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Royal Ascot Friday Tips – Best bets for day four of the royal meeting

Royal Ascot

What are the best bets on day four of the royal meeting?

Day four of the royal meeting sees six more sensational races including a brand new race, the Commonwealth Cup over 6f. Here are my thoughts on the day’s proceedings with suggested bets and best available prices at the time of writing.

2.30: Albany Stakes, 6f
The Hannon team seem very keen on the chances of Illuminate who has relatively unfancied (8/1) when beating odds-on stablemate Great Page at Salisbury last time – a race won by the stable’s Tiggy Wiggy 12 months ago. The runner-up franked the form when winning a Listed race on her next start and Illuminate can be expected to come on a ton for that run, with today’s extra unlikely to inconvenience her.

She’s a worthy favourite at around the 3/1 mark, but I’m a sucker for a Wesley Ward-trained juvenile at the Royal meeting and after the demolition job by his Acapulco in Wednesday’s Queen Mary, I want to be on stablemate BACK AT THE RANCH at bet365’s 6/1. A runner-up on her debut at Keeneland, she showed he had learnt from that when coming from well off the pace to win at Belmont by two and a quarter lengths. That was over 5f on dirt but the way she was taken off her feet early before coming with a late rattle suggest she will relish this extra furlong.

Ward, who is refreshingly open about his horses, has said she works better on grass and he fancies her over stablemate Laxfield Road, who may be more of a speedball type. He was spot on with Acapulco and his confidence in the selection is enough to clinch the bet.

There are plenty of other to consider of course and one who could go well at a double-figure price is Mick Channon’s Jersey Breeze. She was as green as grass when third on her debut at Salisbury, but looked far more the polished article when sluicing home at Leicester last time and she too will appreciate the step up to 6f. Her stable’s record in this race is impressive with three winners (5/1, 16/1 & 50/1), a second, a third and two fourths from 12 runners since 2003.

3.05: King Edward VII Stakes, 1m4f
A disappointing turnout of just seven for this Group 2 and that surely leaves the way for STRAVAGANTE to follow up his success in the big 1m2f at Epsom on Derby day, when showing his appreciation for fast ground and giving the impression he’d get another couple of furlongs doing handsprings. Prior to that he’d finished a highly respectable third to subsequent Derby runner-up Jack Hobbs, so his form is impeccable.

His trainer Sir Michael Stoute, who is closing in on the late Sir Henry Cecil’s record tally of 75 Royal Ascot winners, sitting on 72 currently, has farmed this race in the past. He has won it six times no less and the last three – Balakheri, Papal Bull and Hillstar – had like the selection been running in handicaps earlier in the season. A son of Rip Van Winkle out of a Rock Of Gibraltar mare, he’s certainly bred to be very decent and he’s a confident pick at Hills’ 5/2 to take the best step up the ladder, with Frankie Dettori booked to do the steering.

Aidan O’Brien supplies the main danger in Ol Man River, an immensely promising juvenile last season but hardly sighted in two runs this term. He’s surely capable of better, but this has not been a happy hunting ground for his stable, who have supplied four of the last five beaten favourites, and a bigger danger looks to be David Simcock’s Balios, who finished a solid second on Listed company on his reappearance at Newmarket.

3.40: Commonwealth Cup, 6f
A brand new race for three-year-old sprinters, who have traditionally struggled against their elders at this meeting, and a huge success judging by the turnout of 18, headed by last season’s star juvenile filly Tiggy Wiggy. She has been running over longer trips this season and with great credit, finishing third in the 1000 Guineas at Newmarket last time, but this race is no afterthought as it’s been her target for a while. Blessed with incredible natural speed, she seems certain to make them all go now dropping back to 6f.

She’s not favourite, though, with that honour going to Limato, another star juvenile from last season when going unbeaten in four starts. After taking his record to 5-5 on his reappearance, he was put in his place by the progressive Adaay at Haydock last time and, while the rain-softened ground was against him, his trainer was more inclined to blame that defeat on the fact more progressive types had caught up with his diminutive colt. We’ll find out for certain here.

The presence of Wesley Ward’s Hootenanny, the winner of last season’s Windsor Castle Stakes on the opening day of the meeting and the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile at Santa Anita in November, provides even more class to the line-up and he is greatly respected having had the ideal prep when winning over Keeneland’s 51/2f.

However, and this may seem like the first signs of madness (been coming for a while to be honest), I’m going to take all three on with Charlie Hills’ MUHAARAR, who looks a value each-way shot at Paddy Power’s 14/1. A Group 2 winner in his juvenile season, he showed he retained all his ability when winning the Greenham Stakes (7f) on his reappearance, before finishing midfield in the French 2000 Guineas from a terrible draw. He’s dropping back two furlongs here, but is a horse with plenty of pace who travels strongly in his races and his trainer seems very keen on his chances in his Weekender column, saying: “He’s a very good horse who is still improving and I wouldn’t be ruling him out at all.”

