THE first three home from the seven-furlong handicap run at Ascot four weeks ago meet again today in the Peroni Nastro Azzurro Challenge Cup, over the same course and distance, and there shouldn’t be much between them again.

That was a strangely run contest for a big-field handicap on Ascot’s straight track, firstly, because they all converged towards the stands rail, and secondly, because the early pace wasn’t as fast as you expect from that type of race.

The winner, Fresh, did well to come from as far back as he did, racing well away from the stands rail.

He only got home by a neck and a short head from Silent Film and River Nymph, but the placed horses were probably better-positioned than the winner, given how the race was run.

The handicapper raised James Fanshawe’s horse by just 1lb for that win, so he meets the second and third on only marginally worse terms, and there is every chance that he will confirm places with them.

He has now won three of his five races and finished second in the other two, and all three of those wins have been at Ascot. He is the correct favourite.

Goes well

That said, the value of the race may lie with Rhoscolyn at more than twice the favourite’s price. David O’Meara’s horse goes well at Ascot too.

He has never won there, but he has run there just three times, and he ran a big race in the Buckingham Palace Stakes at the royal meeting in June, over today’s course and distance, finishing off his race well to take third place behind Inver Park, on ground that was probably faster than ideal.

Third, beaten a short head and the same, behind I’m A Gambler and Orbaan in a big seven-furlong handicap at Glorious Goodwood, The Horse Watchers’ horse ran better than the bare form of the run suggests last time in the “Sovereign Path” Handicap at Leopardstown on Irish Champions’ Weekend.

He got knocked around a little as the field bunched up after they had gone two furlongs, after which he did well to recover his equilibrium and settle into his racing rhythm.

He was well back in the field as a consequence, in a race in which the pace held up well. It never looked like he was going to get to the winner I’m A Gambler, but he stayed on well to take fifth place, closest at the finish.

He has been busy this year, but we know that he goes into the race in good form. He goes well on soft ground too, so he won’t mind if the forecast rain does come, and seven furlongs is his optimum trip.

Hopefully he gets a fast pace, because that would represent optimum conditions, fast pace, seven furlongs, easy ground, Ascot (or Goodwood), big field, and Adam Farragher takes off a useful 5lb.

Safe Voyage was tempting, he did remarkably well to finish second in the “Sovereign Path” Handicap at Leopardstown, coming from further back than Rhoscolyn, and he gets to race off a mark of 100 today, just 3lb higher than his Leopardstown mark and 16lb lower than his peak. But he is popular and he is short, and he will need the rains to arrive.

Bengough Stakes

Vadream’s chance in the John Guest Racing Bengough Stakes will also be enhanced if the rains arrive. Charlie Fellowes’ filly hasn’t won since she won this race last year, but there have been signs of encouragement of late.

She beat King’s Lynn into second place in this race last year, and King’s Lynn won a listed race at Doncaster next time, and won the Group 2 Temple Stakes at Haydock earlier this season.

Vadream was highly tried early this season, but she ran a big race when dropped into listed company at Newmarket at the end of last month, when she went down by just a head to Sam Maximus.

Slowly into her stride that day, she did well to keep on as well as she did on the near side, finishing off her race strongly in her first-time cheekpieces when she met the rising ground and just giving best to James Horton’s horse.

That was on good ground, she should be much happier in easier conditions this afternoon.

You have to allow her the latest run in the Ayr Gold Cup, but it was just too bad to be true, on ground that was faster than ideal. It was her first run at Ayr too, perhaps she just didn’t handle the travelling or the track, and it was her second time in cheekpieces, which have been removed today.

She has raced at Ascot four times, and her only disappointing run there was in the Group 1 Platinum Jubilee Stakes at the Royal meeting this year, on good-to-firm ground.

Her other three runs there, all three on easy ground, are up there with the best runs of her career.

It looks like she has been a little over-looked by the market today and, back at Ascot, back on easy ground, she could out-run her odds by a fair way.


Vadream, 3.00 Ascot, 14/1 (generally), 1 point win

Rhoscolyn, 3.36 Ascot, 12/1 (generally), 1 point each-way