The fastest race at Royal Ascot this year has an Australian mare filling the role of ‘the one to beat’ but her name isn’t Black Caviar. We have to wait until Saturday to see that super mare in the Diamond Jubilee Stakes. Before that, Tuesday sees the shorter King’s Stand Stakes. Bated Breath is highest rated but connections won’t decide if he runs until the morning of the race. He prefers a sound surface and that cannot be guaranteed on the first day of the meeting. A massive field of 23 have been declared and it is too much to look at every one individually. With such a massively talented bunch of sprinters I am looking for something at massive odds because finding a standout bet is nigh on impossible.
Bated Breath looked good beating Sole Power at Haydock on ground described as ‘firm’. He won’t be so fortunate as to get ground like that but with his form over 6f against the likes of Dream Ahead he shouldn’t be put out too much as long as it’s good to soft or better. He’s a leading player here if he makes the line-up but with doubts over his participation and the ground not ideal, it’s worth looking elsewhere for value.
Sole Power is well known to prefer ground as fast as he can get. He’s certainly not going to get that here. He has under performed at the track before and it could be that he is one to avoid in the race. He is priced up reasonably considering his talent but not enough to be attractive as a win proposition. Beaten by Bated Breath recently, it’s fair to say that he was a bit unlucky getting a bad break and not having a fully clear run. There will be other days for him.
Ortensia beat Sole Power when he had things go his way in Dubai. She beat him at his own game coming from further back and winning going away by a length. That is strong form and she is definitely a danger to all. With a new trainer Paul Messara she is unbeaten and seems to be thriving. He says he would be worried by too much cut but she will handle some. Should be on the shortlist.
Wizz Kid was well overpriced when the market was formed over a week ago. The price has since collapsed with a few influential commentators tipping her up. With the ground expected on the easy side she will be better suited to conditions than most. Her experience at the track is invaluable too, if considering a bet, with excellent form behind Britain’s highest rated sprinter Deacon Blues. At 11/2 I think there is little give in the price. Though she is a contender, the cat is out of the bag.
Joy And Fun is a veteran sprinter who spent most of his career in Hong Kong competing with the best sprinters in the world. The plan was to go for the Diamond Jubilee but connections decided to dodge the Great Mare and instead try to win over 5f for the first time in the horse’s career. Based on his recent effort finishing 3rd at Dubai behind Ortensia and Sole Power, the 9yo doesn’t have a huge amount to find. The stiff track at Ascot could help and a price of 16/1 has its qualities.
Little Bridge is another raider from the Far East and one with a progressive record. Winner of his last two races over 5f and 6f respectively in graded company, he must be respected. He is yet to win a Group 1 but solid runs have seen him post G1-level efforts on good ground. He is not reliant on really fast ground so if it dries out a little then he would be a major player here. Provided the travelling and acclimatising has gone smoothly he would have to be considered as a win proposition.
Tangerine Trees finished last in this race last year but was coming off the back of a very busy spell and it’s not definite that it was the track that caused the performance. It was only last season that this 7-year-old started putting up graded-level performances and has perhaps been improving through his whole career. Winner of the Abbaye last October, he carried a penalty on ground that was fast enough and soft ground will hold no fears for him. He could be overpriced but I am wary of Abbaye form and think there’s better chances at similar prices.
Prohibit won the race last year with similar underfoot conditions. He hasn’t shown the same kind of form since but the stiff 5f at Ascot plays to his strengths. He is slightly forgotten now and trainer Cowell will no doubt have him spot on for his title defence. He will get pace, cut in the ground to slow the rest down and a hill to climb at the end and with these all favouring his chances it’s hard to see why he is 16/1. The opposition is no weaker this year but he has as good a chance as any.
Spirit Quartz comes from the same yard as Prohibit and his trainer has made no secret of his expectations for this four year old gelding. He has put in some excellent performances in lower company and a standout 3rd at Haydock in the Temple confirms his promise. He should be improving all the time, goes on any ground and has the services of Frankie Dettori here. With so much going for him he ought to be popular on the day but maybe this is not the type of race to expect a win. I wouldn’t put anyone off having a bet at 25/1 but I’d make sure it was each way.
One horse that I am fascinated with is Stepper Point from William Muir’s yard. He is a 3yo with some promising form against Wizz Kid in Chantilly recently, though the proximity of Hamish McGonagall is slightly off-putting. 3yos have a very respectable record in the race with two winning in the last 10 years. He was priced at 66/1 ante-post, which I took a slice of, and he is currently 50/1 which could offer some value considering the improved rating he received for his efforts in France. If he can make a similar step forward and takes to the track at Ascot he could be one of the surprises of the meeting, let alone the race.
Synonymous with training of high class sprinters in Britain is Henry Candy. One of his two entries is Amour Propre who started at 4/1 for this race two years ago as a three-year-old. He disappointed that year and hasn’t fulfilled the expectation many people had for him when he burst onto the scene with four consecutive wins leading up to that race. After some troubles in training he came back to form last season winning a G2 in Ireland beating Sole Power in a race that wouldn’t have suited his opponent. With no ground concerns and the possibility that he is older and more prepared, Amour Propre could be considered at 33/1 but others appeal more.
There is a fair chance that I haven’t mentioned the eventual winner here because the race is just so deep. Others worthy of mentioning are Monsiuer Joe who has yet to win in pattern class but is destined to do so some day soon, Margot Did, winner of the Nunthorpe in heavy York ground last year but is terribly out of form and Hamish McGonagall who appreciates plenty of cut, has raced well at the track before on firmer ground but always seems to find one too good at this level.
The race is packed with classy animals, some of whom appeal more than others. With the field as large as it is, it is impossible to confidently single out one, two or even three confident bets. My approach is to take the biggest price of the shortlisted horses and hope for the best. Prohibit should be the most reliable bet having won the race last year. The international raiders from the Far East are kind of unknown but they are all used to racing on firmer surfaces and, however talented they may be, playing the percentages means that they can probably be left out. Wizz Kid would be high on the list of potential winners with enough of the boxes ticked. Ortensia is not proven on the ground but everyone knows not to oppose a mare in form. She would have to rank highly. The horses near the front of the market won’t be suited by the ground and so my tentative selection at a price is STEPPER POINT. He improved a ton for his second run this year, putting up a career best and might be capable of doing it again in a race that young horses have a respectable record in. Good luck with your selections!