Weather is the watchword once again at Royal Ascot on Friday but Tony Calvin has still found five horses to back come rain or shine...
"Shalaa Asker looks a huge price at 80/1 each way, five places (actually opened up at 100/1). He would remain a bet at 50/1+. He is 2lb lower than when an excellent third at Thirsk three starts ago, and a reproduction of that run gives him a definite squeak."
Ascot dodged the thunderstorms on Wednesday night but punters must run the weather gauntlet once again with upwards of 12mm of rain generally forecast on Friday, so we could be looking at good ground come race-time.
One to back on Friday if it rains
Or, if they miss it once again, we may be looking at rapid conditions. One horse in the opening Albany Stakes at 14:30 who wants the wet stuff is Eve Lodge.
I won't put her up as a bet here as unfortunately she has been very well found in the market after opening up at 18/1 and 16/1 on Wednesday morning, and she is into 10s with the Betfair Sportsbook, who are paying four places now, and I wanted an each-way investment.
But I can definitely see why the money came for her, even in a race as competitive as this.
She shaped very well when third over 5f here on her debut, being settled in rear, meeting trouble when making her run, and getting going all too late to be never nearer than at the line. About 10 strides after it, she was in front.
The form is mixed but the winner ran well when sixth in the Queen Mary from a low draw on Wednesday, a race in which Eve Lodge was taken out of because of the fast ground.
She had little more than an exercise canter when winning in soft ground at Lingfield last time, and I expect her to be on the premises, especially as I think this extra furlong is in her favour, too.
I will probably back her on Friday if the rain comes, and hopefully her price eases back out a touch, but I won't stick her up now for tipping purposes.
Back her if you want though. I wouldn't put you off.
Keep an eye on Jumby
Jumby was the closest that I came to a bet in the latter race, as I thought 14/1 each way, four places, was a fair bet.
He impressed me when winning in a good time at Newmarket and I have a lot of time for the trainer - which is saying something, as I generally don't have time for anyone - who has an improving speedster on her hands, and one who has won on the course and for whom good or fast ground is fine.
But, rated just 104, the problem is that he does have plenty to find - that said, the highest-rated in this Group 1 is a mere 113 - and I'd probably want more than four places betting into such a competitive 21-runner race.
Again, I may just a few quid on Jumby win-only Exchange near the off, but nothing doing for the moment.
Bear with me, as the bets are coming shortly.
I only tipped one horse ante-post for Royal Ascot, and that was Primo Bacio at 8/1 in the Coronation Stakes at 16:20 and thankfully she has got to the race.
Unfortunately, it is a lot deeper contest than I was expecting as she has the winners of the English, Irish and German 1000 Guineas winners ranged against her, as well as other Group 1 winners, and she will have to be every bit as good as I think she is to be winning this.
And, given her turn of foot is her premier weapon, she could probably do without the forecast rain.
I won't put her up here but I am still more than hopeful she can land the ante-post bet, and she has actually drifted out to a fair 6/1+ exchange, having been two points shorter last week.
The change of pace she showed to shoot clear at York last time was deeply impressive and the runner-up franked the form when winning next time (albeit stepped up to 1m2f), and it is game on if she can deliver that kind of finishing kick off a stronger pace (which looks assured) here.
I mentioned there are three Classic winners, and five Group 1 scorers in here, and I would not underestimate the German 1000 Guineas victor Novemba.
She is actually the highest-rated filly in here on a mark of 115 and there was plenty of the wow factor about her as she made all to win by seven-and-a-half lengths, a massive step up on her previous form.
There are three others in here that have gone forward in recent starts but she could be a big threat, and overpriced at 12/1+, to all of these if getting on the front end.
Friendly could fire in the Sandringham
Anyway, on to the bets, and Friendly at 12/1 each way, five places, in the Sandringham at 17:00 is first up.
She reminds me of the stable's Rain Goddess, who was an agonizing runner-up in this race after finishing fifth in the French 1000 the time before.
I would have tipped her at a big price (she was 50/1 in the ante-post market) had she gone for Coronation Stakes a race earlier, as I was very taken by her sixth in the Irish 1000 Guineas, a performance that I think can be marked up as I don't think the rail was the place to be in that race.
However, whatever way you cut it I thought that was a huge run from her - she went into the race rated just 81 - and a revised mark of 102 could still be generous.
This Galileo filly is a sister to a load of Group 1 performers, notably Mars and Gustav Klimt, and I think she will be better on quicker ground here (it was heavy at the Curragh).
Big run gonna come?
Jeremiah beat Sam Cooke by a nose over course and distance last July, pulling five lengths clear of the third, and I hope that is the key bit of form in the Duke Of Edinburgh Stakes.
Jeremiah was actually 33s in a couple of places on Wednesday but I am happy to back him at half of those odds, as he is only 4lb higher than winning the aforementioned race (in a very quick time) and I thought he shaped very well when third in a first-time visor at Thirsk last time.
He has been described as "quirky" by his trainer so he could be the ideal mount for Jamie Spencer, who gets on board for the first time, and the stats tell you his draw in 20 is a big positive. Expect another late show from James.
Sam Cooke is also well drawn in 16 and hopefully he settles better than he did at York last time and, whether by accident or design, he went for home far too early there - he traded 2.12 in the run - before weakening close home to finish sixth.
If horse and jockey can channel their talent more effectively here, then I think he has a big run in him, only 2lb higher than for that narrow Ascot defeat.
This horse has had his problems down the years - he broke a cannon bone after winning at Chester in May 2019 and was off for over a year afterwards - but he has few miles on the clock as a result, and maybe there is still more in the locker.
He was 25s when the betting opened up on Wednesday, but, again, I am happy with the 14s each way, and a bit of rain will be just the ticket for him.
Warrior Brave looks overpriced
I will also take two against the field in the 5f handicap at 18:10. The obvious one is Warrior Brave, but he is surprisingly backable at 11.010/1 or bigger on the Exchange.
The case for him is straightforward. He is 7lb well-in here after an improved second in Listed company at Sandown last weekend and, while softer ground would be a slight concern should it really hammer down, he simply looks overpriced for a horse with his profile.
And the first-time blinkers, replacing cheek pieces, is an interesting angle. Warrior Brave's dam showed her best form in that headgear (in fact she was ridden by today's jockey Silvestre De Sousa) .
Shalaa Asker looks a huge price at 80/1 each way, five places (actually opened up at 100/1). He would remain a bet at 50/1+.
He is 2lb lower than when an excellent third at Thirsk three starts ago, and a reproduction of that run gives him a definite squeak.
The second won at York next time, as did the fourth at Chester, while plenty in behind have run well since, with the seventh also coming out and scoring.
He hasn't shone in his two starts since but he has been gelded since we last saw him over 6f at Newmarket (he is best at 5f) and that could be the key to him returning to form. The trainer's Wobwobwob took off after losing his crown jewels, so hopefully he does the same.
He is a massive price for a well handicapped horse.
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Back Friendly in 17:00 at 12/1 each-way, five places, with Betfair Sportsbook at 13.012/1
Back Jeremiah in 17:35 at 16/1 each-way, five places, with Betfair Sportsbook at 17.016/1
Back Sam Cooke in 17:35 at 14/1 each-way, five places, with Betfair Sportsbook at 15.014/1
Back Warrior Brave in 18:10 at 11.010/1
Back Shalaa Asker in 18:10 at 80/1 each way, five places, with Betfair Sportsbook at 81.080/1