Royal Ascot - Ladies Day
We have reached the half way point of the week which brings Ladies Day, and the highlight of the week, the Gold Cup.
14:30 Norfolk Stakes
We start the day with a Group 2 five furlong sprint for two year olds, and as ever, it's a very tricky contest to pick the winner. As mentioned earlier in the week, over this distance anything trained by Wesley Ward is worth a closer inspection. He runs Mcerin in this, and although it's extremely tough to get any real handle on how good he is, he wouldn't be brought this far if he didn't have a chance. He has had the two runs so far (both on the dirt), but reportedly works a whole lot better on the turf, and with the way American horses are able to fly out of the stalls, he is one to be taken very seriously.
Sioux Nation, trained by Aiden O'Brien has already had three runs, winning one of them. He hasn't looked a world beater by any stretch of the imagination, however his only run on ground similar to here, was when he was beaten into second place by Brother Bear (a very close fourth in the Coventry Stakes on Tuesday) over six furlongs, where he tired late on. The drop back to a strongly run five furlongs looks likely to suit, and with Ryan Moore on board, it wouldn't be a surprise to see a big run at inflated odds.
15:05 Hampton Court Stakes
This is a Group 3 being run over ten furlongs, for three year olds only.
Sir Michael Stoute saddles the current favourite, Mirage Dancer. This Frankel colt won his maiden over seven furlongs before finishing fourth behind Cliffs of Moher in a Listed race at Chester. He was very keen that day and stayed on quite strongly late on, suggesting that if he has grown up a bit since then and can settle a lot better this time, he could be a major player.
I really like the look of the Michael Halford trained Irishcorrespondent. He won his first two races and then finished third behind Churchill in the Irish Guineas, a race in which he too far back to do any damage. He has the look of a horse that will benefit from the firmer ground and the extra two furlongs here today are also a plus in my opinion. I think if he had a more fashionable trainer he would be a point of two shorter in the betting, and I am hopeful of a big run.
15:40 Ribblesdale Stakes
Another Group 2, this time for three year old fillies, and it's being raced over a mile and a half.
Aiden O'Brien runs the current favourite Alluringly, who finished third in the Oaks. Enable was a fine winner that day but Alluringly was a long way back (11 lengths) and I am far from convinced that she stays this distance. She was also beaten by Enable at Chester over 11 furlongs, which was another race where her stamina looked questionable, and it would be no surprise to see her revert to ten furlongs or less if things don't go to plan here.
Mori is another highly fancied runner for Sir Michael Stoute, and she won a Listed race at Goodwood over ten furlongs last time out, as easily as she liked. Her breeding is top notch, by Frankel and out of the excellent mare, Midday. Due to her breeding it can be reasonably expected that she will see the trip out, and think she has the beating of Alluringly.
A horse who I think could improve past both of them is the John Gosden trained Astronomy's Choice. She is one of four runners for the Gosden stable, and has had just the two runs to date. She won a maiden at Newmarket as a two year old before finishing third in Listed race over ten furlongs (again at Newmarket) behind Horseplay. She gave the impression of needing further that day and if Gosden is able to bring out further improvement like he usually does, she looks a huge price at the moment.
16:20 Gold Cup
As mentioned above, this is the highlight of the week and a race that revolves entirely around last year's winner, Order Of St George. He was a three length winner then, and it is very difficult to see past the same result happening today. Admittedly, last year's win was on much softer going, however his record when running on good to firm in races longer than a mile, reads three wins from three races, so today's conditions won't pose any problems. There are confirmed front runners in Big Orange and Nearly Caught in the race, so Moore will be able to bide his time and creep into the race, before looking to strike inside the final couple of furlongs. He looks nailed on to me and is the banker of the day.
Ascot 14:30 - Mcerin - 1 point @ 4/1
Ascot 14:30 - Sioux Nation - 1/2 each way @ 20/1
Ascot 15:05 - Irishcorrespondent - 1 point @ 11/2
Ascot 15:40 - Astronomy's Choice - 1 point @ 10/1
Ascot 16:20 - Order Of St George - 3 points @ evens