Alan Thomson, the former Racing Editor at the Daily Record, puts up five tips at Ascot on Saturday. View selections below.
FASCINATING ROCK (3.45) upset the applecart 12 months ago when beating Found and Jack Hobbs in the Qipco Champion Stakes and the Irish challenger can repeat the dose on a star-studded Ascot programme.
Pat Smullen rode a brilliant waiting race, stalking the leaders until pouncing inside the final furlong to win going away. Similar tactics are sure to be employed from his wide draw and any more easing in the ground would benefit Dermot Weld’s raider.
Found has had 13 days to recover from her Chantilly exertions when a brilliant Arc winner, and she is closely matched with French hotpot Almanzor on their running in the Irish Champion Stakes at Leopardstown. Found is allowed 2lb for a three-quarter of a length defeat which makes them inseparable on the book. Her awkward draw in stall 11 isn’t ideal and Ryan Moore will be mindful he got behind on her last year before running on into second.
It could be argued Almanzor won with a little bit up his sleeve and there is little doubt he is a worthy favourite. Odds of 6-4 appear a bit skinny to these hungry eyes , especially if there are traffic problems from stall one, and Fascinating Rock looks the better each-way option at around 5-1.
Fascinating Rock whipped Found almost four lengths in the Tattersalls Gold Cup over 1m 2f at the Curragh (soft) back in May and although Found is clearly a filly which thrives in the autumn, the winning margin was most decisive that day. A spot of rain would offer more encouragement for his chances, although the forecast isn’t for any appreciable precipitation.
Jack Hobbs was sent off an even-money chance last year and will trade at much bigger odds following an absence since being pulled up in the Jockey Club Stakes at HQ in April.
If you are searching around for one at even bigger odds, Sir Michael Stoute’s one-time Derby favourite Midterm came back from a long lay-off to chase home Makahiki in the Prix Niel. The Japanese horse did absolutely nothing for the form in the Arc but that shocker was not a true reflection of his ability.
In the Qipco Fillies and Mares Stakes, Aidan O’Brien fields another of his blue-chip beauties in SEVENTH HEAVEN (2.35).
She isn’t one to win on the bridle and is often under pressure earlier than most in her races. However, Seventh Heaven keeps finding plenty and she simply ran away from Found to land the Yorkshire Oaks by almost three lengths.
Seventh Heaven has twice taken Architecture’s scalp, in the Irish Oaks at the Curragh and the Lingfield Oaks Trial.
Journey is the one to fear most if able to repeat last year’s brave second to Simple Verse when going to the front two out and stretching her rivals to breaking point. Odds of 7-1 represents great ew value.
Zhukova is five wins from six outings for the Weld yard and the four-year-old is equipped with cheekpieces for the first time in an effort to eke out just a little more improvement. She was last seen beating US Army Ranger and Bondi Beach in a Group 3 at Leopardstown in September.
Our elite sprinters, minus Limato, line-up for battle in the Qipco British Champions Sprint and QUIET REFLECTION (2.00) can emerge triumphant.
Karl Burke’s three-year-old soon put the race to bed when landing the 32Red Sprint Cup at Haydock (soft) from The Tin Man.
She is now seven wins from nine career starts, her sole defeat this season coming in the July Cup at HQ when third to the devastating Limato on quick ground.
Quiet Reflection boasts winning course and distance, having travelled supremely well before winning the Commonwealth Cup at the royal fixture.
The Burke yard has been under a cloud and if that’s enough to prevent an investment on the favourite, then John Gosden’s three-year-old Shalaa emerges as a lively alternative.
Last year’s Middle Park and Prix Morny winner returned from a prolonged 371-day absence to make all over course and distance earlier this month and drying ground would suit Frankie Dettori’s mount.
Mecca’s Angel usually runs over five furlongs but she wasn’t stopping when galloping the field into submission when beating Limato in the Nunthorpe at York. She is a seriously good mare and her third to Marsha and Washington DC in the Prix de L’Abbaye at Chantilly was another solid effort.
The Tin Man did well to finish second at Haydock following a sluggish start but he was only eighth behind winner Twilight Sun in the Diamond Jubilee Stakes over course and distance. Twilight Son’s second to Muhaarar in this last year is classy form and he arrives here a fresh horse.
Librisa Breeze and Brando bring rock-solid handicap form to a mouth-watering feast of speed.
MINDING (3.10) drops back in trip but should serve it up to chief market rival Ribchester in the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes.
Minding’s last outing over a mile resulted in a narrow defeat at the hands of Jet Setting in the Irish 1000 Guineas. The winner was right at home on the deep ground that day and Minding should avenge that defeat.
She was given a lot to do when unable to throw down a serious challenge to Almanzor and Found in the Irish Champion Stakes over 10f at Leopardstown. Minding had earlier landed the Nassau Stakes at Goodwood, beating Sir Michael Stoute’s Queen’s Trust with something to spare.
Ribchester had Galileo Gold back in eighth when landing the Jacques Le Marois at Deauville, reversing earlier placings when third to The Gurkha in the Sussex Stakes at Goodwood. Ribchester was beaten into third by Galileo Gold in the Qipco 2000 Guineas but has thrived in the interim.
Awtaad bounced back to form when seeing off Custom Cut and Hit It A Bomb at Leopardstown, and enters the reckoning on the strength of his easy verdict over Galileo Gold in the Irish 2000 Guineas at the Curragh.
The Balmoral Handicap, a Class 2 contest over the straight mile, brings the curtain down and THIRD TIME LUCKY (4.25) can hit the frame at an each-way price.
He was ridden with more restraint when bidding to land back-to-back wins in the Betfred Cambridgeshire at HQ, running on into fourth spot behind Spark Plug.
Third Time Lucky finished fifth to Firmament in the Clipper Logistics Handicap at York but enjoys an 11lb pull for under two lengths. Whether his high draw in stall 21 is an advantage or otherwise remains to be seen, but Firmament has certainly boosted the form in recent weeks, most notably when mugged close home by Librisa Breeze’s remarkable late thrust in the Totescoop6 Challenge Cup here over seven furlongs.
Afjaan didn’t enjoy the best of runs back in seventh and this extra furlong should suit William Haggas’s gelding, the winner over a mile at Kempton. Afjaan is worth a saver.
Roger Varian’s Morando is sure to prove popular on the back of his hat-trick of victories at Windsor, Chester and Ayr but the three-year-old is up 8lb in a better contest.
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