Ascot Saturday

1:35 Dubai Duty Free Full Of Surprises Classified Stakes 7f

Epsom Faithfull stays seven furlongs well and impressed when winning by two lengths over a furlong shorter here last month. That was a career-best effort backed up by a useful time, and Pat Phelan’s mare is preferred to Goodwood winner Orbaan.

Orbaan will certainly be popular, but for all he was wildly impressive in the Golden Mile, he did get a dream run through as others were stuck in pockets, and those who have followed him blind over the last couple of seasons (and there are plenty in this particular club), will testify to his habit of catching the eye in defeat. In short, he needs everything to fall in place in order to win and isn’t one to bank on at a skinny price.

2:10 Dubai Duty Free Shergar Cup Dash (Handicap) 5f

There is a danger that King Of Stars could end up going too fast in front here, but he is suited by a stiff five furlongs on quick ground, so if Takeshi Yokoyama can keep a little back for the finish on Mick Appleby’s speedster, then he might prove hard to catch.

It’s unusual in an all-aged handicap at Ascot to find only one course winner on show, and it would be tempting to row in with Blue De Vega for that reason. On the other hand, Robert Cowell has garnered just one place from 18 runners in the past fortnight, and his continued poor form makes it hard to support his horses until they show more encouraging signs.

Arecibo was runner-up in the King’s Stand Stakes for the stable last season, and is another who appeals strongly on course form, but is similarly hard to back due to concerns over the well-being of the Cowell yard.

2:45 Dubai Duty Free Shergar Cup Stayers (H’cap) 1m 7f 209yds

Super Superjack is the right favourite here, and should make a bold bid, but I’m tempted by Themaxwecan back over two miles. A course-and-distance winner, he ran better than the result over shorter at Goodwood last time, and with cheekpieces replacing the blinkers he wore for the first time there, he’s taken to get closer to his peak, with the booking of Jamie Spencer a positive.

Themaxwecan was a little lit up by blinkers at Goodwood and weakened in the final furlong or so as his efforts told, but he should be easier to ride patiently with cheekpieces replacing the more severe headgear, and Spencer is just the man for that job.

Another drop in the weights leaves Themaxwecan 4lb lower than when successful in cheekpieces at Goodwood in September, and it’s worth noting that he followed a similar pattern of runs last year, finishing well held at Royal Ascot and the Northumberland Plate before showing more at the Qatar Goodwood Festival before that revival.

3:20 Dubai Duty Free Shergar Cup Challenge (Handicap) 1m 3f 211yds

State Of Bliss won the Classic on this card a year ago and looked better than ever when scoring at Ripon in April. He’s been well below form in three starts since, but it looks significant that he’s brought back here after a break and is another who has drawn well on the rider front with Frankie Dettori turning it on in front of a captive audience.

My concern with State Of Bliss is that his draw in stall one is not ideal and will require Dettori to box clever in the first couple of furlongs so that he can hold a good track position. If that happens, then he is a player, and his poor recent form is less of a concern than it might be given how many of Johnston’s handicappers are perked up at this time of year having seemingly lost their way.

3:55 Dubai Duty Free Shergar Cup Mile (Handicap) 7f 213yds

Via Serendipity won this race a few years ago, and goes very well over the course and distance. He was back to winning ways at Sandown in June and hasn’t been in suitable contests in two runs since. The return to racing around a right-hand bend is key to his chances, and he should go well from a mark just 1lb higher than his Sandown success.

Via Serendipity will be making his fourth Shergar Cup appearance over a mile and has already won twice at the meeting (given an ill-judged ride on the other occasion), so is sure to have been prepped specially for this.

4:30 Dubai Duty Free Shergar Cup Classic (Handicap) 1m 3f 211yds

Hayley Turner is another jockey who will get particularly excited about riding at the Shergar Cup, and she has a decent chance here on Approachability, who ran well after a slow start in a hot handicap at Goodwood last week. He appears to be running into form for the yard which won this race last season.

Approachability showed at Goodwood that he could be competitive off his current mark and has only disappointed when down the field at Epsom on his belated return. That effort is easy to forgive, and the son of New Approach has given the impression that he’s building up to something. It wasn’t to be after he blew the start at Goodwood, but he emerged with credit from a much deeper contest than this and should have more to offer this autumn.

5:05 Dubai Duty Free Shergar Cup Sprint (Handicap) 6f

Sterling Knight caught the eye in Windsor’s Sprint Series final on Monday, doing his best work late and finishing with more to give in third, behind Cuban Breeze.

The stiffer track at Ascot will suit his style of racing, and he’s clearly in the form required to win a race of this nature. Ed Dunlop’s charge was a winner over course and distance in May before finding the drop to five furlongs against him in the Palace of Holyroodhouse Stakes at the Royal Meeting.

He’s run to form at Windsor since and looks an excellent bet at double-figure odds to continue his consistent run of form.


Themaxwecan 2:45 Ascot – 1pt e/w @ 33/1 (general – 4 places)

Approachability 4:30 Ascot – 1pt win @ 12/1 (Bet365, 11/1 general)

Sterling Knight 5:05 Ascot – 1pt e/w @ 12/1 (general – 4 places)