Royal Ascot Friday Preview
The arrival of the rain and the change in the ground conditions has turned what had looked like a pretty average Royal Ascot Friday, into an interesting looking card.
Race times from Thursday signal the ground is riding soft on the round course and a little quicker on the straight track. I’ll be focussing on horses who have posted their optimum under these conditions.
“Royal Ascot 2015” flickr photo by Dumphasizer https://flickr.com/photos/sjdunphy/18999129958 shared under a Creative Commons (BY-SA) license
Royal Ascot Friday
1:15 Palace Of Holyroodhouse Handicap
Art Power reappears here, I’m a big fan of the horse and think he is potentially top-class, particularly on soft ground.
The impression he created at York last season was backed up when he returned on the artificial surface at Newcastle a couple of weeks back. I think he’s the most likely winner but this is a handicap and he has to give weight to some decent animals. Currently available at around 9/4, while I think that’s about right I’m going to take him on with a couple at bigger prices.
On actual ratings achieved, there’s half a dozen in here that have posted in advance Art Power’s bare form, (not taking into account the amount Art Power may have had in reserve).
Adding the soft ground into the equation the two I like are Mighty Spirit and Never Dark.
Mighty Spirit has shown she’s at her best on soft ground and is on a winnable mark of 90. She has a lot going for her and I think she is a viable alternative to the favourite at a general 16/1.
Never Dark is lightly raced and showing progressive form. There are races to be won with him off a mark of 83 and he has the profile of a typical Andrew Balding improver.
He’s yet to be tested on soft ground so it’s a bit of an unknown, however, there’s an encouragement to be taken from his close family who have proved at their best on rain-softened ground. At 14/1 he looks overpriced and one who could turn out to be considerably better than he’s shown to date.
3:00 Hardwicke Stakes
Nothing too complicated here. Elarqam is the best horse in the race, proven on soft ground and comes here having shown his well-being when chasing home Wednesday’s big winner Lord North at Haydock recently.
Elarqam is currently vying for favouritism with Anthony Van Dyck at around 5/2. He’s a better horse than the AVD and I see him going off the clear favourite tomorrow.
There’ll be questions raised about the 12 furlong trip for Elarqam. He’s never raced beyond 10 furlongs so we can’t say if he’ll prove as good a horse up 2 furlongs. I’ve taken encouragement from his pedigree, he appeals as a horse who should stay 12 furlongs no problem.
Other than Spanish Mission who would have been of interest on fast ground, I think Elarqam has this lot covered. 5/2 seems a very reasonable price given the strength of his credentials.
3:35 Commonwealth Cup
Dropping back to 6 furlongs, Millisle is quite interesting in the Commonwealth Cup.
She arguably brings the best form into the race, albeit from her 2-year-old season. She needs to be forgiven her run in the 1000 Guineas, but that’s easy to do. On breeding she never looked likely to stay a mile and sprinting is going to be her thing.
She has winning form on soft ground and I think she is overpriced at 11/1, I could see here going off a few points shorter.
Of the others, Golden Horde looks second best. He’s untried on soft ground and is shorter in the betting at 11/2 so, at the prices, I prefer Millisle here.
4:10 Queen’s Vase
A tricky looking event to weigh up with a number of lightly raced horses stepping up in distance.
It doesn’t appeal particularly as a betting race, that said I think the current favourite, Born With Pride is the wrong favourite on what she’s achieved on the track. Come the off tomorrow, I could she her being bigger than the current 5/2.
Berkshire Rocco arguably has the best past form, he’ll handle the soft ground and on breeding looks sure to relish 14 furlong distance. Lots in his favour but the current 4/1 doesn’t feel like particular value.
Probably a watching race for me.
4:40 Duke Of Edinburgh Stakes
This is a decent race but, it’s ultra-competitive.
Of the proven soft ground performers, Durston, Indianapolis and Johnny Drama look on handicap marks they are capable of winning races from.
Durston will be popular, he had a good season last year, still relatively lightly raced he could have more progression to come. The market has found him and at a current 9/2, there isn’t much juice in his price.
Johnny Drama looks on a good mark on his run in a decent York race behind Forest Of Dean. A repercussion of that effort would give him a big chance here. The soft ground won’t bother him, I’d have a slight concern that he’ll be at his best over 12 furlongs, not conclusive but his best runs have been over 10 furlongs. At 16/1 you’re getting compensated for that doubt and he makes some appeal at that price.
Away from the proven soft ground horses, West End Charmer is on a decent mark on his Doncaster win last June. He won at the Guineas meeting so should come here in good shape. There’s a question whether he can transfer his best to the softer ground and at 6/1, that’s too short for me to find out.
The other interesting one is Archie Watson’s Medal Winner. He’s lightly raced, 4 runs and in a phase of progression. He would need to improve on his latest win at Newcastle to take this, that’s entirely possible, it’s difficult to put a top end on his ability.
The Newcastle win over 10 furlongs was very eye-catching. Nudged along early in the straight, he quickened to go a few lengths clear before appearing to idle.
Looking at his pedigree, dosage index 0.45 centre of distribution (0.50). That’s a dosage profile that you’d normally associate with a stayer on the flat. He’s going to be a better horse over 12 furlongs than the 10 furlongs he raced over at Newcastle.
There’s been plenty of winners this week at Ascot with a similar profile, lightly raced improvers and I can see Medal Winner running a big race. The one thing that tempers my enthusiasm for Medal Winner is that he completely bombed the only time he’s raced on soft ground. That was on debut, so there could well have been a reason other than the ground conditions for his performance but, at a general 9/1, I’d really want to see him proved under the conditions before getting involved.
Fascinating race, at the prices I think Johnny Delta offers a little value. It’ll be a small each-way play for me at 16/1.