What are the best bets on day three of the royal meeting?
It might not be a vintage renewal of the Gold Cup but Thursday’s feature is eagerly anticipated nonetheless. Here are my thoughts on the day’s proceedings with suggested bets and best available prices at the time of writing.
2.30: Norfolk Stakes, 5f
At around 12/1 bar the pair, it’s hard to get away from the Richard Hannon-trained duo of King Of Rooks and LOG OUT ISLAND, the selection and mount of William Buick. The former is odds-on across the board after recording scintillating victories on his last two starts and will be ridden by Frankie Dettori, while his stablemate is a best-priced 3/1 after winning over track and trip on his debut in late April.
Apart from their trainer they have another thing in common in that they both had Tuesday’s Coventry Stakes winner Buratino behind when winning last time. That horse has improved in leaps and bounds since and can now lay claim to be the best and most exciting juvenile around, so it’s safe to say the form has been well and truly franked. For the record King Of Rooks beat him five lengths, while Log Out Island had a further half length advantage.
Strictly on form there won’t be much between them here, yet the odds don’t reflect that. Another thing in Log Out Island’s favour is that he is proven on the track, whereas his stablemate was beaten over 5f here on his debut and appreciated stepping up to 6f when winning his next start at Newbury. He dropped back a furlong to win at Sandown last time but that’s a stiff track and the selection may just have more pace.
Of the rest, you’ve got to respect Charlie Hills’ Nottingham winner Shanghai Glory. The form of his debut win is working out well and his trainer is in far better form now after a slow start to the season. He could muscle his way into the frame.
3.05: Tercentenary Stakes, 1m2f
When you see a horse as short as 5/2 for any race at Royal Ascot the first thought is to look elsewhere for some value. But, as with Solow in Tuesday’s Queen Anne, there’s usually a good reason why and I’m struggling to find any negatives surrounding TIME TEST, who thoroughly deserves to be as short as he is.
Given how well he’d been working with the stable’s top-class Al Kazeem (thrice a Group 1 winner), Roger Charlton’s charge would have been a good thing when lining up in last month’s London Gold Cup off a mark of 93 and he duly obliged by just over a length. He did it the hard way too as he had to weave and squeeze his way through, taking gaps that would have closed had he not been quick enough, and he looks every inch a Group horse.
He gets to prove that today and, while this is considerably tougher with several promising sorts taking him on, I’m confident he’s up to the task, with his jockey Frankie riding out of his skin right now. Of course I appreciate that some punters will turn their noses up at the skinny odds and the each-way suggestion is Aidan O’Brien’s Cape Clear Island, who has run well in defeat on his last three starts since winning on his reappearance at Newmarket, including when seventh in the French Derby last time. That’s solid form in the book, whilst the selection is more about potential, though I still want to be with him.
3.40: Ribblesdale Stakes, 1m4f
As in the first two races punters are being asked to consider another short-priced favourite in the shape of Jim Bolger’s Pleasach, who is odds-on with bookmakers having won last month’s Irish 1000 Guineas, which made it three wins in just five career starts. However, she has an extra half-mile to travel this afternoon and, while she won over 1m2f two starts back, I wouldn’t suggest anyone lump on at just 5/6.
I will still be betting on the race and it’ll be an each-way investment on Charlie Hills’ PANDORA at double-figure odds. Her form doesn’t even come close to that of the favourite, admittedly, but she’s lightly-raced after just two starts and her third to Star Of Seville in last month’s Musidora at York looks an even better effort after that horse won Sunday’s French Oaks. Hills, who is in far better form now, thinks she will run a big race and has booked Richard Hughes to ride, so she’ll do for me.
Luca Cumani’s Panoma is another one to consider with the step in trip likely to bring out further improvement from this thrice-raced filly and daughter of Duke Of Marmalade. At 11/2 she’s half the price of the selection, though.
4.20: Gold Cup, 2m4f
Dermot Weld has given Forgotten Rules the go ahead to run on the proviso of “safe ground”, which was probably a comment more directed to the Clerk of the Course. The ground would have been to firm for him on Wednesday but the taps are set to be turned on after racing and that should be enough to ensure the presence of the ante post favourite, who made it four wins from as many starts (three flat, one bumper) at Navan last month. However, I have reservations over whether there will be enough juice in the ground for him to put his very best forward and at current odds of 11/4 I have take him on – dangerous, I know.
Take him out and the race has a very open look to it and is ripe for an each-way bet – but on whom? Mizzou and Vent De Force are obvious starting points but they have to step up again on what they’ve shown so far (possible), and the one that is catching my eye is the Aidan O’Brien-trained KINGFISHER.
A son of Galileo, he has never raced over this far but he promises to stay and showed he was in good heart when winning a Listed contest over 1m6f at Leopardstown. That race has been O’Brien’s trial of choice for the Gold Cup and the way he cut down some in-form rivals late on, having been given a lot to do, bodes well for his chances. Classy enough to finish third in last year’s Irish Derby, he could well take off over this marathon trip under jockey of the moment Ryan Moore.
Others in with a good each-way shout are the Andrew Balding-trained pair of HAVANA BEAT and Scotland. The former is just preferred having ran well to finish seventh in last year’s race after being given too much to do, and is crying out to be backed also at 25/1 with Paddy Power.
5.00: Britannia Stakes, 1m
So many with chances and there’s probably a couple of ‘plot’ horses amongst them, but let’s keep it simple and back a form horse from a stable who has hit top gear at just the right time.
The beast in question is SAHAAFY who had his Doncaster second to Always Smile franked when that horse so nearly winning Wednesday’s Sandringham – I still can’t believe he got beat and it wouldn’t have happened had he kept a straight line! He followed that up by slamming a well-backed favourite at Newmarket by five lengths on fast ground and he may have enough improvement in him to overcome an 11lb rise. His trainer Barry Hills has a had a couple of winners this month from just a handful of runners and hit the crossbar at this meeting when Fadhayyil finished second in the Jersey Stakes.
Yet despite all the above the selection can be backed at a double-figure price and, while its entirely possible a better handicapped runner will come and do him, an each-way bet can’t do much damage, with a couple of firms – Sky Bet and Paddy Power – offering six places.
5.35 King George V Stakes, 1m4f
As with the previous race this is a real head-scratcher and it’s just the sort of race the bookies love.
Let’s wipe the smiles off their faces with Luca Cumani’s KING BOLETE, who showed a smart turn of foot when pulled out from behind in a hot handicap at Newbury last time and looks to have been saved for this. That was over 1m3f but he won’t mind today’s extra furlong and, while the layers have largely cottoned onto his rather obvious chance too, there’s still enough juice in his price of 15/2 to get involved, especially as we’ve got Frankie riding for us.
Of the rest, I like the look of Charlie Appleby’s Space Age, who did me a good turn when winning at Newmarket last time and is almost certainly capable of better. He’ll be hard to keep out of the frame at around the 12/1 mark, while Andrew Balding’s Scottish is another to consider with the form of his Newbury maiden win working out.
Nap of the day: Time Test
Best each-way bet: Kingfisher