Our racing expert runs the rule over the televised action from Ascot.
2:15 1m4f (1m3f211y) Les Ambassadeurs Casino Handicap (Class 3) (4yo+ 0-95)
So many with chances it’s difficult to know where to start but Joseph Tuite’s MACHINE LEARNER ticks more boxes than most and he’s a very backable 12/1 with Hills, with single figures available elsewhere.
I fancied him quite strongly for last year’s November Handicap only for him to trail home in thirteenth and I perhaps should have seen that coming as he also ran below par on his previous outing at Goodwood. I put that down to the track at the time but, with hindsight, he’d probably had enough for the season and a career-best second in a Premier Handicap at Leopardstown in September may well have bottomed him out. He looked unlucky not to score on that occasion, having been short of room at a vital stage, and he can run off the same mark this afternoon.
We’re having to take his fitness on trust but he won on his comeback last year (on good to firm) and his stable has been in cracking form of late, with three winners and several places to show from 13 runners in the last fortnight. I just hope they go a good pace as he stays further and will be doing all his best work late on. Fran Berry rides.
Thundering Blue, who rattled off a hat-trick last summer and will be all the better for his reappearance run at Epsom, heads the long list of dangers.
2:50 1m4f (1m3f211y) Les Ambassadeurs Casino Handicap (Class 3) (4yo+ 0-95)
Barsanti has at least 5lb in hand over his rivals on official ratings and some of his form, particularly a half length second behind Idaho in last year’s Hardwicke Stakes, is far superior to that of his five rivals. However, a return to Royal Ascot will be on his agenda and he therefore might need his first run back, while current best odds of 7/4 do little to excite given his habit of finding one too good at this level (0-6 in Group or Listed company).
I’m going to take him on with Silvester Kirk’s SALOUEN, who is very interesting now stepping back up to this trip as it wasn’t a lack of stamina that contributed to heavy defeats in last year’s Epsom Derby and Eclipse, more that he wasn’t good enough. To be fair, he didn’t help his cause in either of those races by racing keenly and he was much better in that respect when dropping back to 1m2f for his final two starts, both in Group 2s, which resulted in a couple of placed efforts. Given how strongly he hit the line in those races, he’s well worth another try at 1m4f and this represents a drop in class for him, while the booking of Silvestre de Sousa is another positive as the Brazilian is 6-31 on the stable runners for a £1 level-stakes profit of £18.00.
3:25 1m (Str) EBF “Breeders” Series’ Fillies’ Handicap (Class 2) (3yo+)
Queen Of Time was in the process of running well on her first outing for 10 months when clipping heels and unseating her rider at Goodwood seven days ago. Providing she’s none the worse for that experience, she must have claims in an open handicap along with Dynamic, the winner of two of her three starts last season and with the scope to improve further this term.
The pair are disputing favouritism at around the 7/2 mark, though, and there is far more value to be had in the 9/1 on offer for Peter Hiatt’s RED TEA. Granted, it was a lesser race she only narrowly won at Nottingham last time, but she showed a terrific attitude to get on top late on having briefly looked in a spot of trouble and the ground would have been softer than ideal for her. An unlucky short head loser at the Craven meeting previously, she’s clearly improving and could well rate a good deal higher than her current 93, with Finley Marsh’s 5lb claim helping her cause no end.
4:00 7f totescoop6 Victoria Cup (Heritage Handicap) (Class 2) (4yo+)
Bookmakers are taking no chances with Louie De Palma on his first start for nearly four years and, while it’s interesting that connections have persevered with him, it will be some feat by his trainer Clive Cox to have him cherry ripe for this. I simply can’t back him at just 7/1 for what is a hugely competitive renewal and especially as he might be drawn on the wrong side of the track in stall six based on recent results. In the last four years it has paid to be drawn high – the winners have come from boxes 25, 23, 29 and 18 – while six of the placed horses emerged from 21 or higher.
The draw is also a potential negative for the other market leader, Keyser Soze, with Richard Spencer’s charge set to exit from stall seven. Other than that, he has plenty going for him in that he’s won both his starts at this trip and ran well from a poor draw when a close up third in the Spring Cup (1m) on his reappearance. He remains unexposed after just eight starts and will appreciate the drop back to 7f, although he needs to be delivered as late as possible and that’s fraught with danger in big field handicaps like this one.
I could mention a dozen others and still not name the winner, so I’ll cut to my idea of the best value runner in the shape of George Scott’s GILGAMESH. He’s a 25/1 shot with bet365 currently and that is because he finished out with the washing on his first run back this season in the Spring Mile at Newbury. However, as we discovered in a Stable Tour last week, he was too fresh after his layoff and the ground was also too soft for him, with Scott also making him his ‘trainer’s pick’. If we forgive him that one bad run, he’s a real player having won four of his seven previous starts, thrice over this trip, with the scope for further progress this season. From a potentially advantageous draw in stall 23 and with the ground coming right for him, he will surely outrun his price tag.
All odds were correct at time of posting.