Well, I’ve spent a long time with Jaguars (15 years) but, having tried it out with Mr Fitzpatrick at the wheel, we couldn’t fall in love with the Jaguar F-Pace. I therefore spent a probably ridiculous amount of time researching the alternatives and I’ve finally settled on the Range Rover Velar which I took delivery of today, apparently the first to have done so from the dealer in Chester. I’ve not seen another one around so I feel that I should drive it all over the place.
Regular readers will know that I am no fan of flat racing and, in particular, Royal Ascot. However, it is worthy of attention because the very best are on display and trained for it so betting options are therefore more reliable. So, here are my (very short odds and favourite) selections.
2.30 Queen Anne Stakes 1m straight
There is absolutely no reason to oppose Ribchester***** so the evens is very appealing. It’s not so much that this one is probably the best miler in Europe but more that in this race he has only one proper opponent in the shape of Lightning Spear, who he comfortably beat last time out. Double your money!
4.20 St James’s Palace Stakes 7 1/2 f round
It’s the same formula here, only more so with Churchill***** at 4/6 and Barney Roy (9/4), 10/1 bar. They were 1-2 in the Guineas but the market favourite is going for his eighth consecutive win and conditions should suit. Make no mistake, these two are way ahead of the opposition.
5.00 Ascot Stakes 2m 3 1/2 f
Now we’re talking! The top three in the market, Thomas Hobson** (9/2), Who Dares Wins (6/1) and Beyond Conceit (8/1) are trained by Willie Mullins, Alan King and Nicky Henderson respectively. Thomas Hobson and Beyond Conceit have not been seen on the flat since 2013 but the former looks ideally placed in this and the jockey booking (Ryan Moore) is significant.
So, what to do? A £10 double on Ribchester and Churchill returns £33.33, while a treble on those two plus Thomas Hobson returns £183.33. Both bets placed.
Not very imaginative but Royal Ascot is all about picking the class horses.
Good news with the 14/1 e/w on Footpad in the Champion Stayers’ Hurdle and Great Field looked his best yet in his first Grade 1. As I said yesterday, this is one to look out for next season. Let’s start with a few selections at Punchestown tomorrow.
Labaik*** is a stand out 16/1 to redeem himself after refusing to race initially and then coming in last of seven on Tuesday. This is an altogether bigger challenge but this one has so much nascent talent that he could just come good again in this one and the price cannot be ignored. The odds permit another selection so I’ll go with Cheltenham selection Petit Mouchoir** (100/30) in what should be a more suitable race. I’m also wary of Brain Power (13/2) who could be well suited by course and ground.
Although I am a big fan of Bacardys (10/1 with Paddy Power), who was seriously inconvenienced at Cheltenham, I can’t look past Finians Oscar*** at an appealing 13/8 to maintain the Potts/Power juggernaut.
The 6.40 Hunters’ Chase provides a chance for On The Fringe to redeem himself but I can’t have the 9/4 currently on offer.
At Sandown’s finale meeting I’m looking forward to watching Altior***** graduate from the novices with another scintillating performance. 1/3 is normally way too short for me but I’m tempted. I can’t understand why Menorah is as short as 5/2 in the Oaksey Chase and prefer Ballybolley* at 7/1. The bet365 Gold Cup is a substandard renewal and I don’t have a strong view. I think that one of my avoided horses The New One*probably has the beating of the Select Hurdle field but I stopped betting on him a while ago.
Over at Punchestown the entries for the cross country still include Cantlow (beaten favourite today over 4m 1f) and, of the more likely runners, I’m happy to take another chance with Auvergnat*, possibly the most mispronounced horse of the season!
Apple’s Jade**** is excellent value at 10/11 in the Mares’ Champion Hurdle, particularly in the absence of Let’s Dance (who runs tomorrow).
That brings us back to what was Quatre Heures‘ race (mentioned at the beginning of the week’s previews) and I’m going to hazard another go with Meri Devie* (3/1) who was talked up in all the Cheltenham early previews and looks like she may profit from a decent break since coming fourth behind Mega Fortune, Bapaume and Dinaria des Obeaux at Leopardstown in February.
As always, good luck. It’s Auteuil next for the Grand Steep weekend on 20 and 21 May.
