The middle day of Royal Ascot 2022 comes along on Thursday when another seven top quality races take place at the Berkshire track as the eyes of the racing world fix on the biggest and best meeting of the year.
The Thursday highlight is the Ascot Gold Cup where Stradivarius will be looking to win the big pot once again. We haven’t got a bet in the feature race but we are attacking four of the others on a decent looking card.
2.30 Royal Ascot: Norfolk Stakes
Another 2 year old race over the minimum trip, we kick off with a Group 2 that has attracted a good looking field of 11. Wallbank is the current favourite having scooted up in a small field at the second time of asking yet possibly a more solid option of the market leaders appears to be The Antarctic who is 2 from 2 & represents Aidan O’Brien. Pillow Talk is the only filly in the race & battled well to land a 15 runner race at York most recently whilst Brave Nation won his only start by 6 lengths & could be anything.
This looks an open race so I’m going down the value route & siding with Bakeel who has won his only career start. On debut in a 5 runner race, he was drawn the furthest from the rail which didn’t really aid his chances but he saw the race out really well to beat a previous winner by around a length and a half, a further 3 lengths back to the 3rd horse home. His debut was over course & debut and on good to firm ground so conditions should be perfect, whilst his yard continue to go well & have already had a winner this week. As a debut run, only Wallbank has recorded a better Topspeed or RPR figure, and that was by the narrowest of margins. It’s generally foolish to ignore these figures, especially with ones so inexperienced, and if we take them literally, he’d be vying for favouritism. At the price, and with 4 places on offer, he’s hard to ignore.
Back Bakeel (e/w) for a 1/10 stake at 12.00 Betfair Sportsbook BOG (⅕ odds 1-4)
3.05 Royal Ascot: King George V Handicap
A mile and a half is the trip for this bunch of progressive 3 year old handicapper’s where the potential versus proven form puzzle is the one to solve. A maximum field of 19 is likely to head to post with Danny Tudhope on the likely favourite, Impressionist. He makes his handicap debut today but his chances are well touted based on his 2 lengths 2nd at Newcastle to yesterday’s Queens Vase winner Eldar Eldorav. He’s one of two well fancied Haggas runners with Mandobi the other having won a pair of novice events at odds on. The London Gold Cup 1-2 reopposes with Surrey Mist half a length 2nd to Israr now 1lb better off. I imagine it’ll be close between the pair again, with the runner up double the price here and therefore arguably the best value.
The one I’m on is the Irish challenger Yashin. After an uneventful pair of runs as a 2 year old, he ran a race full of promise on reappearance when 4th in a hot looking Leopardstown maiden over an inadequate mile. He stayed on well that day & it was obvious to anyone watching that a step up in trip would benefit. Fast forward to his next run where the extra half mile was indeed in his favour & he stayed on very strongly to win by almost 4 lengths. Surprisingly, he was then brought back in trip at Navan to a mile and a quarter but still won a very competitive handicap by a length and a half over one of today’s rivals, Vina Sena. What impressed me was his relentless galloping & staying prowess, and even though the runner up seemed to challenge, looking to have more pace, the winner kicked again inside the last & was going away at the line. His run style seems sure to suit a stiff track like Ascot & provided he’s in a decent position around the home turn, I don’t imagine many staying on better than this one. There’s almost certainly more to come so at the price, he is recommended as the each way tip.
Back Yashin (e/w) for a 1/10 stake at 15.00 Paddy Power BOG (⅕ odds 1-6)
3.40 Royal Ascot: Ribblesdale Stakes
A really disappointing field of 6 for the Ribblesdale instantly make this a no bet race for me. Magical Lagoon is the worthy favourite judged on her head 2nd to Concert Hall with Sea Silk Road and Life Of Dreams the ones most likely to trouble the favourite. I wouldn’t say I’m sweet on any but if pushed, Life Of Dreams & Mukaddamah are the 2 I want to have on side.
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4.20 Royal Ascot: Gold Cup
Controversial maybe but this race doesn’t really interest me. Yes, it would be good to see Stradivarius win but the race itself isn’t exactly appealing. Kyprios is the rising star and Strad is the public’s pick & I think it’s the former that will win. Princess Zoe was last year’s 2nd but is going to be too short in the betting, Trueshan won’t run if we don’t see rain whilst the rest either aren’t good enough or need softer ground. Mojo Star is the one that interests me the most but ground, track absence & trip are all concerns. A watching brief is advised.
