Ascot Saturday

1.45 Royal Ascot Local Schools Art Competition Handicap 1m 3f 211yds

Two of interest to me in the opening contest at Ascot, and both have the requisite wide draw that I favour in such races.

Danehill Kodiac is very well treated on his old form (he beat the Arc winner Waldgeist over course and distance in the Cumberland Lodge Stakes a few seasons back), but it’s hard to know what to expect on his debut for rookie trainer Joe Tickle, especially after more than 500 days off. He’s worth noting in the market, though.

Of more obvious interest, although also returning from a break is the Harry Eustace-trained Ziggy, who progressed well until failing to stay one and three-quarter miles at York in October on his final three-year-old start.


Ziggy is unexposed at this trip, having been beaten less than a length on his only try at Glorious Goodwood, finishing well.

That race has thrown up a host of future winners, with the trio immediately in his wake all scoring next time, and Ziggy ran well to be beaten narrowly on his next start despite dropping back to 10 furlongs at Sandown.

Given how he shaped at shorter and/or further, this trip at a stiff track looks ideal for Ziggy, and he can progress after just a handful of handicap starts.

2.20 Carey Group Buckhounds Stakes (Listed) 1m 3f 211yds

Al Aasy has been called a few names, but he is better class than his rivals here, and while a mile and a half at Ascot is not likely to prove his ideal track and trip, he ought to make his superior ability in this contest.

Whether he deserves the criticism he has received is also open to debate, as the public tend to assume horses who do their running on the bridle are ungenuine.

On the contrary, such horses often give their all without having to be asked, and when the cupboard is bare, no amount of pushing and shoving can alter that fact.

3.30 British EBF Fillies’

Handicap 1m

This is a tight contest, and not one for maximum stakes, but Auria ticks plenty of the right boxes, particularly as she ran an excellent second on her reappearance here last year when beaten only by a subsequent Group 2 winner.

She also took a listed contest at Sandown in July, and simply failed to stay at Newmarket when flopping on her final start.

She has a proven record fresh, at the track and over a stiff mile, so while there isn’t a great deal of wiggle room in her handicap mark, she looks sure to run to the best of her form, and that may well be good enough.

4.05 Tote Victoria Cup 7f

It’s possible to make a case for plenty in this 28-runner contest, but history has shown that those drawn very high have enjoyed an advantage in terms of wins and places over the past decade or so, and that’s the place to look for value.

It’s also a good guide in such races to side with horses with proven form in the other big-field handicaps run at Ascot through the season, and that throws up a shortlist of Chiefofchiefs, Accidental Agent and River Nymph, and the last-named gets the marginal vote having won this race last year off a 2lb lower mark.

He has won two of his three starts over course and distance, with the one defeat coming on sticky ground here in October when he was poorly positioned (first two raced on far rail).

A poor effort on his return at Wolverhampton is also easy to forgive, as he tends to need a run quite badly in the spring and was unsighted in the Lincoln before winning this contest last year.

There was a hint of temperament about his final run last year, but he was gelded after his final start, and I hope that will have helped him focus.

Lingfield Saturday

2.05 SBK Handicap 7f

The one turf meeting of the year at Lingfield before another bout of remedial work, and the old straight-course bias is expected to be in evidence, for all THAT it may not make much difference in this contest.

Even so, I’m inclined to side with one capable of getting a good position on the stands’ rail, and the value lies with Jane Chapple-Hyam’s Ex Gratia, who has shown the speed to win over six furlongs, and had absolutely no chance on her handicap debut on the polytrack here last time, with stall 12 of 12 a killer blow to her chances.

She is much better than she could show last time, and seven furlongs on turf ought to bring about improvement based on her pedigree.

She has the reluctant Dutch Decoy between her and the rail, but that one was reluctant to raise a gallop at Wolverhampton last time, and she ought to be able to wrest the rails position from him without much difficulty.

If she can do so, her double-figure price will look very generous, and she’s worth the risk in my eyes.

2.40 SBK Derby Trial Stakes (Listed) 1m 3f 133yds

I’m inclined to be against Walk Of Stars here, as he lugged quite badly left in the closing stages when winning at Newbury, and that raises questions as to whether he will handle this tricky course.

I prefer the claims of the Blue Riband Trial fourth United Nations, who was going on nicely at the finish at Epsom and will appreciate the longer trip on that evidence.

His form is nothing special, but Aidan O’Brien dominated the Chester Trials with similar types, and his ability to keep these three-year-olds progressing is constantly impressive.

3.15 SBK Oaks Trial Fillies’ Stakes (Listed) 1m 3f 133yds

I had my eye well and truly blackened when weighing in with Enfranchise at Chester on Thursday, but I still believe that the form of the Brighton race in which Mystic Wells beat her is very strong, and while the step into listed company demands more of George Boughey’s filly, I think she will prove up to the task.


Mystic Wells looks more exposed than her rivals, having raced six times, but I much prefer a filly with experience around this track, and her ability to handle Brighton pretty much guarantees that she will cope with the undulations here.

She should be untroubled to get the early lead, and the way she and the runner-up pulled seven lengths clear late on at Brighton also suggests she will not be stopping at the business end, and she does set the form standard.

I do fear Emily Dickinson, not because of the form she’s shown (Red Azalea, beaten a neck by her at Naas, could do no better at Gowran Park in the week), but because she is likely to take a bigger step forward.

In saying that, Aidan O’Brien’s filly is a much shorter price, and I’m happy to stick with Mystic Wells despite her less-than-sexy profile.

3.50 SBK Chartwell Fillies’ Stakes (Group 3) 7f

Pace could again be key in the Chartwell, and there is not a great deal of early toe on offer here.

As a result, it may pay to side with outsider Lola Showgirl.

Dave Loughnane’s mare progressed well last year, making all in big-field handicaps at York and Royal Ascot, doing especially well to beat Ffion on the latter occasion given how hard such tactics are to pull off at Ascot.

She’s run with credit in listed company since over a mile but gives the impression she’s worth another try at seven furlongs given her speed.

She is moderately drawn here, but it seems that none of those on her inner will try to lead, and she should be able to get loose in the early stages, with the rail hers for the taking.

On the ratings, she will be vulnerable late on, but the shape of the race looks to suit her really well, and I can see her hanging on to a place at the very least.


Ziggy 1.45 Ascot – 1pt e/w @ 16/1 (Bet365 – 14/1 general)

River Nymph 4.05 Ascot– 1pt e/w @ 20/1 (Paddy Power, Betfair – 6 places)

Ex Gratia 2.05 Lingfield – 1pt win @ 8/1 (Ladbrokes, Coral – 7/1 Bet365, 888Sport)

Mystic Wells 3.15 Lingfield – 1pt win @ 8/1 (Bet365 – 7/1 general)

Lola Showgirl 3.50 Lingfield – 1pt e/w @ 18/1 (SkyBet – 4 places – 20/1 general – 3 places)