After a couple of winners on the summer jumping programme, my eyes (and those of the racing world) turn to Berkshire next week. Royal Ascot is nearly upon us and as top hats and fascinators are dusted off, it is time to unravel a few of the ante-post markets.
Where better to start than with the showpiece, the Ascot Gold Cup. A race steeped in history, with many a tale of racing folklore being played out upon the 2m 4f stretch of hallowed turf.
The market as is stands has a nice shape to it, as there are three or four horses towards the fore that are opposable. Rite Of Passage is an undoubted class act, but has not had the ideal preparation, and you have to go back to 1842 to find the last nine-year-old winner.
Indeed since then there has only been one eight-year-old win it, and that was the mighty Yeats, when he completed his four-timer in 2009.
Saddlers Rock has long been thought of as an ideal candidate for this race, and came close last year when third to Colour Vision, (who would also be fancied if he hadn’t seemingly fallen out of love with the game). But the excuses are wearing thin now for John Oxx’s gelding and he is passed over.
Mount Athos is probably not going to run, and Simenon, while ultra-impressive in winning twice at the Royal meeting last year, I don’t think is quite up to this class.
So that leaves Estimate as the only other single figure priced horse in the field, and at 8/1 generally now, Sir Michael Stoute’s filly makes some appeal. Not least because she will undoubtedly go off shorter on the day, due to a very predictable gamble fuelled by punters following the Queen’s colours and the Stoute stable form.
She won the Queen’s Vase easily last year, and then when reportedly not fully tuned up on reappearance, took the Sagaro Stakes very nicely. She will have to improve for the run, and the step up to 2m 4f, but I have every belief that she will.
Of the others, I will be backing High Jinx for Royal Ascot master trainer James Fanshawe, but at a best priced 12/1 it may be best to wait as I think this strong stayer will be available at bigger at some stage.
Ascot Gold Cup: Estimate – 8/1 (Ladbrokes, Paddy Power, Betvictor)