The midsummer Group 1 middle-distance highlight, the King George VI & Queen Elizabeth Stakes, takes place at Ascot this afternoon
A feast of Saturday action, previewed by Betfred TV’s Matt Hulmes
Love looks to add to her Royal Ascot success, and claim a fifth straight prize at the top level.
She will be up against the Derby winner Adayar and the Irish Derby runner-up Lone Eagle, the only two 3yo contenders, an age group who have taken every renewal when the year ends in 1 ….. a bit like a Spurs trophy success!
You can also expect a bubbly reception for the winner of the main betting event on the card, the Moet & Chandon International Stakes. (I’ll get my coat)
Meanwhile, on the Knavesmire, the Group 2 York Stakes is their feature, on another competitive card.
A good field of eleven sprinting filles line up for the Princess Margaret.
Incredibly, half of the last ten winners were drawn one, and that stall goes to Archie Watson’s once-raced unbeaten filly Nazanin. She was a well-backed favourite on her Newbury debut, and always had matters in control. That was on soft ground and she was taken out on her intended debut on good to firm.
Desert Dreamer finished second to System at Newmarket two starts ago before filling the same spot in the Cherry Hinton recently. That form enhances System’s chances, but I will chance ATAGIRL.
Karl Burke’s horses usually build on their first run, and her close-up third at Haydock was clearly built upon when running out an easy winner back there three weeks back. Burke sent a nice filly for a Listed contest in Ireland this week so has a good handle on the top fillies, and she rates a good each-way proposition.
The Jump Jockeys’ Nunthorpe. The men of the winter game will not be used to going this fast over the flying five furlongs at York, but they are fearless beasts and it’s another competitive York handicap to decipher, with three last time out winners and another four placed on their latest starts.
Interestingly, Sean Bowen had a few rides on the flat in midweek at Ffos Las in preparation, and he gets the ride on Dark Shot who has found one too good on the last three occasions.
Nibras Again has also been runner-up on his last two starts while Soul Seeker ended a frustrating run with a victory last Friday, and represents the in-form David O’Meara stable under Tom Scudamore.
Mid Winster was a winner three weeks ago at Doncaster and is 4lb higher, but I will chance the former jumps’ champion Brian Hughes (above) who rides Paul Midgley’s JAMES WATT.
He was a very promising 2yo who lost his way for Michael Bell, but has come good of late and won over track and trip at the last meeting here and can defy a 5lb rise.
FANTASTIC FOX looks a solid bet in the seven-runner Porsche Handicap at Ascot this afternoon. His Royal Ascot run is best forgotten as he was far too keen and pulled Silvestre De Sousa’s arms out.
SDS (above) had wanted to get across from a wide draw, and Fantastic Fox was spent at the business end. He drops in trip and the form of his Newbury third, behind Derab and Snow Lantern, couldn’t be working out much better. A mark of 94 could look lenient.
There are dangers. Latest Generation ran well against his elders to finish second at Sandown, and time may tell his half-length second at Newmarket to Royal Fleet could be very good form.
Isla Kai is a course-and-distance winner (had Guru a neck second) seeking a four-timer, having gone up 15lb for three handicap wins; while Hughie Morrison’s Marsabit is chasing a hat-trick himself.
A sixteen runner six-furlong York handicap. It’s what nightmares are made of ….
Mondammej has been in very consistent form this season but as a result has had no respite from the handicapper, and again has another 3lb rise to defy after being placed in a big-field sprint at Ascot. He was a close third here at the May meeting but was well beaten a few weeks later, on soft ground.
Golden Apollo is arguably better over further but will be staying on late and is one of four runners for Tim Easterby (above left). He also saddles Music Society, the 2019 Ayr Bronze Cup winner, Manigordo, who may still be well treated and was a close second on Monday, and also Flying Pursuit, who won this race in 2017 and 2018.
Gulliver has an excellent course record but may appreciate the ground a little softer, while stablemate Muscika is just 1lb higher than for last year’s win in this very race.
Lots of others have chances with regulars turning up again but I will chance the sole 3yo, BLIND BEGGAR. Richard Fahey has booked Franny Norton for the ride, and he was a decent sixth in a big 3yo course handicap behind First Folio.
The form of that race worked out when runner-up Blackrod won a similar contest at Newmarket with Blind Beggar just weakening on the climb to the line, on the opposite side of the course. That can be marked up, he has been dropped 2lb by the handicapper, and can be backed each-way with many firms offering five places.
The International Stakes is the day’s big betting race, over seven furlongs.
Motakhayyel was a devastating winner of the Bunbury Cup for the second successive year and is 6lb well-in for that incredible run. He has leading claims but couldn’t reproduce his form in two subsequent starts last year, and this is a quick turnaround.
He had Shine So Bright in fourth and KIMIFIVE back in fifth at Newmarket. Shine So Bright continues to run consistently well without getting his head in front, and has been dropped another 1lb, while KIMIFIVE is a model of consistency in these big straight-course handicaps.
He is 1lb lower than when second in the Stewards’ Cup last year and with Ray Dawson claiming an extra 3lb, he looks solid each-way material again after a strong, late run in the Bunbury Cup.
