NAZEEF (4.10) can make it five victories on the bounce by bagging the Duke Of Cambridge Stakes on day one at Royal Ascot.
Nazeef was left with quite a bit to do at Kempton 13 days ago but quickened up smartly to catch Billesdon Brook close home. That run should have put her cherry-ripe and John Gosden fields a very strong team this week.
Queen Power ran a cracker in the Ribblesdale Stakes 12 months ago when just flattening out into fourth behind Star Catcher and Sir Michael Stoute’s filly represents a bit of each-way value.
Stoute also saddles Jubiloso at shorter odds but she was expensive to follow last season, flopping behind the re-opposing Lavender’s Blue at Sandown when odds-on and running third to Billesdon Brook at Glorious Goodwood.
Miss O’Connor has won all four starts for William Haggas but they have come on deep ground, which is a concern.
CIRCUS MAXIMUS (1.50) is the logical selection to lift the Queen Anne Stakes over the straight mile.
First-time blinkers did the trick in the Group 1 St James’s Palace Stakes last year when Circus Maximus proved too strong for King Of Comedy and favourite Too Darn Hot. He drops into slightly lesser grade and should carry too many guns for his opponents. Aidan O’Brien’s colt could have been packed off to stud, so the fact Circus Maximus has been kept in training suggests the Ballydoyle boys anticipate further Group 1 success down the line.
He had more than three lengths in hand of Fox Chairman in last year’s Dee Stakes at Chester and a bigger threat is likely to be posed by the relatively unexposed Terebellum. Gosden’s filly landed the odds with little fuss in the Dahlia Stakes at Newmarket and, along with useful mare Billesdon Brook, receives the 3lb sex allowance from all her rivals.
Gosden fields the favourite In the Ribblesdale Stakes, with FRANKLY DARLING (2.25) sporting the famous Oppenheimer silks worn successfully by Star Catcher 12 months ago.
Frankly Darling was most impressive at Newcastle 15 days ago, powering clear of market rival Thibaan in the manner of a filly that would thrive over this testing 1m 4f trip. Gosden holds a strong hand, with Miss Yoda arriving fighting fit on the back of a hard-fought Lingfield Oaks Trial victory 11 days ago.
Ralph Beckett’s Trefoil marked herself down as a smart filly nine days ago at Newmarket, running an excellent third to free-going Run Wild in the Pretty Polly Stakes.
William Haggas’s filly Born With Pride made a winning start at Newmarket last November, beating Peaceful on heavy ground. That form is top drawer but she disappointed behind Berlin Tango on comeback at Kempton earlier this month. Expect much better now returned to turf.
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VERDANA BLUE (4.40) can shoulder top weight to victory in the 2m 4f Ascot Stakes.
Nicky Henderson has had this race mapped out for his very useful hurdler and Ryan Moore takes the reins. Verdana Blue, easy winner of the Scottish Champion Hurdle and good enough to beat stable companion Buveur D’air in the 2018 Christmas Hurdle at Kempton, ran with credit here in the Group 3 Sagaro Stakes last May, staying on into fourth behind Dee Ex Bee.
She is at her best on a sound surface and the absence of Willie Mullins-trained challengers makes life a bit easier.
Ian Williams is a dab hand at training stayers and the stable landed a huge gamble last year when The Grand Visir pulled readily clear. He also saddled the favourite that day, Mancini, but he faded into seventh. Moon King and Blue Laureate traded blows at Haydock eight days ago, with Mancini back in fourth, and all three clearly won’t lack fitness. It would be no surprise to see Mancini turn that form around, with William Buick a notable booking.
Andrew Balding’s Diocletian has paid the penalty for his 11 lengths romp at Chester in September, with the handicapper raising him 11lb. He wears a hood for the first time and the yard continues in blinding form.
Land Of Oz showed plenty of resolution when ultimately no match for classy Collide at Chelmsford City last Tuesday and this stamina test should play to his strengths. Last year’s Cesarewitch third Summer Moon and Coeur De Lion, fifth last year, are another couple to consider, while Dubawi Fifty, runner-up behind Lagostovegas two years ago, clearly stays this extended distance.
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