Ascot Saturday

1:51 Oakman Inns Rous Stakes (Listed) 5f

Manaccan looks the right favourite here after improved efforts over this trip in recent starts, and he was arguably unlucky not to win the World Trophy at Newbury last time, having conceded first run. He’s afforded maximum respect, but the expected heavy rain should make conditions ideal for old friend Came From The Dark, whose career has been marred by breathing issues, but whose form at this trip on soft ground is better than any of his opponents, with his win in last year’s Coral Charge at Sandown the benchmark.

Came From The Dark benefited from a breathing operation before the start of last season, showing smart form when an unlucky loser in the Palace House Stakes and backing that up by beating King’s Stand runner-up Arecibo and Happy Romance at Sandown. He was then absent until the spring having aggravated an injury he had picked up at Newmarket, and showed little in either the Palace House or the Temple Stakes, but since then he’s been given another breathing procedure and brought back for an autumn campaign. I’m banking on him coming back to his best, although his breathing and injury worries means he’s a win-only proposition.

2:25 Peroni Nastro Azzurro Cumberland Lodge Stakes (Group 3) 1m 3f 211yds

It’s hard to oppose Hamish in the Cumberland Lodge as he looks a notch above his rivals for all a mile and a half is a minimum for him. He comes here having run a cracker to be beaten less than a length by Kyprios in the Irish St Leger.

An extra furlong would be ideal, but he should have too much class for his opponents, with the exception of the frustrating High Definition. That colt ought to be the main danger, but he’s shown his best form ridden aggressively at 10 furlongs, and he looks vulnerable against a superior stayer today.

3:00 John Guest Racing Bengough Stakes (Group 3) 6f

The high numbers look likely to have the best of the early exchanges here, which is a minor concern for favourite Rohaan, who runs the risk of chasing the wrong horses as he bids to come through late as expected. He’s the likeliest winner ignoring the draw, but is well found at the prices, and I’m happy to play each-way against him.

Assuming the ground rides soft or close to it, a serious chance must be afforded to last year’s winner Vadream.The Charlie Fellowes-trained filly has been largely disappointing on quicker ground this season, but her best effort came on her penultimate start on dead ground at Newmarket, when second to Sam Maximus, with Manaccan and Summerghand behind her. That race has worked out well, and while she didn’t repeat the form on quicker ground behind Summerghand in the Ayr Gold Cup, the evidence is there that she now needs softish ground to show her form.

Now that the rain has arrived, she is worth chancing to show her 2021 form, which would give her a big chance of winning back-to-back Bengoughs.

3:36 Peroni Nastro Azzurro Challenge Cup 7f

The effect of the draw should be lessened by the division of the straight at Ascot this weekend, but I’d still favour the high draws in the Challenge Cup, with plenty of those on the stands side having good course and distance form to call upon, and the advantage of racing close to the permanent rail cannot be underestimated, even in a smaller field.

Rhoscolyn lost his form for a spell after running so well on quick ground at Royal Ascot (third in the Buckingham Palace Stakes over course and distance), but my view is that he was feeling the after-effects of racing on faster turf than he likes, and he would not let himself down in the Bunbury Cup.

He’s refound his form on a softer surface of late, finishing a close third to I’m A Gambler at Goodwood and running well to be a close fifth to that rival in the valuable Sovereign Path Handicap at Leopardstown despite being quite badly hampered and losing a good position after two furlongs.

That effort can be marked up by a couple of lengths and I would fancy his chances of turning the tables on that rival, accepting that Leopardstown runner-up Safe Voyage also shaped really well in difficult circumstances.

Safe Voyage rates the main danger, with that return to form at Leopardstown heralded by strong market support. I did wonder whether Ascot would suit him, but luckily reminded myself that he once managed to finish third in the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes here, so it’s hardly a robust argument against him.

Newmarket Saturday

2:06 £150,000 Tattersalls October Auction Stakes 6f

I’m tempted to stick with Safari Dream here as Rod Millman’s powerful colt is still improving, but he does look a real five-furlong specialist, and his stablemate Woolhampton makes more appeal, for all she was a tad disappointing behind Amichi in the Somerville Auction Stakes here five weeks ago. It could be argued that she didn’t cope as well with the track as some that day, and her best efforts are all at Newbury, but that’s a dangerous assumption given all four of her previous starts were at the Berkshire venue, and I think excuses are easy to find for that defeat.

The winner came through close to the near rail on that occasion, and those drawn low were favoured, so Woolhampton’s draw in stall 14 was a big negative on the day, especially as the trio drawn higher than her ended up not giving her any company, with one dropping out quickly after the start, and the other two making a bee-line for the far rail.

As it was, she ended up racing widest of all in the main group, but still held a chance until inside the final furlong, with her track position, or lack thereof, the main culprit.

Woolhampton is ironically drawn 14 again here, but this is not the July Course, and in a field this size, it’s unlikely she’ll see as much daylight as she did last time.

A winner over six furlongs on good-to-soft ground, she was dropped back in trip for the Super Sprint, where she was doing all her best work late in second, and backed that up with a good third in the Listed St Hugh’s Stakes on her next start.

The longer trip was not the issue last time, and she has the form to go very close if getting any luck in running now.

It’s also worth giving a brief mention to Oneforsue, who was one of those who raced on the far rail in the Somerville Auction, and she can also be marked up given her companion that day was beaten a long way. Oneforsure did well to hold on for fifth, and has a kinder draw in stall 17 here – or at least one where she can race in company in the centre of the track.

2:42 Royal Bahrain Sun Chariot Stakes (Group 1) 1m

The fitting of a tongue-tie for Homeless Songs is a surprise after her comeback run in the Matron behind Pearls Galore and Saffron Beach. I have to say that it cools any confidence I might have had in backing her, and if there is any issue with her breathing – as the aid suggests – it will surely compromise her chance here.

Saffron Beach has obvious claims in any case having run her usual sound race in defeat last time, and she coped well with soft ground when winning this race last year. She looks set for a repeat with her low draw unlikely to compromise her given her style of running.


Came From The Dark 1:51 Ascot – 1pt win @ 11/1 (general)

Vadream 2:00 Ascot – 1pt e/w @ 14/1 (Sky Bet 5 places, or 16/1 Bet365 4 places)

Rhoscolyn 3:36 Ascot – 2pts e/w @ 11/1 (Bet365, Hills – 5 places)

Woolhampton 2:06 Newmarket – 1pt win @ Betfair SP