It was four wins, a second and a third for Syndicate Captain TFA on the first day of Royal Ascot, impressive stuff! He returns to preview Thursday’s action to try and take down the £20,000 Place 6 pool. Controversially, he is tactically opposing the well-fancied Stradivarius.
2.30 Royal Ascot
This race surely revolves around whether Sunday Sovereign can repeat his recent form on this ground. Two starts ago, he beat Arizona who subsequently spread-eagled the field when winning his maiden as well as winning the Coventry on Tuesday. This form puts Sunday Sovereign head and shoulders above the rest.
He won his last outing by 7 lengths, giving 5lbs to Lorelei Rock who had previously beaten Air Force Jet. Given how easy Sunday Sovereign won, he is one of the bankers of the meeting in my eyes.
With nagging doubts about the ground though, you need another couple in your perm in case he runs below form. Wesley Ward has a great Ascot record in the 5f two-year-old races and whatever he runs over the minimum distance always warrants attention. He relies on Maven here after entering two in both 5f races on Wednesday. Hopefully this means he thinks Maven is all he needs and, as such, he’s on my shortlist.
The rest of the field are much of a muchness. Any of them could improve and trouble the favourite but there is so little form on soft ground, it’s a guess. One proven on the ground is Dubai Station and it interests me that Spencer rode this on debut and again last time. It suggests connections were probably planning for this race given that he rides it again.
Place 6 Selections – Sunday Sovereign, Maven, Dubai Station
3.05 Royal Ascot
This is a difficult race but I’m quite smitten with one of them. Great Scot surely represents value in this race.
He has been in some difficult contests and I think this is a bit of a step down in class. He won his first three starts as a two-year-old, including a Listed win on heavy ground at Haydock. Finishing the season with a fifth place in the old Racing Post trophy, behind Magna Grecia, Phoenix Of Spain and Circus Maximus and, were he not hampered, could have finished third or fourth. You don’t get more grade 1 form than that and it’s the best in the race.
This season, he’s finished second in the Greenham and was slightly disappointing when ninth in the 2000 Guineas. Last time out, he finished third in the German 2000 Guineas but is back on softer ground today with the additional 2f looking sure to suit. It’s hard to understand why he isn’t one of the favourites.
Aside from Great Scot, I wasn’t impressed with many of the field. I couldn’t split Cape of Good Hope and Cap Francais but, at the prices, Cap Francais looks better value. There was only 0.5 lengths between them in the Derby Trial at Epsom and the way the race panned out suited Cape of Good Hope better. Last time, Cap Francais was fourth in the Lingfield Derby Trial and this form looks solid too. He’s also proven on soft ground unlike many in the field.
Fox Chairman last run can be upgraded now that Circus Maximum has won the St James Palace Stakes on Tuesday. Given that he has only run twice and clearly goes on the ground, he looks the most solid selection at the front of the market.
The other one I’ll mention is Roseman who should relish this ground and is still improving based on his run at Sandown. Needs to improve again but, in a race where you can pick holes in many of them, he looks a viable alternative.
Place 6 Selections – Great Scot, Cap Francais, Fox Chairman, Roseman
3.40 Royal Ascot
On her initial form, Fleeting is the clear pick. She was third in the Oaks last time but, over the years, many fillies have failed to back up a big run in the Oaks at Royal Ascot I see her as vulnerable today. She has to go on the shortlist but isn’t one I’d bank on placing. She was a double-figured price on all runs since her maiden win so it’s hard to believe her as a short price favourite here off her last run. She’s on the list but I’m wary of her.
At a price, one who I like is Fanny Logan, who could easily improve past most of the field. On debut, she was just beaten by Mehdaayih and back in third that day was Maqsad. What makes that effort more remarkable was that other pair had previously seen a racetrack, so for Fanny to split them on debut was some effort. She won easily on debut this season before going off as a well-backed second favourite behind Mehdaayih in the Cheshire Oaks, though didn’t handle the track that day.
What also interests me is that Detorri has stayed loyal to Star Catcher who won very easily on soft ground at Newbury two starts back before finishing behind Queen Power at Newbury on firmer ground. I’ll be surprised if both Gosden horses don’t run a race on this ground today and each are double figure prices. Gosden also has a third runner in the race to complicate matters further.
In summary, it’s a head-scratcher but the important point is that I don’t think Fleeting is a banker and the market probably has her and Queen Power too short. Given it’s a Place 6, you can’t go too wild and I think you need to select a couple on your perm before including the value picks at bigger prices.
Place 6 Selections – Fleeting, Fanny Logan, Star Catcher
4.20 Royal Ascot
Am I with or against Stradavarius on this ground? It won’t be a massive surprise to other form readers that I am dead against him. I’ve no doubt that he the best horse in the race and if, he copes with the ground, he surely wins. The problem is that, similar to Fleeting, if you select him in your perm with others, you are hoping he gets beaten .
