Our racing expert marks your card for Saturday's Shergar Cup at Ascot.
Saturday’s Shergar Cup at Ascot is not everyone’s cup of tea, but the racing is at least competitive and we’re assured of a decent price if we can land on a winner – cue my value selections for all six races.
13:15 Dubai Duty Free Shergar Cup Dash (Handicap), 5f
It’s hard to be too confident about this race, but Gary Moore’s course and distance winner DUTCH MASTERPIECE looks to have as good a chance as any. He ran better last time than his finishing position of 11th (of 16) would suggest, having been denied a clear run when it mattered most, and the handicapper has given him a chance, dropping him to a 1lb lower than his last winning one. With the impressive Josephine Gordon up and taking 3lb off, he’ll do for me at Sky Bet’s 7/1.
UPDATE – the selection has been declared a non-runner (stick him in your tracker as he will win soon) and I’m backing UNION ROSE – a 4/1 shot with bet365 who has run two cracking races since being gelded – instead. Take that price as it’s not only ‘best odds guaranteed’ but you’ll also get a free bet to the same stake on the next race that qualifies for the firm’s ‘Channel 4/1 Offer’, the 1.45 Ascot.
13:45 Dubai Duty Free Shergar Cup Stayers (Handicap), 2m
Sir Mark Prescott’s Sea Of Heaven heads the market at around 11/4 after winning a tactical affair over course and distance 15 days ago off just 4lb lower. However, his Japanese jockey lacks experience around here at at the odds I’d rather have a little on Josephine Gordon’s mount SAIGON CITY, a 7/1 shot with Coral. A winner over an extra half furlong at York two starts back, he ran well from a wide draw to finish fifth (of 20) in the Northumberland Plate at Newcastle last time and he remains unexposed as a stayer.
14:20 Dubai Duty Free Shergar Cup Challenge (Handicap), 1m4f
It’s easy to see why Ruwasi is favourite as he’s won his last two starts in grand style and will have the assistance of Frankie Dettori in his hat-trick bid. A further 7lb rise does make life more difficult, though, and Charlie Fellowes’ BAADI looks the one to be on. In great form at the start of the season when winning back-to-back races at Windsor, he would have found the ground too soft when attempting to land his hat-trick at the same venue. He’s been freshened up since and will find ground conditions far more suitable here. His trainer has had a couple of near misses at this meeting in the last couple of years and, writing in his excellent trainer’s diary, he reckons this fellow has a “huge chance” of breaking the stable duck. The big imponderable is his South African jockey, Gavin Lerena, but with 9/1 available at Betfair I’m prepared to take the chance.
14:55 Dubai Duty Free Shergar Cup Mile (Handicap) (Rnd), 1m
Hayley Turner can strike another blow for the Girls Team by bringing the Harry Dunlop-trained EARLY MORNING home in front. You can ignore the five-year-old’s disappointing run at York last time as he couldn’t get his customary lead after missing the break and the ground went against him on his previous start in the Royal Hunt Cup, though he still made a bold bid from the front before folding close home to finish eighth (of 28). He’s a classy operator when getting a lead on fast ground, as he showed when sluicing home over this trip at Haydock at this time last year, and Turner will be under orders to grab a prominent position in the hope of stealing a march on some of the international jockeys. Well, that’s the theory and Hills’ 7/1 that it works out looks worth taking.
15:30 Dubai Duty Free Shergar Cup Classic (Handicap), 1m4f
The Girls look to hold all the aces here with Emma-Jayne Wilson and Josephine Gordon getting the leg up on the progressive pair of Real Dominion and White Shareen respectively. Both have career-high marks to overcome, though, and preference is for Northern raider LORD YEATS, the mount of Japan Cup-winning jockey Kenichi Ikezoe. The son of four-time Ascot Gold Cup winner Yeats showed his appreciation for the step up to this trip when making all at Ripon on his penultimate start and wasn’t beaten far when attempting to follow up at Ayr against older horses. Back amongst his age group this afternoon and likely still improving, he should give us a good run for our money at bet365’s 9/1.
16:05 Dubai Duty Free Shergar Cup Sprint (Handicap), 6f
There was a tweet from Middleham Park Racing earlier this week saying they were “somewhat excited” about the prospect of watching their runners at this meeting from the comfort of a private box. Two of those have made it into this race, which they won with Annunciation in 2013, and by far the most interesting is the ex-French SARYSHAGAAN, who is making his debut for David O’Meara. A three-time winner in his native France, he was sent off favourite for a Group 3 (won by Quiet Reflection) and a Listed contest in the spring only to disappoint. Clearly better was expected of him and he wouldn’t be the first horse to improve for the switch to O’Meara, who will have been pleased to bag the services of Hayley Turner. The partnership therefore look the value option at Betfair’s 9/1.
Last year’s Shergar Cup meeting saw the Sammy Jo Bell-inspired ‘Girls Team’ steal the show in style – the girls’ first victory in the 15th running of this team challenge – and given that the females look to have a strong book of rides this time round, I’m predicting a repeat – a 5/2 shot with Paddy Power.
1.15 Dutch Masterpiece @ 7/1 Sky Bet – NON-RUNNER (see above for alternative)
1.45 Saigon City @ 7/1 Coral
2.20 Baadi @ 9/1 Betfair Sportsbook
2.55 Early Morning @ 7/1 Hills
3.30 Lord Yeats @ 9/1 bet365
4.05 Sarysagann @ 9/1 Betfair Sportsbook