Saturday ITV Racing Tips: Back Ocean to sink Enable in Ascot feature

Crystal Ocean
Crystal Ocean is Tony's selection in the King George at Ascot

A mix of Group action and competitive handicaps are ITV's offering on a fantastic day of racing at Ascot and York, and Tony Calvin is here to guide you through it all...

"We know that Sir Michael Stoute's 5yo loves this track and comes here at the peak of his powers after beating Magical in the Prince Of Wales's Stakes last time."

Back Crystal Ocean at 4.84/1 or bigger in 15:40 at Ascot

After the best part of a fortnight of suggesting it was one of those dreaded "watch-and-not-bet" races, I have slowly - very slowly, admittedly - come to the realisation that there is, in fact, a blindingly obvious play in Ascot's Group 1 contest at 15:40.

Back Crystal Ocean at 4.84/1 or bigger in the King George.

A quick word on the Ascot weather forecast, though. Saturday initially didn't look too bad, but on Friday morning the website I use was changed and was predicting up to 30mm.

Yikes!

So fast ground could become pretty soft, so keep 'em peeled.

The same applies to York as well, and trying to second-guess the weather is never a good thing for punters.

Realistically it's a two-horse race

The more I look at the King George, it really does have the shape and feel of a match bet - despite all the 11 runners surprisingly standing their ground from the five-day stage and the possibility of the Derby winner Anthony Van Dyck could improve for the new headgear - and I have to side with Crystal Ocean.

We all know what Enable is capable of, and you can't ask for much more in a racehorse than a dual Arc winner who is rolling in here on the back of a winning sequence of 10 (all at different tracks, too) and an Eclipse win on her return.

I was very taken by the manner of that victory, as she tanked through the race and was more dominant than the winning margin suggests, but you can equally, easily, make a case that the jury is still out whether she is back to her 2017 brilliance, especially as the Sandown runner-up Magical looked a filly in need of a rest after a very busy early-season campaign.

And I suspect that Enable wasn't far off peak-fitness there too, whatever John Gosden may have claimed before, and after, the race.

It is no coin-toss, with Enable the rightful favourite, but it has finally become clear to me that Crystal Ocean has to be the bet at 3/1+.

Crystal arrives at the peak of his powers

Plenty of people are looking to make a lot of mileage out of the fact that Enable beat him pointless at Kempton last season, and on her reappearance, too.

But she couldn't have been given an easier time of it from the front that day, and she was getting 8lb, too.

And even Crystal Ocean's biggest fan (or detractor) wouldn't even begin to argue that he had his ears scrubbed off him that day on his one and only start on the all-weather.

We know that Sir Michael Stoute's 5yo loves this track - indeed, you can easily venture to suggest that his jockey went too soon when just reeled in by stablemate Poet's Word in this race last year, with subsequent Group 1 winner Coronet 9 lengths away in third - and comes here at the peak of his powers after beating Magical in the Prince Of Wales's Stakes last time.

Enable 1280.jpg

That performance led the "world rankings" handicappers to rate him 4lb superior to Enable on their 2019 exploits, so they believe the female version of the species will not be more deadlier than the male on these terms on Saturday.

I have to agree, and Crystal Ocean, who Ryan Moore believes is still improving at five, really is the bet at 3/1+.

Sorry for the delay in coming to that conclusion. Let's hope I got there, accurately, in the end.

Romance looks a star quality filly

She may be around even money in the Group 3 Princess Margaret Stakes at 13:50 but I wouldn't be in any rush to take on Summer Romance after what she did, in a very quick time, at Newmarket last time.

She looks to have star quality but, obviously, this column can let her win unbacked, though victory isn't assured by any means given none of the opposition have raced more than four times so far and are all full of improvement themselves.

One of the fillies in opposition could quite easily take a big leap forward - Ultra Violet and So Sharp are the most likely candidates - but it would have to be a pretty punchy one if the favourite runs to the level of her Newmarket form.

Let me point out why I like Documenting

Nothing floats my boat in the 14:25 but quite a few were surfacing on the water in the 7f Moet And Chandon Heritage handicap at 15:00.

And top of the bobbers is Documenting at 55.054/1 or bigger, though a lot of rain would probably not be a positive to his chances

Now, there are other negatives, as you would expect of a horse priced up as a 50s+ poke, not least the fact that we haven't seen him since a sixth over 1m at Lingfield on All-Weather Finals day in April.

