Royal Ascot is always something to look forward to but I’m looking forward to it more than ever this year as towards the end of the week we (The Horse Watchers) have an interest in a couple of horses that head to the meeting with a chance.
We’ve aimed Warrior Brave at the Palace Of Holyroodhouse Handicap since he won at Lingfield in January and he ran the sort of race we had expected him to run when upped in grade to Listed company at Sandown on Saturday - giving Atalis Bay a good race to finish second.
The handicapper has bumped him up 7lb to a mark of 100 but he will run off his old mark of 93 on Friday so is officially well-in. Backing up quickly can sometimes backfire, but plenty of horses can thrive on it too and Mick Appleby is happy with how he’s taken the race. All being well he’ll freshen up during an easy week at home and give his running again, in which case I think he’ll be in the mix under Silvestre De Sousa.
Also set for a quick turnaround is Edraak, who we own a smaller part of but we’ll look forward to his outing all the same. A winner at Windsor on Monday night, he picks up a 5lb penalty for that win which nudges him up to a mark of 99 and gets him a place in the line-up in Saturday’s Wokingham. He wants very quick ground so hopefully it stays dry and if coming out of his Windsor win well, then he’ll take his shot at a valuable prize.
Away from those interests I always love to delve into the big field handicaps but I don’t do it until the final fields and draw is in so at this stage I don’t have loads to offer, though I have had a look through the Ascot Stakes and Royal Hunt Cup.
Willie Mullins runners are always worth a look in the Ascot Stakes and I can see the case for both M C Muldoon and Rayapour but the horse I like each-way at the prices is Just Hubert.
A proven strong stayer, the longer the trip the better for him and I expect him to relish the return to 2m4f for the first time since finishing off strongly to score over this sort of trip at Goodwood last year. Only 4lb higher than he was there, I think he’s on a fair mark and I liked his reappearance run at Haydock last time. His yard are in tremendous form and there could be a bit more to come from him granted this sort of test so I’ll be backing him at double-figure odds.
I’m not quite sure which side of the draw to favour in the Royal Hunt Cup so I’ll probably back one on each side. Matthew Flinders and Irish Admiral have been given a positive mention in this column in the past and I fear them both but the two I prefer are Finest Sound and Astro King.
The pair are closely matched on their meeting at Nottingham in April when Astro King just came out on top and he’s since shaped well from too far back in the Thick Hunt Cup. Unexposed and progressive, he looks an ideal type for the straight mile at Ascot.
Finest Sound meets him on 4lb better terms than when denied in a photo at Nottingham and has since won at Haydock. That victory came despite having to wait for an opening in a messy small field race, ultimately doing well to beat Shelir who’d had the run of the race and has subsequently run well when second at Epsom.
Runner-up in the Britannia at this meeting last year, he will be suited by the return to a big-field well-run race and has more to offer in this type of scenario.
Away from the handicaps, the horse I fancy most in the Group races over the first couple of days is Love in the Prince Of Wales’s Stakes on Wednesday.
She faces a strong opponent in last year’s winner Lord North but I think Love is the better horse of the pair and though lacking match practice I suspect she’ll be too good in receipt of the 3lb sex allowance.
Onto the eye-catchers from the past week and here’s a quartet of horses to add into your racingtv.com tracker.
The three-year-old handicap won by First Folio at York on Saturday is always a strong handicap and there’s no reason to think this year will be any different.
However, a low draw seemed to be an advantage on the day and in faring best of those from a higher berth Jadwal is worth making up. He has some strong form in the book and impressed with the way he travelled through the race, shaping like a well-treated horse but seemingly disadvantaged by his track position.
Run To Freedom progressed with each run as a two-year-old and there was a ton of encouragement in his return to action at Sandown on Saturday - suggesting he’ll improve again this year.
A bit keen early on, he quickened nicely over a furlong from home to move into the lead but flattened out late on as the combination of early freeness, the lack of a recent run and a stiff track seemed to take its toll. He shaped like the best handicapped horse in the race and looks nicely ahead of his mark. He is likely to improve again with a run behind him so should be found a winning opportunity fairly soon.
Karl Burke’s youngsters tend to improve plenty for their initial experience and Attagirl looks the type to take a lot of beating next time she runs. Able to show plenty of pace through the early stages, she was caught more towards the centre of the track than those that beat her at Haydock and would possibly have benefitted from some company from an earlier stage. Only narrowly denied, she’ll know more next time and looks a useful juvenile in the making.
Dr T J Eckleburg was beaten a few times off a mark in the low 60s before winning at Ayr at the start of the month but had a few excuses along the way and once again can be forgiven for not getting the job done at Carlisle on Monday.
Dropped out early, he took a little while to settle but tanked into contention and looked the likely winner when turning for home going best. Unable to pick up as well as the winner on his first start over this longer trip on a stiff track, he will be better served by a drop back in trip next time and remains a well-handicapped horse.Add an unlimited number of horses into your Racing TV Tracker and never miss a winner again! Click here for more details.
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