Monday, 19th June 2017
We’ve got a cracking week of racing ahead of us at Royal Ascot.
It all kicks off Tuesday afternoon and continues through to Saturday.
The hot weather has arrived and the ground is going to be quick.
Our primary objective will be the valuable big-field handicaps run at the meeting. But there are on or two other big races I’ll be taking an interest in. The G1 sprints are always of interest to me and it is tomorrow’s King’s Stand Stakes (3.40) that represents our first target….
ALPHA DELPHINI is an improving sprinter. Like his half-brother, Tangerine Trees, he is getting better with age. He hasn’t previously been seen in a top-level race but he can make his presence felt tomorrow afternoon and the 25s is a nice each-way price about him.
Trainer Bryan Smart has been making the right noises about his charge this season. According to the North Yorkshire handler the 6yo is both bigger and stronger for another winter. And that physical development can see him progress beyond anything he’s shown to date.
Last time out in the G2 Temple Stakes at Haydock the horse served notice that he won’t be out-of-place amongst the big boys of the 5f sprinting division tomorrow. He was only a neck in arrears to Goldream – a proven top-class operator.
Alpha Delphini got into a bit of a scrap with that one in the final furlong and certainly wasn’t over-awed. There was a lot to like about his aggression. He’ll go eyeball-to-eyeball – and you know he wants it. Had he not been squeezed for room at one point his and Goldream’s positions might well have been reversed.
On tomorrow’s fast ground the Cowell horse will be a big player. But so too Alpha Delphini who is a full nine points bigger in the betting.
Ascot will really suit Alpha Delphini. He’s a strong stayer at the minimum 5f trip and the uphill finish at Ascot will bring his additional stamina into play at the death. And he’s plenty zippy enough to be where he needs to be early-doors. The faster they go from the stalls, the better.
The quick ground should not be a problem. And Smart has reached for the first-time visor. That headgear should focus the horse and I’m hopeful it will serve to squeeze out the improvement required to do the business at G1 level at the first-time-of-asking.
Ascot is a peculiar track. It doesn’t suit every horse. But we don’t need to be worrying about that. Our man has run and won at the place before – on fast ground too. That was only a handicap. This will be different, of course. But it is the right boxed ticked.
The top boys and girls in the division will be on view tomorrow. Things will need to drop right for whoever comes out on top. A good break, a clean passage and getting from behind horses in the closing stages cannot be guaranteed.
But if the Gods are with him Alpha Delphini is good, enough, fast enough and stout enough to spring what would be a bit of a surprise. I like the 25s.
In the Ascot Stakes (5.00) I’m two-against-the-field – backing both horses win only and forsaking the opportunity to play for place money.
First up is Ralph Beckett’s MAGIC CIRCLE at 12s.
This one ran a cracker from a poor draw last-time-out in May’s Chester Cup. Drawn widest of the 17 runners, he was a little slow away, had to produce an early effort to get back on terms, ran on the outside of the field round Chester’s tight bends but was still running on strong at the end to finish 5th.
He couldn’t quite get to the principals that afternoon. But given his draw and his passage through the race his performance was noteworthy and encourages the view that he can win a very good race off his current mark of 98.
Beckett parted company with Fran Berry last week. But Silvestre De Sousa comes in for the ride. As replacements go, you couldn’t find a man in better from. 23 wins in the last fortnight at a rate of 30% speak of a jockey full of confidence and riding at the top of his game.
At last year’s meeting the horse ran in the Queen Alexandra Stakes over the 22f trip. That proved too far. This run over almost 2 furlongs shorter should prove ideal. The 12s is fair enough.
The other one I’m going with is Mark Johnston’s YORKIDDING who was 2nd in that Chester race – at 16s. She was robbed on the line that afternoon but went on to gain compensation at Haydock a couple of weeks later.
This is a mare in form and she’s only gone up a couple of pounds for a sequence of decent efforts.
She’ll absolutely love the fast ground she gets tomorrow on a track where she produced a win last season – albeit in a good field.
She takes a little time to wind-up to full effort so the long straight will suit and the rising finish will play to her strengths. As a Johnston horse, she won’t lack grit and tenacity.
She’s got a reasonable enough draw in stall 6. A reasonable pace will play to her strengths. But if she’s not getting it, Richard Kingscote has the option of going to the front and pressing down on the peddle. He did that at Chester before dropping back and tracking the leaders when the others responded.
She got done by one for toe at Chester. Ascot plays more to her strengths and it won’t be about toe at the death tomorrow. It will be about sticking on. And she’ll be doing that better than most. The 16s is nice.
The Contrarian Bet Box….
To recap on where my contrarian money will be going on Day 1 of Ascot’s Royal meeting….
In the King’s Stand Stakes (3.40 @ Ascot)....
In the Ascot Stakes (5.00 @ Ascot)....
That is my take on where the value lies – but you will no doubt have your own ideas and that’s exactly as it should be.
You make your own luck in this game. On Saturday, I didn’t quite make enough of the stuff.
Big runs from The Wagon Wheel and Harry Hurricane were not quite good enough to produce a win. But we’re getting on the right kinds of horses in big-field at the right kinds of prices.
Maybe the luck will even itself out this week. You can rest assured that I’ll be trying. That said, if you got on The Wagon Wheel each-way at the advised 33s, there wasn’t too much done in the way of damage.
That’s all from me for today.
I’ll be back tomorrow with my take on the Royal Ascot action on Day 2.
Until then, go well. Stay tuned.