Royal Ascot Thursday: King for the day…

It turned out to be another decent day for us on Day 2 of Royal Ascot courtesy of two winners in Russian Emperor (7/2) and 2pt pick Fujaira Prince (9/2), ensuring we stayed ahead for the day and the week. It was great logic – wrong choice in our big double however as we had suggested backing previous Newmarket 1-2 Ouzo and Bell Rock to land the two Hunt Cup divisions – they were nowhere, but previous Newcastle 1-2 Sir Busker and Dark Vision did land the double – frustrating !!

NAP OF THE DAY: King Leonidas, (1425 Ascot), 3pts win, 11/4:

Trainer John Gosden has some superb 3yo talent this season, and that has allowed him the chance to bring some of them along slowly knowing he has other contenders for top honours. In other hands, the promise shown by King Leonidas in his two easy wins at Newmarket would be enough to earn a punt at a Group 1 prize this week – but Gosden has the luxury of taking things a step at a time. A good maiden winner in soft at the end of last year, this horse returned with a fluent win in a mile novice event a few weeks ago giving weight to a useful Godolphin horse and pulling miles clear of the rest. Fluent and pacy, he should have no problem stepping back to 7f, clearly handles any ground and looks set to deliver here on his way to joining his stablemates at the top table as the season progresses.

RACE OF THE DAY: Stradivarius, (1535 Ascot), 1pt win, 8/13:

The Ascot Gold Cup is arguably the highlight of the week and the brilliant Stradivarius goes for a hat-trick of wins in the race. He has won 10 of 12 races at 2 miles or over and was clearly in excellent form when 3rd over an inadequate 12f at Newmarket. That said the price is very short. His only two defeats at around this trip have been here when the ground was riding soft. It doesn’t look like it will be soft enough to test him here and given his win rate suggests he should be 1/5, then there is a case for 8/13 being value. We’ll have a point on just to record the win and move on.

Rest Of The Card

Acquitted, (1315 Ascot), 1pt win, 5/1:

Looked a useful 2yo last year, with his closing win at Newbury giving 6lbs and a beating to Waleydd and Mishriff looking rock solid with the latter now being a 109 rated Derby contender. Understandably looked well-in on handicap and seasonal debit off just 89 at Newcastle. Finished a clear second there but no matter how well handicapped, he ran into the potentially star colt Palace Pier. He could win in Group 1 company on Saturday, so a modest 4lb rise for running him to 3 lengths looks pretty generous. The step up in trip, and potential cut in the ground should be no problem for a horse who won over a mile on heavy as a 2yo, and Ryan Moore in the saddle is an added bonus.

Sir Dragonet, (1350 Ascot), 1pt win, 7/2:

Was Derby favourite last year after running away with the Chester Vase, but surprisingly hasn’t won in the year since that Chester romp. Ran 5th at Epsom and 4th in the Leger, but has also managed to be beaten twice in Ireland as a long odds-on favourite. Has plenty to prove consistency-wise, but may just need a strong race like this to drag out his best, and is probably worth keeping the faith with as a return to his best would surely be enough to take this prize.

Modern News, (1500 Ascot), 1pt win, 11/4:

Not many runners in this 7f 2yo test, and a surprisingly decent price about the Goldolphin owned favourite. Modern News did well to make up ground and win a fair 6f maiden at Newmarket, and that looks the best form achieved so far in this field. Plenty of these have scope to improve but so does he and he looks like he should be half the price. O’Brien always leaves room for improvement, but that looks fully baked in to Battleground’s price after his 5th at Naas. Concessions, receiving the fillies’ 5lb allowance could be dangerous but this should go to the boys in blue.

Verboten, (1610 Ascot), 2pts win, 8/1:

Plenty to ponder in this big handicap with the Guineas 7th Starcat and recent Haydock winner Finest Sound looking contenders, but the Guineas form took a knock yesterday, and Finest Sound is now short enough for winning a weak Haydock race. Johan could go well off the back of a good Newbury win, but this looks another for our friend John Gosden – the problem is which one? Enemy is sure to be a lot better than this mark in time, it’s a question of whether he can be better enough soon enough to make a mark in a big field here. Verboten was an eye catcher when drawn wide and finishing fast at Lingfield. This looks sure to suit under Frankie. He was tried high enough in a Group 1 behind Kameko last year and his comeback was a disaster from start to finish around Lingfield’s turning 7f. A straight mile here and a fair draw and he can be wordly-wise enough to come out on top.

African Dream, (1640 Ascot), 1pt win, 2/1:

OK, so 2/1 the favourite in an 18 runner 1m fillies handicap looks ridiculous, and the obvious move is to oppose as the value must be elsewhere. But African Dream gets in off a mark of 80 as the handicapper hasn’t time to react to her excellent nose defeat last week at Newbury. If he could, he would give her an extra 16lbs, he can’t so she is thrown in. Now the race comes soon enough, and top trainer John Gosden would rarely turn her out so soon, but although not much of a handicap plotter, he can see that this is just too good to miss. Nothing else will have that much in hand, so the odds probably reflect the risk of her reproducing form after a week’s break. Soffika is the obvious one if the favourite bombs, as she could have plenty of progress to come, but she is asked to give 17lbs to African Dream and that looks too much.

The Daily Yankee:

Sir Dragonet – King Leonidas – VerbotenAfrican Dream

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