PHOENIX OF SPAIN (4.20) has proved a little uneasy in the betting over the past 24 hours, with Too Darn Hot now challenging for favouritism in the St James’s Palace Stakes at Royal Ascot.
Phoenix Of Spain leap-frogged to the head of the ante-post market on the back of his masterly Tattersalls Irish 2000 Guineas triumph and will be difficult to oust. Even taking into account that Too Darn Hot was turned out quickly in Ireland after his second to Telecaster in the Dante Stakes at York, he has three lengths to make up on the selection.
John Gosden has a quietly-fancied second-string in highly-strung King Of Comedy, emphatic winner of the Heron Stakes at Sandown, but he is much inferior to Phoenix Of Spain and his stable companion on official ratings.
With thunderstorms forecast, the result of the King’s Stand Stakes is at the mercy of the weather. Last year’s winner Blue Point appeared better than ever in winning three races in Dubai but is best on a slick surface. With that in mind, chief market rival BATTAASH (3.40) is the safer call as he seems to go on anything.
He was very impressive on comeback in the Temple Stakes at Haydock and holds Mabs Cross, third in this contest 12 months ago. Battaash has boiled over during preliminaries in the past but his trainer reports him a more mature individual. A pre-race check on his demeanour is still prudent. If the heavens do open, Mabs Cross will come into her own.
Willie Mullins is always first port of call in the 2m 4f Ascot Stakes, especially having saddled winner Lagostovegas last year along with the third, fourth and fifth. Mullins is responsible for favourite Buildmeupbuttercup, a dual bumper winner for Mick Channon before decanting to Ireland, but arch-rival Gordon Elliott saddles a very likely sort in MENGLI KHAN (5.00), third behind Defi Du Seuil in the JLT Novices’ Chase at Cheltenham in March.
Formerly trained in England by Hugo Palmer, Mengli Khan soon showed excellent form over hurdles in Ireland, crushing the Mullins-trained Stratum at Navan. Stratum was a most unlucky third in last year’s Ascot Stakes and Mengli Khan should relish this stern test.
IRONCLAD (8.00) can provide Hugo Palmer with a welcome winner at Beverley this evening. The three-year-old colt built on his fifth to Bangkok at Doncaster in March by chasing home Durrell at Chelmsford City ten days ago.
At Thirsk, DRAGON'S VOICE (4.35) won't want the ground to dry out too much as he strolled home in the mud at Windsor. David Menuisier has hit a purple patch and his use of a 7lb apprentice takes care of the fixed penalty.
LOOLWAH (5.10) finished a close second to the William Haggas-trained Dal Horrisgle at Nottingham 16 days ago and Sir Michael Stoute's filly can go one better.