14:30 NORFOLK STAKES
The conundrum here is how to treat Wes Ward’s runners, specifically Shang Shang Shang, given the US trainer’s first four runners at the meeting have languished in mid-division. Two of those were relative outsiders, so there isn’t a great deal of evidence to be adamant about and variance must be taken into consideration. That said, we are now probably guilty of overestimating the Ward runners as a whole, and there is evidence that the domestic juveniles are becoming more precocious as the focus on Royal Ascot intensifies. There are two very strong British challengers in the shape of National Stakes 1-3 Vintage Brut and Konchek, while Aidan O’Brien’s Land Force is sure to improve for the drop back to the minimum trip.
There is a plenty of untapped potential on offer, too, so the percentage call is to take the Keeneland winner on – she looked more clued up than her stablemate in second that day, and the bare form requires a fair bit of improvement.
Only one filly has won this race since the success of the flying Niche in 1992.
Recommended: Lay Shang Shang Shang for a place @ 2.4 or shorter
15:05 HAMPTON COURT STAKES
Two of these ran with a degree of credit in the Prix du Jockey Club at Chantilly, but I will go out on a limb and suggest that wasn’t a strong race at all, and it wouldn’t do to overrate the form. Hunting Horn, in particular, looks vulnerable, as he looked short of pace when third in the Chester Vase, and benefited from a fairly aggressive ride when sixth at Chantilly.
I would have thought the Queen’s Vase would have been a more appropriate target for him, and the fact he missed that could be viewed as an admission from connections that he falls below the required class.
While this is a softer race in terms of class, it looks very competitive, and I can see him being found out by this trip on fast ground, which will suit others much better.
Recommended: Lay Hunting Horn for a place @ 2.8 or shorter
15:40 RIBBLESDALE STAKES
I’m not sure that Magic Wand deserves her place in the market here, having been beaten purely on merit at Epsom, and the probability is that she was flattered when beating the Oaks winner at Chester under an audacious ride. Contrary to general opinion, it’s extremely hard to dominate from stall one over this course and distance, and she risks using herself up to get in front or trying different tactics.
She can really only win if finding improvement for the quickest ground she’s raced on, which is possible, but others have stronger claims. I struggle to see her winning, and a lay in the win market will fully cover the place play.
Recommended: Lay Magic Wand @ 5.1 or shorter
Recommended: Lay Magic Wand for a place @ 1.9 or shorter
16:20 GOLD CUP
I just prefer Stradivarius to Order of St George for this, but not enough to suggest we should be taking the favourite on, and while some will point to him making hard work of it at Ascot twice last year, he has still shown form in advance of his opposition in victory and defeat, so it is dangerous to make too much of his quirks, such as they are. Vazirabad is a hard horse to rate with confidence as he’s often better than the bare margin in victory, so this looks a race to leave alone.
Recommended: No Bet
17:00 BRITANNIA STAKES
Trying to lay one horse in the 33-runner Britannia is likely to prove very costly if you get it wrong. I would be inclined to take on favourite Crack On Crack On, but I tried that last time, and it worked out badly for me, so I’ll not be going gung-ho. For what it’s worth, the favourite has two come-from-behind wins on turning tracks on his last two starts, looking an unlikely winner both times before finding a sharp turn of foot, and is clearly very talented, but a tendency to start slowly and pull hard is going to be his undoing unless he can curb those traits, while he’s drawn right in the middle of the track.
Some people tend to use this as a positive, arguing that a jockey drawn in the middle can choose whether to go high or low; in reality what happens is that the rider merely dithers, hopes vainly that he can make a judgment in the first hundred yards, and then finds himself in a group of two up the centre before panicking and joining one of the bigger groups at random.
Better to be drawn either 1 or 33, I feel!
Recommended: Lay Crack On Crack On for a place @ 3.25 or shorter
17:35 KING GEORGE V STAKES
Since 2009, races with 16 or more runners over C&D have produced interesting results, with stalls 1-9 combined winning four of the races from 170 runners. Stalls 19 and higher have won eight from just 51 runners, demonstrating a significant bias. Such draw biases tend to be eroded over time as jockeys and trainers become aware of them, but the beauty of this one is that no-one believes it even exists. Trainers whose horses have been handed the best draws have expressed themselves “gutted” that they have been drawn wide. The stats also hold up for placed horses, so the play here must be to oppose those drawn very low. First Eleven is bred to be top-class but has taken time to reveal his ability, and I’m not sure his easy win at Newbury last time is all it’s cracked up to be, with most of those to have run since failing to advertise it, and the time was pedestrian.
That raises doubts about whether he will be truly effective over a stiff mile and a half, and the fitting of a tongue tie is a slight concern.
Like the previous race, I’d not be playing for particularly high stakes here, especially when taking on the mighty John Gosden but small lay of his runner looks justified.
Recommended: Lay First Eleven for a place @ 2.5 or shorter.