25L. Long break to overcome but potentially well handicapped and bodes well. DECLARED INTEREST won by 2L on the all-weather at Chelmsford on handicap debut over 1600m and is more than capable under a minor penalty and presents great value.
WIN: AFRICAN DREAM
VALUE: DECLARED INTEREST
RACE 4, No. 4 KING LEONIDAS
RACE 5, No.4 STRADIVARIUS
RACE 2, No.15 ALOE VERA
WEATHER DEPENDENT BET
RACE 5, No.8 TECHNICIAN