Donn's Articles » Better Betting Special – Royal Ascot

Better Betting Special – Royal Ascot

There will be a poignant thread running through Royal Ascot this week. There will be something missing, a glass of Pimms without its full quotient of bubbles. Of course, Royal Ascot will go ahead without the late Sir Henry Cecil, but it would prefer to not have to.

Nowhere in Britain was Cecil more revered than at Ascot, and at no time were his powers more potent than during Royal Ascot week. Seventy-five winners is more than any other racehorse trainer has managed to accumulate at Royal Ascot: five Queen Anne Stakes, five St James’s Palace Stakes, five Gold Cups, five Coronation Stakes, five Prince of Wales’s Stakes. Eight Queen’s Vases. It is quite appropriate, then, that, this year, the Queen’s Vase will be run as The Queen’s Vase in Memory of Sir Henry Cecil.

Queen Anne Stakes, Tuesday

The meeting is set to start, as ever, with an explosion, as American raider Animal Kingdom bids to land the Queen Anne Stakes for Cambridge native Graham Motion. Winner of the Kentucky Derby as a three-year-old and the Dubai World Cup last March, he adds an intriguing dimension, not only to the race, but to the entire meeting, and he sets a high standard at which his rivals have to aim.

However, his very best form is on an artificial surface. The Kentucky Derby is run on dirt, while the Dubai World Cup is run on Tapeta. Also, both of those races are run over 10 furlongs, he was beaten on the two occasions on which he raced over a mile, and it might pay to take him on at odds-on.

In a race with a good each-way shape, Trade Storm may represent some value against the favourite at 16/1. David Simcock’s horse was just a progressive handicapper last season, but he improved dramatically in Dubai in the spring, running out an impressive winner of a Group 2 contest and finishing a close-up fourth behind Sajjhaa in the Group 1 Dubai Duty Free in a race that was not run to suit his hold-up style of racing.

He doesn’t have Animal Kingdom’s proven class but, now owned by Qatar Racing, he is progressive, he has good form at Ascot, he will have Jamie Spencer for company and he should get the fast pace that suits him well. At 16/1, it could be worth having him on side.


1 point each-way, Trade Storm, 16/1 (Stan James)

King’s Stand Stakes, Tuesday

The South African horse Shea Shea sets a high standard in the King’s Stand Stakes, but the Eddie Lynam-trained Sole Power is a continually under-rated sprinter, and he is value against him at 10/1.

He does have to reverse form with Mike de Kock’s horse from the two occasions on which they met in Dubai, but the son of Kyllachy is a top class sprinter when he has his conditions – fast ground, a fast pace and five furlongs – and it looks like he is going to get them on Tuesday.

He proved in finishing a close-up third behind the Hong Kong raider Little Bridge in last year’s renewal of this race that he could operate at Ascot and that easy ground was not a deal-breaker. He raced away from the pace that day on the near side, and he had to do a lot of running on his own out in the centre just to get close to the leaders. With a better draw and more cover through the race this year, he could go even closer.


1 point win, Sole Power 10/1 (generally)

Prince of Wales’s Stakes, Wednesday

The last time that Al Kazeem and Camelot met, in the Tattersalls Gold Cup at The Curragh last month, it was Roger Charlton’s horse who came out on top, and there is no real reason to believe that Al Kazeem will not again have last year’s Guineas and Derby winner’s measure.

However, he is priced up just about right at 15/8, and The Fugue may represent better value at 8/1 if she takes her chance in the race, as looks likely at present. John Gosden’s filly has never raced against colts before, but, unlucky in last year’s Oaks, she confirmed herself as one of the best middle-distance fillies in the business when she won the Nassau Stakes at Goodwood last August as a three-year-old.

She hasn’t run yet this season, but she won her maiden on her debut at two, and she ran a cracker to finish fourth in the 1000 Guineas last year on her three-year-old debut. The 3lb that she receives from the colts gives her a big chance on official ratings – she is rated 4lb inferior to Camelot and just 3lb inferior to Al Kazeem – and he is at her best over 10 furlongs on fast ground.


1 point win, The Fugue, 8/1 (generally)

Gold Cup, Thursday

It is difficult to believe that it is three years since Rite Of Passage edged out the Aidan O’Brien-trained Age Of Aquarius in a thriller to land a first Gold Cup for Dermot Weld.

Remarkably, the Giant’s Causeway gelding has run just twice since, but he proved that he retained all of his ability when he stayed on well to land the British Champions Long Distance Cup over two miles on Champions Day at Ascot last October. He is an intended runner, and he will have a massive chance if he lines up on anything other than very fast ground, but he is a fragile soul and he is not an ante post betting proposition at around 6/1.

The John Oxx-trained Saddler’s Rock, third in the race last year off an unsuitably sedate pace, is high-class when he has fast ground and a fast pace but, in a race in which the Irish could dominate, Simenon could out-perform odds of 8/1.

Winner of the Ascot Stakes over the Gold Cup course and distance last year, and winner of the Queen Alexandra Stakes four days later, he did well to finish a close-up fourth in the Chester Cup on his most recent run having endured a troubled passage.

He has plenty to find on last year’s winner Colour Vision on official ratings, but his run at Chester was probably the best of his life on the flat, we know that he goes well at the track, and he could surprise a few ostensibly classier opponents.


1 point win, Simenon, 8/1 (Ladbrokes, Bet365)

© The Sunday Times, 16th June 2013