The Royal Ascot meeting takes place from Tuesday to Saturday next
week and includes the usual set of 6 juvenile races. These are scheduled
as follows :-
Tuesday 4:20 - Coventry Stakes over 6f (Group 2) - 27 entries with
4 from Aiden O'Brien, 2 from Richard Hannon (Canford Cliffs & Fremont),
2 from Mark Johnston (Below Zero & Marsh Warbler) & 3 from Clive
Brittain (Niran, Rjeef & Rumool). Other strong contenders from British
stables with Alrasm, No Hubris & Red Jazz. Add Canford Cliffs to those
three & you perhaps have the best of the local prospects with the Hannon
horse just top of the first pass profile.
Tuesday 5:30 - Windsor Castle Stakes over 5f (Listed). The second
division 5f race behind the pair of group races for the males & females.
37 entries with a number entered in the 5f Group races as well.
Wednesday 4:55 - Queen Mary Stakes over 5f (Group 2, fillies only).
21 entries including the winners of both Listed races for fillies so far
with Misheer (Marygate Stakes) & Dont Tell Mary (Hilary Needler). 19
of those entered the expected set from the British runners including dual
winners Capercailie, Ceedwell & Crown along with a second Dascombe
entry for Above Limits (& her Sandown runner-up Itwasonlyakiss). French
trainer Richard Gibson has Chantilly Creme in the list & has had several
runners in the 2yo races recently & US trainer Wesley Ward has Jealous
Again entered (he also has colts entered in the two Tuesday events).
Thursday 2:30 - Norfolk Stakes over 5f (Group 2). The males main
5f race and has just 16 entries and often cuts up to a smallish field with
'Second Rank' horses going to the Windsor Castle as a race they might be
able to win. Only 11 of the colts are from British trainer with 2 from
Wesley Ward (US) & 3 from Irish stables (In Some Respect, Love Lockdown
& Moran Gra). The first of those runs for A. Oliver who has had a single
runner in major British races in each of 2007-8 with both making the first
4. Love Lockdown is trained by Ger Lyons who has had a few runners including
the Queen Mary Winner in 2007 with Elletelle. The British trained entries
are a mixed bag including two maidens (Key Breeze & Running Mate) for
John Gosden & another for John Best (Diamond Johnny G). Howard Johnston's
Kingdom Of Light has won over 6f only which leaves just 7 local colts who
have actually won over 5f entered. They are Here Now And Why, Monsieur
Chevalier, Nosedive (won two days ago FTO), Radiohead, Reignier (beaten
by Capercailie at Musselburgh), Star Rover & Tawaabb. Three of that
group are also entered in the Windsor Castle.
Friday 2:30 - Albany Stakes over 6f (fillies' only). New race in
2002 as an equivalent to the Coventry.
Saturday - Chesham Stakes over 7f for horses by Sires who won over
at least 10f. The qualification used to be 12f but has been recently
reduced. Often a very mixed quality race with the 7f events having started
less than two weeks before. Last year's race was pretty poor with the second
beaten again in a maiden yesterday & the 4th a filly who ended the
season a maiden competing off OR68.
We can link thoughts about the upcoming Ascot week with the last Preview
which considered the state of the straight course at Newcastle. If you
assume there is a 'Magic' strip on the stands' side of centre track at
that course the a number of recent 2yo races there make more sense. In
a number reliable horses have been beaten & fading much too early in
their races and finishing too far back. The races just look 'odd' if you
spend a lot of time watching them. Races which are not on soft ground or
worse just do not fall apart in that way. Aside from the previously reliable
faders you have a lot of taking finishes from horses up the 'Strip' later
in the race that they seem unable to make stick on other courses.
Reeds Bay & Bikini Babe have both won since that Preview and you can
make good cases that their Newcastle flops were caused by running on a
slower strip of the track. Watching the races on the straight course at
York yesterday it certainly appeared that there was a faster strip up the
middle of the track. Staying over towards the stands' side looked a real
hindrance. Favourite Girl seemed to run especially well having run down
the stands' side for a long way before getting herself onto the centre
strip later on in the 3yo handicap. The Rous Seller fell apart on Friday
with Anjomarba pulling clear up the centre while the whole field
aside from her expired pretty early. Races just should not play out in
that way without some environmental input.
Putting this into action before the 6f maiden at the course later on Saturday
you could theorise about chucking out anything drawn high. That left Makbullet
& Haltela as the two possibles with hints of form but most likely to
run up the centre strip. That pair steam off together up the right part
of the track and only Summerinthecity (who ran very well FTO) managed to
get to them after he had hung across to centre track and then across
to the fair rail with them. All that money spent on drainage to save meetings
is great but it usually will produce fast patches in places,
The redevelopment at Ascot completed a few years ago including relaying
a lot of the track & adding drains. In two long stretches in the straight
they built new tunnels under the course for pedestrian access to the heath
& to stop a road crossing on the track. Great, but now you have a few
metres of soil sitting on a concrete base which may, or may not, react
differently to the normal set-up. B2yoR gets as jumpy about the straight
course at Ascot as about Mark Johnston debuts. There are definitely fast
strips spread across the course & at different points along the course.
As at Newcastle you can watch 2yos you thought you had 'understood' suddenly
pulling clear from solid rivals. Put their ratings up & they go to
another track next time and the 'improvement' has gone & they are struggling
as you would expect. The better strips come-and-go but the one near the
stands' rail for the last 2 furlongs seems pretty consistent and there
is something just beyond centre track which can act like a conveyor belt
at times. But, it means that watching the prior races before you bet is
the ideal scenario. If you are not in that position you are betting 'blind'
to some extent and might be wasting an excellent piece of analysis. You
will look at your horse in 10th on the result & think you got it 'wrong'
but your thinking was 100% correct but your horse ran up the strip of,
Which brings us to the 6f maiden at Doncaster today which has an
interesting field and a couple who ran Newcastle last time up the disadvantaged
side. Doncaster, of course, has also been redeveloped but the track bias
does not seem as pronounced, or as difficult to fathom, as at some courses.
