Our racing expert gives his verdict on the televised action.
Ascot 1:50 5f Duke Of Edinburgh’s Award Rous Stakes (Listed Race) (Class 1) (3yo+)
Mr Lupton did me a good turn when landing a Group 3 at Newbury last time but the 5lb penalty he picked up makes life tougher and he might struggle to give that weight to SPRING LOADED. Paul D’Arcy’s six-year-old is very useful on his day, as he showed when winning an ultra competitive handicap over this track and trip in July under today’s rider Adam Kirby, and he’s had excuses the last twice – he finished lame on his left hind when seventh in the Stewards’ Cup and was denied a clear run when fifth (of 20) under a big weight at Ripon last time. Both of those runs were over 6f and he’s probably better over a fast-run 5f, while any easing of the ground (good at the time of writing) won’t hinder him as he won last year’s Portland on good to soft.
Should it get really testing then Intense Romance, who has won his last two starts on heavy, would come right into it.
Newmarket 2.05 6f (Row) British EBF Breeders’ Fillies’ Series Sprint Handicap (Class 2) (3yo+)
The forecast rain is definitely a concern for the hat-trick seeking Fille De Reve as she loves to hear her hooves rattle, while Perfection has gone up a harsh 11lb for winning at Yarmouth last time and this is tougher.
INDIAN TYGRESS has a 7lb rise to overcome after winning on her handicap debut at Kempton but there could be plenty more to come from James Fanshawe’s three-year-old filly after just four starts, and we know she handles cut on turf as the ground was riding soft when she made a winning debut at Doncaster in April. A well-bred filly with two high-class sprinters amongst her siblings, she may turn out to be better than a handicapper in time.
Ascot 2:25 1m4f (1m3f211y) Stella Artois Cumberland Lodge Stakes (Group 3) (Class 1) (3yo+)
Laraaib is the best of the five runners on official ratings but he hasn’t been seen since disappointing at Royal Ascot in June and his backers will be hoping first-time blinkers have the desired effect. In which case it could pay to concentrate on the pair of progressive three-year-olds, Communique and FIRST ELEVEN, with preference for the latter John Gosden-trained runner. He bounced back from a below-par effort in the Bahrain Trophy (still feeling his hard race at the royal meeting, perhaps?) when dishing out a two lengths beating to Melrose winner Ghostwatch (a winner here yesterday) over this track and trip last time. That was a career best and this relatively lightly-raced sort may be capable of further improvement, with his versatility over the ground another plus given the forecast for rain.
Redcar 2.45 6f (5f217y) Racing UK Two Year Old Trophy (Listed Race) (Class 1) (2yo)
Likely favourite Vintage Brut has been running well over 5f last season and was clearly helped by being back on soft ground at Ayr 15 days ago, when looking like the winner until headed close home. But today’s extra furling and likely fast pace might find him out and I’ve no hesitation in putting up RED BALLOONS as an alternative.
Richard Fahey’s filly produced an electrifying turn of foot when upped to 6f in the big sales race at the Ebor meeting, quickening clear to win by three lengths in a time only a fraction of a second slower than the Group 2 Lowther (same track and trip). While allowed to go off at 33/1 after a poor run over 5f previously, there didn’t appear to be any fluke about the performance and her trainer has purposely waited for this race, in which she looks to be reasonably treated with 8st 11lb to carry. Fast ground clearly suits her well and they’re calling it ‘good to firm’ at the time of writing, although some rain is forecast.
Ascot 3:00 6f John Guest Racing Bengough Stakes (Group 3) (Class 1) (3yo+)
Connections of Limato have opted for the easier route to help the six-year-old bring up his hat-trick after Listed wins at Newmarket and York, although I’ve doubt he would have been competitive if taking in Sunday’s Group 1 Prix de la Foret instead. Perhaps the ground was the deciding factor as he wants it quick ideally and it was considered “borderline” when he won like an odds-on chance should last time. However, there is heavy rain forecast and it could be that it’s far softer than the current ‘good’ by race time.
That would definitely swings things in the favour of Roger Varian’s LAUGH A MINUTE, who won a big sales race at Doncaster on good to soft as a juvenile and again showed he can handle cut when finishing second in a French Group 3 last time. A horse with a high cruising speed and best over this trip, he’s going to be hard to beat if getting his conditions and he could emerge as a lively outsider for Group 1 Champions Sprint later this month.
Newmarket 3.15 1m (Row) Kingdom Of Bahrain Sun Chariot Stakes (Group 1) (British Champions Series) (Fillies & Mares) (Class 1) (3yo+)
Laurens has been there, done that and got the t-shirt in terms of Group 1s, bagging four already, including when making all to beat a below-par and sadly now-retired Alpha Centauri at Leopardstown last time, and another bold bid can be expected. But she’s not even favourite with bookmakers preferring the claims of French raider Wind Chimes, who showed he was high class when almost lowering the colours of Recoletos in a Longchamp Group 1 on his most recent outing. The winner is no bigger than 3/1 for the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes on Champions Day, ahead of the likes of Roaring Lion and Expert Eye, so Andre Fabre’s filly is entitled to go very close on that form.
However, this is no two-horse race as VERACIOUS was a ready winner of a Group 3 at Sandown last time and has winning form at this track, having won her maiden here last backend. Sir Michael Stoute’s filly needs to fund further improvement to trouble the front two but her recent home work gives plenty of encouragement for that and she’s a shade of value at current odds.
Ascot 3:35 7f Bet With Ascot Challenge Cup (Heritage Handicap) (Class 2) (3yo+)
He’s hardly the most original choice for what is a very competitive handicap given he’s favourite across the board, but Roger Varian’s CAPE BYRON has plenty going for him having run well in defeat on all three starts since being gelded. All three came in big fields and the last twice over this trip, including when a narrow runner-up to the re-opposing Ripp Orf here last time. The winner had the run of the race on that occasion, whereas the selection had to be switched to make his challenge, coming out best of those who raced in the far-side group. With a slight pull in the weights, he can turn that form around, especially if the forecast rain materialises, and win the big race he deserves.
Ascot 1.50, Spring Loaded @ 7/2 bet365
Newmarket 2.05, Indian Tygress @ 7/2 bet365
Ascot 2.25, First Eleven @ 11/10 bet365
Redcar 2.45, Red Balloons @ 13/2 bet365
Ascot 3.00, Laugh A Minute @ 5/1 BetVictor
Newmarket 3.15, Veracious @ 7/1 Paddy Power
Ascot 3.35, Cape Byron @ 11/2 bet365
All odds were correct at time of posting.