My issue is the ground. You can point to his late season run on soft at Ascot when he beat Thomas Hobson and Sir Erec but that form is full of holes. Stradavarius did well to win that race but I think better horses will expose him on this ground so will be laying him.
In terms of the competition, Cross Counter and Dee Ex Bee are obvious alternatives and are hard to split. There is a ground question mark relating to Cross Counter and for this reason, I’d favour Dee Ex Bee from the two but it’s a hard call.
The two O’Brien horses, Flag of Honour and Capri, look typical improvers from this stable stepping up in trip. Given his record in this race, and the fact that he seems to have an ability to turn 12f/14f horses into champion stayers, I’ll be surprised if both of these don’t run some sort of race. The booking of Moore would suggest that Flag of Honour is the stable preference but it wouldn’t be the first time Ryan has chosen the wrong horse.
I favour Capri. He hasn’t set the world alight so far this season but has always looked like a future Gold Cup horse and it shouldn’t be forgotten that he beat Crystal Ocean and Stradivarius when winning the St Leger in 2017. He has lots of form on soft ground and his fifth in the Arc last season highlights the class he has on soft ground. After two poor efforts this season, I would not be surprised if he bounces back on soft ground and over this distance.
Place 6 Selections – Dee Ex Bee, Flag of Honour, Capri
5.00 Royal Ascot
My Place 6 strategy for a race like this is to get as many horses on your perm as you can afford and pray you hit a placer as it’s like winning the lottery. I’ve narrowed it down to seven and have favoured low drawn horses but have deliberately picked a couple high in case the draw bias is for high numbers.
Motafaawit beat Awe on soft ground over 7f and Awe has subsequently won easily off a 4lbs higher mark. He is 6lbs higher today which suggests he may still have a couple of pounds in hand off this mark and should beat Awe again.
Velorum split some highly-rated horses on debut last season and won easily on debut this season. His last was a strange race, he should have won easily but was made to work hard after starting at odds of 1/6 but was playing up pre-race. He still managed to win which probably kept a few pounds off his back here but he could be anything I think.
Dubai Legacy caught my eye on his last run when behind Beat Le Bon as he travelled into the race like he was well-handicapped. He was impeded but ran on later and looked better than his mark. He gets a 7lbs pull with Beat Le Bon and, for that reason, I favour him of the pair, especially as I think the step up to 8f will suit.
King Ademar is one of the few I found who is proven on soft ground. He’s proven at a mile already, is still improving and may be ahead of his mark. The combination of all three made him interesting.
Davydenko could be anything but the fact he runs here for Stoute, who clearly has lots of ammunition in his stable for this race, makes me think he could be well-handicapped. Won well last time although the ground is an unknown.
Beatboxer probably has the best 8f handicap form in the race after winning at Haydock. He beat a few of the field on that run and looks one of the likelier horses who are drawn high.
Hero Hero is another drawn high who could be on a decent mark and was impressive at Chester last time, winning easily. Will need to improve again but the connections probably had a choice of runners and plumping for him is a sign that he may be on a decent mark.
Place 6 Selections – Motafaawit, Velorum, Dubai Legacy, King Ademar, Davydenko, Beatboxer, Hero Hero
5.35 Royal Ascot
If you have made it past the Britannia in the Place 6, the simple task of a 20-runner handicap completes the card. Another nightmare race and, again, you have to try to get as many as you can afford on your perm as it is a difficult race to narrow down.
Constantinople is a classic case of a Group horse in a handicap, although will need to be at least Group 2 level to win this. He was impressive last time out and the fact that they are running him in a handicap instead of a Listed or Group race interests me. No form on soft ground but should handle it ok.
Sinjaari has the best handicap form in the race as a result of his second to Headman and although is 8lbs higher today. Another one with no form on the ground but it’s a similar story for many in this field so, hopefully, it’s not a huge disadvantage.
Fox Premier looks to be improving quickly and won impressively last time. Up another 11lbs, he’ll need to continue improving but would have won that race with an extra stone on its back. Has some form on soft ground and, again, connections have a host of horses that could have run, so putting him in is a decent tip in itself.
Good Birthday is in the same ownership as Fox Premier and looks to be improving at a rate of knots which is what you generally need for this race. He has form on a soft surface which makes him interesting. Will need to improve again given that he’s up another 6lbs but looks the type to continue improving.
Sir Ron Priestley is a typical Mark Johnston improver and seems to be getting better. Again, need to defy a big handicap increase but the trainer excels with this type and often targets one at this race.
Place 6 Selections – Constantinople, Sinjaari, Fox Premier, Good Birthday