There is a stands' rail bias at times but horses can win off the rail and
switch out to make progress. The 7 juvenile races there this year have
seen wins for stalls 2-3 in four events with between 9 to 15 runners. The
other three have been boxes 7, 9 & 14. In most cases horses races off
the rail but in the main pack can make progress and not look nailed-to-the-floor.
It is as interesting to note that despite fields ranging from 8-19 runners
with, 4 in double figures, nothing has been worse that 6th at halfway.
Five of the winners have been in the first 5 and within 2 lengths of the
lead. Not a course where it easy to make later race progress normally.
The most interesting runner in the field is Lady Springbank who
made her debut at Newcastle drawn 1. She ran freely early just on the wrong
side of centre track and then drifted further into the soup later on. She
made a bit of ground on the pair who pulled away on the 'Magic Carpet'
initially but then got left behind. But, she pulled away from those around
her & never looked like expiring as many did & still trying to
the line. She is an ok size and should finish the race off well here. As
a STO runner for a stable that is now in form and whose 4 individual winners
have all won STO she has a solid profile. Drawn in the middle but showed
enough pace early FTO to get to a reasonable position here.
Valantino Oyster also ran at Newcastle on the wrong patch STO but
with less obvious distinction. He finished the race close to a couple of
runners who have run just 'Ok' since including on in a claimer. Lesser
form and even allowing him some extra rating does not make him appeal strongly.
Another to check for improvement.
will presumably be the favourite but pretty easy to find some niggles.
On debut he faded pretty early and finished with seller quality horses.
STO he looked less than enthusiastic all round. It took two minutes to
wrestle him into the stalls hooded. In a race with a slow pace he did not
respond well when the later race efforts were made dropping back initially.
On the positive side he finished well enough late on but perhaps to a rival
who was idling and the other horses around him probably not that good.
The general view would be that he needs to grow up mentally and behave
properly to show his best. If he can do that he may well be a bit better
than the rest of the field. But unlikely to be a value propositions.
Tamanaco probably showed a higher level of form FTO than Brisbane
has and the horses he finished in front have have run respectably since.
His trainer tends to have his runners mostly ready for debut so perhaps
not a lot of improvement but should 'Peak' here and compete well. Some
interest at each-way prices for Take It To The Max as well. He seems
a big galloper who has not been in the right spot yet. Early races
over 5f saw him lack pace and get unbalanced at Ripon. Stepped up to 6f
last time he ran too freely in the lead on heavy ground and faded but ran
well enough. A profile of a horse with a bit of improvement left to show
and a stalking trip on a flat 6f from a middle draw a chance to find out
if he does have anything else to show.
What to make of Dazeen? FTO he showed an ability to make a forward
effort in a race but did it early in the race to get back from a low start
to 7th at halfway before an early fade. STO he ran at Hamilton where his
trainer had secured a 66/1 win previously with a runner 8 lengths adrift
at halfway. This presumably fed into the tactics employed on Dazeen. On
the downhill section the field went a strong pace that saw Rose Blossom
break the 5f course record. Dazeen was not outpaced, as such, but held
up by his jockey and allowed to drop back and was 11 lengths off
the leaders at halfway.
He was then allowed to start his forward effort on the uphill section &
got back to the first of the faders by 2 furlongs out. Given the pace up
front there were a lot of faders and he got past them all to a remote second.
'Remote' because the pace that blew up a lot of second raters had no effect
on Rose Blossom & she finished the race off well. Her trainer said
she was a freak who had cruised past OR70s older handicappers in work the
previous week in a manner he had never seen a 2yo manage. Anyway, trying
that hold up palaver on this flat track will not work unless the leaders
go berserk although he does appear to have a real forward effort. One to
watch rather than support.
No interest in Dear Mr Fantasy on trainer grounds and just a low
form base anyway. A little more interest in how Diman Waters goes
for a trainer who tends to develop 2yos slowly. He was another ok physical
type to make his debut on heavy ground at Haydock & fade after going
along ok for the first part of the race. Well drawn near the rail and interesting
to see how long he lasts here.
Two newcomers from trainers who get FTO winners with Lady Lefroy
for Mr Fahey & Russian Davis for Robert Cowell. After a patch
on better debuts which produced two wins & two seconds the 4 over the
last 2 days have been less good. Lady Lefroy does not read as a better
type on pedigree but the trainer has had two FTO wins at the course already
this year. One to follow if you want to track the Fahey debuts although
not a strong overall profile.
Robert Cowell has a win, a second and a 4th from 3 debuts this year, all
in 6 runner events. In general his runners are well prepared and show a
lot of their ability FTO. Russian Davis has an average pedigree which might
just be ok for 6f but not an obviously better type. The Market appears
to have some knowledge on what to expect something less than 7/1 perhaps
a real sign here.
In summary, Brisbane has enough negatives to make this a race to
watch unless you have a strong fancy to take him on with. Lady Springbank
has a solid profile anyway and give her a bit of an extra boost for the
Newcastle Effect & happy to travel with her for the day. A couple of
obvious newcomers to assess but as much interest overall in the Northern
development types with Tamanaco, Take It To The Max & Diman Waters,
The first of those an alternative for the day. TITTM a more speculative
each-way with a profile that says he should do much better today if he
has some latent ability to show. Diman Waters one to track for where he
has gone up the development curve.