I haven’t even mentioned last season’s Queen Mary winner Anthem Alexander, who could well figure, and it’s safe to say this race is one I’m looking forward to!

4.20: Coronation Stakes, 1m
Classic form usually stands up to be counted in this Group 1 and, even though we are missing the winners of both the English and Irish Guineas, those races are well represented by Lucida and Found, the runner-ups at Newmarket and the Curragh respectively.

The latter has been put in as favourite at around the 2/1 mark and that’s a little surprising as the Newmarket form looks stronger. The winner Legatissimo franked it in no uncertain style when just getting touched off in the Epsom Oaks and Jim Bolger’s filly, a 10/3 shot, should relish today’s faster surface, while Found may need further than a mile on this sort of ground being a daughter of Galileo.

So it’s Lucida of the pair at the prices, but neither may cope with Gallic challenger ERVEDYA, who can also boost strong Classic form having won the French equivalent of the 1000 Guineas. She did it in great style too showing a terrific change of gear when it mattered to mow down Irish Cookie late on, and that bodes well for her Ascot chances as the round course here suits horses who travel well and produce a turn of foot in the straight.

Granted, she has two and a half lengths to find on Found on their running in last October’s Prix Marcel Boussac, but she has improved since and the quicker ground is more in her favour as it will help her see out the trip, and she might even improve for it. Christophe Soumillon rides and he went close to winning this race last year with the same stable’s Lesstalk In Paris, who was beaten less than a length by Rizeena. He’ll be keen to to avenge that narrow defeat and 9/2 (Paddy Power) on that happening looks more than fair.

5.00: Duke Of Edinburgh Stakes, 1m4f
A new slot for this race having been traditionally run on the Saturday, but it still looks devilishly hard handicap to solve with a field of 19 runners set to go to post.

Arab Dawn is favourite depending on where you bet and his reappearance third over this trip at Newmarket, his first run since being gelded, will have teed him up nicely for this. However, I’m not convinced he truly stay this far and the likely fast pace and stiff finish may be find him out. A couple of other fancied runners in Ajman Bridge and Warrior Of Light have been beaten off lower marks than today’s, and it could pay to look a little lower down the betting list.

I stopped at the Roger Varian-trained IGIDER and he looks the one to be one at a double-figure price – but be quick about it! Lightly-raced, he’s one of the least exposed runners in the field and he has some sexy form to go with it. Fourth on last year’s debut, he was then a closing half-length second to Second Step in a Newbury maiden and that horse is now rated 118 after winning a Group 2 last month. The selection was in hindsight a certainty when lining up in a Doncaster handicap last time off a mark of 85 and he duly obliged by five lengths under today’s pilot Graham Lee.

The handicapper has reacted by putting him up by 9lb to a new perch of 94, but I doubt that is the ceiling off his ability and his trainer thinks so too, saying in a recent Stable Tour: “Mark my words, he will improve all summer.” With the stable going great guns after a slow start to the season and in identical conditions to last time (1m4f, fast ground), I rate him a cracking bet and my nap of the day.

5.35: Queen’s Vase, 2m
Aidan O’Brien has won this thrice since 2007, including with subsequent Gold Cup hero Leading Light in 2013, and he is double-handed this time round with Aloft and Bantry Bay representing him. The former is by far the most interesting of the pair as he was a classy juvenile, finishing second in the Racing Post Trophy at Doncaster on his final start at two, and is ridden by the irrepressible Ryan Moore.

Whether that entitles him to be as short as 2/1 is another matter and I suspect his connections have a good deal to do with that. He may still win but given he hasn’t been seen out since October, has never raced beyond a mile, and his sporting first-time tongue-tie and cheek-pieces (both suggesting he’s been temperamental at home) I’m happy to take him on.

His stablemate Bantry Bay showed a good attitude when winning his maiden at the Curragh last time, but he’s plenty short enough too at around 4/1 and I’d rather back Ralph Beckett’s GREAT GLEN at more than double those odds (9/1 best with Ladbrokes). Like most of these he’s stepping up to two miles for the first time and that’s got to help him as he lacks gears over shorter, albeit still showing a decent level of form, including a second over 1m2f at Newmarket, and is bred to stay all day being a son of High Chapparal. His trainer earmarked this race for him in a Stable Tour earlier in the season and he won’t mind the fast ground.

A couple of others worth mentioning are Yarrow, who is bidding to give his trainer a fourth success in this race, and Charlie Appleby’s Antiquarium, both of whom have each-way shouts with the uneasy favourite helping to make the market.

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