WILD ILLUSION (3.40) sets a high standard of form in the Ribblesdale Stakes following her fourth in the Qipco 1000 Guineas before taking second prize behind runaway winner Forever Together in the Investec Oaks.
Wild Illusion led briefly two out at Epsom and there were murmurings that the Godolphin filly has stamina issues. Jockey William Buick has no such misgivings and is confident she’ll stay 12 furlongs.
STRADIVARIUS (4.10) can take the notable scalp of Order Of St George in the Gold Cup.
John Gosden’s four-year-old made remarkable strides last season, winning three times from humble beginnings, the pick of them coming in the Qatar Goodwood Cup when beating Big Orange. Significantly, that success came on a sound surface and he produced another fine performance in the William Hill St Leger when a close third to Capri (good to soft).
A muddy Ascot in October was all against Stradivarius when he lined up in the Qipco British Champions Long Distance Cup but the son of Sea The Stars ran a very creditable third to Order Of St George. Back on a sound surface he can take his revenge.
NORDIC LIGHTS (3.05) should make a bold show in the Hampton Court Stakes. He was never put into the race when a staying-on fifth to Roaring Lion in the Dante at York but had earlier responded very gamely to a far more aggressive ride at Newmarket when mastering the smart Raa Atoll. Nordic Lights holds Crossed Baton on their York running.
Hunting Horn (sixth) and Key Player (eighth) are closely matched on their form in a rough renewal of the French Derby at Chantilly. Hunting Horn’s previous third to Young Rascal and Dee Ex Bee in the Chester Vase is looking good.
CRACK ON CRACK ON (5.00) could be the answer to the Brittania Handicap. A devastating finishing kick has twice enabled him to land the spoils this season, first from a very unpromising position at Lingfield when dropped in from a wide draw and more recently in the Silver Bowl at Haydock. Crack On Crack On had a lot of ground to make up when the William Haggas-trained Completion kicked for home but he cut him down in the manner of a seriously good handicapper.
Trainer Clive Cox later nominated this race as Crack On Crack On’s Royal Ascot assignment with the proviso that his three-year-old wouldn’t want the ground too firm. There is a whisper for Charlie Appleby’s First Contact.
It is no surprise to see Wesley Ward’s Shang Shang Shang priced up favourite for the Norfolk Stakes and he could be anything. The American raiders haven’t lived up to their star billing so far and for small stakes, I’ll have a bit each-way on Aidan O’Brien’s LAND FORCE (2.30). Coincidentally, Land Force is a son of Ward’s 2013 Norfolk Stakes winner No Nay Never and he showed plenty of his sire’s dash when third to useful stablemates Fairyland and Van Beethoven at the Curragh.
The card ends with the traditionally deep King George V Handicap, jam-packed with improving middle-distance three-year-olds. Mark Johnston saddles no less than six of the 19 runners and COMMUNIQUE (5.35) would have been a strong selection if he hadn’t drawn stall 18. I still think he can win.
Silvestre De Sousa will have his work cut out obtaining a position from such a wide post but his mount won in the style of a most progressive individual when winning the London Gold Cup Handicap at Newbury over 1m 2f. That is traditionally one of the strongest handicaps of the season and Communique was going away at the finish, suggesting he will relish this extra two furlongs.
Joe Fanning rides Carlisle scorer Lucky Deal but bigger threats may be First Eleven and Cross Counter. John Gosden’s First Eleven, a son of Frankel, also scored at Newbury and fourth home Berkshire Royal won at Chester last Saturday. He is a strapping, long striding colt and Frankie Dettori will need to find his mount plenty of room to manoeuvre if that’s possible in such a competitive contest. A tongue-tie is applied this time.
Cross Counter did exceptionally well to run Elwazir so close at Sandown giving the winner a stone and he is another likely to step up to the plate over this longer trip.
- 2.30 – Land Force ew (10-1, William Hill)
- 3.05 – Nordic Lights ew (8-1, William Hill, Paddy Power, Coral)
- 3.40 – Wild Illusion (11-4, Ladbrokes)
- 4.15 – Stradivarius (9-4, McBookie, Coral, Ladbrokes)
- 5.00 – Crack On Crack On ew (8-1, Coral)
- 5.35 – Communique ew (9-1, Paddy Power, bet365, William Hill)
Johnb's Royal Ascot Tips
- 2:30 – CHARMING KID 9-1 ew 1/5 odds 3 places
- 3:05 – HUNTING HORN 13-2
- 3:40 – SUN MAIDEN 11-4 skybet
- 4:15 – DESERT SKYLINE 12-1 skybet ew 1/5 odds 3 places NB
- 5:00 – GEORGE OF HEARTS 9-1 ew 1/5 odds 6 places
- 5:35 – DOWNDRAFT 10-1 ew 1/4 odds 4 places NAP