5.00 Royal Ascot: Britannia Stakes Handicap
30 runners for the straight mile Britannia looks like an impossible race to solve & it’s not made easier by the place terms on offer, albeit it’s for a very good cause. Bookies have decided to offer standard, or close to standard, terms & will be giving profits from the race to charity so on that basis alone, I feel like I need to recommend a bet. This is packed full of potential with King Of Time, Wanees, Whoputfiftyinyou & Tranquil Night, the front 4 in the market, all likely to go on to better things in pattern company. I’m not sure I could easily rule any of those out.
However, it’s another who, like the aforementioned 4, is bidding for a minimum 4-timer in the shape of Yonafis. His form may not look the most obvious on paper but there’s lots to recommend. Firstly, all of his wins have been on the all weather & it’s interesting that Ascot is one of the turf tracks whose form best ties in with all weather form. The trainer is renowned for promising 3 year olds & yet he relies on just the 1 runner here, whilst reports from the yard are that he’s in excellent form. That’s hearsay but his form on the track is solid enough. On debut in November, he was sent off as favourite in a maiden, came very wide around the turn but wore down the leaders late on. Next up, he defied a penalty in a novice event before winning on his handicap debut just over 4 weeks ago. This track should suit his strong travelling run style but probably the most impressive feature of his, and the one that will benefit this straight track, is his relentless galloping. He doesn’t visibly quicken but he wears down his rivals with a sustained gallop. That will stand him in good stead & he’s the one for my each way money here.
Back Yonafis (e/w) for a 1/10 stake at 19.00 Boylesports BOG (⅕ odds 1-5)
Back it here:
5.35 Royal Ascot: Hampton Court Stakes
Another small field of just 6 so the Hampton Court is another race to leave well alone. Add to that we have a very short priced favourite in Reach For The Moon, it’s time to quickly move on to the last race of Day 3.
6.10 Royal Ascot: Buckingham Palace Stakes Handicap
And the last race of Day 3 is another impossible looking race with 29 runners over the straight 7 furlongs, but at least this time we have extra place terms to draw us in. Montaasib is short in the betting at 7/2 but is unbeaten in 3 starts whilst his nearest market rival is Vafortino who won this year’s Victoria Cup over course & distance and had a few of today’s rivals in behind. There are plenty in with chances so I’m going to throw 2 darts in this.
The first is Ouzo, a 6 year old who looks to have conditions in his favour. He’s winless in his last 8 starts but interestingly that last win, at the tail end of 2020, was in a big field of 20 off a mark of 92. With the jockey’s 3lb claim, he’s effectively 1lb lower today. Since then, he’s run pretty well in defeat, most notably when 4th of 30 in last year’s Royal Hunt Cup off a mark of 96. He got no sort of run that day & would have finished much closer, I’m sure. Interestingly, he’s raced over a mile for most of his career but this step back to 7 furlongs, especially with this field size & on this track, looks to be a good move especially as he narrowly failed last time out when not able to find extra in the final half furlong. Cheekpieces go on for the first time which may yield improvement whilst his draw looks ideal given all the pace is drawn in the higher numbers. At the price, he rates a good bet.
The second of my bets is Rhoscolyn for this year’s current leading jockey at Royal Ascot. He progressed at a rate of knots last season as, after starting off on a mark of 77, he finished on 105. That was down to 3 handicap wins & a further 3 seconds, which saw him upped to pattern company. He ran well in a trio of Listed races & a Group 3 before signing off with a 9th of 20 here over a mile in the Balmoral Handicap where he completely missed the break after late removal of the blindfold. Watching the race back, he was most definitely the one to take from the race & it’s also arguable that this step back in trip is a plus too. Today, he has a 3lb lower mark too as his 3 runs this year haven’t yielded a win but he’s still run with credit including when 4th of 6 in a Group 2 behind Lights On. Since moving to his current yard, he’s only once finished outside of the first 2 in 5 turf handicaps, that being in the Balmoral where he had excuses & arguably his best other runs were when hacking up by 4 lengths in a handicap on Derby day off a mark of 92 & then being denied by Maydanny off 104 in the Golden Mile at Goodwood. The big field set up will suit, he has a decent enough draw in 18 and, with his rider in great form, he should run a big race.
Back Ouzo (e/w) for a 1/10 stake at 23.00 Bet365 BOG (⅕ odds 1-7)
Back Rhoscolyn (e/w) for a 1/10 stake at 34.00 Bet365 BOG (⅕ odds 1-7)