If he has had a setback since, then he may not be cherry-ripe here, but you have to think that connections will have him as close to his peak as possible for such a valuable prize.

And he could well win this if he is.

He may not have quite lasted home over a mile at Lingfield last time, so I like the switch back to 7f, and his all-weather form puts him in with a far better chance than his price tag suggests, not least because he is 5lb lower on turf.

And everyone knows how well all-weather form translates to the sand-based Ascot track.

He got no run at all close home when fifth in a Listed race at Wolverhampton on his penultimate start - he could have gone very close there against higher-rated opposition - and he is just 8lb higher than when sluicing up by 7 lengths at Wolverhampton in February.

Hopefully, it is a good sign that his 112-rated half-brother Countermeasure dotted up here on his final start (I'll gloss over the fact that he went off at 1/9 in a maiden....) and, to put it simply, he looks considerably over-priced.

And he says, clutching at another straw, it was good to see the yard have a winner at Newbury on Thursday.

The horse certainly brings a different form angle to a race that houses a lot of Ascot regulars, such as Ripp Orf and Raising Sand, and the latter's chances will increase with every drop of rain.

The other two that I mentioned when I looked at this race in my ante-post piece on Tuesday were Vale Of Kent and Lush Life.

As much as I can see the case for the midweek "gamble" Arbalet (the Hugo Palmer stable are flying at the moment) and that pair - the first-time blinkers are very interesting for the tricky Lush Life, though his trainer is only 6 from 86 with this particular headgear switch - I have decided to stick with just the one play in the race.

Story's form looks worth reading in York opener

To put my Nick Luck thesaurus hat on for a moment - I don't want to keep on saying headgear - I hope accoutrements can play a factor in the opener at York at 14:05.

Back Bedouin's Story in the first-time cheek pieces at 10.09/1 or bigger.

First off a mention about the York going and weather. It is good to firm as I write this on Friday morning but I was very surprised that the course watered on Thursday, given the forecast for Friday and Saturday (the latter day is potentially brutal with around 20mm forecast by some sites).

But I guess they were racing on Friday night, too.

Anyway, back to the racing. The selection's trainer knows what he is doing when he puts fresh headgear on a horse and his record with initial cheek pieces (9 from 45 since 2017) is decent, if not as bet-inducing as his 1-in-3 hood angle.

York-Ebor-Festival.jpg

This horse certainly looked in need of a pick-me-up when not looking overly-keen at Newcastle last time, and he was dropped 1lb for that run, as well.

And it is very interesting to note that Bedouin's Story dotted up by 3 lengths on good to soft - his two best efforts have come with ease, so hopefully he can handle what nature throws at him on Saturday - when sporting a hood for the first occasion at Newbury last autumn.

I will have a saver on a horse that could well need headgear down the line though - he has run in a visor and cheek pieces before - in the shape of the tricky Tommy Taylor at 10.09/1 or bigger.

He played up in the stalls and was generally un-cooperative at Newmarket last time but, to be fair, he was messed around through the final furlong or so, towards the centre of the track, and didn't run that badly in fifth.

He has come down 2lb as a result and reverts to a course where he has put up some of his better efforts, so hopefully Jamie Spencer can finesse him into the race where it matters, as he isn't straightforward by any means.

He is now down to a mark of just 87, having been rated a whopping 107 after winning a Listed race over 6f on good to soft here in 2017.

He was also a good fifth on soft ground off a mark of 98 in the Skybet Dash on this card last season.

Savalas another bet to have on the Telly

The Kevin Ryan-Spencer combination also look to have a leading chance in the 6f handicap at 14:40 with Savalas, who has to be the bet at 19.018/1 or bigger on a track on which he excels.

Being drawn 17 or 18 un-nerves me somewhat - I never like being on the flanks in a sprint handicap - but he shaped as if he was on the way back when second at Newmarket last time, when he probably wasn't ideally positioned towards the centre of the track, either. And that was over 5f, too.

He is fully 9lb lower than when a neck second of 20 to Encrypted over course and distance last summer, he has plenty of form on good to soft, and the cheek pieces that he wore last time are retained.

He is handicapped to run a far bigger race than his price suggests. I do fear Staxton and very nearly put him up a saver.

Nothing doing for me in the Group 2 race, so I'll leave it there.

Good luck.

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