Thursday Ascot: Sweet surprise…

It’s Ascot Gold Cup day and a busy day awaits with selections from start to finish.  That said it looks like a day set for a few surprises, so we will be sticking to 1pt stakes – there are bigger opportunities on Friday & Saturday.

The opening 5f Norfolk Stakes (1430 BST) is the ultimate 2yo speed test, and naturally US trainer Wesley Ward, chasing a third winner this week, saddles favourite McErin. We think he will be foiled by the home team. Santry is very tempting, but Nine Below Zero has looked very fast to date and just gets the verdict.

The next two races, the Hampton Court and the Ribblesdale, both present the annual conundrum of whether to back horses running well in the Derby/Oaks at Epsom, or horses kept fresh for this challenge. The gap from Derby to Ascot is a reasonable 2-3 weeks, so we just favour the Epsom form via Benbatl (1505), and Alluringly (1540). The Epsom form is enough to win, so it’s a matter of whether the gap is enough for full recovery. That’s the same risk in both races, so we will just invest 1pt on the double.

The big race is the Gold Cup (1620), where reigning champion Order Of St George is a short priced favourite to repeat. He looks likely to do so. We are sceptical that Simple Verse will stay the trip, and Big Orange looks likely to set the race up. That leaves room in the frame, and we like steadily improving mare Sweet Selection. She won the Cesarewich last season over a long trip, and won at this course in a lesser race on seasonal debut. If the favourite disappoints, she could be the one to prosper.

The Britannia (1700) is an annual 1m cavalry charge. Yesterday we were caught out by a high-draw bias on the straight course. We won’t be dogmatic about it, but it seems reasonable to look at the larger stall numbers. None come much larger than the draw for Colibri. He is entitled to improve for his seasonal debut, and jockey Pat Smullen can use the rails draw to good effect,

The concluding King George V stakes (1735) may be over 12f, but it still has a draw bias with horses in high-numbered stalls starting wide on the course and having a disadvantage to overcome. That could apply to the top few in the betting, and  may allow for a bit of a surprise. In stall 1 is the lightly raced Twin Star. He has improved with a step up in trip and looks likely to enjoy this further trip. On his last run he is entitled to get close to Homesman, who is a much shorter price, yet Twin Star is much the better drawn. An each way dabble.


Nine Below Zero, (1430 Ascot), 1pt win, 8/1 generally available

Benbatl (1505 Ascot) & Alluringly (1540 Ascot), 1pt win double, 24/1 approx.

Sweet Selection (1620 Ascot), 0.5pts each way, 16/1 generally available – Bet 365 offer 1/4 odds 1-2-3.

Colibri (1700 Ascot), 0.5pts each way, 14/1 Skybet (1/5 the odds first 6 places)

Twin Star (1735 Ascot), 0.5pts each way, 40/1 Paddy Power (1/5 the odds fist 5 places)

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