A big day at Royal Ascot tomorrow, and my only runner of the week goes in the Kings Stand. I had four entries last Thursday, but it didn’t work out for the other three – let’s hope Blue Jack puts in a respectable show for the Manor House team.
I spent a while going through the form – it’s not been a good year punting for me, but if at first you don’t succeed…
The ground is currently good, with an apparent advantage for high numbers on the straight course – this could play a part.
The Queen Anne
This has the look of a three horse race, the best on offer from the UK, Ireland and France. Goldikova has only once raced in the UK and this is her first trip to Ascot. She probably has the worst draw and she may have to give ground away to get a decent early berth. Rip Van Winkle has enormous talent but has to overcome a break – it’s guesswork as to how fit he is. Paco Boy is in great heart, but his best form is a shade behind the other two and he’d probably prefer the ground a little firmer.
It’s a tough a race with many imponderables. There might be traffic problems and with no pacemakers it could favour the speed horses. Cat Junior looks like the only front runner and he’s drawn high on what is the best ground. I’m going to take an each way chance with Calming Influence, who might just be getting it together now and there is a chance that his form could rise to different level.
The Kings Stand
There are a lot of horses in the race who look as if they would ideally want it Good/Firm – there are also several who are better over six furlongs but are taking their chances ahead of Saturday as they don’t have a lot to lose. This is a proper group 1 – I think our winner needs to be at his best on the ground and over 5 furlongs.
The one horse who seems to have the dream ticket is Nicconi – he loves five furlongs, seems to prefer a little juice in the ground, needs to be held up and drawn 8 of 12 next to the front running Markab (and on the side where the ground is better) he’s not going to have many excuses. He is also an outstanding Australian sprinter, which at Ascot is a good thing to be.
There is of course another 5f specialist who will relish the ground. Blue Jack has everything in his favour except the draw – he is drawn next to Equiano though and that might help his cause a little. Nicconi will be hard to beat, but I’ll have a saver and a forecast with BJ. Of the rest – Kingsgate Native is a star but I suspect he would like it a little firmer and that might see him off.
St. James Palace
Another powerful race with strong teams from the UK, Ireland and France. Canford Cliffs was a revelation in Ireland, but his form hints at a preference for fast ground. Makfi could be a special horse and I’m a bit surprised he isn’t favourite. Siyouni could be a contender, although he has yet to do anything of note as a 3yo. Steinbeck has a reputation to live up to and more is expected than he delivered last time.
The other thing Steinbeck has is a pacemaker, and that might be a big deal in this race. The draw has worked out brilliantly – Steinbeck and Encompassing are drawn in 7 and 8 – and provided the American horse doesn’t get in the way these two can blaze a trail on the best ground next to the far rail. Whether Steinbeck is good enough to win from there remains to be seen, but it’s a dream ticket – I think he’s the value.
I’m less inspired by the rest of the card. In the Coventry Strong Suit is, by inference, a very good horse – Richard Hannon has many horses he could have run in this race and I assume nothing compares to this one as he is the only representative. I don’t like the Ascot Stakes as a race – it’s a good time for tea. In the Windsor Castle Wesley Ward’s charge is unsurprisingly all the rage, but the price is too skinny for me. I’ll go each-way on Sonoran Sands in the hope that he can spring a surprise under Jimmy Fortune.