Saturday's Victoria Cup at Ascot looks devilishly difficult and, and as a result, we're having two stabs at finding the winner.
Saturday’s big betting handicap on the flat is the Victoria Cup over 7f at Ascot (due off 3.10pm) and the fact bookmakers are betting 12/1 the field tells you how fiendishly competitive it is.
Where to start? Perhaps the stats will give us a clue and a glance over recent results suggest we should be looking at a four or five-year-old rated in the 90s and proven over 7f. The latter is especially true as it takes a certain type of horse to excel over the trip and it’s no coincidence that eight of the last ten winners had been successful over it. That’s a black mark against the fancied Dream Spirit, who has so far been confined to a mile, and Zarwaan as he’s a 6f winner who has been campaigned over a mile of late. They are bet365’s 12/1 joint favourites.
Two down, 27 to go. We need to be more ruthless in whittling down the field and – having spent far too long studying form / watching videos – I’m going to come down on the side of a couple of northern-trained runners starting with David O’Meara’s RUSSIAN REALM. Formerly trained by Sir Michael Stoute, who saddled him to win a couple of races, including one of 7f, he’s making his stable debut this afternoon. O’Meara’s ability to improve horses sent to him from other yards is second to none and the five-year-old is even more likely to benefit from his magic touch having been gelded since his last run.
A winner over 7f at Goodwood last May, he was then sent off favourite for the Buckingham Palace Stakes at Royal Ascot only to disappoint. Still, 9th of 22 was not a bad effort and the very fast ground was probably against him. He was later disqualified after testing positive for a banned substance, which may or may not have affected his performance, and he had an excuse when finishing eighth on his final start on Champions Day here in October, being drawn on the ‘wrong’ side.
I get the impression we are yet to see the very best of him and in the hope the gelding operation and a switch of stables will do the trick, he looks well worth chancing at 14/1. Being 24 of 29 probably doesn’t harm his chances either as there was a high bias in last year’s race – the first four were drawn 25, 29, 21 and 23 – and we also have the champion jockey riding for us. O’Meara is actually triple handed with Highland Acclaim and So Beloved also representing him, but the latter is potentially poorly drawn in stall three and I’m convinced we’re on the right one.
The other to back is SHARED EQUITY who represents the North Yorkshire stable of Jedd O’Keefe and is the mount of talented 5lb claimer Joe Doyle. A ready winner over 7f at Newcastle last August, when earning the form comment “kept on strongly final furlong”, he made an encouraging return to action this term when finishing a close-up third over 6f on Lincoln day. With that run under his belt and over a more suitable trip, he looks sure to run a big race from stall 26 and reward each-way support at bet365’s 16/1, with five places up for grabs. A place for either of the selections at the current odds would ensure a profit.