JUST as the doubters were starting to surface, just as I was beginning to wonder myself … boom … up pops Lagostovegas with a brilliant win in the Ascot Stakes.
With 2 points each way tipped at 11-1 that sends us home with a profit for the day despite the fact that everything else I touched ran poorly, especially Lady Aurelia. The 100-1 shot finished last of course, so that little experiment was a failure.
We go back to the well for Day 2 and once again it is top class action and I have quite a few fancies.
2.30 – Queen Mary Stakes
The cat seems to be out of the bag as far as SHADES OF BLUE is concerned but I'm fairly relaxed about that because she should really be favourite here I think. Her win in a maiden was decent but it's the fact that the 2nd and 3rd horses have both gone on to win races since then that really advertises her chances. Chelsea Cloisters is the Wesley Ward horse from the U.S. and of course Ward's record can't be ignored but I'm concerned by the performance of Lady Aurelia on Tuesday so I can't back this one at short odds. Likewise the form of Servalan for Jessica Harrington is good (won a listed race in Ireland) but she maybe wants 6 furlongs and another slow start might cost her over 5 furlongs. I am also concerned by the performance of Indigo Balance, her stablemate in the Coventry Stakes who finished 2nd last. Although there are 22 runners here we can discount at least half of those as having little or no chance and I'm happy to side with Shades of Blue against the rest of the field.
3.05 – Queen's Vase
I am struggling to differentiate between the top four in the market here and the more I look at the form the more indecisive I become. The best thing to do in that situation is to move on and leave the race alone. If I was pushed for a tip I would possibly go for a small each way on Drapers Guild for Joseph O'Brien at a bigger price but I can't see him improving enough to win it.
3.40 Duke of Cambridge Stakes
This one really should go to HYDRANGEA who is the best of these by a bit of a margin. Hydrangea is a few pounds clear of Aljazzi and despite a penalty for her Group 1 wins she should be the best here. The rest of the field are considerably further behind. She looks like she should be around even money to me rather than her current price of 7/4. The notable improver is probably Urban Fox who won nicely on debut for William Haggas and he might be the one that grabs second.
4.20 – Prince of Wales's Stakes
CRACKSMAN is miles better than the rest here and he will be better suited by the flat galloping track at Ascot than he was last time at Ascot (where he won, albeit rather unconvincingly). His price isn't great but I'm going to put him in a double with Hydrangea to make it a backable price. He really should win this comfortably.
5.00 – Royal Hunt Cup
Realistically you need to find one here that is capable of being a good 7 or 8 pounds better than his handicap mark so that might be one that is improving and has a good bit left to go or one that has been better than its current handicap mark in the past. I don't have many that are jumping out at me this year but the one I am taking a punt on his FIRMAMENT for David O'Meara and Danny Tudhope. He was rated 109 for most of last summer where he was fairly consistent without getting his head in front and his handicap mark eventually started to drop. Last time out he was 2nd of the smaller group in a large handicap and I think it's very noteworthy that Danny Tudhope has chosen to ride him ahead of Escobar who he rode to victory last time out and on paper is perhaps the more progressive type. I think there is a big race to come from Firmament and I'm hoping it comes today.
5.35 – Jersey Stakes
I have a cheeky outside fancy here that I think should be a much shorter price. JAMES GARFIELD gets to run over 7 furlongs today which I think is his optimal trip, the ground is no problem and although he carries a penalty for his Group 2 win he has that for a reason – namely that he won a good race. On ratings he is one of the better ones here and with Silvestre De Sousa on board he looks the value bet in a competitive race.
- 2.30 – Shades of Blue – 3 point win (9-2, Ladbrokes, Coral, Bet365)
- 3.05 – No bet
- 3.40 & 4.20 – Hydrangea and Cracksman – 4pt double (100-30, Bet365)
- 5.00 – Firmament – 2pt each way (16-1, Paddy Power – paying 6 places)
- 5.30 – James Garfield – 2pt each way (16-1, William Hill, Coral – both paying 4 places)