International Handicap Preview: Look out for Watchable

Ascot is the feature card on Saturday
Ascot is the feature card on Saturday

Alex Cairns gives the Timeform view on Saturday's big handicap on the King George undercard.

"Like Horsted Keynes, David O’Meara’s Watchable has been on the Timeform radar for some time."

Ante-post betting on a 30-runner handicap that has thrown up just three single-figure winners in the last 15 years might bring sewing equipment and mounds of dried grass to mind, but thankfully Timeform is here to act as your merit detector in seeking to sort the winner from the chaff in Saturday's International. 

Roger Varian's Horsted Keynes heads the market on the back of two taking performances this season, including a close second over the International's C&D when last seen in the Buckingham Palace Stakes. This was only his seventh career start and doesn't derail the standing Timeform view that he is a highly progressive animal with the potential for Pattern-race success. Indeed, Horsted Keynes holds an alternative entry in the Lennox Stakes at Goodwood next Tuesday and will surely have his sights raised if he can take such an illustrious handicap on Saturday. 

Though capable of racing prominently, Horsted Keynes was just as well-suited by being tucked behind a big field in the Buckingham Palace and finished powerfully before encountering traffic, having to be switched and therefore failing to catch experienced big-field handicapper Louis The Pious by three quarters of a length. 

The International will likely offer Horsted Keynes' rider the chance to employ the same patient tactics and a 3-lb pull in the weights with Louis The Pious should be enough to see him turn the form around, especially as that one has since demonstrated how exposed he is when finishing seventh under a penalty in the Bunbury Cup.

With Louis The Pious passed over, it is another of the placed horses from the Buckingham Palace who catches the eye. 

Like Horsted Keynes, David O'Meara's Watchable has been on the Timeform radar for some time. On the back of just four runs, he enhanced his already positive profile when beaten less than two lengths in third at Ascot and hence goes into Saturday's race with the telling Timeform 'p'. 

This was Watchable's first start in a big field and he seemed to take to the experience well, recovering from a few bumps to make smooth headway before staying on at the finish. With this invaluable C&D form in the bag, he should again go well at a good price. 

Though four-year-olds historically hold sway in the International, we certainly can't discount the older horses and Marcus Tregoning's five-year-old stablestar Bronze Angel should give a bold show. 

Bronze Angel also ran well in the Buckingham Palace, which is often a key guide to the International, and demonstrated his continued good form with a convincing win in a competitive handicap at York. A switch to more patient tactics seemed to suit at York and, being lightly raced, he could prove dangerous, though the appeal of younger, less exposed rivals outweighs this attraction. 

Another horse with notable Royal Ascot form is Field of Dream.

Having won the International in 2012, Field of Dream returned last year to take third behind Galician and defied long odds to land the Hunt Cup at Royal Ascot on his seasonal return this year. He'll have a career-high mark to contend with on Saturday and it is difficult to say whether his missing an intended engagement in the Bunbury Cup is a positive or negative, but we know he'll be suited by the test Saturday's race will provide. However, with two types of headgear having to be applied to bring out his best and several other quirks in his running style, he may prove vulnerable to a more straightforward improver. 

The highly-touted Abseil went off favourite for the Hunt Cup, but failed to justify this support when getting worked up pre-race and pulling too hard to be able to muster any meaningful finishing effort. The run was not entirely without merit for one so inexperienced, though a subsequent no-show when tailed-off last in the Bunbury Cup leaves him a horse with potential who should be watched with interest, perhaps for another day. 

Finally a mention must go to Absolutely So, who has been on a sharp upward curve this year, managing to translate some smart all-weather form onto the turf and culminating in a close second to Heaven's Guest in the Bunbury Cup.  His worst turf run did come in the Wokingham however, when he missed the kick and was seemingly over-awed by the furious pace of a big-field Ascot handicap. With conditions set to be similar on Saturday, it would be advisable to look elsewhere. 

And you need look no further than Watchable, who has been receiving admiring glances from Timeform for quite a while now, though we're also rather keen on Horsted Keynes.


Back Horsted KeynesWatchable in the International Handicap


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