NAP OF THE DAY: Frankly Darling (1425 Ascot), 2pts win, 6/4:
Day one and straight into a week-long dust up between Irish legend Aidan O’Brien and master trainer John Gosden. Like Every Which Way but Loose minus the orangutan, these two will be trading blows, and we expect both to register some hits on day one. The Ribbesdale and the Duke of Cambridge are confined to fillies and that is one area where John Gosden absolutely excels. Lots of promise in the Ribblesdale, but none can match the potential of Frankie’s mount Frankly Darling. The daughter of the mighty Frankel, she has been given a typically quiet Gosden preparation but looked something special in an admittedly weak enough Newcastle event a couple of weeks ago, The way she travelled and quickened there suggested she could be another great late-developing Gosden middle distance filly, and she can blitz these on route to becoming the leading domestic Oaks contender. The O’Brien fillies here look a notch below his top rank and will be acting as benchmarks for his better Oaks fillies.
RACE OF THE DAY: Battaash (1535 Ascot) & Mogul (1500 Ascot), 1pt win double, c 9/4:
The big race of the day is the Kings Stand over a blistering 5f. Battaash is the king of speed when the ground is good, and has been twice second at this meeting to the superb Blue Point. With that rival retired, there looks to be little to stop him ascending to the throne, with the lack of crowds a likely help for this highly strung speedball. Liberty Beach is a favourite of ours and gets all the allowances – that makes for each way appeal, but she is unlikely to have Battaash’s measure.
Mogul can kick-start a short odds favourite double by taking the King Edward VII. The upside down season sees this Derby compensation race become a Derby trial. Mogul is a brother to the yard’s star of last season Japan, and looks likely to be the stable’s leading Derby hope, which usually translates to Derby winner. It looks significant that he comes here to get a run under big race jockey Ryan Moore rather than take easier pickings at home, and although Aidan often leaves plenty of improvement on a debut run, that looks less likely with the big Epsom date less than a month away.
THE REST OF THE CARD:
Kaeso, (1315 Ascot), 1pt win, 8/1:
An unusual Royal meeting kicks off with one of the added races on this year’s schedule. Plenty of runners here, but scratch the gilded veneer and it soon gets rusty. Lots of exposed types, and even a monkey like Firmament could go really well, whilst surely one of the few unexposed types will go close. Sheikh Hamden has three such runners, and it is the John Gosden trained, Frankie ridden favourite Daarik that makes the most appeal. He was a good winner at Newcastle recently, but is up to a mark of 104, and hasn’t seen turf for a while – a big chance but very short odds. The seventh home at Newcastle was Kaeso, a regular in these big 7f handicaps here last season, and definitely capable of winning one. That was very much a case of blowing off the dust and the booking of star man Oisin Murphy looks inspired. He has a nice middle draw and can finally land one of these big ones.
Circus Maximus, (1350 Ascot), 1pt win, 5/2:
A big day for the big yards looks set to start at Group 1 level with a win for Aidan O’Brien. Circus Maximus was tried from a mile to the Derby last year, but it was his form at this 8f that stood out with Group 1 wins in the St James Palace here and in the Prix Moulin in France, as well as narrow defeats in the Sussex Stakes and the Breeders Cup. That is gild edged form that none of his opponents here can match. He had a comfortable win over today’s rival Fox Chairman over 10f, which he should confirm. Main rival Terebellum was very impressive at Newmarket and will go well, but she has never raced against colts, never at a distance this short, and never in a grade this high, so looks short enough at the current odds. Of the long shots, Bless Him at 40/1 is the lowest rated horse here, but capable of brilliance at his mercurial best, whilst Skardu’s Guineas form of last year entitles him to battle for the places.
Nazeef, (1610 Ascot), 2pts win, 7/2:
Nazeef has been a slow-to-the-boil project, simmering through a 3yo campaign from maidens to novices to handicaps. She showed more was definitely in the locker when running down the useful Billesdon Brook to win a listed race at Kempton two weeks ago, and this straight mile promises to be ideal. Jubiloso is the obvious danger, but she might find the Gosden filly too much to handle on her return to the track. Expect jockey Jim Crowley to get her nicely covered up, appearing late and fast for the win.
Blue Laureate, (1640 Ascot), 2pts win, 16/1:
This legendary staying handicap offers us a conundrum by featuring one of our all time favourite hurdlers in Verdana Blue. She could rout these, but 2m4f could be far enough for her, and a mark of 100 is hardly a gift. Moon King was a winning nap for us at Haydock recently. He sure knows how to win, and should travel well, but a wide draw and a big field always on the turn usually creates trouble in this race for those held up so he will need plenty of luck, and not enough of that is priced in. The horse he pipped at Haydock, Blue Laureate, was arguably a little unlucky there, gets a nice little weight pull and has the handy 3lb claim of Cieren Fallon. Trainer Ian William’s horses often need a first run, and if he improves at all then he must have a big chance here. Form from last season also puts him well in with big contenders Land Of Oz and Smart Champion. Dubawi Fifty should go well on seasonal debut, whilst Summer Moon remains a stayer of untapped potential. A great race to close the day, but Blue Laureate looks twice the price he should be, and that will do nicely.
The Daily Yankee:
Kaeso – Frankly Darling – Nazeef – Blue Laureate
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