Danyah has run in the Lincoln, Spring Trophy and Buckingham Palace Stakes this season, three of the season’s biggest handicaps, and has form figures of 422. He deserves to land a big prize but is a victim of his own consistency with the handicapper putting him up another 5lb for his Royal Ascot run.
Matthew Flinders is 10lb well-in after his second in Listed company at Chester. He has been knocking on the door in big field handicaps, and if he doesn’t win this, he will struggle off his revised mark, and is drawn on a wing in 20 on the Stands’ side.
Acquitted is another who must get a mention after a solid third at Sandown. He was second in the Spring Mile at the beginning of the campaign but has disappointed on his two starts at Ascot.
Raising Sands and Ropey Guest are also a pair of regulars in these big-field Ascot handicaps who can usually be relied on to run their race, and offer each-way punters a good run for their money with six places on offer with many firms.
Just the five go to post for the Group 2 York Stakes, the feature on the card on the Knavesmire.
Only one 3yo has been successful since the race’s inception in 2006 and that was the very first running, but MOHAAFETH has huge claims of being the second of the classic generation to score.
It looks as though connections’ decision to bypass the Derby was the right call on ground that just wouldn’t have suited the son of Frankel, and they were rewarded with an authoritative Royal Ascot success.
A victory here will set him up for a return for the Juddmonte International next month, and he also hold entries in all the big autumn Group Ones. It is interesting connections also run Montatham, who will be expected to assume pacemaker duties.
A useful miler in his own right, including a win at the Ebor Festival last year, he looks like the sacrificial lamb here.
With the weight-for-age allowance he is 3lb superior to Armory, who chased home Love and Audarya in the Prince Of Wales’s Stakes. That is obviously standout form, and he won very easily at Chester earlier in the season after a fruitful trip Down Under last autumn. He sets the standard, but looks likely to bump into a very good 3yo.
Juan Elcano finally delivered on his promise when winning the Wolfreton Stakes at Royal Ascot, but last year’s 2000 Guineas fifth will need to build again to win here.
The midsummer Flat season highlight is the King George VI & Queen Elizabeth Stakes, with a small but select field assembled.
BROOME – Finally landed his Group 1 with an all the way success at Saint Cloud at the beginning of the month. Work to do to turn things around with Wonderful Tonight on Hardwicke Stakes form, and a supporting role surely at best.
LOVE – (pictured above). An absolute superstar, and dual classic heroine last season. Not seen again after her Yorkshire Oaks romp as the ground deteriorated here and abroad in the autumn.
Did it the hard way on her return in the Prince Of Wales’s Stakes from the front, to hold off a Breeders’ Cup winner and an in-form stablemate back in third. Will be better for the extra trip, and if the rain stays away will have her ideal conditions.
Likely to be very hard to beat for a red-hot team, and bids to give Aidan O’Brien a fifth win in the great race.
MISHRIFF – Earned an incredible £10m in his career, largely due to the massive riches in winning the Saudi Cup and Dubai Sheema Classis this year. Also won the French Derby last year and probably still does not get the recognition he deserves.
Sheema Classic form looks strong with the two Japanese runners winning in top company since, and was far too fresh when weakening close home in the Eclipse. Trainer John Gosden could equal Sir Michael Stoute’s record of six wins in the race with a victory.
WONDERFUL TONIGHT – A fantastic mare who has won her last three, a pair of Group 1’s and a red-hot renewal of the Group 2 Hardwicke Stakes at Royal Ascot. Was very impressive in winning here last month and the form looks very good, with Broome, Hukum and Sir Ron Priestley all Group winners since.
Oisin Murphy has been booked for the ride, but she needs plenty of rain to be at her best. Well-held on her two runs on good, and all victories on soft or heavy. Doubtful she will be risked unless downpours ensue, but a big player for me in the Arc de Triomphe, granted typical autumn ground conditions in Paris.
ADAYAR – Bidding to be the first Derby winner to follow up here in two decades. Was beaten in two trials before his Epsom romp, but the form of those is working out. Never had a moment’s worry once the gap opened, and he bounded clear for a four and a half-length success in the classic.
Third-home has won the Irish Derby and a French Group 1 since, while seventh-home Bolshoi Ballet won Belmont Grade 1. Mixed messages from other contenders from the beaten pack and is another who, as a heavy-topped horse who looks sure to get further, would appreciate some rainfall, and plenty of it.
LONE EAGLE – Just reeled-in close home in the Irish Derby by Hurricane Lane, who then won the Group 1 Grand Prix de Paris in emphatic fashion last week, franking the form.
Went for home a fair way out there but looks the sole pace angle and despite best form coming with cut, will be fine on any ground. Bids to give Frankie Dettori a record eighth win in the race, and a fourth in the last five renewals.
SUMMARY – LOVE looks a cast-iron favourite to claim a fifth victory at Group 1 level and give her trainer a fifth win in this valuable contest. The danger could come from Lone Eagle, not Adayar.
Although held by Adayar on Sandown form, he has clearly improved bundles and at almost three times the price of the Derby winner and the mount of Frankie Dettori (above) seeking an eighth win in the race, he could offer some value – and won’t mind whatever the forecast brings.