SATURDAY’S RACING AT ROYAL ASCOT – 21st June
2:30 Chesham Stakes, Listed, 2yo, 7f
A race for home-based, fancied runners, with only one Irish win since 1978 and 18 of the last 19 winners starting at 8/1 or shorter. Mark Johnston has won the Chesham 3 times in the last 10 runnings and relies on the once-raced Pegasus Lad who ran with promise to be 3rd in a recent Hamilton maiden, keeping on well in the closing stages over 6f. He should be suited by the step up in trip and seems certain to be well fancied (7.8/1 with BetFair). There are only 2 previous turf winners in the field of 12, Richard Hannon’s Free Agent, the likely favourite (2/1 with Betfair) and George Margarson’s Imperial Guest (7.8/1 with the same firm. Newcomer Swindler, from Andrew Balding’s yard, is by Derby and Arc winner Sinndar out of a Darshaan mare, and while likely to need further in time, in worth close examination in the betting (4.6/1 with BetFair).
3:05 Hardwick Stakes, Group 2, 4yo+, 1m 4f
Mark Johnston trained 4 Hardwicke winners between 1999 and 2005, but has no 2008 representative. Sir Michael Stoute’s Maraahel (8.2/1 with BetFair) won in 2006 and 2007, but is now a seven-year-old and no horse over the age of 6 has won the Hardwicke in 30 years. The Irish have only had one winner, but Aidan O’Brien’s Ormonde Stakes winner Macarthur seems likely to start favourite, having very nearly “stolen” the Coronation Cup, from the front, at the Derby meeting (2.15/1 on BetFair).
3:45 Golden Jubilee Stakes, Group 1, 3yo+, 6f
A race for punters to treat win extreme caution. Since 1999, there have been winners at 33/1, 20/1, 16/1 (twice) and 12/1. It has been a happy hunting ground for foreign raiders, with Choisir winning for Australia in 2003 and Cape of Good Hope for Hong Kong (at York). 4/1 favourite with Ladbrokes, Hughie Morrison’s Sakhee’s Secret sets the standard. Aidan O’ Brien has never won, but is represented by US Ranger (7/1 with SkyBet) and Astronomer Royale (20/1 totesport). Takeover Target is a 6/1 chance to recover the prize for Australia. 2007 winner Soldier’s Tale (20/1 with Ladbrokes) is another to consider.
4:25 Wokingham Stakes, Handicap, 3yo+, 6f
Ascot’s oldest handicap, and probably the season’s most competitive. From 1988 to 2000, the 13 winners ranged in price from 11/1 to 33/1. Subsequently, 3 favourites have obliged. This is never an easy contest to solve and the 2008 renewal is no exception. However, the week’s results suggest that the horses drawn low to middle have a marked advantage. Marginal market leader is Intrepid Jack, drawn 7, a 9/1 chance with William Hill. His trainer, Hughie Morrison, won with Baltic King in 2006. Other well-fancied runners include Aidan O’Brien’s Abraham Lincoln, drawn 4, and 10/1 with bet 365. Howard Johnson’s convincing York 6f winner Tombi appeals at 12/1 with William Hill from the number 9 stall.
5:00 Duke of Edinburgh Stakes, Handicap, 3yo+, 1m 4f
7 of the last 10 winners have been four or five-year-olds carrying 9 stones +. There has only been one three-year-old winner in the last 20 renewals. Sir Michael Stoute, responsible this time round for Sugar Ray, the mount of Ryan Moore (8/1 with Betfair) and Gulf Express (18.5/1 with Betfair), ridden by Jamie Spencer, has won the race three time in the last decade. Despite a disappointing week for the stable, neither should be discounted.
5:35 Queen Alexandra Stakes, 4yo+, 2m 6f
The longest British flat race, won on 6 consecutive occasions by Brown Jack (1929-1934). The 2006 and 2007 winners, Baddam and Enjoy the Moment both ran in the preceding Tuesday’s Ascot Stakes over 2m 4f. Both attempt a repeat win, Enjoy the Moment having warmed up with a respectable 6th, over 2 miles at Sandown in May (7/1 with Betfair), while Baddam (29/1 with Betfair) again attempts the Ascot Stakes / Queen Alexandra double. Aidan O’ Brien’s Honolulu (2.9/1 with Betfair) has looked less than straightforward on occasions, but his latest form reads well in the light of Geordieland’s Gold Cup performance of Thursday and must be feared. Sir Michael Stoute’s Distinction is a classy individual and cannot be dismissed lightly, even at the age of 9 (5.6/1 with BetFair). Henry Cecil’s Ajaan is unbeaten in two runs this season, but has developed the habit of hanging when in front and is unproven over an extreme trip like this (5.8/1 with BetFair)