Some excellent racing today and none better than the Punchestown Gold Cup. It was great to see Coneygree back to something near his best and let’s hope he has a full campaign next year. I really thought that Djakadam would collar Sizing John but that ever so slight mistake at the last undoubtedly accounted for his short head defeat by Sizing John who really didn’t look like the winner three out so due credit. My most pleasing result was to have selected Battleford and C’est Jersey, albeit in the wrong order, but a nice each way on the latter nonetheless. I’m glad I got it right in the head to head between Penhill and Presenting Percy but 14/1 Champagne Classic did for that one. I wish I’d mentioned Cheltenham selection Fayonagh for the bumper but no after timing here! On to Thursday!
The 3.40 is a 25 runner lottery and best avoided. Next at 4.15 is the “pigsback.com Nick Coen Memorial Handicap Chase”. Of course I checked the website and it turns out to be one of those discounts websites (whither Groupon?). At 4.50 we have the banks classic La Touche Cup over 4m 1f:
Regular readers will know that I’m not a fan of Cantlow so the current 4/6 has no appeal. The Punchestown Festival is a quirky event as demonstrated by the declaration in this race of Trio Eile who ran just two days ago, was second in the 3m Sean Breen Memorial and now has a different jockey. If pushed I’d go for Love Rory each way at 6/1 but with no great confidence.
Now this is a race to savour with loads of angles. Nichols Canyon is the obvious choice to follow top but he’s not that consistent. Lil Rockerfeller** (13/2) (a superb 3/4l second to Nichols Canyon in the Stayers’ Hurdle) is hard as nails and this course should suit better. I see Sutton Place as the biggest threat, having swerved Cheltenham and Aintree, but he needs to prove that he can cope with both distance and ground. The other obvious candidate is Unowhatimeanharry but has the bubble burst? Finally, regular readers will know that I will have to have a little each way interest in Footpad* (16/1), who was fourth in the Champion Hurdle when I would have preferred to see him in the Stayers’.
By far his biggest challenge yet but front running Great Field**** (11/10) has shown his speed and ability and should easily see off this lot in a substandard Grade 1. However, my goodness he can clout one but is yet to fall. He has only himself to beat and could turn out to be a star next season.
By the way I’ve had a nearly 9/2 double on Anthony Joshua (rounds 4-6) at 4/1 and Emmanuel Macron (1/7).
Well, Jamie Codd won the banks race, Labaik was a naughty boy, Un de Sceaux was beaten fair and square by Fox Norton who has confirmed his credentials as a top speed chaser, Rapid Escape failed to live up to the hype (but I’ll forgive him that over two miles on ground that may not suit) and Disko saved the day in terms of selections if not betting.
This is one of the lesser races but I have a strong preference (again) for Battleford** (7/4), one with loads of potential although we have to overlook his run in the Martin Pipe at Cheltenham. Another of interest, whose Cheltenham run also has to be overlooked (at 100/1 in the Albert Bartlett and now over a better distance), is C’est Jersey* who could well run into a place at 8/1.
Penhill*** (11/4) was the most inconvenienced of all with a very wide and interfered with run and last to first win in the Albert Bartlett, with Monalee a highly creditable second in a race in which both were comfortably the best. Penhill must have a hell of an engine to come from where he did and is a confident choice, particularly since he didn’t look overly exerted. Presenting Percy put in a similarly impressive performance in the Pertemps but without the same hindrances. Unlike the previous race today, both have emerged with great credit from Cheltenham and can improve but I’m siding with the Grade 1 winner who, from where he was, shouldn’t have been able to win, yet did.
Just six of them contest this but that makes it nonetheless intriguing. I’ve just watched the Cheltenham Gold Cup again. Champagne West patently didn’t stay and wasn’t in any case good enough. Djakadam** (100/30) was all over the winner when blundering at about three miles at the second last. Sizing John, somewhat bizarrely given his campaign until then, turned out to be the better stayer over 3m 2 1/2f. His only other win over a similar distance was over Empire of Dirt who has singularly failed to deliver. This race is over 3m 120y on good ground (they’re watering tonight because it was drying). It’s perfectly arguable that, even though winning, Sizing John had a less knackering race than Djakadam but I like this profile for the latter:
Travelled well most of way, tracked leaders, challenged after 4 out, narrow advantage when mistake 2 out, soon ridden and headed, kept pressing for held 2nd from last, no extra close home (op 11/4 tchd 10/3, 7/2 in places).
I’m also happy to discount Coneygree, Flemenstar and Outlander, so it’s Djakadam at a course where his recent form is 1212, two of those on good/yielding.