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Well, it's been a bit of a bloodbath for the majority of punters at Royal Ascot this year, with big-priced winners popping up all over the place. If you've managed to find some winners, congratulations, because I'm guessing most will be wanting to see the back of this festival from a punting point of view.
Ascot 3:05 – Ocean Quest 20/1 (1pt EW Bet365 4pl)
I could easily say that Little Big Bear is deemed as value at EVS money, but the way things have been going this week I wouldn't like to be touching a horse at that price. Though on paper, outside of the favourite this looks to be a very open race, I don't think it's that strong. My dart landed on Ocean Quest trained by Jessica Harrington.
This filly has been a thorn in my side this season. She beat The Antarctic when I tipped him up at the start of the flat season, and then she nearly beat him again when I tipped him up for the second time. I think she is a very progressive sprinter who is being massively overlooked in this race. She has to continue her progression to win this, but for her to get involved I wouldn't say she has to improve that much.
Her run at Naas was a blinder as there were two groups and she had nothing to aim at for the best part of 1.5-2f, which is a long way in a sprint, so she had to go alone as the ones on her side weren't good enough to take her into the race. She was clearly on the wrong side of the track, but despite that, she made huge inroads and nearly caught The Antarctic on the line. She is a really strong stayer over 6f and I'm hoping they all group and run down the middle, so that way she has horses to aim at as I think she will be travelling well, but her best part is in the final furlong or two when the rest are tiring and she will be flying, I hope.
Jessica Harrington had a winner a couple of days ago and had a placed horse in the 2yo race which Frankie rode, so she's sending horses over with decent chances. Colin Keane takes the ride, he rode her only winner this week, and normally I'd say this is a bad jockey booking as he has a terrible record at Ascot, but credit where credit is due he gave her horse a peach of a ride to get his first Royal Ascot win, so he'll be full of confidence. She is also a filly so gets a nice 3lb pull at the weights, and at 16/1 I think she is an EW player.
Ascot 3:40 – Al Nafir 6/1 (1pt EW WilliamHill 5pl)
Charlie Appleby's horses have been running terribly throughout the week so a big leap of faith is required when backing Al Nafir, but if it's just a coincidence how his horses are running below par and there's not something more serious floating around the yard, I think Al Nafir can play a huge part in this race.
It's annoying that he hasn't had a run this season, but they clearly must've felt that it wasn't needed and that he is capable of running a good race when fresh. For handicaps like this at Royal Ascot you need a Group horse, and I think Al Nafir is one of few who could progress into the Group level category. His win on his last start at Newmarket was very impressive and I thought he won that race with ease even though the winning margin was only a neck behind, but he was in total control. The form of that race has worked out quite nicely with the runner-up running nicely at Listed level, and many winners have come from the race including Haunted Dream, First Ruler (now rated 106) and Sheer Rocks, to name a few.
He has been gelded, will handle the ground and he has run well when fresh. Normally, when Charlie decides to geld a horse like this it takes them to the next level, we've seen it on many occasions, transforming handicappers to Group horses.
Ascot 4:20 – Queen For You 15/2 (1pt WilliamHill)
It's probably another daft idea taking on the short-priced favourite, especially when there are only two places on offer, but I do believe Queen For You is a very talented filly and I'm hoping she can progress again.
I've tipped her up on both of her starts to date and she has done very little wrong apart from showing a little inexperience at York last time out which probably did cost her unbeaten record. However, for a filly with only two runs under her belt, she has shown a decent level of form, and with the pedigree she has I think she can keep progressing and now she has that experience under her belt she is worth putting against the short-priced favourite.
Her mother won this race back in 2012, so she has the pedigree to win this race. John Gosden wouldn't be pitching her in this race if she didn't have a chance like we saw in the Gold Cup yesterday when he won it with a horse who has only won handicaps prior to it. Connections believe she has improved since her York run, and I can totally understand that she has already proven that she handles the ground and the track. I think Rab will try and smuggle her into the race and play her as late as possible, as she did idle when in the open last time.
Ascot 5:00 – Clounmacon 14/1 (1pt EW Bet365 6pl)
Whenever Jonny Murtagh sends his horses over to the UK, not just Ascot, they have been very respected. Clounmacon is his first runner of the meeting so far and I think it's interesting he's brought this horse over for the race he won with Create Belief back in 2021.
It's the Sandringham, and it's a total minefield as you're fully aware of, like most of the handicaps have been at Ascot this week and to be honest, every year. But, If Clounmacon gets the breaks and is on the right side of the track, he is a big player in this. He ran a belter to finish as runner-up at the Curragh last time out, he was held up from off the pace and ran out of track. That race was won by Create Belief in 2021 before coming to Ascot and romping home, obviously, his runner today didn't manage to repeat that win, but he went very close and I think it's of notice that he's taken a similar path with this horse.
You've got to ignore his run in the Group 3 prior to his Curragh run as that was on soft ground, and all of his best form has come on a fast surface so the ground at Ascot should be right up his street, as should the stiffness of the track. John Velazquez is a very eye-catching jockey booking, as he could've used his stable jockey, Ben Coen, but instead, he's gone for the veteran Puerto Rico-born American rider who has already had a winner this week.
Ascot - 3:05 pm
20/1 @ Bet365
Ascot - 3:40 pm
6/1 @ William Hill
Ascot - 4:20 pm
15/2 @ William Hill
Ascot - 5:00 pm