We might only be a small country but I feel we’ve got the best racing in the world. Everyone wants to come to win races here and take the challenge. Ascot is just completely unique. It’s not just about the racing, it’s a fantastic atmosphere.
As a jockey you need to try and shut out the hype and just ride your race, as if you were at Southwell in a claimer. That’s why the top jockeys get rides there and others get left behind. It’s a fact that anyone that’s got a ride there has earned it. And it’s the same for the horses.
The draw isn’t crucial as it really depends where the pace is at Ascot. You want to be with the pace in the big field handicaps. You don’t often get a front-runner that stays on to win in those as it’s a stiff track and the horses tend to go a good solid gallop.
You want to look for a horse that’s capable of staying further than the distance they’re racing over. A lot of the jockeys try to switch out just before they turn in, just to swing wide, to angle for a bit of room as you don’t want to be stuck in on the rail. I can tell you that through experience.
Another really important point is don’t read too much into the draw on the first day. If horses win from one side on one day, don’t suddenly rule out the other side in the following days. It’s all down to where the pace is.
In summary I’d say:
- Don’t take a short price in a big field handicap.
- Don’t rely too much on draw for the big handicaps.
- Don’t make too many conclusions about the draw on day one
In the big races it’s often the big jockeys who are the ones that perform best. Frankie, Ryan Moore, the jockeys that have got experience of it before. You can’t let the occasion get to you. It gets to some jockeys and they just don’t ride the race as well as they usually would. They make decisions they wouldn’t usually when they feel the pressure.
That said, in some of the handicaps you want to look for the valuable claimers, the David Egans of the world, the George Woods. They’re getting the big chances and sometimes 5lb in those races can be vital, so don’t be put off by an apprentice in these races. If you had an apprentice running in a Group race you’d be worried, but not in these big handicaps.
The Big Races
Tuesday June 20
14.30 Queen Anne Stakes: I can back Lightning Spear here. Lightning Spear has been held by Ribchester before but I think he’ll have improved from his ride last time. If the ground is on the quick side that will be a big plus for Lightning Spear. Ribchester is a very special horse and it’s very possible Lightning Spear will finish second behind him. At the price though I’d take Lightning Spear – although I wouldn’t put you off just taking the place.
15.40 King’s Stand Stakes: I like Lady Aurelia in this one. I was a bit disappointed when she ran at Newmarket at the end of last year over six furlongs. She just blasted off and the racing got to her head and she struggled to recover from that. But then they took the blinkers off her and instead of blasting off, they dropped her in, she settled well and won going away. So she can do it either way now and she’ll have her confidence up from that. I really like her.
16.20 St James Palace Stakes: Churchill is the winner here, I don’t think anyone will beat him, but Thunder Snow is a good horse. It’s a shame he has to keep racing Churchill – it’s like Frankel and Excelebration. I don’t think he’ll ever beat him, but he’s a decent shout for a place.
Wednesday June 21
16.20 Prince of Wales’s Stakes: Jack Hobbs is my pick in this one. I enjoyed watching him win at Meydan because I’ve always thought the horse has kept a little bit up his sleeve. Then they put blinkers on him and it just brought it out of him. I’m hoping he has the blinkers on again. I don’t think anything will beat him with the blinkers on.
If the ground stays quick then Decorated Knight is a big price here at 12s or more. He’s already won two Group 1s this year. Make sure the ground is quick though.
Thursday June 22
16.20 Gold Cup: I ride out a little bit for Michael Bell and he trains Big Orange, which is a really big price at 10.0. Order of St George is obviously the short price favourite and he’s a likely winner, but if Big Orange gets quick ground, which he’s best on, he’s worth a place bet at least.
Friday June 23
15.40 Commonwealth Cup: I like Harry Angel in this. He’s racing against Blue Point again, who has beaten him at Ascot, but I think this time he’ll turn it around. Last time out against Blue Point he was a little bit fresh, a bit keen. When he ran at Haydock the freshness was out of him and he improved mentally, and won by about four-and-a-half lengths.
It’s a hot race though – I know Charlie Appleby likes Blue Point for this race as well. Caravaggio is a really good horse but it’s boring going for favourites all the time! He’s improving, he’s already a Group 1 winner, he goes on any ground and he’s the horse to beat, but if you want value in the race go for Harry Angel.
16.20 Coronation Stakes: They’re taking their time with Dabyah this year but I’d say wait to see which horse Frankie is racing. He’s got Daban running as well. Either one of those is a good place shout. Winter will probably win – I can’t really find a case for her not to win but I wouldn’t back her at 1.7 because I’m too tight.
Saturday June 24
16.20 Diamond Jubilee Stakes: I’ve had a lot to do with The Tin Man, I don’t ride him out but I’m in James Franshawe’s yard a lot. He had a prep run at York which was a really good run. It was on soft ground, which wasn’t ideal, but he came out of that really well and he’s got a great chance. He loves it at Ascot as well. If the ground stays quick he’s got a great chance against Limato and right now is a very good price.
Others to Watch
Wednesday June 21
15.40 Duke of Cambridge: I like Nezwaah (9.0). Roger Varian has also got Dawn of Hope at a great price. I’ve ridden Dawn of Hope out recently, she’s a great horse, really naturally athletic – she’s like one of those girls that goes to the gym, does a really good workout and comes out with perfect hair. She’s lovely. But I think Nezwaah is going to be the winner
Thursday June 22
17.00 Britannia Stakes: I’m going to have a couple of bets in the Britannia Stakes because it’s such a competitive race. The first one I think is worth a place bet at least is Ronald R – he’s in great form and the strong pace of the race will really suit him.
The other one I like is Bless Him, I’ve sat on him and he’s a lovely horse. He ran with a hood on him last time, which really helped him switch off, but he was unlucky in a typical Goodwood race and got boxed in. If he can stay relaxed in the big atmosphere he’s got a great chance.
Saturday June 24
17.00 Wokingham Stakes: I’ve ridden out on Outback Traveller recently who is running the Wokingham and he’s in absolutely cracking form. He’s got to carry a little more weight this year but he’ll have everything to suit him; a strong gallop and a big field.
- Tue – 14:30 – Lightning Spear to Win
- Tue – 15:40 – Lady Auerlia to Win
- Tue – 16:20 – Churchill to Win
- Wed – 15:40 – Newzwaah to Win
- Wed – 16:20 – Jack Hobbs to Win
- Thu – 16:20 – Big Orange to Place
- Thu – 17:00 – Ronald R and Bless Him to Place
- Fri – 15:40 – Harry Angel to Win
- Fri – 16:20 – Dabyah or Daban to Place
- Sat – 16:20 – The Tin Man to Win
- Sat – 17:00 – Outback Traveller to Win